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The Invisible Flying Party Ruins my Game


Advice

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Cheliax Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

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I played Pathfinder last night with a party of three/four characters - an 11th level sorcerer, his cleric companion (~8th level?), a 10th level barbarian, and a 10th level fighter/rogue. They were tracking a 13th level barbarian who'd managed to raise 16 skeletal warriors using a magical artifact sword. The players are smart, so they broke out the old Invisible Flying Party chestnut - everyone in the group was suited up with Greater Invisibility and Fly. Here's how combat went:

Me: The skeleton archers attack!
*roll Perception check*
*pause to discuss whether Perception check is passive or active, try to determine modifiers to Perception check, ultimately conclude that the DC to find the location of an invisible opponent is DC 40, but with a -20 to the DC because the person is in combat*
*roll miss chance twice for every skeleton (two iterative attacks)*
*roll attack and damage for each attack that goes through*
*remind targets to make Fly checks*
*targets make Fly checks*

And so on.

After two hours of grinding combat, the party won the battle, but also defeated my desire to ever run a game in which the party gets to 10th level.

I'm not sure I have a point, except to say how much I hate the invisible flying party and high level play generally. Any encounter with an opponent without a ranged attack or ability to fly, might as well read "give PCs xp, don't bother rolling dice." (This applies even in dungeons because the sorcerer has a spell to create a pit beneath a foe, trapping them and removing them from combat unless they have a ranged attack, a fly or climb speed, or awesome climb skill).

Again, I don't really have a point to all of this, I just wanted to whine.


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Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

Hard to fly in dungeons.

Also, Dragons.

None of those tactics are going to defeat a Dragon's Blindsense and flight.


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A cleric casting see invisibility on various allies can slow that down, or a suspicious caster using glitterdust or just bags of flour.


My question:

How come the Barbarian bad guy didn't have support?

The invisible part could have bene handled with
Detect invisibility
Glitter Dust
Fairy Fire
Bags of flour
Invisibility purge

Flying is expected after 5th level.
Why didn't the barb bad guy have a flying mount?
A support spellcaster with dispel magic (or an alchemist with dispelling bomb)

Mid to high level play shouldn't be "find the dude, beat him up". That's low-level strategy.

Being invisible and flying should be the WAY to get to him, not the way to beat him up, unless it's a morale-boosting encounter. (ie: he's unknowing picked a fight with those he thought were wimps)


i would think the problem is putting player character built bad guys against player characters. 4 level 10ish people SHOULD beat the crap out of a 13 barbarian.

make that barbarian a fire giant (or better yet a cleric fire giant) and things will be different :)

and bbt is correct an everyday dragon should negate a lot of defenses they come up with.

Cheliax Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

blackbloodtroll wrote:
Hard to fly in dungeons.

See parenthetical re: pit spell.

blackbloodtroll wrote:

Also, Dragons.

None of those tactics are going to defeat a Dragon's Blindsense and flight.

Acknowledged and agreed that the tactic does not work on certain opponents, particularly dragons. Also, those with the ability to dispel magic. However, that doesn't really address the rather large universe of outdoor encounter with non-dragons and non-casters.

I don't begrudge the effective tactic (well, not entirely), but I do begrudge the painful grinding nature of combats in which the tactic is effectively employed.

Cheliax Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

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.


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Sebastian wrote:


After two hours of grinding combat, the party won the battle, but also defeated my desire to ever run a game in which the party gets to 10th level.

Best way to play this encounter? After the first three rounds of combat, announce "Ten minutes later, just before the invisibility runs out, you manage to wipe out the last of the skeletons."

You can _always_ fudge in the player's favor when things get boring. Next time, give the barbarian a short-term single-charge antimagic token to use.


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Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

10th level PCs are practically demigods in the aspect of things.

Building encounters based around the tactics of lower level PCs will always end badly.


Hmmm. SAps are nice as a framework, but they need customization for each group being run through it.

eg: barbarian, fighter,ranger and alchemist compared to rogue, bard, Fighter, cleric compared to fighter, clric, rogue, wizard.

Different abilities, different tweaking.

Cheliax Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

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Again, it's more the process of resolving the combats than the outcome that I find annoying and bothersome. The best analogy I can come up with is that these encounters feel like playing against a really good, old school blue control deck in magic. These decks can be beaten, but doing so requires planning and careful attention to the metagame. If you show up with a casual deck, you're going to lose, and in the least fun way imaginable.

The PCs are going to win, the game is stacked in their favor. I just wish there were ways to win that were as effective and yet not as dull and dice-intensive (or that doesn't require extensive metagaming, such as providing bad guys with the resources to overcome invisibilty and the intelligence/tactics to immediately recognize and address the threat).

Shadow Lodge

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

Improved invisibility is 1 round per level. It would have run out very quickly.

Sczarni

I know it's AP and often, players are supposed to win, they are hero's here. However if it becomes often enough, there are multiple things to do.

