|Liz Courts Webstore Gninja Minion|
Sebastian, have you thought of going down the path of electronic programs for tracking combat? We found that using map tools worked for us for some combats, as it easily let me track what effects were up and when they dropped. It let me track invisible critters easily to as I had a map in front of me that the pcs couldn't see. It does mean bringing a laptop to the game though.
Since I've hung my boots, a friend of mine has taken over dming and he uses hero lab to run his games. He creates monsters on the fly and keeps track of initiative stuff through it I believe.
Since the central part of what upset you in the encounter was the grinding fatigue of number crunching and keeping track of abilities, maybe this might alleviate some of the issues.
It won't stop the problem of having to remember thousands of spells and feats for npc stat blocks though. Thats the part that eventually killed my enthusiasm. I simply don't have time to read and learn every thing a villain had in order to play them to optimal efficiency. At least the APs give a good guideline for the tactics of their baddies which helps alleviate this.
Eric Mason 37 wrote:
I didn't reply to this earlier but it bothers me some (the idea not Eric's post per se) so here goes. Yes using invisibility creates some issues for its users but this line of thought makes me think of Keystone Cops not an experienced group of adventurers who at this point share more in common with Rangers or a Seal Team when it comes to working with hampered vision not the Keystone Cops. These adventurers having been using and exposed to invisibility (and/or limited vision - darkness, fogs etc.) for the vast majority of their careers moving about and attacking with visioned hampered should be second nature. And this is not everyone suddenly becomes invisible it's a planned tactic. In other words they can and should have discussed things to largely mitigate most of the issues. Much shortened version: "Am Barbarian you approach from his right flank, Stealthy Rogue you come in on his left, when I drop Flame Strike due what comes natural" Maybe the OP wouldn't mind the extra grind of passing notes back and forth but seems like this is exactly what they are trying to avoid when a simple plan of how they plan to approach should suffice. Nevermind if necessary my group(s) would have things like Message, See Invisibility and Telepathic Bond (and yes even True Sight) running if we really needed the extra communication to avoid bumping into each other (in an area that is HUGE when you start talking about 3D outdoor combat) Point is this is not their first such visioned impaired combat nor their last and this seems to vastly exaggerate the difficulties it should present to a group using invisibility.
Thanks for linking this, great article!!
I'm running an AP as written, and the encounter didn't give the barbarian a spellcaster unit. On top of that, I'm not really a fan of including a spellcaster in every encounter specifically to counter the PCs actions. That's a bit too meta-gamey for my tastes.
There are many equipment options to provide "See Invisibility" to just about anyone at level 10, especially a modestly prepared BBEG. In a fantasy world where magic is known about, it would just be stupid for a character with the means to not take steps to counter common spells like Invisibility.
The problem is very obvious here: an unimaginative DM ruins games far, far more often than the RAW.
I think the run-away was the important bit.
You had to improvide there, thought you had a cool scenario and then it all crumbled.
Chalk it up as a learning experience and next time have the guy hook-up with his tribe: forcing the scry-or-die PCs to suddenly deal with intrigue and dilomacy.
That's a solid suggestion, but my technical incompetence is even greater than my general incompetence. I keep waiting for one of my technically minded players to volunteer to run a game and usher our group into the awesomeness of map projections and stat calculators, but they've yet to step up.
Was it scry or die? I was going to ask how the party found him and knew when they were close enough to start up all those buffs.
It wasn't quite scry or die - the party was, IIRC, 200' away and the barbarian was making a bunch of noise and blowing a horn to summon the local barbarian tribes. If I'd had the stomach and brain power for it, I probably could've added a dozen low level barbarians to the fight, but they'd proven to be a negligible threat and it didn't seem worth the effort.
Its a tough call, I mean the barbarian was build and designed to fight in tight spaces (like caves etc), it might actually have been a better idea if he left the skeletons to die and buy him time and ran into some nearby caves either the party would split leaving just a few against each encounter (and giving the barbarian a chance), or they would focus the skeletons and lose the barbarian in the caves.
Also did you have the PC's make survival rolls to follow the barbarian, as if they fail even 1 survival roll they will be too far behind to catch up as neither the barbarian or skeletons get tired fast, but I doubt the sorcerer will be winning any marathons.
Once the party teleported out, it was clear that they were going to go super nova and kill the barbarian. I figured having him outside with an extra 8 skeletons and an opportunity to catch the party buffing might make a difference. I probably could've done more with the tracking, but I was running it as the barbarian taking his time to gather up his army and survey the damage done. I felt like he was confident enough (particularly with the sword in hand egging him on) to feel like the party wasn't a threat if they decided to hunt him down.
But, as I've said, the encounter was less of a cakewalk than the fight with the Dungeon's immortal spellcaster in the room immediately prior to the barbarian. The party felt challenged in _this_ encounter, but it's the future encounters that I dread.
My advice: If a particular tactic / combo is effective, then why are the PCs the only ones using it? I've found that most PCs tend to rethink breaking the seal on the Cheese-O-Matic 9000 if they know that the bad guys might use it as well. Cos as much as they can pump up DCs, etc...the GM can do so even more.
