As a professional educator, I just want to remind you that the act of writing it out helps embed it into your memory.
Each mode, reading, writing, listening, gives you another way to remember and improves recall.
So, while copying something down from the screen seems like a waste of time, it depends on your goals. If your goal is to look it up once, then yes.
If your goal is to learn it so you don't have to look it up anymore, than its a good investment.
Get the timing right. Announce what's happening while you place bad guys on the map.
Try to peril initiative. Nothing breaks immersion more,
Have some terrain. Draw it in advance if at all humanly possible.
I played in a campaign where most fights took place on a blank battle mat. This invalidated perception and stealth, many kinds of battlefield control, and more than a few skills. Some types of characters became very suboptimal, and we found out after character creation.
Lego trees work well for me, as do regular sticks and rocks.
Countour lines are easy to spot, as a player, but indicate which side is up, and which down.
An intelligent magic item is also a great way to give the characters background information on demand. I support this idea.
I've owned a pair of intelligent magical glasses, which were great fun, and had a few bonus skills along with an intelligence of their own.
I've DM'd an intelligent magic sword, Lord Neon, who was a powerful wind-Duke who polymorphed himself into a sword, and couldn't cast the reverse spell without hands or a voice (he had reasons).
I played him as a bold, headstrong noble, unafraid to enter melee against ANYONE, but protective of his dignity. Hijinks ensued on two occassions when players wanted to use him to chop down a door (what am I, a lumber axe?) and to fight a metal-destroying ooze (absolutely not, it's filthy).
When I say this, I of course mean, let the new player learn the game as we did, over time.
It's tempting to open with a barrage of 'do this and this and this', but it can be too much, too fast.
Also, listen to her. she chose Druid. Do you even know why? You should, or you won't be able to help.
Over time, as different things come up, you'll have time to teach her that 'Druids counter invisibility with faerie fire', for example.
And Forty, of course rookie players make rookie mistakes. Your choices are educate or complain.
So, let them have a 20pt buy, and be generous with starting equipment/ gold/ help from NPCs.
On the plus side, you might easily have a group where everyone is stealthy. That can be useful.
And remember, the standard is NOT 'did I read every word of this AP', the standard is 'are the players having fun?'. Feel free to adjust the AP.
Right away, the goblins are supposed to be both a nuisance and have comic value. Don't have them universally all turn and attack with perfect synchronicity. Instead, have one who's not paying attention, another who's using a sub-optimal weapon, another who is lighting things on fire, etc.
Get a badge early, and have it mailed to your home. Pay the $3, it's worth bypassing the hours in line.
Choose your events when the list comes out. When events go live, you need to be poised with a finger over the button. Seriously, some events vanish in five seconds. If you're looking for bigger events, like a PFS game, you've got more time, they can seat hundreds.
Hotels, if you can believe it, go even faster. You can't do it later that day. Or the next hour. When they go live, be ready, or your hotel will be a ways from downtown. If you get stuck, keep checking back, sometimes you can catch a cancellation.
Ap's are designed for 4 players, 15 pt buy. Of course, it's easy to overpower an AP with six players with 20 point buys.
For optimization, it's not about what many people think. Strive for versatility. Otherwise, your character will have long stretches of doing nothing, and will occasionally be in very real danger when plan A stops working.
I've seen judges handwave anything the players might be bad at. This needs to end, because it encourages yet more over-specialization. Let players fail. Be fair, not nice, and your players will actually have more fun, because they're not on 'easy mode'
Finally, the level of optimization to strive for, always, is 'same as the other players'. That way, you have party balance, and everyone has a chance to shine. Good party balance is tough to pull off.
Don't worry about the GM, they can always add/subtract difficulty.
Ok, i've run a few 10-16 adventures and James is right, they DO take up more space. I can remember this from living Greyhawk days, and the front of each mod needs a section that details what happens if:
Speak with dead
Additionally, certain challenges (crossing the raginriver) are sometimes just negated by phantom steeds, or teleportation, or wind walking. So, it's trickier to figure out what to do.