If you know what to expect, always have a backup plan with your troops.
Barbarian could gulp Invisi potion and simply walk away. Why fight them if you can't reach them.
Set skeleton archer's to shot Barbarian PC. He is HP spunge only. Even a goblin will receive hit on him.
If they are invisible, fall back into forest or cramped up area.
You could have included few low level skeleton mages for example. It might seem as complete anticounter, but it's sometimes needed.

This simple stuff can all be done easily to slightly counter party.

Best answer is, be prepared. Know your PC tactics up infront.

You know what a dragon would do? Fly around and wait until buffs expire :)

Cheliax Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

Christopher Van Horn wrote:
Improved invisibility is 1 round per level. It would have run out very quickly.

I was going to say that I'm pretty sure they did all this in 11 rounds, but that can't be right. If the last spell the sorcerer cast was Improved Invisibility, he'd still need to spend 4 rounds casting it on 4 targets. It took ~2 rounds to get to the encounter, so someone definitely should've become visible during that time.

(Which actually points to another element of high level combat I hate - tracking all the details!)

Shadow Lodge

What metagaming? If the flying invisible strategy works well, then anti-flying-invisible tactics will be popular. Would not the lord of the manor worry about flying invisible assassins?

But also, yes, I can't think much about high level play. I haven't played a PC above fifth level since the 90s. I like the low levels, but more importantly, it's just not happened...


Pathfinder Companion Subscriber
Sebastian wrote:

Again, it's more the process of resolving the combats than the outcome that I find annoying and bothersome. The best analogy I can come up with is that these encounters feel like playing against a really good, old school blue control deck in magic. These decks can be beaten, but doing so requires planning and careful attention to the metagame. If you show up with a casual deck, you're going to lose, and in the least fun way imaginable.

The PCs are going to win, the game is stacked in their favor. I just wish there were ways to win that were as effective and yet not as dull and dice-intensive (or that doesn't require extensive metagaming, such as providing bad guys with the resources to overcome invisibilty and the intelligence/tactics to immediately recognize and address the threat).

Dungeons, Scent, Tremorsense, Blindsight, Fog, Smoke.

There are tons of ways, including non-magical, to counter these tactics.

By the way, any good Magic player has a sideboard with way to deal with popular powerful decks.
The DM has a much bigger sideboard.

Shadow Lodge

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

On another note, that's one of many encounters in the area. the tactic works well but did they just stop then? Did you damage them at all? a skilled perceptive PC can easily spot that encounter and then it could have been neutralized by a couple well placed/timed AOE spells instead. They used 8 spells of 3rd and 4th level for one encounter, if they keep going it gets worse in there. How often do they get to stop and rest? Which path did they take and how many resources do they have left? If I remember the encounter and area they are also on a timer. It feels like you are falling prey to the 5 minute adventuring day.

Cheliax Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

I appreciate the advice, but if we can, let's step back from the metagame suggestions, and focus on a few concrete tactics and questions of rules operation. Let's start with the very basics:

1. How does a group of NPCs spot a flying and invisible target? What's the DC to figure out the location of the target? If the target casts spells, how does that modify the DC? What if the caster uses a fireball (long range, so they're over 100' away, and quite possibly, straight up) and then moves - what's the DC to determine his location?

2. An NPC is hit by a spell that creates a 50' deep pit, the bottom of which is full of acid. The Climb check to get out is DC 30. Can the NPC do anything other than make Climb checks each round? Is it even worth making the Climb checks if the NPC has a better chance of falling back in than of getting out of the pit?

3. If a character is attacked by an invisible opponent in melee, he automatically knows the location of the invisible opponent, correct? Can he communicate that fact to his allies?

4. Suppose that the invisible opponent encounters a guy with a bag of flour in melee. What is the mechanic for using the bag of flour to bust the invisibility? A Reflex save to avoid? If the invisible opponent is hit with flour, what is the effect on that creature? Does the flour merely reveal its location, or does it reduce the miss chance? If it reduces the miss chance, does it reduce it to 20% or 0%?

5. Suppose the opponents decide to retreat and wait for the buffs to run out. How do they manage that if they move 30 or 40, but the opponents fly at 40 or 60? Will waiting for the buffs to expire improve his situation, or will it merely result in a few rounds of unresponded to punishments?


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Basically, if the party has access to significant magic, and supernatural abilities at high levels, and the enemies dont, the encounter will either be a grind or a snooze. What this means is that next time, your barbarian HAS to have a sidekick wizard who throws a glitterdust on half the party, or a potion of see invisibilty, or a sidekick creature with blind sense.

That and I strongly recommend forcing your party to use more resources prior to getting to important encounters. If they were tracking this barbarian, presumably it was an important encounter. There should have been 3 encounters in that day BEFORE they caught up with the barbarian. Setting aside the issue of spell duration, your caster cast 8 spells prior to combat. That is alot of resources to be able to burn before the fight even starts. He should not have had that luxary.

