Now, the first arc is underway!
So, I'll admit, I became a patron to two different and very lovely mapmakers. Hey, I needed maps! But, I feel in love with all the options. Buoyed by the energy and enthusiasm of my players for their goblins and exited about the story I wanted to tell, I ended up making about three session's worth of content. We had the first today, and it went over well. For my first time writing Pathfinder sessions myself, I consider that a win!
We opened with a recap of Age of Ashes so far from the goblins' perspectives, detailing how this group of heroes was almost overshadowed by Big Bumble's apotheosis (in the eyes of the Bumblebrashers) and how life continued to change for them, after. They were given a place to live in the citadel's courtyard, they saw more longshanks than most had seen in their lives, and they even became comfortable around them.
They also helped the kobolds relocate to a new lair. The main party talked them into taking over Ralldar's cave and adding (what's left) of his hoard to theirs. They're still friends ("friends"?), but they don't live right next to each-other anymore. While there, Bumble's Brashers saw the remains of Ralldar and his macabre goblin servants and heard some of his story from Renali, whom they passed on the way. They recalled ancestral stories of a "goblin god" in the area, a distant thing in the short memories of goblins but more present in the minds of longer-lived creatures. I narrated how this was a factor in the evolution of goblin culture in the area, opening the way for the Bumble Brashers and allowing other tribes to grow, split, and evolve on their own. Hobgoblins didn't come to take over as bitterness from the Goblinblood Wars made the residents defensive on that particular point, and barghests or similar creatures haven't stepped in because they know Ralldar is still there and still dangerous. But Ralldar was mostly inactive, so the goblins were left in peace.
The Brashers soon forgot about this, however, as it was festival time! In honor of Big Bumble, the Bumblebrashes put on the first annual (monthly?) Bumblefest! They did this in their new village, a rickety and somewhat vertical and dense construction rapidly deployed into the citadel's courtyard. It had everything. Wrestling, dancing, music, food, and more! And residents of Breachill were invited. Some even came! Lob ran a food stand - nevermind that people recognized ingredients and trinkets from their homes. Peebip wrestled the warp pups for the entertainment of all and then ran an armwrestling booth. Barble placed well in all musical competitions, and KaboomBoom put on a massive and spectacular fireworks show! Roxie Denn and some of her regulars showed up and delighted in the rough and tumble atmosphere. They arm wrestled with Peebip and brought pickled everything from the Pickled Ear, much to the goblins' delight. KaboomBoom even asked Roxie to pickle one of the barghest's ears. Near the end, the music picked up and there was a dance by a trio of goblins wearing the Big Bumble puppet the main party had rigged. It was a glorious night, and build some real connections between the Bumblebrashers and Breachill...
Which was important, as their connections were about to be tested! A week after the main party departed through a mysterious portal to solve the cultist problem once and for all, Breachill residents approached the Bumblebrashers with questions. This is odd, because goblins know few enough things, and yet they came, asking things like:
"Why did goblins try to burn down part of our town?"
Bumble's Brashers knew emphatically that their tribe was not behind this. They consulted with Warbal - now the citadel's seneschal - and she gave them some advice:
A ways away, the Friendwood Farm was run by a single family of goblins who traded their produce (cucumbers and pickles, primarily) with everyone, and who probably knew what was going on. Warbal told them how to get there and sent them on their way.
While walking the roads out, though, the party ran into mysterious trouble! The party witnessed a patrol of two unfamiliar goblins atop goblin dog mounts... a patrol which became aggressive upon seeing them! [I ran 2x Weak Goblin Dogs and 2x Goblin Warriors, but gave the Goblin Warriors the equivalent of the Ride feat to simplify things.]
The party won the fight easily enough. The barbarian got to rage out and cause some real damage, and we discovered just how big some emanations can be! No one got too hurt. It's interesting using goblin dogs against an all-goblin party, as they're immune to the goblin pox (or, as they call it, simply "the pox"). It was hard to encourage use of terrain features with what was functionally only two targets moving around and engaging, but they had some fun and it got a bit narrative. Once the assailants were dead, they realized they didn't recognize any of the markings and icons, and that the goblin dogs were emaciated and mildly abused.
Moving on to Friendwood Farm, they discovered its residents being harassed by a band of three goblins. [I used a regular Goblin Warrior, a Warrior using a torch an alchemist's fire, and a weak Goblin Commando - this last might have been a mistake!]
With good initiative rolls and, admittedly some luck, the Brashers trashed the commando before he could even act. The barbarian turned the arsonist to paste, and the final warrior tried his best but fled in the end, only to be felled by clever use of Sudden Charge. And here I thought that feat wouldn't see use! I guess I'm not used to how open some maps can be.
At the Friendwood Farm, the harassed but otherwise unharmed goblin family (a grandpa, dad, mom, and five kids) clued the party in on what was going down. Now, ever since I roleplayed the goblin tribe heckling Calmot, goblins at my table have been a bit... vulgar. These farm goblins especially. But, with much censoring, I can tell you that necessary information was conveyed. Someone named "Gothgram" has swooped in and began forcibly uniting the local goblin tribes and families. He's very belligerent about this, and brought goblins with him that were already loyal. They already pulled in and relocated the Fleetfeet, the Jamjaws, the Shankbiters, and the Burning Bloods, but the farmers said that - were they the type to do anything about it - what they would try to do was win over the more reluctant conscripts and create some sedition. (Here, realizing I'd used an uncharacteristically large word, I made a joke where the child asked his pa what sedition meant and was supplied layman's speak in simple but profanity-laded terms.) But there was a problem: whoever Gothram was, he was ensuring loyalty with enslaved hobgoblins! Each conscript camp was monitored by a hobgoblin who reported back. So the plan was to take out the hobgoblins in transit and then use what time that afforded them to fold the conscripts into the Bumblebrashers and stage a final assault on this Gothgram fellow.
