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8-14 To Seal The Shadow GM Thread


GM Discussion

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Starting this one off with a question...

Spoiler:
In the mock debate, is the Determination only the number of PCs, or are there other modifiers to take into consideration?

Thanks

Grand Lodge

Dracovaard - I would say yes. In particular:

Spoiler:
I gave a 1.5x determination advantage to the party because one of the players took on a ritual wayang scarification body modification honoring his chosen hero. I agree that mentioning determination modifiers for in-scenario actions/triggers would have been helpful.

Grand Lodge

I had to do a rapid prep of this scenario after a last-minute scenario change and ran it successfully last night.

I distributed the rules for the verbal duel and hero choices to the players prior to the start of the game (obvious benefit re: extra familiarity) and we did an in-game group review of the rules for about 30 minutes before starting the duel. (There's really no down-side or major spoiler in giving it out before-hand. I would say it's required for 4-hr. runs.)

re: Verbal Duel:

As a new mechanic that most players won't know very well (if at all), the Verbal Duel in 8-14 benefits from GM enthusiasm, fluidity, advance player exposure, and some player coaching along the way (as needed), since this particular duel is a little bit tricky (trying to lose convincingly against a manipulative opponent who is also trying to do the same).

Also, players may be concerned about their PC skill profiles and might not fully embrace all of the strategy. The rules layout in this scenario is very similar to that of Ultimate Intrigue, but would benefit from improvement. For example, there really needs to be a table for tactic interactions and related skills and maybe some additional duel scripting.

Organizational issues aside, we had a lot of fun with the duel (some of the arguments were quite amusing), it required spontaneity on both sides, and the players did a good job. Eventually, the players began to embrace the DC mechanic, ante management and how to burn through determination points while also gaining spiritual favor.

We started the briefing about 15 minutes late and finished the scenario on time within a 4 hr. slot. The duel section easily took over an hour, including the pre-duel discussion. But, as a GM, you've got to keep it moving.

The duel obviously adds atypical scenario complexity, but is very workable with minimal (and maybe judicious) planning. So, my advice from the GM perspective: bring your enthusiasm and improvisation for some verbal sparring and focus on the fun, and all should go well. Don't let your players be overwhelmed by the mechanics and do some basic time management.

It's an interesting and fun scenario with a nice chronicle. Also, be sure to read through all the parts of the final encounter and the related interaction and staging before running. It's a little bit too spread out and needed more organizational focus.

But...overall a good time for everyone and very nice to have a wayang scenario! I liked it!


Another question...

Spoiler:
In the arena fight with the wayangs, the wayangs are said to fight to the death unless the charm can be removed. If the wayangs beat down the entire party, are they considered dead or do the wayangs watching it eventually aid the party so they don't die? I know later in the encounter it says tradition states that once the fight begins it is not to be messed with. It seems that crunching averages this fight could go very bad for some parties, especially if they do not have a meat shield. Those punches can hurt, especially with PA engaged.


HoloGnome wrote:

Dracovaard - I would say yes. In particular:

** spoiler omitted **

Thanks Holo. I figured that was the case but there is stuff that is normally added in for each PC. Wanted to make sure I wasn't hosing anyone. :)

Grand Lodge

Dracovard - regarding the mock battle:

Spoiler:
The short answer is that it is a combat like any other against opponents seeking to kill the PCs and, as you say, p. 9 indicates that the fight must play out. So, there are no bail-outs. And, sometimes, you just have to take the mechanics at face value.

re: mechanics, charm person is a little bit of a stretch here, since Eynemb is asking the warriors to do something they would not normally do (use lethal force in a well-established, ceremonial mock/non-lethal combat). It implies that he succeeded on 4 DC11 charm person wand casts and then succeeded on 4 opposed charisma checks with only a +3 modifier. OK, maybe...and btw, they were perfectly timed to end at the end of the mock combat. ^_^ I guess he just kept burning wand charges @ 50% initial chance and +5 on their saves after the 1st failed attempt until all the brawlers failed and were willing to go against tribal tradition and their consciences. Note: the sub-tiers alter the wand caster level (CL4 vs. CL7), but the DC remains the same in either case.

The scenario offers a DC25 Sense Motive check to realize the charm, but detect magic would also be helpful (and easier -- DC16 arcana to detect enchantment school, but requires 3 rounds and the target has to be in range). Further, as charmies, they are hostile towards the PCs, but nothing stops the PCs from trying to help them see the error of their ways. Diplomacy and Intimidate take at least a minute (won't really work in active combat), but Bluff might work (maybe making statements that feign harmlessness), for example. There are always solutions for creative players.

In my run, the (fighter, bard, magus, ninja) party of 4 made very short work of the brawlers. Good tactics and successful use of color spray and daze certainly helped (plus poor saves). It was over in < 4 rounds, if that helps. YMMV depending on party composition.


HoloGnome wrote:

Dracovaard - I would say yes. In particular:

** spoiler omitted **

It's not clearly explained but it's either the minimum or the best at the table whichever is higher.

Silver Crusade RPG Superstar 2013 Top 8

Logic wrote:
Knowledge (any pertinent); occasionally, other skills will apply instead, such as Appraise (for a verbal duel involving barter or haggling) or Profession (for a verbal duel involving knowledge or practice of that profession’s skill set, such as Profession [barrister] during a trial).

Do we have any idea what skills would be appropriate? The wayang council uses Knowledge (arcana), so that is a safe bet, but are there any others?