There is also the fact that you had 16 relatively weak enemies to oppose the party. I would recommend 5-6 more significant mooks next time. Fewer dice in general (5 perception checks and attacks are better then 16) and each individual enemy is more likely to succeed further reducing the grind of it all.

Basically you have to understand that once you get past about 8th level, you are playing a different game then you did from level 1 to 8. The way you set up your adventure must be different. Chase down the enemy in the woods with his band of skeletons is not an ok adventure for a higher level party. There has to be more planning around it.

Mind you this is more work, and its a bit of a pain, and if you really are opposed to it, i strongly recommend searching for E6 or E8 here on the boards and having a look at that set of house rules. It would likely be more to your liking.

Cheliax Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

Christopher Van Horn wrote:
On another note, that's one of many encounters in the area. the tactic works well but did they just stop then? Did you damage them at all? a skilled perceptive PC can easily spot that encounter and then it could have been neutralized by a couple well placed/timed AOE spells instead. They used 8 spells of 3rd and 4th level for one encounter, if they keep going it gets worse in there. How often do they get to stop and rest? Which path did they take and how many resources do they have left? If I remember the encounter and area they are also on a timer. It feels like you are falling prey to the 5 minute adventuring day.

To be fair, it is a 5-minute adventuring day encounter (of course, the PCs just gained access to teleport, so I suspect that all future sessions will be 5-minute adventuring days).

And, to be fair, the PCs did use up a lot of resources. To characterize it as a one-sided cakewalk isn't entirely fair. I took some actions to mitigate the invisibility as much as I could (e.g., if a PC hit an opponent, the opponent would attack that PC the next turn, and all his allies would know to target that square as a result).


Sebastian wrote:
Christopher Van Horn wrote:
On another note, that's one of many encounters in the area. the tactic works well but did they just stop then? Did you damage them at all? a skilled perceptive PC can easily spot that encounter and then it could have been neutralized by a couple well placed/timed AOE spells instead. They used 8 spells of 3rd and 4th level for one encounter, if they keep going it gets worse in there. How often do they get to stop and rest? Which path did they take and how many resources do they have left? If I remember the encounter and area they are also on a timer. It feels like you are falling prey to the 5 minute adventuring day.

To be fair, it is a 5-minute adventuring day encounter (of course, the PCs just gained access to teleport, so I suspect that all future sessions will be 5-minute adventuring days).

And, to be fair, the PCs did use up a lot of resources. To characterize it as a one-sided cakewalk isn't entirely fair. I took some actions to mitigate the invisibility as much as I could (e.g., if a PC hit an opponent, the opponent would attack that PC the next turn, and all his allies would know to target that square as a result).

The key here is your players felt free and were allowed to use so many resources for a single fight. That simply cant be allowed to happen or the whole game goes wonkey. It is crucial in your adventure design that you prevent this by either actually having encounters before hand, or having the threat of more encounters they cant just avoid be hanging over their head so they restrain themselves.

Shadow Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Sebastian wrote:
Christopher Van Horn wrote:
On another note, that's one of many encounters in the area. the tactic works well but did they just stop then? Did you damage them at all? a skilled perceptive PC can easily spot that encounter and then it could have been neutralized by a couple well placed/timed AOE spells instead. They used 8 spells of 3rd and 4th level for one encounter, if they keep going it gets worse in there. How often do they get to stop and rest? Which path did they take and how many resources do they have left? If I remember the encounter and area they are also on a timer. It feels like you are falling prey to the 5 minute adventuring day.

To be fair, it is a 5-minute adventuring day encounter (of course, the PCs just gained access to teleport, so I suspect that all future sessions will be 5-minute adventuring days).

And, to be fair, the PCs did use up a lot of resources. To characterize it as a one-sided cakewalk isn't entirely fair. I took some actions to mitigate the invisibility as much as I could (e.g., if a PC hit an opponent, the opponent would attack that PC the next turn, and all his allies would know to target that square as a result).

Yeah, the full day to get spells back is a full day for him to recreate the skeletons, nothing stops the 5 minute adventuring day like a reactive and thinking enemy that takes advantage of those breaks. The big thing here is to not let the NPCs be static, they have to react and think so that if the party is sniping them off 1 at a time they also change strategies. The scariest thing that you can do is show them that the NPCs can also benefit from the 5 minute adventuring day just as well as the PCs can.

Cheliax Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

Kolokotroni wrote:


Basically you have to understand that once you get past about 8th level, you are playing a different game then you did from level 1 to 8. The way you set up your adventure must be different. Chase down the enemy in the woods with his band of skeletons is not an ok adventure for a higher level party. There has to be more planning around it.

And that may be the core of my complaint. It is a different game, a game that's almost more like a superhero comic than a dungeon crawl. I don't know that I like that game, and everytime I get to it, I get turned off. The barbarian had recovered the artifact sword and was getting ready to raise an army. That seems like a high level encounter, but it also seems like a high level encounter that naturally takes place in the open.