Lore (Goblin) and Lore (Goblinblood Wars) revealed that the Fleetfeet were, like the Bumblebrashers, peaceful goblins. Only they were skittish and fearful and tried to live in isolation. Providing them support and girding words would probably win them over. The Jamjaws were neutral to good leaning, very animal loving with goblin dogs and wolves and such, but they placed almost total authority in the perceived whims of their mascot. The Shankbiters they knew less about, only that they were generally hostile goblins no one wanted to interact with. The Burning Bloods are arsonists and warriors who were still mad about what happened generations ago (from their perspective) in the Goblinblood Wars. Because they are an active threat, they are more a small band than a tribe, but they're very dangerous. Those last two were unlikely to be willing to turn against Gothgram, who seemed bent on sparking another conflict of organized goblins.
The bard and the alchemist went towards the Fleetfeet camp, while Peebip the barbarian and our rogue went for the Jamjaws. Here, I ran two simultaneous but separate encounters using side-by-side maps and one initiative list, as the groups tried to fell the hobgoblin middlemen... who did, indeed, bear heavy collars and the signs of malnutrition and weakness. [Each pair fought a Weak Hobgoblin Soldier and two Goblin Warriors.]
The battles were hard, but decisive. I didn't end up utilizing the NPC's abilities as much as I wanted, but they went well, and one player learned the difference between 5E DnD Attacks of Opportunity and PF2 AoO the hard way - by being downed by one. In the sake of fairness, now that he knew, I let him take back his movement - all he was trying to do was get flanking bonus to sneak attack a hobgoblin he very much could have killed without precision damage, and it was a good learning opportunity.
Victorious in these battles, the goblins are left with questions and many injuries. But the paths forward to these other tribes - and, hopefully, answers! - are now open...
What's coming next!:
Once they arrive, the party will have to convince the two tribes to break from Gothgram - a barghest on his way to ascension and looking to take over Ralldar's territory - and join the Bumblebrashers instead.
The Fleetfeet will worry and fret, and will require six successes on skill checks to convince them and help them. Crits count as two. Checks could be Diplomacy to win them over, Crafting to improve their weapons and armor, or whatever creative and zany plans my players come up with.
The Jamjaws will be more straightforward. Their mascot appears to stand with Gothgram - it seemed frightened of his people and that meant the Jamjaws should bend the knee. But they are willing to change allegiances if their mascot (a boar!) can be similarly cowed by them and their so-called Big Bumble. It's trial by mascot (with Big Bumble's champion!) and they will have to fight an angry boar in a small arena.
Winning over the tribes will give them the support they need. It also means they'll get allies in the form of the tribes' own champions. Each character will get an ally, which they can command using the minion rules and what I'm basically calling the Direct action. Peebip will be accompanied by a Goblin Champion, while Lob will get the pleasure of directing a Goblin Dog. KaboomBoom will attract the attention of a Goblin Pyro, and a Warcaster will form a choir with Barble.
No one quite knows where Gothgram is, though. But they know where to find the more willing conscripts! This sends the party on a journey to use some of my new maps. ;) There's a very cool goblin-themed wooden bridge map that will be a fun transition fight and map or two I can use for fighting towards the combined forces of the Burning Bloods and the Shankbiters, led by an (enslaved) Hobgoblin Archer! From them, they will learn where Gothgram is and what he is, where I will use a very lovely invaded manor map I now have to represent an outlying homestead that Gothgram took over and is camping his indoctrinated goblins at. I hope to have some exciting and dangerous encounters here, to make it worth giving my characters allies! I'm thinking a Barghest with two of his +1 buff corpse consumption things already done + his honor guard.
I'm not sure all my encounter balance and tactical use of maps is done perfectly, but we're having fun so far. When we're finished, I want to have accomplished a few goals, and I think we're on the right track: I want to grow the Bumblebrashers again after their losses before Hellknight Hill, I want to increase relations between Bumblebrashers and "civilized" people, I want to contrast "new" goblins with their still very much active and violent "old" culture kin, I want to cement the B-Team as heroes in their own right, and I want to tell a story that feels connected to the regular adventure path but fleshes out a facet of it that's mostly unexplored. Hopefully it works out. :)
The team is established.
Barble the Bard is a Razortooth Goblin with a love of stories and songs and fascinating things. His muse is Big Bumble, to whom he attributes (falsely) many of his own traits. It's a sort of reciprocal modeling of Big Bumble after himself and himself after Big Bumble, oddly scaffolding his way up into his ideal self. He plays a flute/recorder made of bone and is definitely ready for adventure! Learned "Bear" from Peebip.
His unique background is Goblin Accompanyist and I believe it game him a Boost to Charisma (+ a free Boost), Performance, Lore (Goblin), and the Goblin Song feat.
Peebip is an Unbreakable Goblin, and that's a good thing! She made a name for herself as one of the Goblins who corralled Big Bumble into her place in the crypts, and has been especially inspired by her rampage, becoming a Bear Instinct Barbarian. When not raging out, she fights with a maul that she is scarily proficient with. Her extra Int went into "learning" the "Bear" language, which, like Klingon, is a surprisingly functional language not actually spoken as a primary language in real life. (Bear is a real language but, sadly, bears do not speak it.) Has a scar from her time with the clan mascot she calls her "Bumble bump."
Her unique background is Bumble Wrangler, giving her a Boost to Constitution (+ a free Boost), Athletics, Lore (Bear), and the Titan Wrestler feat.