Silver Crusade RPG Superstar 2013 Top 8

p. 13 wrote:
Rewards: If the PCs win the debate, or fail to lose gracefully (by conceding with more than a third of their determination remaining), reduce the treasure as noted.

But the PCs can't concede the duel...

p. 10 wrote:
The need for the PCs to appear to be attempting to win imposes the following limitations: when assigning skills to tactics, they must choose the associated skill with the highest bonus; they can only use tactics to which they have assigned skills; they can’t concede the duel; they must counter exchange openings; they must counter whenever the current exchange’s ante is 1 or less; and no PC who has won an exchange can contribute to an exchange unless each other PC has won an equal number of exchanges.

Are they supposed to be able to concede?

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Michael Eshleman wrote:
p. 13 wrote:
Rewards: If the PCs win the debate, or fail to lose gracefully (by conceding with more than a third of their determination remaining), reduce the treasure as noted.

But the PCs can't concede the duel...

p. 10 wrote:
The need for the PCs to appear to be attempting to win imposes the following limitations: when assigning skills to tactics, they must choose the associated skill with the highest bonus; they can only use tactics to which they have assigned skills; they can’t concede the duel; they must counter exchange openings; they must counter whenever the current exchange’s ante is 1 or less; and no PC who has won an exchange can contribute to an exchange unless each other PC has won an equal number of exchanges.
Are they supposed to be able to concede?

Normally, under the Verbal Duel rules you can end a duel if both parties agree (either to a tie, or one side conceding). This isn't mentioned in the version of the rules presented to the PCs in Player Handout #3, but is in the last paragraph on page 19 (the GM has the full Ultimate Intrigue rules presented on pages 17-19).

I assume this comment is here in case a player is familiar with the full version of the Verbal Duel rules from Ultimate Intrigue

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I am really frustrated prepping this scenario (and gave a more lengthy detail on the Product page). This is too much corner-case narrow content, being applied in a non-standard way (the PCs have to LOSE the duel).

Anyway, I've prepped a summary for the players and attached it to a printout of Handouts #3 & #2 (I put Handout #3 first, since it makes more sense first IMHO):

Think of the Debate like a Game of Tennis or Ping-Pong. You take turns Serving, and you need to return the Serve. More points are scored the more “bounces” the ball takes between Serves.

• Your goal is to LOSE
o (Lose all your Determination)
• You have to TRY to WIN (but still LOSE)
o You cannot CONCEDE the Duel
 (no Surrender…)
o You must Counter all Exchange Openings
o You must Counter if the Ante is 0 or 1
o Once a Player wins an Exchange, she cannot Participate (until everyone wins an exchange)
o You have to use your best (associated) skill for the tactic you are using
o Each “Hero” has a specific tactic they should try at least once
o There are TEN different Tactics

I also wrote the favored tactic of each "hero" and favored combat tactic on the Hero handouts from HA#1, so the Players should have that as a quick reference.

Scarab Sages

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
MadScientistWorking wrote:
HoloGnome wrote:

Dracovaard - I would say yes. In particular:

** spoiler omitted **

It's not clearly explained but it's either the minimum or the best at the table whichever is higher.

I'm just going to assume it is the # of players every time. Remember the players goal is to LOSE, so the more Determination they have the HARDER their job is - I don't want to punish a table because they have a level 5 PC with 16 WIS/INT/CHR over a table of barbarians....

(only relevant at high tier anyway)


grandpoobah wrote:
MadScientistWorking wrote:
HoloGnome wrote:

Dracovaard - I would say yes. In particular:

** spoiler omitted **

It's not clearly explained but it's either the minimum or the best at the table whichever is higher.

I'm just going to assume it is the # of players every time. Remember the players goal is to LOSE, so the more Determination they have the HARDER their job is - I don't want to punish a table because they have a level 5 PC with 16 WIS/INT/CHR over a table of barbarians....

(only relevant at high tier anyway)

Actually, with the way it works that isn't much of a punishment. If you run it correctly it actually is legitimately hard to get decent tactic scores because unlike normal skills the chances are that your have the right ability scores is impossible. The scenario legitimately needs a character sheet in its own right because what they give is kind of junky.

EDIT:
I think that also might be why they decided to reverse the objective. Its really hard for the NPC as written not to win in an average PFS party given that Charisma is the universally accepted dump stat.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber

B1 & B2:

Is there any reason they can't repeat the skill checks for the ritual? Normally I would expect there to be something about not repeating skills, but I don't see it in the scenario.

If they are trying to make a ritual check, what sort of action do they need to use in order to do this?

Acrobatics can normally be done as part of a move action.
Bluff takes 'at least one round' which I would suspect means a full round action here.
Intimidate is normally a standard action to demoralize.
Sleight of Hand is normally a standard action, or move action at -20.
Knowledge normally doesn't take an action.
Perform isn't well defined except if used as part of a bardic performance.

B2:
The final battle is listed as happening at midnight and the creatures are listed as keeping to the shadows.

So does this mean we should be applying a miss chance for concealment for anyone without either Low Light or Dark Vision? The only races that normally lack these are humans and halflings, although they can be traded out on other races.

Still trying to grok the verbal duel rules along with the special rules for this scenario.

Also, is there any way to change the title of this thread? At first I didn't find it because I was searching for "To Seal the Shadow", it was only when someone else found it by searching for the scenario number that I found out about it.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

another problem I forsee - what if a player has NO trained skills relevant to any of the tactics? Does that mean that the PCs could be in a state where no can make a check (if that player can't make any checks and the other players have all won their checks)?