So, how about a new ask: 1-2 higher level PFS adventurers a year. No set schedule for those, they can come out when they're good, and not before.
What do the rest of you think?
So, I'm going to assume that Ultimate Intrigue is about the same size as Ultimate Combat. Which means that Vigilante isn't enough to fill the whole book.
I'd have to guess that the rest of the book will be filled with ways to add Intrigue to your game. Where you need to make an argument to the Emperor's guards that they should allow you in for an audience, and 'I attack them' will be answered with 'they kill you'
If this sounds like your thing, if you enjoyed reading the Goblin Emperor, or the Amber series, maybe vigilante is a great class. If you can't imagine why anyone would trade combat power for social power, well, you're probably looking for a different style of game.
And it's not right or wrong, it's just different. I'm willing to at least give the rest of the book a look. Maybe that's needed to fully understand.
Do you need to experiment more? Bend the rules?
For example, I ran a session that was in an alternate dimension. So, I described how time flowed differently, and space seemed distorted.
Then, I wrote everyone's name on a token, and pulled names out of a box for initiative. It changed every round.
While it might not be what you want every week, it did feel different to the players, and that was achieved.
Maybe a more episodic thing is what you want. So every session starts with an action scene, and buying equipment is just hand-waved.
Try new things. What's the worst that could happen, you have an uninspiring night? You have that now.
You know, it actually sounds like we agree. I'm not suggesting any particular length. What I'm suggesting is that 'length of campaign' is something that should be discussed, and shared, just like 'character creation guidelines' or 'what system to use'.
I find that one one person expects to kick open the doors in a dungeon, and the other wants a plot device to tell stories, that often mediocre games are the result.
With an established end, whether that's an hour or six years, you add an impetus to use time well, and give the players playing their second favorite game a motivation, since they're going to get to what they want more of later.
So, one thing we do poorly as a community is end games. We're all great at starting campaigns, but the idea that they'll go on "for infinity" is a bad idea, and makes for poor storytelling.
Think about setting endpoints for your campaigns.
Then, move past thinking about encounters as the be all/end all. The story is where the planning should take place, the encounters are the result.
Also consider switching to a new game system for a while. Often, that gives you a new perspective to think about what you like, don't like about the current one.
Wow. I find this whole thread fascinating, mostly because my definition of healing is so completely different. I see healing as a much, much bigger category.
I can recall having this conversation with another player, who was having trouble keeping up healing the party damage as we fought in a burning building. 'You know, if you had cast resist energy instead of cure moderate wounds, I would have absolutely no need of further healing. Instead, you've used three spells in the place of one.
So, I think of healing more in terms of support, and I find clerics are still greatly useful. But not for restoring hit points, that's not the primary problem after level three. Instead, clerics (yes, also oracles, and perhaps a few others) are useful for all of the 'remove awful condition spells'.
It's the cleric spell list that has lesser restoration, remove paralysis, delay poison, and resist energy. Clerics can treat disease and poison with a skill check, and can remove curses. Invisibility purge lets everyone beat down the invisible monster, as can daylight.
A well prepared 'healer' should be able to keep everyone tip-top, and thats worth quite a lot.
I tell you one thing that is useless: the character who can't adjust to circumstances.
Whether it's Blasty McSootems the fire evoker who is helpless vs. devils, or Pointy McShootsyou the archer who can't operate in a hurricane, you need a plan B.
Know how to adjust for a party with a lot of melee, or very little. Be ready to deal with only a bard as the 'healer'. So, be prepared to deal with a wide variety of circumstances, both in and out of combat. Because if you don't, the problem is you.
And if you build an over-specialized character, please don't complain if there isn't a lot for you to do. You're the person who built a character with five collective skill points, and a climb check of -4.
Other helpful hints:
Just because the GM is assuming the planning burden does not mean that he/she should also assume the financial burden as well.
One solution we used for "worlds largest Dungeon" was to have each player kick in a share, adding up to half the cost of the book, and the GM kicked in the other half, with the caveat that he kept it when the campaign was over.
We've also had players bring food, minis, battlemats, books, or whatever.