KaboomBoom is the clan
His unique background is Goblin Pyro, and that gave a Dex Boost and a free Boost (for the throwing of bombs), Athletics (for running away), Lore (Goblinblood Wars), and Fleet (definitely for running away!). We allowed a general feat because Fleet doesn't seem too strong and it's only the B-Team!
Tbblobnoern, Lob, Tob, or any other shortening and mispronunciation of his name, is the party's Rogue. Really, he just likes food. Loves it! He's an Irongut Goblin gourmet, but he's a sneaky git with grabby hands and he takes more than food! For example, he took the regular cleric's spare +1 rapier (and just doesn't really know how to use it yet, but he's trying!)
His unique background is Scrounger, giving a Wis Boost and a free Boost, Survival, Lore (Food), and Forager.
They each got a scrap bracelet made from Big Bumble's hide, and they sometimes get cameos in the main team downtime stuff.
(In case you're wondering, yes, the Rogue is named after that misspelled Toblerone meme.)
It doesn't make a lick of sense that investing in armor or a sword is entirely safe, while investing in a shield is INCREDIBLY fragile. Shields just aren't that good.
Okay, I agree with you that investing in shields isn't safe while investing in armor and swords is. That's... exactly been my point. But that's about where we stop seeing eye to eye. I don't really see where you solution fixes the problem. It kind of preserves the stats of an item, but it doesn't preserve most of them (material, all the special features) and it doesn't allow the character to keep the same shield, which might be important to them for reasons other than their stats. Whether you agree with those reasons or not is immaterial; the fact of the matter is that everyone else is allowed to do so, no matter how realistic or sensible it is.
Look, this turned out long, so here are some spoiler tags for you. Goodness.
I think we have to take realism out of the equation. I mean, let's take a look at making sure Pathfinder does shield use like it was:
Realism in Shield Use:
I think really trying to make shields realistic would, frankly, require an entire redoing of the rules. I'm not an expert on shields - not by ANY means at all - but I've used one a handful of times in a few different contexts: SCA heavy, SCA rapier, and Belegarth. Fantastically enough, the rules of that last group actually describe how shields break against heavy hits (successive hits from two-handed weapons). Anyway, it's just my experience, but I actually think it's strange to separate Shield Block and Raise a Shield. I don't think planting your foot and trying to absorb a blow is a particularly specialized or skilled action - to me, it seems like the default. And, in fact, it seems like there are a lot of times it should be mandatory to Shield Block if you're using your shield at all. The idea of a shield contributing to AC but not taking damage suggests to me you're using the shield to dissuade attacks and limit enemy options, or maybe taking glancing blows. When an enemy really gets a strong enough hit on you to hit through your shield, they're doing one of two things:
1) Bypassing your shield, either by targeting an area not covered by your shield before you can react and move it, like the slot that's sometimes visible between a shield and a weapon, or they're faking or moving or otherwise acting in such a way that you overextend your shield and then striking the new opening. Shield Block should be neither mandatory nor allowed in this scenario, as your shield has been negated.
2) Striking you so effectively on your shield that you take damage regardless. Your shield was successfully in the way, but they either managed to batter it aside or simply hit you so hard that it hurts you through your shield - which is definitely doable. But Shield Block should be mandatory, and certainly isn't something "special" you've done. It's the basic way anyone handed a shield uses a shield.
Yes, there are some fringe cases where a really skilled fighter could use Shield Block where another person couldn't. The two I can think of, for each of the two options above, both involve a fighter reading an attack at the last moment and really getting their shield in there. Maybe they twist in such a way that an attack that would hit an opening hits the shield instead, but it's a poor block that damages both them and their shield. Maybe an attack that would hit the edge of their shield and batter through is intercepted right in the center, damaging their arm some but taking the worst of the hit on the shield itself. Still, to properly represent skilled shield use, such as a fighter twisting at the right moment to deflect some of the force of a solid blow taken on the shield, you'd think Fighters/Champions/people who invest in feats should get a better Shield Block reaction. Maybe the effective hardness of their shield goes up, because they know how to use the shield. This protects the shield AND you. Yay!
But that's a lot of changes. Realistic! But hard to implement. And, at that point, if we're modeling skills and use and physics in more appropriate ways, blades used to parry should absolutely break a ton of the time unless you're parrying a thrust! It's like you said, it's odd that we penalize only shield users for using their equipment as intended but aren't representing the damage other equipment takes. Because, unless you're nudging a blow to the side or otherwise redirecting its force, you're taking the force on the surface of your weapon, and believe you me, those puppies break. And then, wasn't the whole historical point of the mace to cave in plate armor? Shouldn't that affect AC calculation? Shouldn't your armor get damaged just as easily?
What about the Alchemist's bombs? Shouldn't a hard hit smash some of them? And wouldn't a Hydraulic Push ruin your Wizard's spellbook?
Okay, I'm going too far now. But you see what I mean? Even though it's sometimes silly, we allow players to keep every other item - not just its stats, but the items themselves. It doesn't always make a lick of sense, but their items just aren't something we take from them. So looking at that level of realism seems odd to me, especially because we're only applying it to shields.
Realism is always put aside - either carefully or otherwise - in rules sets to make them playable without suffering. You seem to think this can be fixed by making consumable shields less penalizing, and that might be the way you want to play. That's something I want to look at in its own merits, but I don't think that represents the design philosophy of Pathfinder where equipment and tone are concerned. I especially take umbrage to the fact that my players were said to be "using shields wrong" because someone wants to selectively apply realism to what equipment is assumed to stick around. The fact of the matter is that - if I can be so bold as to make an assumption about genre - Pathfinder doesn't simulate realism, it simulates fantasy. If you want to house rule a grittier tone, that's how you want to play Pathfinder, and that's fine. But the rules aren't there for you to play William the Footman levied in some political war in Dark Ages Britain; the implication is that you're playing a fantasy book or a fantasy movie.