Particularly at the low tier - but even at the high tier it is very very possible for a low skill tranks PC to not have any of these skills trained - what is supposed to happen then?

I agree with the general sentiment - for all that it is a cool mechanic - I'm a bit unhappy with how much of this scenario is taken up with the rules and special variations for this one encounter.

And I'm also surprised that given Occult adventures there isn't more done with the spirits of the heroes - seems like this ia a scenario crying out for a big helping of Occult adventures (and at least some special rules for characters with special spirit related ties.

Another question - do the masks for the heros occupy a magic item slot?


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber

All the skills called for except Sleight of Hand and the knowledges can be done untrained, so that shouldn't be a problem.

I wouldn't make the masks conflict with magical item slots. I believe it is just meant to give flavor to the scenario, not to prevent characters from using magical items they may own.

Silver Crusade RPG Superstar 2013 Top 8

Rycaut wrote:
another problem I forsee - what if a player has NO trained skills relevant to any of the tactics? Does that mean that the PCs could be in a state where no can make a check (if that player can't make any checks and the other players have all won their checks)

I don't see a requirement that you need to be trained in a skill in order to assign it to a tactic. So if a PC isn't trained in any skills associated with a given tactic, they could just use their Charisma modifier for that tactic.


Michael Eshleman wrote:
Rycaut wrote:
another problem I forsee - what if a player has NO trained skills relevant to any of the tactics? Does that mean that the PCs could be in a state where no can make a check (if that player can't make any checks and the other players have all won their checks)
I don't see a requirement that you need to be trained in a skill in order to assign it to a tactic. So if a PC isn't trained in any skills associated with a given tactic, they could just use their Charisma modifier for that tactic.

Its in the special rules. You can't use a tactic if you aren't trained in any of the corresponding skills. At that point I'd just ignore the rule.

Quote:
So does this mean we should be applying a miss chance for concealment for anyone without either Low Light or Dark Vision? The only races that normally lack these are humans and halflings, although they can be traded out on other races.

Nope. Its a 20% miss chance if the creature is in darkness or low light regardless of vision ability. The thing about that scenario though is that if I remember it correctly the ambient lighting conditions is low light because of the bonfires in the area meaning that a light spell would in fact negate the concealment.

Quote:

I agree with the general sentiment - for all that it is a cool mechanic - I'm a bit unhappy with how much of this scenario is taken up with the rules and special variations for this one encounter.

Actually the third encounter is worst given that it uses mechanics that the general consciousness is that no one really knows how it works.

EDIT:
Huh... I didn't know this because I memorized the rules for this long before the scenario came out but the mechanics are missing as to how to run Shadow Conjuration.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber
MadScientistWorking wrote:
Michael Eshleman wrote:
Rycaut wrote:
another problem I forsee - what if a player has NO trained skills relevant to any of the tactics? Does that mean that the PCs could be in a state where no can make a check (if that player can't make any checks and the other players have all won their checks)
I don't see a requirement that you need to be trained in a skill in order to assign it to a tactic. So if a PC isn't trained in any skills associated with a given tactic, they could just use their Charisma modifier for that tactic.
Its in the special rules. You can't use a tactic if you aren't trained in any of the corresponding skills. At that point I'd just ignore the rule.

I had missed the part about requiring training in the skill in order to use it. Looks like I need to closely read over UI and the scenario for the Verbal Duel.

Quote:
So does this mean we should be applying a miss chance for concealment for anyone without either Low Light or Dark Vision? The only races that normally lack these are humans and halflings, although they can be traded out on other races.
Nope. Its a 20% miss chance if the creature is in darkness or low light regardless of vision ability. The thing about that scenario though is that if I remember it correctly the ambient lighting conditions is low light because of the bonfires in the area meaning that a light spell would in fact negate the concealment.

I wasn't talking about the Shadow Blend SU ability. With that it is going to be always 20% miss chance unless they bring up a Daylight or something.

Dim lighting would normally give a 20% miss chance -- like to hit Eynemb.

Quote:

EDIT:

Huh... I didn't know this because I memorized the rules for this long before the scenario came out but the mechanics are missing as to how to run Shadow Conjuration.

I looked up the spell Shadow Conjuration from the ARG.

ARG, pg. 211, Will Save DC 10 + 1/2 level + Cha mod. Otherwise as spell.

As spell means reduced AC, hit points, damage. If attack doesn't do damage, only 20% chance it works.

I was mildly annoyed that they gave stat block in the appendix for a normal animal for the two summons rather than Fiendish.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I am going to call the ritual actions a standard but usually requiring a move to be by the puppets.

Sovereign Court

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Played this scenario this afternoon (Alexander/Monkhound GMing). On the whole we had a good time, although it felt a little bit cliched; of course the routine party gets disrupted by a disgruntled skeptic and he stupidly releases a monster he didn't believe was real.

I rather liked the whole hero mask theme though, reminds me of my favorite part of Blood Under Absalom.

Based on the afternoon, I have some recommendations for GMs running this:

Intro
Since there's a boon attached if you took body modifications, make sure everyone gets a chance to accept them. Our GM gave them for free to one of the PCs, but it seemed like random RP because he happened to ask about them. I think it's better to ask each player individually "the nice locals offer you tattoos for the festival, would you like them?".

