Order of the Amber Die—Doomsday Dawn Playtest, Part 5

Saturday, November 3, 2018

It's time for another report from the Order of the Amber Die! This time they give us a peek at their table as they ran through Part 5 of Doomsday Dawn, "The Heroes of Undarin"! As usual with these blogs, if you haven't played or read this and don't want to see any spoilers, turn away now!

Following our interactions with authors from Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four of the playtest, the time had come to face Jason Bulmahn once again. Our GM did much to invest us in what was essentially a wave-by-wave grinder, and we learned later that this was also to prevent us from developing the notion that in this scenario our deaths were likely inevitable. We were told our start time had been adjusted to match the time of day during which the adventure began (late afternoon), and that we'd likely be going late into the night. While Adam will often employ Syrinscape, ambient tracks, or his own themed soundtracks, this time he had us rocking out to combat the entire evening with such as one of our ESPN favorites, "300 Violin Orchestra," and NIN's "The Day the World Went Away." Our love of immersion and role-playing is clear from many of our reports over the years, but you don't have to look far in the Order to find players who are also up for a dice-throwing, hand-slapping brawl that will go twelve session hours.

The Party

Going in, we were told that we'd be playing hardy characters accustomed to facing terrible enemies in the Worldwound. We actually had quite a bit of freedom with character creation and wanted to accomplish a couple of things: acquire more data on a paladin and cleric played at higher levels, and spotlight both the highest level single-classed wizard and fighter of our playtest run. Listed with the names of each player on the team is the year each became a member of the Order (when a player has reached 100 hours at our table).

Maarlill human wizard 12

School: Universalist

Key Spells:Stoneskin, fly, resistenergy, mirrorimage, electricarc

Class Feats: Eschew Materials, Reach Spell, Widen Spell, Quick Preparation, Cantrip Expansion, Makeshift Wand, Focus Conservation

Yuma Hardgaze dwarf paladin 12

Deity: Torag

Class Feats: Warded Touch, Divine Grace, Aura of Courage, Shield Warden, Fiendsbane, Oath, Shield of Reckoning, Holy Wall

Best Magic Items:+2 corrosive composite longbow, +3 dwarven waraxe, heavy steel sturdy adamantine shield, +3 half-plate, cape of the mountebank, dust of appearance, feather tokens (chest, ladder)

Hofbah half-orc fighter 12

Class Feats: Furious Focus, Power Attack, Double Shot, Triple Shot, Positioning Assault, Combat Reflexes, Brutal Finish

Skill Feats: Quick Repair, Cat Fall, Quick Jump, Steady Balance, Kip Up, Quick Climb, Rapid Mantel

Best Magic Items: +3 full plate, +3 bastard sword (with holy rune), +2 corrosive long bow

Caerwynn Bastille half-elf cleric 12

Deity: Iomedae

Domain: Zeal

Class Feats: Holy Castigation, Emblazon Symbol, Healing Hands, Align Armament, Deadly Simplicity

"The Heroes of Undarin" By The Numbers

Player Tracking Sheet

  • Average time spent in character creation: 131 minutes
  • Number of times a character reached 0 Resonance: 0
  • Number of critical fails when overspending Resonance: 0
  • Number of times a character ran out of spell slots: 0
  • Number of times a character ran out of spell points: 1 (Yuma)
  • Number of Hero Points used: 19; 6 (Maarlill), 5 (Yuma), 3 (Hofba), 5 (Caerwynn)

GM Tracking Sheet

  • Total time spent playing "The Heroes of Undarin": 11hrs, 50min
  • Total time spent preparing "The Heroes of Undarin": 6hrs, 25min
  • Number of sessions spent playing "The Heroes of Undarin": 3 (session increments are 4 hours)
  • Total number of Hero Points given out: 36
  • Number of characters reduced to 0 HP: 10; Maarlill (4), Yuma (2), Hofba (2), Caerwynn (2)
  • Number of characters killed: 4
  • Wave in which the first player character reduced to 0: 2 (Maarlill)
  • Wave and event in which the first player character died: wave 2, event 6 (Yuma)
  • Wave and event in which the last player character died: wave 2, event 6
  • Number of party rests: 0