Just like Inigo Montoya keeps his blade and Conan's helmet stay with him, Thorin Oakenshield gets to keep his improvised less-than wooden shield until he chooses to discard it. It literally never breaks. Aveline from Dragon Age 2 gets to keep her dead husband's templar shield from start to finish. Link's Hyrulian Shield is a Zelda staple. No one whines that these characters are getting shields wrong, because fantasy characters are allowed sentimental/signature equipment. And, frankly, the idea that taking these items - permanently - from your players without their consent because knowing the damage before choosing to use Shield Block seems "gamey" and "it isn't realistic", but not blinking an eye when Fillini the Blacksmith's Son in narrative (using Duelist's Parry) interposes the last blade his father forged - the one he intends to carry with him to the face of his father's killer and use to slay the man - between his fragile chest and the black, twisted dread mace of Warthgar the Doommaker as it cuts a crushing arc down through air towards him is silly and antagonistic. Fillini's player isn't "looking at the game wrong" because he expects his rapier's blade to never snap, but it's also not "realistic" to expect a blade like that to provide any AC bonus at all in the narrative described without directly absorbing pretty massive force.
I really believe it is inappropriate for a GM to asymmetrically trash sometimes valuable and potentially sentimental equipment from one player, even in the name of a rule "feeling unrealistically in the player's favor". It is in their favor. It allows them to keep gear they're invested in. They're still making a choice no other player has to make - do I give up this item that's important to me? - but it's allowing them to make it informed. Pathfinder allows characters to bring most of their items from character creation to the end game by the power of runes. This doesn't exactly apply to shields - there aren't really runes for shields, so the big improvement for shields is rare materials and the like. The same applies to weapons and armor that are unique magical or rare material, but I'll grant this is one of the only ways to really improve a shield. And, yes, that probably requires a new shield - when you get access to that kind of equipment! though you could allow "reinforcements" the way Thorin's improvised shield was polished and girded with metal - but the rules suggest to me a system that understands the aesthetic and sentimental value of equipment in a fantasy setting.
But let's look at it from a purely mechanics standpoint. Let's pretend my players don't have a right to specific brand of sentimental equipment, and that everyone should view shields in the most realistic way possible: as consumable. We can put aside your above point about how shields were and whether that applies to this game and just look at them as a consumable resource, the same as alchemical bombs and healing potions and stuff. After all, you have a rule that helps support it, fixing the issues you see with the balance while leaving things you don't see as issues:
Like I said, I don't agree with the premise of consumable shields on the grounds of realism, considering how much pointed high fantasy Pathfinder has... But let's say shields are consumable and they have that amulet you mentioned. That still presents a lot of issues for people who rely on Shield Block for their feats and features.
Looking as Shields as Consumable:
That might work. I think it's a completely different kind of silly. An amulet that incongruously and nonsensically gives the benefits of magical properties to a shield you're holding without the two items actually touching trades one kind of suspension of disbelief for another, but it could be a functional mechanical fix for losing shields. Except, even if you can put those improvements on every shield they buy from town, the "magic properties that don't come from precious metals (materials)" you can store are only a fraction of what makes higher level/rarer/more expensive shields good. They don't actually make the shield harder to break or more effective to use versus high level attacks. Unless you count a magical shield's Hardness/BT/HP as a "magic property." It definitely doesn't cover rare material shields, which are a good chunk of the special shields you might want to use, and it probably doesn't capture some of the increased capacities of magical shields which make them more useful.
Let's take an extra step back and ignore rare material shields and other properties of magic shields. Let's say everyone functionally uses basic, item level 0 shields. Let's say shields are purely consumable. Some characters builds are designed specifically around the Shield Block reaction, so let's look at those characters the same as any other character who relies on depletable resources: like an Alchemist or a spellcaster. Because that's how those builds operate: if they lose their shield unexpectedly, they lose many of their features. But plenty of classes "run out" of their cool features. Those above-mentioned Alchemists have a limited supply of bombs. Spellcasters have a limited supply of spell slots. And they don't always know ahead of time if they're using their limited resources in an efficient or effective way. That's true!
Except it isn't. Spellcasters and alchemists have ways to improve the quality and number of those limited resources they utilize. Someone who has to buy basic shields... doesn't. Even if you give them a magic amulet to store some of the properties of a magic shield. If they have to buy a new shield every time (so probably one of the basic shields), they're losing the hardness and hp improvements that your amulet won't supply them. At that point, while you're allying that character to carry over some utility, you're only increasing the "staying power" of a Shield Block focused character with "consumable but its okay" shields if they can get ahold of the level 18 Indestructible Shield, and then they don't need your amulet because the shield doesn't break.. Granted, they have to buy the recipe, but an Alchemist's daily bombs can become more potent. A spellcaster's higher level spells do more. Shields would need to "do more" reliably as the character improves, or those shields they have to carry around a bunch of aren't even going to take a low-damage-roll blow before exploding into splinters.
But there's one very basic thing you're forgetting about classes who use consumable resources as the crux of their features. They get them for free every day.. A spellcaster's slots replenish. Focus points restore. An Alchemist gets Level+Int Mod reagents a day to craft the items they use, which they do for no GP cost, and that can be used to craft 2x or even 3x that number if they commit to making them all at once. The only thing I can think of for "consumable reliant characters" is that ammunition doesn't recharge every day, but, on the other hand - for those groups that choose to track it - ammo is so cheap and so light that it hardly matters.