Mock Fight
Our GM had to often look up who was wearing which mask and was supposed to do what things. I think the scenario goes more smoothly if you prepare appropriately colored table tents with the name on one side, and the heroic "to-do" on the other side.

Given how bad the gladiators' defenses are, the fight might be over very quickly. And their to-hit isn't very convincing against L2 PCs that had a chance to buy real armor. In our case they landed only one (lethal) blow during the whole fight. So it's possible that the fight is over too fast.

So it can be helpful to instruct the PCs beforehand that since this is a "nonlethal" fight, they shouldn't hurry but instead take their time and show off for the audience. That gives more time for Eynemb's treachery to come to light, and for the players to try their heroic actions.

Don't drag the gladiators off-stage too fast, because then the players can't question them about the lethal violence. In particular, it's likely all gladiators are out cold, so have an NPC wake them up in the arena "so they can walk out and wave to the crowd" but also give the PCs a chance to question them.

Also, although the Charm Person is timed to end perfectly, there should still be a lingering magical aura.

The Debate
Since the mock fight's heroic actions cater heavily to martial characters, it's possible casters haven't had a chance to score. For example, I played a wizard as the samsaran that had to use higher ground (not gonna happen with magic) or cover against an attack (nobody came near me because the barbarian's role told him to rush forward). So, make sure those players get a chance to talk during the debate. After all, Eynemb basically controls who gets to talk back at him by selecting PCs to engage. It can be tricky for players to horn in on that themselves.

A problem I had with the debate was that we just didn't have that much to say. The backstory that we were reenacting was exceedingly vague so it's hard to RP references to it. The closest I got was summarizing it as "this debate is about how we originally weren't going to help you but you talked us into it". If someone wants to write a more elaborate fanfic for this it would be great.

When figuring out our starting determination we were told it was equal to the number of PCs. Reviewing the scenario, that's a minimum; if any PC has a higher Int+Wis+Cha mod + HD, that's still the amount to use. (Which would have been 3 higher in our case.)

During the intro you can if you roll maximal on the Gather Info check learn that Eynemb is leading the debate team. We didn't know and he just seemed to be this looney that kept grabbing the mic. Maybe he should be introduced as the team leader during the start of the debate.

I know a lot of GMs dislike having new-mechanics-minigames. But please, for the love of your players, don't talk negatively about it before the scene. If the GM keeps saying "I hate this part", players are going into it less likely to enjoy it too.

I had some player angst about the heroic actions; I'd missed out during the combat, and the dude didn't seem like he was going to call on me. And then when I got a chance to reply I rolled poorly. So then I had to wrestle the mic from another player to try again because I didn't want to be the only one to miss out on the hero minigame. Point is: it turned out you only had to attempt the check, unlike the combat where you also had to succeed (or try often).

During the debate table tents will really help the GM, because he has to know which players to address as which heroes.

The handouts about debate rules are not meant to be the first thing you give to the players - they recapitulate the rules in backwards order. Quite confusing. The GM should start by explaining them and use the handouts as player reminders.

Allocating the skills to debate tactics could go more easily if you made a form with for each tactic a few radio button options for the skills. Sort of a debate character sheet.

Since as a heroic action you have to use a specific debate tactic, it's good to tell people what tactic they need to use before they start allocating skills to tactics.

Shadow Play

Everyone saw Eynemb's betrayal coming from a mile away, but the wayangs wouldn't hear of replacing him. Which is a bit sense-defying if you've gathered your evidence well. An alternative presentation is that he's actually replaced, but decides to crash the party; the rest of the scene plays out the same. But it doesn't look like NPCs are sticking fingers in their ears to not hear the PCs' warnings.

What needs emphasizing here I think is that Eynemb is not a crazed demoniac cultist who's been seduced by the dark side, but a smart scholar who thinks his people have been kept back by superstition. If possible, try to emphasize earlier in the adventure that the tradition is thousands of years old, and that there's been no sign since then that there's actually a shadow monster slumbering nearby. Players will still realize that it's likely to go wrong but the NPC looks less clueless for being skeptical.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

So just ran this for a table of four at the high tier. They didn't particularly like this - especially not the Verbal Duels

As a GM I noted that I had to keep track of vastly too many special subsystems - Trust, the Heroic actions each PC took over the course of the adventure, the ritual successes and timetable as it could can have a very big impact for the final encounter. As well as teaching an entirely new to everyone at the table rule system in the middle of the adventure - with twists of both using a rule system built assuming one to one dueling with a group of PCs (but a group of NPCs but only one of whom who does anything) and with the goals and special additional rules - to get all that together the GM has to track rules and notes in four different parts of the scenario (some of which seem to contradict each other making the whole thing even tougher to run especially on light prep)

While I would run this again to see if it works better with some groups than others I think this is an example of a bad direction in scenarios - we need fewer special rules to track in any given scenario - more flexibility to accommodate different play styles - and far far less use of special rules that few PFS players or GMs have run before (and if you are going to introduce them please avoid then making a wide range of special variations to them on top of the usual rules.

Further this is a huge lost opportunity - a scenario all about heroic spirits observing the players and potentially influencing the adventure that uses NOTHING from Occult Adventures seems extremely wasted - this would be have been a wonderful opportunity to use some of the systems and rules from Occult adventures (especially around heroic spirits ala spiritualists).

I do love the current crop of stories set in Tien - and love exploring parts and races of Golarion that we haven't explored much in the past - but alas the new rules and subsystems here detracted from the enjoyment considerably.