Also, the skeletons were bloody skeletons, CR 6 IIRC. They were considered a legitimate threat by the party (a group of 8 skeletons worked them pretty hard in an encounter in a dungeon).

Kolokotroni wrote:


Mind you this is more work, and its a bit of a pain, and if you really are opposed to it, i strongly recommend searching for E6 or E8 here on the boards and having a look at that set of house rules. It would likely be more to your liking.

I keep thinking that's what I should do. I keep wanting to try and like high level play, but everytime I get there, I hate it.

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Sebastian wrote:

I appreciate the advice, but if we can, let's step back from the metagame suggestions, and focus on a few concrete tactics and questions of rules operation. Let's start with the very basics:

1. How does a group of NPCs spot a flying and invisible target? What's the DC to figure out the location of the target? If the target casts spells, how does that modify the DC? What if the caster uses a fireball (long range, so they're over 100' away, and quite possibly, straight up) and then moves - what's the DC to determine his location?

2. An NPC is hit by a spell that creates a 50' deep pit, the bottom of which is full of acid. The Climb check to get out is DC 30. Can the NPC do anything other than make Climb checks each round? Is it even worth making the Climb checks if the NPC has a better chance of falling back in than of getting out of the pit?

3. If a character is attacked by an invisible opponent in melee, he automatically knows the location of the invisible opponent, correct? Can he communicate that fact to his allies?

4. Suppose that the invisible opponent encounters a guy with a bag of flour in melee. What is the mechanic for using the bag of flour to bust the invisibility? A Reflex save to avoid? If the invisible opponent is hit with flour, what is the effect on that creature? Does the flour merely reveal its location, or does it reduce the miss chance? If it reduces the miss chance, does it reduce it to 20% or 0%?

5. Suppose the opponents decide to retreat and wait for the buffs to run out. How do they manage that if they move 30 or 40, but the opponents fly at 40 or 60? Will waiting for the buffs to expire improve his situation, or will it merely result in a few rounds of unresponded to punishments?

1. If the enemy knows you're out there and trying to attack they ready an action to attack when attacked. as soon as that spell originates from a square they loose the full brunt of their attacks into it and then only have the 50% miss chance and don't need perception checks. Otherwise they get a passive check, usually a 10+modifier modified by distance (-1 per 10 feet). Very long range has it's own problems but it also means they should be able to get to cover/inside to negate the issue as well. they don't have to stand and fight.

2.Some spells take you right out of the fight, you make a climb check until you get out of the acid and stop. you can wait out the rest as long as you aren't getting hit constantly

3.He knows what square it came from and yes he can communicate that verbally or otherwise

4. Would most likely be a touch attack with the 50% miss chance for invisibility.

5. go through a door and close it :)

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Sebastian wrote:

Also, the skeletons were bloody skeletons, CR 6 IIRC. They were considered a legitimate threat by the party (a group of 8 skeletons worked them pretty hard in an encounter in a dungeon).

SO they are back as soon as the party leaves, the only way to perma kill those skeletons is in a very scary place (save or feeblemind twice if I remember correctly, plus a rend that does con damage is absolutely terrifying)


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Did the players have true sight cast on them?

If not, they should be moving by notes to you, and nothing but the foes should be on the board. Not knowing where your friends are can make charging, and some spells more challenging.

Return note to someone's move:
"I'm sorry you try to enter that square but there is someone in it already, and you're out of movement, so you are stuck in the previous square."

Invisibility can be a pain in the ass for the users too :)


Sebastian wrote:
Kolokotroni wrote:


Basically you have to understand that once you get past about 8th level, you are playing a different game then you did from level 1 to 8. The way you set up your adventure must be different. Chase down the enemy in the woods with his band of skeletons is not an ok adventure for a higher level party. There has to be more planning around it.

And that may be the core of my complaint. It is a different game, a game that's almost more like a superhero comic than a dungeon crawl. I don't know that I like that game, and everytime I get to it, I get turned off. The barbarian had recovered the artifact sword and was getting ready to raise an army. That seems like a high level encounter, but it also seems like a high level encounter that naturally takes place in the open.

Those perceptions are the issue really. its not a high level campaign. Its a low level campaign with far reaching stakes. This adventure should happen at like 5th level. 8th-14th levels are a super hero game, not a dungeon explorer. You have to be aware of that and plan accordingly. Its not a bad thing to be turned off it. If you want to do a tolkien style fantasy story, thats fine, but keep in mind, in pathfinder terms no one in that party was likely above 6th or 7th level, even gandalf (who just had massive ratial bonuses he chose not to use).

Quote:

Also, the skeletons were bloody skeletons, CR 6 IIRC. They were considered a legitimate threat by the party (a group of 8 skeletons worked them pretty hard in an encounter in a dungeon).