And weight certainly matters... While I don't use the Bulk system because I'm terribly lazy and don't want to track it for my players or teach them how to track it (and then hope they remember to do it right), those other classes that have spell slots or lug around ammo and bombs can carry what they need. I'm not really up on how the encumbrance rules work, but even if you gave your Fighter/Champion free daily shields to lug around, how could they?
In all that, there's a fix I can see, but it isn't just your amulet that does it: Fighters would need to get "free shields" per day. But, instead of X shields, they'd get X miraculous (and totally free) repairs of a completely destroyed shield per day... It could work with the same action economy of readying a new shield (1 action and your broken shield is duct taped back together!) without forcing them to carry around 5 shields. As "shield specialists", they obsessively tinker with their shields, so any shield they prepare/repair using this feature would have to be set to a specific hardness/HP befitting a comparable rare material/magic shield of their level. This doesn't have to go up every level, but should increase every few levels like the Alchemist getting access to stronger recipes or the spellcaster's cantrips heightening to new spell slot levels. That... might work.
It still feels odd to me, so I don't think it fixes the problem of Shield Block feeling odd. But, as we've already established in my character (looking at you, Healing Hands! :P) I think different things can feel odd to different people, so that's fine! I think it requires editing a specific build of specific classes, rather than one class in a more blanket sense, and it requires a good deal of editing and house ruling. Personally, I think it's a lot of hoops to jump through to make shields consumable, but you could do it and then you could feel fine not telling your players the damage before they shield block. You can definitely do it, and more power to you! But that's not how I'm going to run my table, and it's not the default, and that's fine, too.
RAW is clear and it's even been clarified as a developer. The standpoint of Pathfinder representing dramatic fantasy fiction is also pretty clear, I think, and the history of spectacular and sentimental shields in fantasy fiction is not as prevalent as meaningful blades or heirloom armor, but it is just as established. If you don't like these things, you don't have to! What you should do is altar how the game is played at your own table to fit whatever design principles you want see in a system game. Make your shields consumable, but hand them out like free candy! Or be really realistic and make your blades snap! Play with the durability system however you want, even, or tweak classes drastically! What you should do is change how you play the game to suit your impressions of what it should be, however far away from the original game that takes you. I think the house rules required to get shields working the way you want them to are very specific and kind of difficult to connect, but you should work it out to the best of your ability and to your level of satisfaction if you want to jump through those hoops. But what you should not do is tell me that the problem is my players for "misunderstanding" how shields work in fiction, and then condescend to me personally about how real shields work in my game about high fantasy. There are solutions out there aplenty if you need to change your game to meet your expectations. Lord knows I change my game to fit all the time (see my flagrant and unwise disregard for Bulk rules).
As far as OP's question, we know how RAW works. As far as whether, from a mechanics standpoint, it needs houseruling? I don't know. It works just fine at my table, but I'm... very collaborative as a GM. Possibly too permissive. So I don't think so, but clearly there's some complaints about it. As far as your houseruling to make shields consumable goes, I think... well, they're not as polished as you're asserting. They need some work, but there's definitely a way forward there to that leads to something functional! As for realism, let's not pretend it applies to Pathfinder very often, let's not pretend your application of it isn't selective and spotty, and let's not act like your very particular applications of realism which don't align with Pathfinder RAW or how other elements of the game work and encourage player narratives is any excuse to take a hostile tone with either me or my players. Especially when I'd hope your issue is with a rule supporting a common enough fictional use of shields that you don't seem to enjoy and not actually with me or my table.
I think you look at it as one instance of damage = one discrete number. If you can't tease it apart into two separate numbers, it's one instance of damage with multiple types. If you can separate one source into two separate numbers, then the components are discrete and you can say "this one source deals two instances of damage: one amount of this type, and another amount of that type."
So, if an attack somehow deals 12 fire and bludgeoning damage, then either fire or bludgeoning resistance would reduce it, and, if you have both, you pick the highest. If the same attack instead deals 8 bludgeoning damage and 5 fire damage, using different damage calculations, then bludgeoning resistance reduces the 8 damage that comes specifically from bludgeoning and fire resistance reduces the 5 damage that comes specifically from fire.
It's exactly what YuriP said about damage calculations being separate instances, even if they come from an individual source. Just trying to frame it in a different way to see if that helps.
Personally, I think knowing the exact damage values is incredibly cheesy but it's a conversation I'd have with my players. I hate the fact that players will feel like the math indicates that it's a better decision for them to throw themselves in the way of their shield so it doesn't get broken.
I'd agree if there was a way to fix a destroyed shield. As it is, both of my players that use shields have thematically unique shields: one is a Cayden cleric who uses a wooden shield that's the front of an ale cask, and the other uses a shield we've flavored to be meticulously handcrafted and has his family tree on it and stuff. Replacing a shield isn't always as simple as buying a new shield in town, and I'd feel worse taking a sentimental item from my players because they thought dire wolves did a bit less damage or whatever...
But then, the rules are definitely unclear.
Eh, maybe in the CRB, but I'll add more in the way of evidence from older discussions, namely this one I read a while ago.
(Also, Cydeth was in that thread. Hi, Cydeth!)
It seems to me that only Rangers have flexibility with snares. This has annoyed the player of a tradesperson/fighter character in my party some. :P
Page 589 specifies that "a snare is build within a single 5-foot square. Once constructed, it can't be moved without destroying (and often triggering) the snare." It sounds to me like you buy raw materials for a snare, and then craft them on-the-spot over the course of a minute. Since a snare is built in place and can't be moved once built ("found snares cannot be collected or sold in their complete form" + the bit about not being able to move a snare), and you only have the raw materials for a snare until they're built, I don't imagine you can craft and sell snares before deployment.