Grand Lodge

grandpoobah wrote:

I am really frustrated prepping this scenario (and gave a more lengthy detail on the Product page). This is too much corner-case narrow content, being applied in a non-standard way (the PCs have to LOSE the duel).

Anyway, I've prepped a summary for the players and attached it to a printout of Handouts #3 & #2 (I put Handout #3 first, since it makes more sense first IMHO):

Think of the Debate like a Game of Tennis or Ping-Pong. You take turns Serving, and you need to return the Serve. More points are scored the more “bounces” the ball takes between Serves.

• Your goal is to LOSE
o (Lose all your Determination)
• You have to TRY to WIN (but still LOSE)
o You cannot CONCEDE the Duel
 (no Surrender…)
o You must Counter all Exchange Openings
o You must Counter if the Ante is 0 or 1
o Once a Player wins an Exchange, she cannot Participate (until everyone wins an exchange)
o You have to use your best (associated) skill for the tactic you are using
o Each “Hero” has a specific tactic they should try at least once
o There are TEN different Tactics

I also wrote the favored tactic of each "hero" and favored combat tactic on the Hero handouts from HA#1, so the Players should have that as a quick reference.

Let me see if I have this straight. They players have to lose. The only method of losing the have available to them is legitimately losing sufficient exchanges to arrive at 0 Determination. This is because they cannot concede the duel, and cannot concede exchanges until the ante >= 2.

They are allowed to choose ineffective tactics, and Eynemb will also attempt to use ineffective tactics. They must use their highest Skill mod within a given tactic.
Once a player has won an exchange, they cannot attempt another until everyone else has attempted one. Enyemb is the one to decide which PC is debating him on any given round of an exchange.

So, as a GM, I basically choose Enyemb's tactics based on what I think a given PC would be good at countering. So, if I know a PC has an extremely high Diplomacy modifier, I might use Presence targeting that PC. This is because Diplomacy is a skill for Flattery, which is strong against Presence.

However, the PC would not want to use Flattery, since they are also trying to lose. They might want to counter with Allegory instead, which has a -2 when used as a counter.

Exchanges go back and forth until someone fails the DC set by the last counter (or opening), at which point they lose the ante in Determination. Both players and Enyemb are attempting to fail the DC.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

yes but it is really hard to figure all of that out if you are trying to win - let alone trying to lose. There is a lot of challenge here for the GM and the players to play with a highly unfamiliar rule set - and it isn't obvious either how Enyemb would know which PC is good at what - nor how to respond to the PC's who try to target the other debaters when they see Enyemb targeting them individually.

overall I was very very underwhelmed by the Verbal Duels rules and even having run this one I still don'tt hink I have a good rasp of how they are supposed to work - let alone how they are intended to work with all of the additional restrictions placed on it by this scenario.

(and as my players noted it is very easy for this scenario to deeply penalize PCs who aren't built to be high CHA - and/or who don't have many skill ranks assigned to social skills as a result - forcing a recalculation of scores at the table is also really challenging when many people don't remember where all of their skill scores arose from (traits. magic items, feats, class or race bonuses etc)

Grand Lodge

I think it penalizes characters who are high CHA. You are supposed to fail checks, so low-skill characters will seemingly fare better.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Not really because you have to have had ranks assigned to a skill to be able to use it all as a tactic. And more difficultly is on the fly determining how your total score always arrived at and which bonuses apply and which might only count towards getting edges (at my table no one had any edges as best we could tell but then only one pc had more than a handful of skills he or she could use towards any tactics at all)

My point is that the whole "recalculate a score on your sheet on the fly for a new purpose with rules that differ dramatically from all other skills" is unfair to players who have sheets that don't have how a score was arrived at documented (i.e. Most players not using a laptop at the table). Consider a player using a pregen which has to be a factor especially for a 1-5 scenario - this would require a level of detailed knowledge of classes, races, feats and traits and magic items that many people even very experienced players can't quickly do at the table.

Better I think would be a mechanic that uses actual on your character sheet scores. Many people don't have a character sheet that tracks specifically the ranks they put into a given skill - let alone how class abilities, racial features, traits items or even chronicle sheets might be impacting things (changing what skills are considered class skills for you for example)

Layer on top of this rule exceptions for every tactic

And then require that every tactic used in the duel be tracked along with who did what with them so you can apply the penalties correctly.

And then also layer on the very confusing audience attitude stuff for further penalties

And you have a skil challenge I don't know how to run even having done it at the table and now thought about it a lot.

Better I think would be far less rules and far more flexibility for role playing the scene or for simple rolls for tables without heavy role planters (like my table with three players that don't particularly love the RP part of the game when they are winging it)

Sovereign Court

I don't agree with all of Rycaut's objections about character sheets. For pregen sheets, sure, those don't tell you how many skill ranks are in a skill and that's awkward.

But for other players, the default character sheet Paizo uses has a column for skill ranks. And anyone with a self-built character should be able to explain where their skill scores come from.

---

That said, the debate rules seem to have a lot of little details in them making them awkward, and it doesn't help that you're also asked to "play in reverse" to lose.

Also, I don't see where it says you have to assign your best skills to tactics.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber

Scenario rules state you have to pick your best skills.

Sovereign Court

You can assign a skill to only one tactic, and you have to assign your best skills to each tactic? And can only assign trained skills?

That's an optimization puzzle that will bring most tables to a grinding halt.

I think this scenario has too many bits of fine print in the debating rules, that it's unlikely many groups will manage to do it "correctly".