Kolokotroni wrote:


Mind you this is more work, and its a bit of a pain, and if you really are opposed to it, i strongly recommend searching for E6 or E8 here on the boards and having a look at that set of house rules. It would likely be more to your liking.
I keep thinking that's what I should do. I keep wanting to try and like high level play, but everytime I get there, I hate it.

Then go E8. It works, it keeps there from being this time limit on your campaigns where you step into an area you dont want to run your game into. It means players can still get new toys as you go on even if they dont come as fast, and it keeps the game within that semi realistic world of low level play. Its not a bad thing to want to do this. Its a matter of taste. .

Cheliax Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

Christopher Van Horn wrote:


Yeah, the full day to get spells back is a full day for him to recreate the skeletons, nothing stops the 5 minute adventuring day like a reactive and thinking enemy that takes advantage of those breaks. The big thing here is to not let the NPCs be static, they have to react and think so that if the party is sniping them off 1 at a time they also change strategies. The scariest thing that you can do is show them that the NPCs can also benefit from the 5 minute adventuring day just as well as the PCs can.

The irony of the encounter is that it was originally placed in a dungeon. The PCs made it all the way to the second to last room, but were pretty torn up by that point. In the last room was the barbarian with only 8 skeletons and his newly acquired artifact sword. The PCs teleported home, rested, and came back.

I looked at the stats and the module, noted that the barbarian was on a mission to get the sword and raise an army. He had the sword, so he left the dungeon (collecting the other 8 skeletons the PCs defeated before as he went). He assumed that whoever caused all the destruction in the dungeon as he left either fled or was killed.

Edit: Maybe he shouldn't have made that assumption. Maybe he should've realized that an opponent powerful enough to kill everything else in the dungeon and that didn't leave behind bodies would be back for more. Maybe he should've prepared an ambush. I didn't think that was consistent with the character presented in the module, who was portrayed as a very prototypical, kill first, ask questions later type barbarian. Maybe if his spiritual advisors hadn't been killed he'd have reached a different conclusion.


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Like Kolokotroni said, it's a different game. If you play it the same way, you'll be disappointed.

The Alexandrian has a great post about Calibrating your Expectations, that's really worth a read. Jump down to the second half about Aragorn, if you're in a rush.


Invisible PC's kind of irk me too. And not really because the npcs can't see them, but because the PC's shouldn't be able to see each other either. But, at least in our games, it usually ends up being all PC's know where all other PC's are without issue.

Invisible PC's in combat really should be more a hindrance then they tend to be. Alas the rules don't tend to offer many alternatives.

Andoran

This is just one of the things that comes with level play.

Barbarian x1
Mooks x8

Is no longer a valid encounter.

It sucks. I know.

Shadow Lodge

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Sebastian wrote:
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.

Me barbarian in Pathfinder Society. Me not brightest guy around. After fightin' some tough beasties, me learn ta always carry potions for see invibl... invisi... err... ta see hidden stuff. Me also have fly potions. Me once chase dragon in sky and killed it with me claws, 'cause it took me magic weapon and try ta fly away. Had dragon head stuffed and hung up on wall at home.

Me point is ev'ry tough guy need ta be prepared for bad magic beasties. Even bad tough guys prepared for good magic guys, or they get trounced.


I am currently running this at home, so let me throw some things out.

Sebastian,
1) The key to a good game is that BOTH sides are having fun. if you aren't having fun running it, then you may as well give it up, because it won't fun for anyone. That said...
2) Did your group enjoy their use of thier abilities and tactical application of same? They worked hard to earn those, they should get a chance to use them thoroughly.
3) You set yourself up for that. Why would Armag - would be conqueror - assume that the party had fled or died without any evidence of that? And if he did, then why wouldn't he assume that someone who could take down all of that encounter wouldn't be back to get what was arguably the prize of the temple - Ovinrbanne?
4) Many of your questions about concrete rules questions will have to be answered by yourself as a GM. But, if you don't like metagaming, why would skeletons and barbarian lords be carrying sacks of flour around anyway? Metagaming is often an overused word (phrase?). See my points 1 and 2.

I've always taken the line of intelligent foes act intelligently. Barbarian warlords driven on by an artifact's dreams of conquest make mistakes. Armag made his in your campaign.

I also take the line that great PC tactics are not just usable by the PCs. Now that the PCs have defeated Armag outside the temple, who is watching? There are powerful parties who take a close interest in the rise of the upstart kingdom in the Stolen Lands. I can think of at least 5 such groups (4 if they took Drelev down already). It isn't metagaming if those groups either a. use the tactics, or b. prepare for them.

Just some thoughts...


Feral wrote:

This is just one of the things that comes with level play.

Barbarian x1
Mooks x8

Is no longer a valid encounter.

It sucks. I know.