Now, it's anyone's guess then what they mean by "you can spend 1 minute to Craft a snare at its listed Price. If you want to Craft a snare at a discount, you must spend downtime as described in the Craft activity." To me, that implies you spend just a minute to craft it at full price, or an entire day + 1 minute to craft it at a reduced price, returning to the spot you want the trap to be at over the course of that day and working on it. I suppose that's only useful for really, really prepared positions. Luckily, snares are "specialty items", and, while the point of crafting normal items might be to have them at a discount, the point of crafting snares is to have them at all.
My impression is the snare rules conflate crafting and setting up not because of an error, but because crafting the snare constitutes setting it up in a 5 foot square. Rather than three states of snares (incomplete, complete, and set up), it seems there are only two types of snare: raw materials and fully set up. I also don't think a disabled snare can be picked up or reset, as "snares ... can't be moved without destroying ... the snare."
Personally? I'm thinking of giving my fighter a set of gloves or something as a mid-range magic item that gives him a worse version of the Ranger feat so he doesn't have to only use Snares from truly prepared positions, but... the above has been my reading of the rules, I guess.
No, I appreciate that level of pedantry! Good catch. ^_^
And I was just thinking about diagonal movement for something else in Pathfinder, too. Drat. :P
"You may need to calculate a fraction of a value, like halving damage. Always round down unless otherwise specified. For example, if a spell deals 7 damage and a creature takes half damage from it, that creature takes 3 damage."
By that ruling, half of 35 is 17.5, so... a total of 15 (if you're using 5 foot squares). This tracks if you look at it in reverse (difficult terrain, which costs double): you could move through three squares of difficult terrain (or 15 feet, taking up 30 feet of movement) and be unable to move into the fourth square of difficult terrain.
Changed my mind! One more question:
I'm thinking of adding some things to the list of upgrades and buildables. I might have a thing for base management/building mechanics. The first idea I had was a secondary entrance to the secret tunnel between the vaults and the Pickled Ear. A more public and obvious entrance that it doesn't feel weird to use.
For context, pursuant to a discussion of the typo in the Hellknight Hill thread about the citadel being either 10 miles or 1 mile away - and the impact that either would have on the narrative - my table has ruled that the ground path to the citadel is 10 miles (up a winding path, meant as exercise and conditioning for the Hellknights who took it) where the tunnel is only a mile because it bores straight through the terrain. As such, my players probably have a vested interest in using the tunnel for convenience.
I'm thinking they'll need to dig up a new stair and construct/re-purpose a building to serve as entrance. Maybe spruce up the tunnel so it's more welcoming, and adjust the vaults to be a secondary entrance? That could be anywhere from 1 to 3 different activities. The question is... what would be a balanced requirement for doing this, do you all think?
I suppose this can be a place to ask any questions about this element of the AP, to discuss it, to tell stories about it, etc., but I opened the thread because I have a specific question.
In the interest of contributing the idea that the thread might continue beyond the first question, I'll point people to the Community Created Content thread for cleaned-up maps of the citadel! I know I've seen it come up in other threads, and it's a really fantastic thing that was made and put out for us to use by Ruzza!
Here's my question:
Under "Basic Repair Activities", it very specifically says that "[a]s with Crafting or Earning Income, the PC can continue on with the activity after the roll, continuing to make progress at the same rate and cost." So you only need to roll once, and then you carry on with the repairs, presumably stopping and starting again if you need to (Administration and Organize Labor requirements notwithstanding). "Upgrade Activities" doesn't have this specific text. Instead, it says "[e]ach upgrade activity requires a successful skill check to complete a day's wroth of work. On a critical success, the PC's team completes 2 days' worth of work that day."
Since the repairs only say that each activity (but cleaning) only requires "a successful Crafting check" and that a critical success allows you to "complete 2 days' worth of work each day" (and then tell you how that one check can be used to keep on going) and the upgrades lacks this text but seems more specific about how a roll takes a day ("2 days' worth of work that day", how a check completes only a day's worth of work), do my players have to roll a successful Check for every day (or 2 days, on a critical) required by the task?
I'm tempted to say they can just roll once, like with repairs, but I don't know if this is an extra cost in micromanagement/risk for the complexity of upgrades?
My sorcerer player had an interesting question: animal form is two actions, meaning you can begin the round by, say, Sustaining dancing lights to provide the party vision and then become a bear. The question is whether, in this hypothetical scenario, the sorcerer-turned-bear could continue to sustain dancing lights (or, let's be honest, flaming sphere).
While a bear, you are under the effects of the polymorph trait, which specifies that you cannot cast spells (or activate items), speak, or usually engage with manipulate actions that require hands. You can use the Dismiss action, however, which shares the same traits as Sustain a Spell.
My initial thought is yes. Polymorph even says "if there's any doubt about whether you can use an action, the GM decides"! But I was curious what people thought / if there was a definitive answer. "Yes" is an acceptable answer for my table, but I always feel like I'm missing something when my players ask a question and I can't find an answer!
Captain Morgan wrote:
Oh yikes, that's a good question to ask. My group did the check and got her out to talk, but I didn't know what to do, either. She reiterated that they were trespassing (then they had an argument about what trespassing meant because the Bloody Blades don't own the land, either) until the Sorcerer got bored and started slinging spells, starting the fight anyway.
I was at least going to have her reveal some information about Voz (tangentially why they're there, that their "employer" is paying them good money to keep people out, etc.) but they didn't let her talk that long! :P
An NPC could have Quick Squeeze, but unless they're deemed Legendary in Acrobatics, they only squeeze 5 feet per round (or 10 on a critical success) which might not be enough for them to get past? Unless, I guess, they can end their turn mid-squeeze...