Additional Data

Maarlill

  • Uses of Reach Spell: 9
  • Total range gained through Reach Spell: 215 feet
  • Average range added through Reach Spell: 24 feet
  • Uses of Drain Arcane Focus: 4
  • Spells returned with Drain Arcane Focus: 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 6th

Yuma Hardgaze

  • Uses of lay on hands: 4
  • Total number of hit points healed with lay on hands: 121
  • Damage prevented by adamantine shield damage reduction: 194

Hofbah

  • Total number of melee attacks made: 51
  • Number of hits: 34
  • Total melee damage dealt: 1540
  • Average damage per hit: 45

Caerwynn Bastille

  • Number of channel uses: 7
  • Total positive energy damage dealt: 1003
  • Total hit points healed to party using all source: 1323

Highlights From "The Heroes of Undarin"

With the sun setting across a ruined temple deep in the Worldwound, we prepared to defend sacred ground from an onslaught of demons and undead. We had several situational tools at our disposal, and foremost among these was the ability to use an ancient stained glass window to bring Desna's will upon our enemies. Second was an altar that allowed each of us to use the god's blessing for one well-timed reroll of a d20. Between these and the assortment of terrain and antagonists featured, this was a true test of tactical skill in an edition we weren't very familiar with—thus an exceptional challenge we won't soon forget. What Bulmahn has created with this scenario is now a trial for all Order members to aspire to.

We're having to adjust to the new numerical norms in our favorite game, which is also part of what makes any playtest interesting. When a treachery demon tossed down a 44 initiative to open a combat jaws dropped, and we realized just how far we were from the days of the previous edition of Pathfinder. Go ahead and combine that with 29 TAC attacks against our wizard from a pack of dread wraiths, resulting in 15 misses. How about a single channel from our cleric, ripping 198 damage against four opponents?

Not only were divvying powerful items an important aspect of party construction for this scenario, it was at 12th level that potent items from the new era of Pathfinder truly began to shine. Don't take our word for it though, let the numbers above tell the story of a paladin's unbreakable shield and a fighter's holy sword.

Character Deaths

The end wasn't pretty. When the players on this team joined the Order, we heard stories from the 1980s and 90s about past members who saw their beloved characters devoured by a certain demilich during five different playthroughs of the "Tomb of Horrors." If it gives you an idea of how much our GM reveres demiliches, he chose one for his Paizo messageboards avatar—that same one from the "Tomb of Horrors." Worse yet, Adam can now add four characters from this era of the Order to his gruesome tally. At least we'll have some stories for the fire pit about our wizard's ray of frost being reflected back at him as a critical hit, another character critically failing against a maze spell, and watching our cleric's body turn to dust when the demilich trapped his soul.

Current Situation

We learned afterward that this was the scenario in which we were supposed to die. That's fine, we understand and appreciate the value of providing data from our destruction to help produce a better game. It still stings a bit though, as any TPK would. Dropping to a 2-3 performance thus far in the playtest, we're now left with no choice if we want to finish with a winning record: We'll have to run the table!

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Adam Daigle
Managing Developer

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Tags: Community Order of the Amber Die Pathfinder Playtest

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

Great blog post! You're right about those high numbers! 2E really can pack a lot in and keep you going or take you down! Very energizing read through and always appreciate the beautiful pictures the team takes! I'm so very envious considering my team has gotten very busy this autumn so we haven't played much more, let alone our Strange Aeons game. Thanks for sharing Order of the Amber Die!


3 people marked this as a favorite.

Wow the detail and the numbers are fascinating to read.

There has been some controversy in some threads about handling the larger enemies within the church. Specifically the treachery demons. How had the GM placed them when they popped into the church and how were they manuvered around the area?


4 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I love the photos, as always!


3 people marked this as a favorite.

Talk about a brutal showing lol. Thanks for the continuous reports, always an excellent read!


PsychicPixel wrote:

Wow the detail and the numbers are fascinating to read.

There has been some controversy in some threads about handling the larger enemies within the church. Specifically the treachery demons. How had the GM placed them when they popped into the church and how were they manuvered around the area?

I'm curious too, cause one of those figures looks pretty fenced in by pillars. XD

Myself I've found liberal use of Dimension Door is the best option. XD Breaking pillars could work but DD covers ground faster.