For low-stakes decisions, we've often run with 1-3 it works, 4-6 it fails, and looked the exact rule up between games.
So, Im trying to decide what to play in the Core campaign, and so I'm thinking about WHO will play.
1) people who play so much they're out of mods.
My guess is that this group is a bit smaller, but will have good system mastery. I expect to see a wide variety of builds, but that variety might steer clear of weaker options like monks or fighters.
2) people who like hard mode.
This group may decide to go with mechanically weaker options, like small size barbarians, crossbow users, or rogues. I'm not sure how big this group actually is. I suspect that very few live near me.
3) people who are on a budget.
This group makes sense to me, but I don't think i'll see too many. If PDFs are expensive, then traveling to a con and getting a hotel room is probably also expensive. I'll guess this will be common in people's homes and dorm rooms, but tough to get an invite.
These people will build like new players, making whatever strikes them as cool.
4) the beer and pretzels crowd.
Potentially a large group, this could include casual gamers, gamers like myself who now have home and work commitments greater than they once did, or perhaps some 1st edition people who feel that one book is all right if it comes with a community of players.
Here, I'll guess a lot of old favorite characters get remade, and the stereotypes of elf wizard, half king rogue, human fighter...all come back out.
Archer isn't so much a class as it is a set of feats.
Right away, you'll want Point-blank shot, rapid shot, and precise shot. Bam, you're a low-level archer, and you can do that with any class you like, though some are a bit faster than others.
You'll want str and dex about equal, and both over 14.
Grab silver and cold iron arrows as soon as you can. Also load up on alchemical items like holy water, you'll have good aim, and arrows aren't too useful vs. skeletons.
I go simpler still. You can carry a number of heavy items equal to your strength.
Ex: Strength 10 = carry ten things.
If something is small, then just group them together. No one is going to become encumbered because they picked up an arrow. But an additional quiver of arrows, that's +1 item.
I count light armor as 1, medium as 2, heavy as 3, and two handed weapons count as two items.
You can even make the magic items work this way: the bag of holding carries 10 heavy things, but only counts as 1.
I'm not a fan of near-perfect duplication. For example, holy smite and its friends could really just be one spell, 'smite unbeliever'
The wording on charm person is also poor, but that also comes from a combat system that is many times more robust than the non-combat system (skills). What can you get someone to do, and how hard is it?
I'd rather see charm person work like jump, and give you a skill bonus to Diplomacy, assuming that Diplomacy worked better...
Rynjin has a good point. There are really only three ways to die in PFS: failed save, critical hit, or TPK.
You're vulnerable to 2 of the 3, and you're going to eat it. Especially now that you can play the 7-11 mods. The expectations have changed, and you need to be ready for that.
And get the ranged weapon, the blunt weapon and the magic weapon already.
Even if you survive, you'll start to have another problem. No one is going to want you at their table, because your character isn't up to par.
I do feel like PFS has taught me quite a lot about gaming.
1) i'm exposed to a huge variety of characters and styles, far more than i would ever see with my one gaming group of five people.
2) i've had to learn to be versatile as a player, to figure out my new role in the group, which changes every four hours.
You need to have a conversation about this. And not in-character. And not "I hope he will notice this problem I feel inside".
TALK. And probably the easiest place to start is "Hey, we're steamrolling the encounters. I've never even been injured, and it might be more fun if things were a challenge".
Lead that into "Why don't you go ahead and change things?"
And "Well, what DO you do to prepare, how do you get ready for a game?"
My point wasn't that the wand of shield was illegal. My point was that the opportunity cost was really high.
On round one, do you:
Position yourself to maximize AO's with a reach weapon?
It's nice when you expect conflict, when your group is about to kick down the door. But it's less useful when surprised. So, I'd be inclined to go with the +1 buckler that always works instead of the shield wand that works some of the time.
That said, it's TOTALLY worth spending 2PA on. I find far too many players hoard their PA in case they die, instead of buying things that will keep them alive in the first place.
And Bret, I'd humbly suggest that one of the reasons you were killed by zombies is because the other players standing behind you didn't get enough done to help you.