If we're looking at ridiculous things large or huge NPCs can do to PCs who surround them, there's:
* Be a swarm! I've gotten to play a few spider swarms as part of the Age of Ashes and I think they can exist in the same space as other things. In fact, they do their best work that way!
You can also do stupid things like: "be a gel. cube and try to Engulf them, because you either slorp them up or they get shoved back".
What I'm saying is, if this is your PC's go-to tactic and you're making your own encounters/NPCs, you have challenges you can throw at them which force them to rethink. But, unless monsters have special treats, it's just Tumble Through or Shove, it looks like.
It sounds like the creature would need to be gargantuan (or the heroes small) to do this without penalty. I don't believe it can slip through the cracks - it's surrounded, it seems! There are options around this, though: anything that causes forced movement, such as the Shove Athletics action, or by using the Acrobatics action Tumble Through. Tumble through is an Acrobatics check vs. Reflex DC to move through the spaces of hostile creatures, treating their spaces as difficult terrain.
There are different rules for sharing a space with a prone creature (it has to be willing, unconscious, or dead as well as smaller than you - usually), and a strict RAW reading would probably mean those restrictions also apply to moving through the space of a prone creature. As a GM, I might be tempted to say a creature could trip an opponent and then try to clamber over them, but I might represent that as a bonus to Tumble Through and not by simply allowing them to Trip -> Stride.
I didn't think it disparaging: I just couldn't see the "complicated". For me, pattern repetition/recognition isn't a math issue [unless we're talking about heuristics] but a perception one and perception and POV is is based on the individual.
The complicated wasn't the underlying principle of the idea, either, it was the math I did to see if it was balanced or not. :P Listing the average increase is so much easier than finding the average values and then figuring out percents and listing them all out on an obnoxiously large spreadsheet. The issue itself is perception and POV; the stats I did to poke at it was where I went overboard. ;)
Tables other than PFS use the rules as written without using houserules.
Right, exactly! But, to my knowledge, only PFS are bound by using RAW. Unless their GMs can houserule? I didn't think so. There are all kinds of tables that are strict about RAW, but that's a choice. When I said it legitimately doesn't matter, I meant that no one's going to kick down your door and tell you that the balanced-but-not-RAW way you're playing is invalid. :'D
I think if you houserule using PFS, someone will tell you it's wrong?
Not so: I'm not annoyed by your way, I just don't understand it. I personally don't understand the desire to match bonuses to die in one particular spell [heal] and not another [soothe]. I'm confused, not annoyed. It's like trying to explain the color purple to me [I'm color blind]: I know that the color exists, I just have no context to understand and contextualize it.
Annoyed was an affectation stacked on the idea of mental discomfort with the order of things. Something related to "itchy brains" - the idea that what you're looking at is somehow wrong. It was clearly the wrong word. :P
The issue is that, in Heal, the bonus and the die already match; in Soothe, they don't. That's literally it. It's a matter of perspective if that means anything to you.
One thing I noticed is that most bonuses seem to come from somewhere. Spells especially don't usually have bonuses in their effects, unless it specifically lists the source (usually your spellcasting modifier). Pathfinder has conditioned me that bonuses come from somewhere: an ability, a skill, an item, a buff of some kind. The easiest "source" for Heal's bonus is the die size being rolled, since it conforms easily. Interestingly enough, the only spells that list sourceless bonuses are Heal, Soothe, Goodberry, Nature's Bounty, and spells which change your form or make you some kind of avatar/mainifestation/incarnation. The latter group makes sense, because all your underlying stats are getting screwy and odd. I have no drive to look closely at why you get a +12 to attacks when you turn into a phoenix or something. I'm assuming it's tangentially based on the creature you're turning into. Which means it's just healing spells that like to throw random numbers at you, and Heal's is the only one that "matches up" like that. You can look at Heal and say "ah, yes, this bonus comes from the die size." The rest seem entirely arbitrary. It's odd to me now that the bonuses are included and don't explicitly come from somewhere, but I'm not motivated to tamper with any of them because they look like they come from nowhere.
Now I kind of want to know where they come from, though, if they do at all... :P
Sorry! I was referencing my own more-complicated-than-necessary math, not yours. Not that basic percentages are that complicated, either, but they're more unnecessarily involved than how the feat actually works.
What it boils down to is:
If you think the feat should provide a scaling static bonus to the average amount healed, RAW is good.
If you think the feat should flatly make you a 25% better healer, you need to tweak it.
If you think the +8 is just an arbitrary number and only coincidentally related to Heal's d8 dice size, you have no opinion about the effect of the feat, and tampering with things seems unnecessary to you, RAW is both simpler and easier.
If you think either is reasonable in terms of balance, but you think the whole thing makes more sense when heal is based around the d8 die size (d8+8) and the feat should then be based around the d10 die size (d10+10), rather than the bonus being just a number, then tweaking it satisfies your sense of internal consistency, even if it's unnecessary.
As long as you're not playing Pathfinder Society, the answer legitimately doesn't matter. Both work, and both satisfy different kinds of players. The method that satisfies me and my table is admittedly more complicated - it uses more involved math to justify its balance and clearly is harder to explain to people that don't already see it like. Calling it "overly complicated math" is admitting that the people above accusing me of doing far more than necessary to satisfy a perceived pattern are probably right. :P
The point is, it's much less baseless than liking all words in a sentence to start with T, but clearly that's not how you see the numbers and that's totally fine. Looking at it my way annoys you. Looking at it your way annoys me. It's like that stupid blue and black / white and gold dress all over again! God, I hated that thing. I can usually see the options in those perspective illusions but I swear that thing way just black and blue! Anyway, you don't need to see it any other way. Like I said, if you're not doing organized play where strict RAW matters, neither option is breaking the game, so both are fine. I'm just trying to explain why some people might see it a different way. I'm not trying to get you to see it that way - far be it from me to needlessly complicated your life any! - but rather point out that there's a certain consistency and explicable expectation fueling the other viewpoint.