Order of the Amber Die

3 people marked this as a favorite.
SilentInfinity wrote:
Great blog post! You're right about those high numbers! 2E really can pack a lot in and keep you going or take you down! Very energizing read through and always appreciate the beautiful pictures the team takes! I'm so very envious considering my team has gotten very busy this autumn so we haven't played much more, let alone our Strange Aeons game. Thanks for sharing Order of the Amber Die!

Thanks for reading, and glad you liked the pictures! We had a good time with this one, and the team wanted me to give them another crack at it as soon as the Playtest is over. They have me intrigued to see whether they can finish out with a winning record, that's for sure!

Order of the Amber Die

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Edge93 wrote:
PsychicPixel wrote:

Wow the detail and the numbers are fascinating to read.

There has been some controversy in some threads about handling the larger enemies within the church. Specifically the treachery demons. How had the GM placed them when they popped into the church and how were they manuvered around the area?

I'm curious too, cause one of those figures looks pretty fenced in by pillars. XD

Myself I've found liberal use of Dimension Door is the best option. XD Breaking pillars could work but DD covers ground faster.

Demilich, reporting in! As for placement of the treachery demons, it seemed pretty clear to me on p. 63 (rubble pile and east end)? Anyway, mine used D-Door also, but I otherwise pretty much stayed on each end until I had one demon left; at that point, I had a good time making everyone run the length of the temple once they were able to base my remaining demon (D-Door to opposite side, rinse, repeat). So many abilities to work with in this one--a great time for a GM!

Order of the Amber Die

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Fumarole wrote:
I love the photos, as always!

Much appreciated! That's always good to hear because a good amount of time goes into choosing which photos we use, and especially how to thematically capture each part of the Playtest or project we're running. Erick and I have been doing the pics for the Playtest, and we were lucky to have such a perfect sunset for this one.


3 people marked this as a favorite.

The pictures are amazing as always. I also love the fact that instead of moving on, you want to continue playing it, so that someone can have the triumph of a win.

Order of the Amber Die

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KyleS wrote:
Talk about a brutal showing lol. Thanks for the continuous reports, always an excellent read!

Brutal showing, but you heard it here first:

I'm leading the next OAD team to victory over this scenario. In edition 1.0, 1.6, 2.0, it doesn't matter!


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OAD Sean wrote:
KyleS wrote:
Talk about a brutal showing lol. Thanks for the continuous reports, always an excellent read!

Brutal showing, but you heard it here first:

I'm leading the next OAD team to victory over this scenario. In edition 1.0, 1.6, 2.0, it doesn't matter!

I love the confidence! It's absolutely made me want to root for you. Good luck! I'm sure with that attitude you'll succeed.

Order of the Amber Die

2 people marked this as a favorite.
K Vogrin wrote:
OAD Sean wrote:
KyleS wrote:
Talk about a brutal showing lol. Thanks for the continuous reports, always an excellent read!

Brutal showing, but you heard it here first:

I'm leading the next OAD team to victory over this scenario. In edition 1.0, 1.6, 2.0, it doesn't matter!

I love the confidence! It's absolutely made me want to root for you. Good luck! I'm sure with that attitude you'll succeed.

I remain convinced that if we beat the demilich we would have gone on to win the next two encounters. It was the undead that were giving us trouble—it was a demilich after all!—not the fiends, as we were obviously much more prepared to fight demons. Playing Maarlill, I still had a couple of banishment spells, as well as color sprays, not to mention multiple levels of stoneskin memorized, amongst others. So close yet so far! Haha.

Paizo Employee Designer

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Matt Hardin wrote:
K Vogrin wrote:
OAD Sean wrote:
KyleS wrote:
Talk about a brutal showing lol. Thanks for the continuous reports, always an excellent read!

Brutal showing, but you heard it here first:

I'm leading the next OAD team to victory over this scenario. In edition 1.0, 1.6, 2.0, it doesn't matter!

I love the confidence! It's absolutely made me want to root for you. Good luck! I'm sure with that attitude you'll succeed.
I remain convinced that if we beat the demilich we would have gone on to win the next two encounters. It was the undead that were giving us trouble—it was a demilich after all!—not the fiends, as we were obviously much more prepared to fight demons. Playing Maarlill, I still had a couple of banishment spells, as well as color sprays, not to mention multiple levels of stoneskin memorized, amongst others. So close yet so far! Haha.