So they teleported back to the dungeon after they rested and once they saw he had left they tracked him from there? Yeah maybe you should have given them something else to face before they caught up with him. Like you said, you knew they were going to go nova. You could have stuck something else nasty in that dungeon he had left. Then a random encounter while they tracked him. Then when they catch up with him, he could have been waiting. He has to be wondering who killed his two 8th level clerics. You mentioned you wanted him to have an opportunity to catch them buffing, so how did you end up adjudicating that, mechanics wise? Did you just give him a perception check or something? They noticed him from 200' and spent 8 rounds casting buffs, right? Maybe he could have had some of his guys patrolling around. After that, he must have been blowing his horn for a reason right? Some barbarian tribes were bound to show up eventually, maybe just as the buffs wore off. Anyway hindsight is 20/20 and all, but you shouldn't have to dread future encounters, so going over what made this one suck is still a good way to find out what to do next time.
Even if I'm an 8th level cleric, am I so relentlessly paranoid that I assume airborne invisible death squads are going to swoop down on me whenever I do any activity?
Sadly, the way the game actually plays out it seems as if there is a certain point where anyone who has any enemies absolutely must be incredibly paranoid every second of the rest of their lives or risk having the flying invisible commando death squad show up and slaughter them the moment they let their guard down and don't put up an array of defenses. Or have the gall to go to their daughters dance recital that isn't triple shielded against everything anyone can think of.
Of course, it's also interesting to think about a world where higher level characters have a sort of "understanding" that nobody will do "scry and fry", for instance. It isn't that it isn't effective in their world, just that enough of the people capable of doing it refuse to do so and act against those who do because they don't want to live in the kind of paranoia that results from having that be an accepted tactic. People who try to use the tactic anyway find people they never heard of and even people who would normally be allies coming after them for it in a form of mutually assured destruction. The consensus is anyone who takes the genie out of the bottle, so to speak, gets obliterated themselves to make the next person to think about breaking the rules think twice before they do it.
It's interesting to think through how these problems might be handled within the game system. The Geneva Cnvention mentioned above is one possibility, but there are others.
You could also see an upsurge in religiosity, Hallow and Unhallow last for a year, and dimensional lock is an option that you could add. Well to do aristocrats and local temples could all be easily warded.
Nondetection and false vision are hours per level, so those are options as well.
3.5 had the anticipate teleportation spells. Brutal to be on the receiving end of those, they held you up for three rounds, and notified the caster you were coming.
Living Arcanis made teleportation difficult, and one had to use the fixed portals of Anshar, which meant paying a priest, being a priest, or being a member of the noble house Anshar favored. Also, gunpowder was unstable vs. teleportation.
If the players killed the guy's spell support, and then used his lack of spell support to inform their tactics when fighting him, then I don't see what your problem is at all. Congratulate your players for doing it right.
1) You said you missed some rules, namely the duration of Greater Invisibility, and the need to make Fly checks (important if you want to remain stationary and make Full Attacks). Although it seems like a bother, it's important to enforce these rules. After all, if the duration of GI had run out, one by one the PCs would become visible and get stuck full of arrows. That would've made the encounter more tense: "Can we take them all down before our spells fail us?"
You can shift some of this load to your players; just track round numbers, and when someone casts a spell, have both the caster and beneficiary take a note in which round the spell will run out.
Fly rules: just make it a table rule that you can't fly if you as a player don't read up on the flying rules.
Making people actually play by the rules goes a long way to preventing excessive situations.
2) The barbarian had to fight his way through the dungeon alone? He's 13th level? Then he's probably fought against invisible and/or flying creatures before. Anyone talented enough to get to level 13 should know some tricks to pull against this - things he can do himself, not "let the caster handle it".
This is tough to plan as a GM; you basically have to have a little book with commonly-used tactics ("invisible aerial assault") and what to do against them (bag of flour, stall/delay/maneuver until GI runs out, cast Darkness or throw a smokestick to equalize the combat).
The funny thing about this is, I used to be active on a Shadowrun forum. There, there were almost weekly threads about how unfair it was that casters were so much better than other characters. But against any caster tactic, there were good nonmagical solutions.
People seem better at using solutions "from the book" (invisibility -> see invisibility) than coming up with unwritten solutions (bag of flour, stall combat with maneuvering until GI runs out, smokestick so that the PCs also have difficult visibility).
A limited amount of buffs on a single character actually was in consideration during the beta, when people were discussing the viscosity of high-level combat, as Lisa herself said in a thread one or two years ago.
But in the end the designers chose not to go with that option.
Ooh. I really like the idea of a 'gentleman's agreement' against scry and fry... After the players use the tactic a few times an archmage might pay them a visit and school them on the finer points of not giving wizards a bad name or some such thing.
"Doing that enough times is tantamount to painting a target on your back among the more powerful and paranoid mages who will make sure you never stay alive long enough to be of any concern to them..."