On the contrary, in the confines of the temple, this barbarian was brutal to my group, and I have 7 PCs with 15+ years experience each. No deaths, but a lot of "That was close!"

Result: fun for all!

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Sebastian wrote:
Christopher Van Horn wrote:


Yeah, the full day to get spells back is a full day for him to recreate the skeletons, nothing stops the 5 minute adventuring day like a reactive and thinking enemy that takes advantage of those breaks. The big thing here is to not let the NPCs be static, they have to react and think so that if the party is sniping them off 1 at a time they also change strategies. The scariest thing that you can do is show them that the NPCs can also benefit from the 5 minute adventuring day just as well as the PCs can.

The irony of the encounter is that it was originally placed in a dungeon. The PCs made it all the way to the second to last room, but were pretty torn up by that point. In the last room was the barbarian with only 8 skeletons and his newly acquired artifact sword. The PCs teleported home, rested, and came back.

I looked at the stats and the module, noted that the barbarian was on a mission to get the sword and raise an army. He had the sword, so he left the dungeon (collecting the other 8 skeletons the PCs defeated before as he went). He assumed that whoever caused all the destruction in the dungeon as he left either fled or was killed.

Edit: Maybe he shouldn't have made that assumption. Maybe he should've realized that an opponent powerful enough to kill everything else in the dungeon and that didn't leave behind bodies would be back for more. Maybe he should've prepared an ambush. I didn't think that was consistent with the character presented in the module, who was portrayed as a very prototypical, kill first, ask questions later type barbarian. Maybe if his spiritual advisors hadn't been killed he'd have reached a different conclusion.

No that's actually bad for them in the end. He also now has the sword and will do what he does next. Rally all the scattered Barbarian tribes under his immortal banner and attack with a lot more people. He can also figure out what happened to his other minions and prepare for coming battles against the party with new and improved tactics. Those bloody skeletons are immortal and intelligent so the party should be surprised when their tactics need to change to deal with the new threat. He'll get new and improved spiritual advisers and his own near immunity to hostile magic makes him one of the tougher encounters I've seen.


Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

Next time, run an E6 game.

It will suite your particular tastes.

Grand Lodge

Sebastian wrote:


The irony of the encounter is that it was originally placed in a dungeon. The PCs made it all the way to the second to last room, but were pretty torn up by that point. In the last room was the barbarian with only 8 skeletons and his newly acquired artifact sword. The PCs teleported home, rested, and came back.

I looked at the stats and the module, noted that the barbarian was on a mission to get the sword and raise an army. He had the sword, so he left the dungeon (collecting the other 8 skeletons the PCs defeated before as he went). He assumed that whoever caused all the destruction in the dungeon as he left either fled or was killed.

Edit: Maybe he shouldn't have made that assumption. Maybe he should've realized that an opponent powerful enough to kill everything else in the dungeon and that didn't leave behind bodies would be back for more. Maybe he should've prepared an ambush. I didn't think that was consistent with the character presented in the module, who was portrayed as a very prototypical, kill first, ask questions later type barbarian. Maybe if his spiritual advisors hadn't been killed he'd have reached a different conclusion.

Don't make assumptions that makes things easier for the player to win if they do the 5 min workday if you don't want them to constantly use the 5 min workday. If they teleport out and come back, they find all the traps reset. All the monsters respawned...hell even more so as they put out a stronger force to deal with what decimated them the last time. The barbarian in the AP is assumed to have reached the sword as the players reach him...or shortly before. If the party teleports out before they reach him to rest...well the barbarian has been likewise delayed and the magical artifact sword redoubles the dungeon monsters and traps.

Grand Lodge

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

You might consider this metagamey and it doesn't necessarily speak to your particular situation, but if I may... The problem here isn't a matter of tactics as it is the inclusion of instant gratification "I win" spells like greater invisibility. Awesome advantages, very few drawbacks.

I try to limit these types of spells in my campaigns, usually with houserules. For example, there is no greater invisibility (or I make it a higher level than 4, maybe 7 or 8). Fly can be speed-limited to the character's base speed (usually 30') and/or duration limited to rounds/level. Teleport is another one I dislike. The 100 mile range/level is far, far too much (I remember the affect it had on my STAP campaign once the PCs could just teleport back to Sasserine on a whim).

Just some thoughts.

-Skeld

Silver Crusade

Old Guy GM wrote:

On the contrary, in the confines of the temple, this barbarian was brutal to my group, and I have 7 PCs with 15+ years experience each. No deaths, but a lot of "That was close!"

Result: fun for all!

My experience as well with Armag. His encounter was terrain specific to be more of a challenge. In the wide open, a cavalier charge, flying druid or wizard, etc., would make short work of even his stubborn hide, sword or no. In the cairn confines, his melee abilities were just plain brutal, and his sword swept aside those pesky targeted spells. As a complete side note rant, Acid Pit has become a ridiculously over-powered spell in our campaign.