So far, the most likely death points have been the treachery demons, the demilich, and the finale, so that tracks with the numbers! The last boss is brutal, though, unless you bring all the right stuff like the group on the Paizo stream did.

Paizo Employee Franchise Manager

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Mark Seifter wrote:
So far, the most likely death points have been the treachery demons, the demilich, and the finale, so that tracks with the numbers! The last boss is brutal, though, unless you bring all the right stuff like the group on the Paizo stream did.

To be fair, we one the stream also skipped a bunch of encounters, so whether or not we would have made it that far or still had the right stuff available when the big bad showed up remains a mystery.

Paizo Employee Designer

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Mark Moreland wrote:
Mark Seifter wrote:
So far, the most likely death points have been the treachery demons, the demilich, and the finale, so that tracks with the numbers! The last boss is brutal, though, unless you bring all the right stuff like the group on the Paizo stream did.
To be fair, we one the stream also skipped a bunch of encounters, so whether or not we would have made it that far or still had the right stuff available when the big bad showed up remains a mystery.

This is true! I suspect a fair number of groups would have trouble with that boss even at full resources, though. But not everyone had a shadowy monk with frosty cold iron fists.

Order of the Amber Die

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Mark Seifter wrote:
Mark Moreland wrote:
Mark Seifter wrote:
So far, the most likely death points have been the treachery demons, the demilich, and the finale, so that tracks with the numbers! The last boss is brutal, though, unless you bring all the right stuff like the group on the Paizo stream did.
To be fair, we one the stream also skipped a bunch of encounters, so whether or not we would have made it that far or still had the right stuff available when the big bad showed up remains a mystery.
This is true! I suspect a fair number of groups would have trouble with that boss even at full resources, though. But not everyone had a shadowy monk with frosty cold iron fists.

Interesting, I was wondering the same thing about the stream, which ties into why I look forward to running this one again. Nothing affected the outcome of this scenario more than the decision to have the wraiths attack a single character. I knew the end was out of sight well before the players: I watched them cook off resources chasing wraiths around the cathedral as their wizard suffered through round after round of attacks, draining what I estimated as 20% of their resources in one fight. Incorporeal, flying, and with a 10' reach, there was no way for the wizard to find safety. Even with the data above showing how many times the wraiths missed, they still created a sense of panic and uncertainty that caused further attrition. The players also chose to use the stained glass against the wraiths to force a faster conclusion. This is the first time our team is even hearing this, but the main reason I want to see it play out again (with this same party) is because I am nearly certain they would at least make it to the end if any of the three other characters been the closest one to the graveyard when the wraiths emerged.

Editions aside, the diversity of scenarios and challenges in this playtest has definitely made us better as a group!


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The dedication shown is amazing and inspiring as always. Even after all those defeats, continuing to playing with that amount of care, brings a smile to my face. Great job as always

Order of the Amber Die

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TSRodriguez wrote:
The dedication shown is amazing and inspiring as always. Even after all those defeats, continuing to playing with that amount of care, brings a smile to my face. Great job as always

Thanks! Comments like this, from fans line you—who have always supported us—inspire us. Right now is the calm before the storm: We are getting ready to play part 7 tomorrow. Last chance. Final showdown. Trying to go out with a big win. The anticipation amongst the Order members is palpable. There’s definitely that electricity, that buzz in the air feeling. I can’t wait to see what 17 level will unleash. I can’t wait to see what monsters Adam is going to throw down, what spells will let fly, and what insane amounts of damage will be let loose!

—Player Captain


From the GM tracking sheet:

"Total number of Hero Points given out: 36"

36?!! What sorts of things get you awarded hero points? Our DM hands out maybe one or two hero points a session, and that's total, not each character. Figuring out one of the puzzles as a group without having to make any knowledge or lore roles in one of the previous adventures was the only time he handed out 1 hero point each.

Also, how many hero points do you start out with?

Order of the Amber Die

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Fiziks wrote:

From the GM tracking sheet:

"Total number of Hero Points given out: 36"

36?!! What sorts of things get you awarded hero points? Our DM hands out maybe one or two hero points a session, and that's total, not each character. Figuring out one of the puzzles as a group without having to make any knowledge or lore roles in one of the previous adventures was the only time he handed out 1 hero point each.