Probably the only reason I can think of that the barbarian wouldn't run is if he was already raging... Which would be hillarious.
Barbarian throws impotent tantrum. Pays the ultimate price...
If thats the case then the party very intelligently exploited a barbarians weakness and soundly deserves the win.
past around level 8 or so, a party is expected to have a reliable means of flight and invisibility, as well as a reliable means of dealing with those tactical choices.
you don't really need a lot for archery to be a viable secondary combat style, just a 14 starting dexterity, the deadly aim feat, and improvements through magical equipment. you won't be anywhere near as good as a specialized archer, but at least you can deal with ranged annoyances.
Thanks Liz! It's too bad these advice threads don't have the ability to bounce out people who've just come to troll. It'd make it easier for honest people interested in receiving advice/discussing the game to have a conversation without such comments dragging things down. When someone (and there are multiple people in this thread) isn't adding anything other than telling me what a moron I am (a fact already well known and much documented), they aren't doing anyone, including Paizo, a favor. Maybe kicking them out from a conversation would teach them some social skills. Or make them frustrated and leave altogether. I'm fine with either one.
See, to me this is the most important thing. Yes, for crying out loud, as long as you admit that this is just something bugging you that you want to whine about, please feel free. Whine to your heart's content.
What I can't stand are all the threads screaming about how the game needs to be changed because somebody once did something clever that bothered somebody, and some know-it-all is out of his mind, determined to make it everybody else's problem too.
Lots of those threads floating around the past few weeks. Maybe the holidays just make the psychos even more crazy.
I've done my level best to not conflate my preferences for play style and what I find fun with what is "right/correct/best" for the game. I still find it obnoxious how many people have bothered to tell me how wrong I'm playing the game for not countering the invisible flying part, when I've explained multiple, multiple times that the combat with the barbarian was still entertaining for my players and did pose a challenge. On top of that, the main thrust of my complaint is that flight/invisibility/etc. tend to slow down the game with additional rolls and calculations and render some subset of potential encounters fairly irrelevant, and it's dealing with all of that extra slog and losing those encounters that ruins _my_ game for _me_. I have yet to use the word broken (I think), demand that the game be changed to accomodate my concerns, or declared other ways of playing to be bad/wrong.
I guess some are just too insecure to realize that the game is played in a variety of ways and that different people prefer different aspects, and too immature to hold their tongue if they can't contribute anything useful. C'est la vie.
There are some ways to make it faster, btw.
You can replace the 50% miss chance with half damage, they're mechanically the same.
Point out to your players that they can bypass fly checks and maneuverability and all that, by landing each round. Makes it all easier for you as well.
You can insist on things like a status or message spell, which increases the use cost of these tactics.
Kuo-Toa, Erinyes, and most big outsiders can see you anyway. Many powerful undead, especially the ghostly ones, have life sense. Animals have scent, giant spiders and earth elementals have tremor sense.
But the big, big issue is the fifteen minute adventuring day. If players can blow all their resources on an encou ter, then they will blow through things. The solution here is to bring back the wandering monster. The threat of danger keeps players from blowing all resources.
50% miss chance isn't really equivalent to half damage, because doing any damage at all can piggyback other effects (poison, maneuvers etc.) or disrupt concentration. So half damage is usually better, although it also gets stopped more thoroughly by DR. That said, I do think half damage is less aggravating than miss chance; at least you feel like you did something.
Do you use some efficient way to track durations of spells and conditions? Tracking the duration of GI spells may seem like a bother, but the alternative seems that the duration becomes "until victory".
How about just using a piece of paper with lines; write round numbers in the margin. When a new spell/condition with a duration is issued, note on the paper in what round it'll end. Then just have a pawn on the paper to indicate the current round. That way you can easily see how long any effect has got left.
I wish I’d seen this thread earlier, but I hope this is helpful anyway.
I had a similar problem in Legacy of Fire. In the last book of the AP, this was a regular tactic.
Legacy of Fire spoiler:
Most of the final adventure has encounters that cannot see invisible opponents. They handled most opponents easily. However, in a big complex, word got around. If you have opponents that can flee and warn others, then they should be able to create any oppositional plans that they can. For examples, the efreet guardians were warned about invaders using this tactic. They waited in a smaller room. When they were attacked, they blocked off the room with Walls of Fire and proceeded to fill the room with additional walls. Then they called in the huge fire elemental.
The BBEG also had the ability to scry his complex. The PCs took their time, so I had the BBEG pull some of his minions who could see invisible to his personal lair. I think easy encounter after easy encounter dulled the players a bit. When they encountered the final BBEG with 4 erinyes they were taken off guard. It was nearly a TPK.
Sebastian, I agree with one of your earlier posts in that I try to play the AP as written. Hopefully you can look at future encounters, and determine a defense IF the opponents learn about the tactic. Even a low level mook can hopefully see what the PCs are doing and give some warning to their leader(s).
As for speeding up higher level battles; For buffs, I just estimate how many battles the buffs will last, and don't worry about when each PCs spells will wear off.
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