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Lau Bannenberg wrote:

I don't agree with all of Rycaut's objections about character sheets. For pregen sheets, sure, those don't tell you how many skill ranks are in a skill and that's awkward.

But for other players, the default character sheet Paizo uses has a column for skill ranks. And anyone with a self-built character should be able to explain where their skill scores come from.

---

That said, the debate rules seem to have a lot of little details in them making them awkward, and it doesn't help that you're also asked to "play in reverse" to lose.

Also, I don't see where it says you have to assign your best skills to tactics.

Perhaps it is because i often run for players who GM as often as they play or who have lots of characters - they often have characters they haven't played in a while with a printed out sheet that doesn't have all of their details (many of my players use Hero Labs but don't use a computer at the table). My point is also that it is a pretty complex computation - as GM I'm not entirely clear what the intent for some types of bonuses is - whether they are supposed to apply to the Verbal Duel or to qualifying for edges (trait bonuses to a skill? - what if that trait also makes something a class skill for that PC? what about class/archetype based bonuses to a skill? what about racial bonuses to a skill? what about an ioun stone or other magic item bonus specific to that skill? Bonuses to the stat appear to work (so if you were tying to win an alchemist or other class with a way to boost a mental stat could use that - likewise an alchemist might be able to lower a mental ability via mutegen to help "lose" in this case..

but yes it then becomes a very complex optimization because it is also unclear if you can choose the order of assigning skills to tactics (since you can't apply the same skill to multiple tactics you can lower the value of one tactic by assigning your better skill to a different tactic - but fully optimizing that is indeed a pretty complicated process even for players who like such optimization challenges)

the other not unrelated problem here is that the full rules for how to run the duel are contained in at least FOUR different parts of the scenario - two PC handouts, an appendix (with the rules as written - but without the specific variations for the scenario - so it can be confusing to reference) and the encounter description - though spread across many pages with key points buried in blocks of text (what the PC's have to do because they are trying to lose and what the NPC has to do). It is far from clear or easy to follow and little details are very easy to miss

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber
Rycaut wrote:
My point is that the whole "recalculate a score on your sheet on the fly for a new purpose with rules that differ dramatically from all other skills" is unfair to players who have sheets that don't have how a score was arrived at documented (i.e. Most players not using a laptop at the table).

I'm prepping this scenario right now, and I just read that paragraph in the Verbal Duel rules.

I'm flabbergasted. I'm completely floored. A mechanic that requires you to recalculate your skill bonus based on what items and feats you have is a bad idea to start with. Putting that mechanic in the middle of a **PFS Scenario** is inexcusable. What were the writers, developers, and editors thinking???

There's a guy in our local lodge who's so bad at adding in his head that he's written down a cheat-sheet table for himself to know what his attack result is based on the number that shows up on the die. When I visualize him coming up against this mechanic, the sinking feeling that I get inside runs right past the Titanic and ends up inside the Swarzschild radius.

I'm sorely tempted to violate PFS rules and simply not run this one as written. I'll simplify the verbal duel rules. I haven't even read them all yet, and what I've read is just nuts.

Edit: it has been pointed out to me that these rules are straight from Ultimate Intrigue. Sigh. I have just fully converted to the camp that says that Pathfinder is suffering from an unsupportable weight of rules bloat.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I think the better move by the author if they really wanted to use the verbal duel rules would have been to avoid the whole "you have to try to lose" further complication and to somehow make it so that one player dueled one PC and the rest of the party had a role to play (but a supporting not a primary role) - that way only one PC would have to go thru the whole recalculation effort, the rules would be far easier as you aren't trying to modify the goal as well as learn new rules - and likely the whole section would take less time if it was simplified to one PC vs one NPC.

Better yet - scrap the whole using an unfamiliar rule set entirely - and dedicate the nearly 10 pages or more that regains you to fleshing out the scenario further and making one or two encounters that every PC can participate in without spending 30+ minutes recalculating scores and learning new rules.

I think the underused rule sets that Pathfinder have are often underused for a reason - and should be looked at carefully as they often haven't seen as much playtesting as the rest of the rules - and as rules not used in PFS they almost never will have PC's built to really use them well.

The scenario that used Mythic rules while not flawless did have the advantage of using the Chronicle sheet from the previous scenario to introduce the limited set of rules that would be in play - thus allowing players to prepare ahead of time - while also offering an even simpler version for players who might not have played the earlier scenario or just didn't want to use the full set of rules that were available. If this scenario had been part of a multi-part arc and at the end of that arc had introduced the verbal duel rules wth a simple way to apply them ahead of the scenario then it would have given everyone time to prep their character ahead of the scenario.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber

GreySector has made an excellent worksheet to help characters figure out their dueling tactics.

I agree it still slows down the game -- especially when there is a pre-gen involved.

I've run this twice now and am still having a little trouble explaining and running the verbal duel in a way that is interesting. I really wish they hadn't tilted the duel like they did. At least then people playing would have gotten a better feel for how the duels are supposed to work.

Lau does have an excellent point (above), make sure you spin the duel as a positive regardless of how you may feel about it. Introduce it as a way to learn about some new rules from Ultimate Intrigue. Explain how those rules allow verbal duels that can be used for debates, insult contests, court witty repartee, and other such things.