It's all about the challenge, which may not always be on how much damage the bad guy does. The Baron Drelev, hyped as a big bad guy, was making his getaway and a measly 2nd level "Hold Person" froze him. But, getting to that point took awhile. Terrain again played a role. The party busted in, teleport hopping and hasted and invisible and so forth into his keep, but the Baron's guards occupied them long enough for him to get loose, and there's innocents (servants, Baron's mistress) in the way.

In the end, I want my players to "win" but also be challenged. The Baron wasn't challenging in combat, but catching him was tricky. Plus, he disarmed two of our characters, and his lackeys have picked up their weapons and split. He's made a frustrating opponent even if he didn't do a lot of damage. Had he been out in the open with his guards and not in his keep, he'd be dead in a matter of 2 rounds.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path, Tales Subscriber

Hey Sebastian I know exactly the encounter you're referring to.

I also agree with the slog that is high level play, my players are about two sessions away from that point and dealing with flying invisible wizards and clerics is an issue. The game is slower as players get more actions AND more options to pick from.

Also the game suffers from diminishing returns: a fight against normal unclassed bloody skeletons (CR 4) at APL 6 is no less fun than CR 8 at APL 10. Except it runs faster, resources diminish at a more satisfying rate and you still have more time for more encounters (more encounters = more fun).

Players seem to like unleashing high level abilities, but it's the GM who has to adapt to an ever-increasing array of abilities. Time-scales are forced to shrink because in order to challenge the party you have to force them to stay constantly on the move.

Here's how I'm handling the encounter you speak of:

Kingmaker Spoilers

Spoiler:

Armag has an army sitting outside the tomb made up of barbarians, Gyronna Cultists, sabertooth tigers and hill giants.
The PCs will fight their way into the tomb using the army like a spear and once inside there's no running away to rest because that means abandoning their army. I plan to push their resources to the limit. It will become very apparent that Armag will raise not just 16 skeletons but an army of such that could threaten the entire kingdom. The PCs need to stop those reinforcements.
In your case throwing in a demon or daemon or two sent by Gorum to his favoured son would be thematic and help mitigate the invisibility problems.


Skeld wrote:

You might consider this metagamey and it doesn't necessarily speak to your particular situation, but if I may... The problem here isn't a matter of tactics as it is the inclusion of instant gratification "I win" spells like greater invisibility. Awesome advantages, very few drawbacks.

I try to limit these types of spells in my campaigns, usually with houserules. For example, there is no greater invisibility (or I make it a higher level than 4, maybe 7 or 8). Fly can be speed-limited to the character's base speed (usually 30') and/or duration limited to rounds/level. Teleport is another one I dislike. The 100 mile range/level is far, far too much (I remember the affect it had on my STAP campaign once the PCs could just teleport back to Sasserine on a whim).

Just some thoughts.

-Skeld

Greater Invisibility isn't an "I Win" button.

Downsides to it? First off, it only lasts a round per caster level (11 in this case, with the lv11 sorc). By the time he casts it on the fourth person on the party, the first person is down to 8 rounds left on his Invisibility.

Second, casting it on the entire party used up more than half of that caster's allotted 4th level spells.

And then there's all the counters that have already been mentioned, from the mundane (bag of powder stuff like flour) to the magical (see invisibility, glitterdust, and such).

Lastly? Unless the party has a way to see invisibility themselves, this means they can't even see each other and thus have just as much idea of where the rest of the party is as your foes do.

The main problem that the original poster, Sebastian, ran into was that the party only had the one encounter. The moment you start adding more encounters you'll find that tactics like casting Greater Invis on everyone start to fall apart because it just doesn't last long enough for multiple fights.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Espy Lacopa wrote:
By the time he casts it on the fourth person on the party, the first person is down to 8 rounds left on his Invisibility.

8 rounds of greater invisibility is more rounds than necessary for an 11th level (buffed, flying) party to obliterate a 13th level barbarian.

-Skeld

Qadira

Readied actions are useful in this situation too. That way they fire at the square from which the attack originated as soon as the attack occurs and youve only got to consider the miss chance. Not sure skeletons can do that though, since I've always thought of them as fairly mindless undead.

And to back you up somewhat Sebastian, I've recently hung up my GM boots because high level play is mentally exhausting. You eventually get to a point where one combat takes up an entire 4 hour game slot. It's more like playing a tabletop Wargame than a rollay game. Having now run three or four campaigns to level 20 over he past few years, I just can't muster the enthusiasm or energy to do any more.

On a side note, is this recent return to pathfinder for you? I thought you'd gone the 4th edition pathway. I find 4th Ed when I play it has none of those issues. Still takes ages to play, but far less one sided and rules intensive. Warhammer role play and dark heresy are the same in that regards as well.

