Count Aericnein Neska

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42. Mayor's daughter is pregnant, guess who's the dad? Not to mention that she's going to require a certain standard of living...
43. Wide-ranging caravan needs guards, and they've heard you are pretty good in a fight.
44. Dad's dead, mom is sick, and you're going to need money to pay that apothecary bill.
45. Bill the Blacksmith's prize mare has gone missing, and an unsavory type not from around these parts was sizing her up just last night. Go track'm down!
46. You're lucky with cards. Sometimes too lucky. And sometimes, well, not so lucky but you manage to win anyway. Last night a drunk called you on it, and now he's seeing the local healer. Problem is he's the son of the local bigwig, and you have nothing.

Long time lurker, first time poster. Hoping I don't have myself in over my head, hence the thread here asking for advice.

The group: 6 or 7 of us that play once a week, for 3-4 hours at a time. I'm DMing, and we've got both players that have played some version of the oldest tabletop RPG for over 2 decades, and players that haven't played at all. Age range is from 24-38 or so, playing in a house as opposed to the LGS, and everyone has experience in gaming of some sort. Not everyone can make every session, more on this below.

Me: This is the 3rd campaign I've tried to run, and the first one to actually have legs. The first couple were easily 8-10 years ago, 3.0, and I'd like to think I've learned from my mistakes. One of those is not asking for help, and this...well, you'll see.

Resources: At this point, the CRB, GMG, Best1 and 2, UC and UM. 3 FR 3.0 setting books. Iron Kingdoms Players Guide 1. FR 4.0 Campaign Guide. Other miscellaneous books. (including some old Palladium RPG supplements)

The setting: Homebrew. I basically took Forgotten Realms, made the Shades disappear 10 years past 4.0 campaign start, and moved the timeline up 300 years to an industrial/steampunk/magitech era. I've cut and pasted parts of 4.0 FR into the 3.0 setting, but I'm using 3.0 as my jumpoff point for time period advancement, not 4.0.

I really wanted to use the resources I had, as opposed to spending money on Golarion resources. Not that I'm opposed to the general principle of the thing, but like everyone else I'm on a budget, and rulebooks > sourcebooks at the moment. I still need to pick up Best 3 and 4, and the ARG.

Essentially, I wanted airships and steampunk. Airships give me the excuse to have players pop in and out of the story with minimal explanation of the hows and whys, and I seem to recall a statement by James Jacobs that said they really didn't fit into the feel of the Inner Sea well (or something to this effect.) Steampunk because I really REALLY want to work Iron Kingdoms technology into the game. That said, we're at the "Guns are commonplace" setting, but not mechanical cartridges. The atmosphere of the game itself is a bit of Imperial Europe (1840-1870), part western, part steampunk/magitech, part industrial revolution, and a good part of Firefly (or at least, that's the plan once we get into the swing of things)., then, are the players (and challenges)

Players: Human musket master, half-elf stealth rogue, elvish two weapon fighter, gnomish alchemist, tiefling magus, and dwarven cleric. There so far hasn't developed a "leader," but the gnomish alchemist might be the party mascot and/or clown. They're all level 2, and will hit 3 sometime in the next couple of play sessions.

1) Mechanics. Opting for a more heroic campaign, we did 5d6 drop 2 for character creation. I'm adjusting for this with +1 APL, but I feel like I'm walking a thin line between party wipe and cakewalk. I'm using the "more baddies" approach instead of BBEG for fights, but I'm also usually running 6 players at the table. Is another +1 APL appropriate for this? Is there a better way of dealing with this short of waiting until 5th or 6th level and letting it all even out? I'm experimenting with longer encounters + more bad guys, including waves + timed enounters, but currently they've got one incredible 15 minute adventuring day.

I ran the first encounter at CR6, using 6 Thugs (fighter 1/rogue 1) from the GMG, and went from almost killing the PC rogue in round 2 to having all 6 thugs down in round 4. This would be an Epic+ encounter at level 1 for 4 PCs at 15 point buy, but it felt about right.

2)In the past, my campaigns failed because I tried to pigeonhole my players into the story I wanted to tell. I've grown since then, this was 10 years ago, but I am constantly trying to be aware of what they want to do vs. what I think would make a better story.

3) Biting off more than I can chew: I really like the setting. It's resonated well with players, but I want it to be more than just the edges of the frame around the picture that the characters are currently in. Short of incorporating warjacks, how do I create a feel of early industrial while also keeping the high magic of FR? And how do I manage these while keeping 2 firmly in mind? I'm leaning towards cinematic combat that would utilize urban and industrial environments (rooftop battles with the city burning down around you, vats of molten iron, duels on the top of airships hundreds of feet up, that sort of things), but is there a better way to do this?

4) Ability creep. I have airships, I'm sure combat is going to go aerial at some point, but I dislike the image of the 10th level fighter with enough aerial acrobatics to make a Cirque performer envious. Plus, if I've gone through the trouble to design multiple airships and all that jazz, how do I keep the sandbox as opposed to railroad feel while limiting their ability to use teleport, etc.

5) Multiple PCs per player. An idea we're tossing around, and one I'm leaning towards granting. I know there are balance issues to be worked out...such as not letting one character borrow all the equipment that the other has, but has anyone played around with this? To be clear, I'm not talking about John running 2 characters at the same time, but rather choosing which character he wants to bring to today's session, knowing there's a possibility the other character might be involved elsewhere next week with its own story. This would give players more flexibility in play style, and would slow down the inevitable march of character levels.

6) Setting. It's a strength, but it's also a challenge. Again, I like what I've done with some of it, but I almost feel as if I'm just using the names and places from FR. Not that there's anything wrong with that, but even I'm at a loss as to how to work high magic into an industrialized world. Or do I just run with what I have, and ignore the integration of high magic until it really matters?

I know that experience DMing is key to a number of these challenges, but I wanted to start thinking about them now, prior to them becoming an issue in the game. So...I come to you lot asking for advice, commentary, "oh god don't do this", or anything in between. "Ur campaign is stupid" is also a valid response, but keep in mind I'll ignore every response like that past the first. :P