Having run the final two combats a second time, I've noticed that the BBEGs just don't last. The one used for fight B1 really needs a couple of small things to keep the players from mobbing him. In both cases, the BBEG from B2 suffered the results of the skill rolls. Especially in high tier, I believe these two fights should be made a little tougher.

The other thing that you need to do before you start is figure out what information the main NPCs have about the ritual, and how they feel about it. This is especially important with the NPC that brings them to the island since she will be performing as a guide throughout the scenario.

Sovereign Court

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BretI wrote:
Lau does have an excellent point (above), make sure you spin the duel as a positive regardless of how you may feel about it.

Yeah, I think this needs reminding again. I've seen the same thing with chase scenes: a GM profusely apologizing that he's going to have to run a chase scene in The Merchant's Wake. To players who hadn't done chase scenes before, and who (therefore..) didn't hate chase scenes (yet). And this particular chase scene didn't have the fatal flaws of older published chases. But because the GM spent so much time apologizing for it, we went in with a negative mindset.

If a cook serves you a dish while apologizing that it's a dish he'd rather not have prepared, you're probably going to enjoy the meal less than if he'd just not said anything.

Grand Lodge

2 people marked this as a favorite.

I agree with Lau about performing the debate with a smile on your face. It can help people have fun.

That said, I do want to vent a little spleen on here at least about this BS. You want to introduce a new mechanic? Fine, go for it. What I'm not as fond of is introducing the rule-set with an additional and scenario-specific rule-set (having to use your best skills, no conceding, etc.) on top. On top of this is the reversal of intent (trying to lose) making this even more unnecessarily confusing, and then another scenario specific mechanic (the masks) just to make the GM want to kill themselves.

It's deeply, deeply idiotic to introduce a new mechanic-set this way, particularly given the verbal duel's default complexity.

If I never run this scenario again, it will be too soon. I'm going to try my damnedest to make sure my players walk away smiling, thinking it was a great scenario. It will be a considerable test of my progress as a GM.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber

Is it time for venting?

Alright, how about if you are introducing a new mechanic from Ultimate Intrigue you also read pg. 157 of the same book! Encounter A does things that run counter to how I would normally judge the limits of the spell used.

I really wish they had used a different mechanism there, even if it was to use a scroll of something like Mass Suggestion. At least there it wouldn't be quite as much a stretch with respect to saving throws and results. Timing wouldn't have been quite as much an isssue either if worded carefully.

Sovereign Court

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When playing we didn't really like the "you have to lose" as players either - this is the first time you get into debate combat for a lot of players, everyone spent time figuring out which debate tactics we were good at. We wanted to win!

So instead we run into a maniac who's sabotaging the debate and seems to keep grabbing the mic even if we try to address the other (presumably sane) councillors, and we just whiff about picking whatever response tactic has a poor score.

I mean, apart from all the difficult nonsense and complicated rules, it isn't that hard as players to lose. You're told there's a penalty for re-using a tactic so you do that, and you just keep re-using whatever tactic you have a poor score in.

The irony is that this adventure consists of:
1) Easy fight.
2) Social challenge that's easier for an antisocial party.
3) Easy fight, especially if you did well at the previous encounters.

So for a murderhobo party it's a breeze and for an all-social party it's an uphill climb.


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Thanks for the extensive recap of your play experience, Lau. I've been prepping this scenario to GM tomorrow. I've taken your suggestion to make coloured table tents. Should have them up on pfsprep when my account is activated.

I have my own thoughts to add regarding this scenario, but I'll keep them to myself until I've actually run it.

Sovereign Court

I hope I wasn't too negative earlier. While this scenario has issues, if you work at them it's a decent enough scenario and you can have a fun afternoon with friends playing it.


Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber

My players had fun, but it irks me when NPCs pull stunts that a PC shouldn't be allowed to do.

I want the story to be run in a way that is consistent with the rules!


For what it's worth, I think this scenario did a far better job with a new mechanic than Bid For Alabastrine did. I even got to try to be social with my bloodrager, since I had a positive CHA modifier and trained intimidate :)

Grand Lodge

RealAlchemy wrote:
For what it's worth, I think this scenario did a far better job with a new mechanic than Bid For Alabastrine did. I even got to try to be social with my bloodrager, since I had a positive CHA modifier and trained intimidate :)

I actually didn't hate the social parts of BfA. There were flaws, but at least the characters were fairly well developed.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber

The scenario is fun. I just wish the UI system weren't so heavy and ideosyncratic.

I actually used a slightly simplified system. I didn't require players to recalculate any skills, and I didn't require them to pre-designate skills to tactics. (In the end, it didn't go long enough to require more than a couple of applications of tactics from any given player.) (Which, by the way, is all the more reason why we shouldn't spend a whole bunch of time before we start calculating a bunch of for-this-scene-only stats.) I made all "rerolls" general. (I didn't use the terminology "edge".) Finally, I didn't expose a lot of the mechanics to the players. I never told them ante or determination numbers, I just kept track of all of that myself. I gave the modified handouts reflecting the slightly simpler system. I kept all the tactics intact. (Also, when players seeded the audience, I just had it for rerolls, rather than specific tactics. They were pumping themselves. There were no "edge" rerolls to start with since I didn't recalculate skills.)

I am going to run this one more time; I don't know if I'm going to be able to get away with using my simplified system again. It did save us from having quite so much startup time in getting the scene going.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Maps, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber

Yeah, I liked Bid for Alabastrine. And I found the system it used far less intrusive than the Verbal Duel system. It didn't require you to recalculate a whole lot of stats, and what's more it was used for the bulk of the scenario, and thus was worth a bit more investment in figuring out the system. The system wasn't nearly as fiddly and complicated as the verbal duel system is.