Also, how many hero points do you start out with?

Hi Fiziks, happy to explain, since the minimum number was actually 24 for this scenario as played. Total time was just under twelve hours, and our sessions are four-hour increments. In addition to the standard one Hero point per session and one for contributing (OAD members are expected to carry many out-of-game tasks to help run our game, see comments for blog #4), the players threw themselves at the adventure trying to do something daring or heroic enough to warrant an additional point. Since a session is capped at 4 hours, 4 players x 3 points per session = 12 points per session, x 3 sessions = 36 points. What's interesting is that with a minimum of 2 points per player/per session regardless of any heroic or special actions, our spread was still a minimum of 24 and maximum of 36 points. So far we've seen a nice variety among the group in regard to how they spent their points: some save them to revive from dying, some go all-in for the extra action, and others prefer the reroll option. The balancing factor with Hero Points is that they reset each session, so depending on what occurs in a four-hour increment, players who try to hold them too long for the perfect moment might never get that opportunity, resulting in points going unused (see our first report). At the same time, the most notable piece of data is that plenty of points were given out in parts two, four, and five--which didn't prevent TPK.

One sure way to bring the number of points down would be for the standard session increment to become longer than four hours, but since that's a fairly standard length for tabletop RPGs, I'm not sure if we'll see it change. When it comes to giving a point for contributing to the game, a long-term effect on the Pathfinder community is that GMs should generally have more help at the table, which frees more of their time to run a better game for their players--a potentially powerful effect for a single Hero Point! One other thing that might help in determining how players earn the third Hero Point each session, would be a more specific rubric for rewarding dramatic actions, but it also seems like that's hard to do without boxing both GMs and players in. Since we had some experience with Hero Point mechanics in the past, we decided as a group early on that we weren't going to spend precious session time having debates at the table about whether an action was heroic enough, etc. Hope all of this helps, and we're excited to show off more data about Hero Points in our upcoming blogs!


Mark Seifter wrote:
Mark Moreland wrote:
Mark Seifter wrote:
So far, the most likely death points have been the treachery demons, the demilich, and the finale, so that tracks with the numbers! The last boss is brutal, though, unless you bring all the right stuff like the group on the Paizo stream did.
To be fair, we one the stream also skipped a bunch of encounters, so whether or not we would have made it that far or still had the right stuff available when the big bad showed up remains a mystery.
This is true! I suspect a fair number of groups would have trouble with that boss even at full resources, though. But not everyone had a shadowy monk with frosty cold iron fists.

stuff from my group's run:

Our group had little trouble with the Treachery Demons but that was caused by a lot of maneuvering trouble with the temple and having their own Reverse Gravity spells bite them in the flank.

The Demilich was one of the two toughest fights (I had 6 players for this and the difficulty here was largely due to the Banshees being a stronger upscale than was warranted by the challenge to player ratio [disregarding the corpses it was adding a level+1 enemy per extra player in a challenge that started as equivalent to one level-1 enemy per player. Running the EXP of the fight it took it from Severe to Extreme, again ignoring the corpses.]), agreed. Those jerks left 5 of the 6 players Drained 2.

The other toughest fight for us was event 7, (which starts as an Extreme but for each extra level 12 player it adds three level 10 enemies, where the equivalent of a level 12 should be two level 10s. These enemies weren't massive trouble but having two less would have been easier) the chief foes there are very powerful.

The finale was actually the easiest fight for us ironically (And took the least number of rounds) for two huge reasons. One, it has no guidelines for scaling with extra players (And since we ran with the overscaling encounters I went with it despite the underscaling), so we outmatched it there.

Second, our Wizard went all-in on a True Strike Enervation, got a Nat 20 on one die, and the targeted foe made its save (Knocked down to a fail by the crit) giving it Enervated 2 on the very first turn of the fight. At that point the fight was just no match for our party. Without either of those factors we would have been in for a major struggle and unsure outcome. With just one it would have been tough but I think we would have made it.

Also Lol, we may not have had a shadowy Monk with frosty cold iron fists but we did have an angry Monk with holy cold iron fists who got a MAJOR amount of work done.

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