I think the issue comes down to the rule set to be honest. A a certain level it requires a paradigm shift to run the game and design encounters. Having npcs make logical decisions becomes almost impossible without swallowing some metagaming since the magic and abilities of the protagonists is far removed from anything we are familiar with. The GM now has to think laterally for just about every decision, since they now place themselves outside the realm of what is common to our planet, and what would be considered common on the imagined planet. It becomes tedious and mind numbing, especially to someone like myself who already has a day job that demands much of my mental faculties and creative thinking.

Sigh, seems I've drifted into rambling now. Just letting you know I feel your pain Sebastian, and not sure there's a quick fix I'm afraid.

Cheers


There are ways to cope. Even something as simple as a dog, with scent, would tip the barbarian off.

And if it's a temple, there should be some unhallow effects tied in, possibly also a glyph of warding or two. Slap an invisibility purge in one of those, and you're all set.

If gods are real, shouldn't they take the least precautions to protect their temples?


The barbarian warlord would never have left the dungeon as soon as you had him do it. Under the artifact description, it states that it is physically transforming him into the swords previous owner, which should take a bit of time to accomplish. "it’s the wait for this subtle transformation to be complete that’s kept Armag in “meditation” in this chamber for so long."

That in my opinion would have solved much of your problem. He is totally dominated by the artifact, and would not make decisions on his own. This would have forced your party to, at the very least, revisit the last 3 rooms of the dungeon and it's encounters all over again.

Just my 2 cents.


Skeld wrote:

You might consider this metagamey and it doesn't necessarily speak to your particular situation, but if I may... The problem here isn't a matter of tactics as it is the inclusion of instant gratification "I win" spells like greater invisibility. Awesome advantages, very few drawbacks.

I try to limit these types of spells in my campaigns, usually with houserules. For example, there is no greater invisibility (or I make it a higher level than 4, maybe 7 or 8). Fly can be speed-limited to the character's base speed (usually 30') and/or duration limited to rounds/level. Teleport is another one I dislike. The 100 mile range/level is far, far too much (I remember the affect it had on my STAP campaign once the PCs could just teleport back to Sasserine on a whim).

Just some thoughts.

-Skeld

Teleporting back to Sasserine was not near as easy as you make it out to be, considering it's, if I remember correctly, over 3,000 miles from the Isle of Dread to Sasserine. At the point at which you can obtain teleport, that means at least 3 castings of the spell to reach the city. This in itself would require good knowledge of those destinations, otherwise you have an off target arrival. So I don't think it's all that easy to use teleport to travel back to Sasserine.


People might disagree, but I don't like the current definition of metagaming...

Throwing the bad guys a posion or two of see invis, (or even having the fight in an antimagic field) is no worse than the fact lex luthor carries around a small piece of kryptonite everywhere...

Is it a cheap tactic? Sure.. But isn't it more important to keep the game fun?

Why do bad guys have to fight fair?

Also, I agree with letting the villains take advantage of the 5 minute day more. If the pcs run, make everything tougher when they get back..


The fun part will be your group's efforts in attempting to deal with the Big Sharp Sword in question. It is one of a very, very few artifacts with an artifact-level Ego score.

Stealth penalties from armor check still apply, and while moving that's only a +20 from invisibilty. Unless the entire group has invested semi-decently into the Stealth skill, that bonus gets even smaller. Tack on the standard minuses on Perception checks due to distance that cut both ways and there arises the issue of encounter distance. How far away were they when they spotted him? The first round were they even invisible? If not, then they still had to become invisible. Were those spells being cast via Silent metamagic? If not, additional checks are in order. Perception is both passive (reacting to opposed checks such as against Sleight of Hand and Stealth) as well as active (using actions to perceive, although if there's no clue to raise hairs on the backs of necks, this is not always going to be justifiable.)

If they initially spotted Armag with his 8 mini-onions at 100 feet, let's say, *both* groups (including the sword) get the initial checks at -10. Characters start casting buffs (DC 20 at that distance, barring other factors), Armag probably hears chanting ... and high tails it back inside with ihs mini-onions to shred the first foe that they see with readied arrows amd a partial charge to hack someone into giblets. If Armag has an "out" from another source, there is that issue if you are so inclined.

Maybe askin the group for a "theorycrafting revisiting" of the same fight is in order?


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We had a party with a mage that tended to levitate to get out of range of the low level encounters. Led them off into the tall grass and when the grass started rustling sure enough the mage levitated to safety, only to have a clear view of what was moving in the grass... Basilisks!

Tactically if you're being chased by an invisible party you'd run. The party wastes rounds keeping up with you until the invisibles wear off and then its on like donkey kong. Even if the skeletons didnt run and he leaves them behind to fight the party, and even if the party says no, the barbarian is our goal, presumably the mage cast invisible on himself first, which means he'll be the first one in view, and a proper barbarian would make it job one to feed a little ragewrath in the mages direction if at all possible.

Still not an easy fight, but I wouldnt let the barbarian just stand there and take a beating. I know they're not bright, but they're not that dull...

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