I played this under Ivo, and I loved it. Much of it depends on the party, but also on the GM, and we all had great fun. I'd heard people being down about the scenario, and I see where they're coming from, but I didn't feel that way. Recalculating skills is a bit of a bother, but is quickly done and the system isn't too difficult to wrap your head around. Our GM made excellent handouts that really helped, go check out his stuff when he puts it online.
The only complaint I have is that the subsystem isn't difficult, but it is needlessly complex. I get the flavour behind it, but I think it's too obtuse for its own good, there's too many moving parts to make it elegant. Compared to the subsystem of Sun Orchid Scheme, for instance, which has a simple flowchart, and most of it is only known to the GM, this takes too much time for little to no gain.

I like the verbal duel component, but if it had been streamlined a bit more, it'd have been so much better. Combining a knowledge check with a certain charisma-based skill would've been so much easier: Make a relevant check (knowledge, sense motive, perception, and so on) to see if you know anything about it, then a charisma-skill to see how you convey it, and have a DC for both. If both succeed, both DCs goes up. If either one succeeds (meaning either you're talking out of your ass, but you seem convincing, or you know the relevant information, but stumble in the delivery), that DC goes up. If both fail, you fail the challenge altogether. Also, rolling against each other to set the DC is stupid. A lucky high roll of the opponent could mean you have little chance of beating it, while simply rising DCs. This way, knowledgeable characters and charismatic characters alike have a chance at this. The Occultist at our table was screwed, because he had a lot of knowledges but no Charisma, while my Channel-focused Cleric was dumb as a rock but had a good shot at this because of his Charisma. It just felt overly punishing for some builds.

I've read somewhere that a work of fiction only has a limited amount of "sure"s, things you buy into (you go "sure, I'll believe that") before your suspension of disbelief is broken. Or, as xkcd put it, 5 made up words before people opt out. Translating that to rules/terms people have to understand, you get "edge," "ante," "biases," "determination," and a whole slew of tactics that interconnect, and a whole lot of little rules. That's just too much. That's almost a new ruleset entirely (as in, intended for a different RPG altogether), instead of "add-on rules."


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed it. I think the others did as well. Some observations:
- The scenario ran a bit short, even with the first encounter dragged out due to a first-round Entangle spell. It also didn't help that none of the characters succeeded at their Sense Motive checks to figure out that something was up. (Of course, the players could reasonably guess what was going to happen, but they were admirable in their blissful ignorance.) All in all, though, it seems like the scenario has only three encounters, with some freeform roleplay in between.
- I did end up cutting some aspects of the Verbal Duel, specifically bias and seeding. It just felt too much when I was explaining it, and everyone was figuring out what to do with which skill. Needing to lose also seemed quite a hurdle, especially when everyone also wanted to perform their hero's action.
- Once we got started, the Verbal Duel was actually over quite fast. Really, every PC (5 players at low subtier) only barely managed to perform their hero's tactic before they lost. 5 determination seems to be gone quite quickly in a couple of exchanges. Maybe it plays a but better at high subtier, when the determination pool is just a bit bigger.
- The final fight went well enough. The characters focused on the ritual, and one of them had a good score in Knowledge Planes. With two characters aiding and the occasional extra +2 from Trust, they ended the fight in 6 rounds. (He did roll low once, but that was fixed by a T-shirt reroll).
- My handouts and table tents helped quite a bit, I think. I just added them to the PFSprep site.

I think I might run the game again, as a PbP: This gives people more time to read up on the Verbal Duel rules, and they'll have more time to come up with arguments for their tactics, embellish the duel a bit more.


I took a quick look at the scenario, the DC for the Sense Motive is pretty tough at level 1-2. At that level, only Wisdom-based characters with Sense Motive as class skills have a reasonable shot at making it.

Good call on stripping out the audience participation. It adds very little other than a huge rules mess, and in this case would've actually worked against us.

Agree on the Determination, I had the same thoughts. Everyone was racing to fail, because we simply didn't have enough points for an exciting back and forth. While I appreciate the twist of suddenly wanting to roll badly, it actually led to worse gameplay.

Silver Crusade

So what I'm getting from a lot of the comments is:

The more the GM cheats and ignores the actual rules the better things go.

Not really sure that is a strong endorsement of it.

I stick with my 1-star-only-because-I-can't-give-it-less review.


I don't think my GM cheated and ignored rules. What I said in my second paragraph are just suggestions, not something we actually did. What he did do was ignore certain parts of the rules we didn't need anyway and make custom handouts. With those two things alone, I think any rating will be at least decent.

Silver Crusade

Quentin Coldwater wrote:
I don't think my GM cheated and ignored rules. What I said in my second paragraph are just suggestions, not something we actually did. What he did do was ignore certain parts of the rules we didn't need anyway and make custom handouts. With those two things alone, I think any rating will be at least decent.

Don't get me wrong, I think "adjusting" the rules to make a better game is a good thing to do :-). I just don't think that it should be necessary

And I admit that, glancing back at posts, less people admit to changing the rules than I thought.

But there are some:

" I did end up cutting some aspects of the Verbal Duel, specifically bias and seeding."

"I actually used a slightly simplified system"

"I think this scenario has too many bits of fine print in the debating rules, that it's unlikely many groups will manage to do it "correctly".

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