Also, again, apologies for the miscommunication about my disparaging certain maths.
As to "second thrown weapon "cued up"" it's a waste of bulk and/or coin as you'll always have one weapon unused and un-thrown: all it does is get you through a single extra action before you drop out of the stance if you ever throw that "cued up" weapon. The only game is it 'looks' better.
Oh, I forgot other groups actually use Bulk like you're supposed to. :|
Our table is lazy, and we very much don't use Bulk. I don't, uh... trust my players to track it or its effects on their character correctly, and I really don't want to do it for them. So yeah, that's a waste of bulk. In my head, you're carrying around, like, 6 daggers in the way of throwing-knife-wielding characters in other fiction and you just save your last one for the end of the fight before going and pulling them out of all the dead bodies you (hopefully) created. Carrying around a bunch of daggers isn't really realistic in this system though, is it?
I have to say that before this thread I've never ran into someone that had an issue with heal's numbers or that they felt wrong. I've also never heard anyone complain that Soothe heals 1d10+4. The bonus is just a number to get the average healed to the right place, it's not there for symmetry. I think healing 2 more damage with the 2 action heal would make more "itchy" brains than leaving it as is.
Which is why your table is free to leave it as is! It's pretty plainly RAW and if it doesn't feel broke to you, don't fix it. Multiple people at my table definitely got weirded out by it, and it seems a person or two here feels the same way.
My opinion? I think Soothe is fine because it doesn't appear to follow any purpose other than rounding out the average, whereas Heal creates the appearance (whether true or not) of adding in another die's worth of healing. It's not that it's there for symmetry, it's that the symmetry creates the illusion of a specific and non-arbitrary purpose to the +8 (a d8 plus another 8!); when that's how it appears to you, even if everything is working the way it's supposed to (average heal goes up by spell level), it can look wrong when the symmetry goes away.
Said another way, it can look like it's an issue of order of magnitude rather than arbitrary bonus to get the average in the right spot. When you start seeing all the numbers as on the magnitude of a d8, like my table does, even if we're wrong, it feels a bit uncomfortable when the spell doesn't jump a full order of magnitude up to the d10 bracket. Like you're missing something. Like something isn't working as intended. It doesn't seem right to me and it doesn't seem right to my cleric and the other players agree that something seems off with it. Even if it isn't off, my table doesn't like it, so we changed it. And overly complicated math says it's balanced, just in a different way, so we kept it. Now my cleric is 25% better than before, rather than spell-level-HP better than before, and we're happy with that.
I know your pain: try making a thrown build that uses a stance... :P Unless you hold a sling [or other ranged only weapon] in your off hand, you drop out of your ranged stance once you throw as you're no longer wielding a ranged weapon.
Not to completely hijack the question (okay, to completely hijack the question), how would that work with the level 3 returning Rune? The rules for wielding definitely specify you have to be holding it in the required number of hands to be using it, and that you have to be ready[i] to use it, not just carrying it or possessing it on your person, so I can see how that would generally prohibit most throw weapons, but a [i]returning weapon "flies back to your hand after the Strike is complete". This happens in the space between your Strike action ending an anything that happens after it, you don't need to do anything special to ensure your weapon is back in our hands ready to use, and you're capable of using all three actions in a turn without additional feats or equipment to attack with, say, a returning javelin. It seems clear enough, at least by RAI, that - for the duration the weapon is in the air - the "number of hands required to wield it effectively" is zero and you are always "ready to use it" because you can Strike again immediately after (unlike a traditional thrown weapon, where you must technically switch to another iteration of the same class of thrown weapon, which you are not "ready to use" as it is stored on our person).
As a GM, I'd allow that, at least.
Of course, if you have a hand free to hold a sling, you could arguably just have a second thrown weapon "cued up" instead - we see that in media a lot, where thrown weapon characters are already reaching for/already have a second weapon ready to throw as the first is leaving their hands. Of course, it does shuffle the action economy a bit (assuming you begin your turn with one thrown weapon in hand, it's "Draw Throw Draw" instead of "Throw Draw Throw"), assumes you're ambidextrous (although so does holding a sling in off hand), and uses up your free hand just the same as holding a sling. :P
Also, are thrown melee weapons considered ranged weapons for the purpose of these stances, or do they only become thrown weapons when you choose to throw them? A javelin is always a ranged weapon, but a dagger or spear or light hammer is technically a melee weapon with the thrown property? The real red tape here seems to be that melee weapons with the thrown trait don't become ranged weapons, but can be used to make a ranged attack. The description of the thrown property still seems to delineate melee weapons vs ranged weapons (melee weapons with the thrown trait specify a range in the trait whereas ranged weapons with the thrown trait use the range as listed in the profile, etc.)
Either way, still red tape.
Regarding Wall Run (look, we're back on topic... sorry!), I think a case can be made for running laterally. Maybe RAW, and definitely RAI. RAW-wise, its interaction with Water Step tells you there are additional surfaces you can "run along" (not just up). RAI, I'd definitely allow it, because the wording is vague enough and it seems inspired by wire-fu and acrobatics games like Prince of Persia, where the horizontal wall run is a big part of the maneuvering and also referred to as a "wall run." In case a (questionably) strenuous argument needs to be made, you can say it never specifies straight up, and the arcing nature of a horizontal wall-run indicates you're running diagonally up for half of it and falling < 5 ft while accounting for forward momentum in the last half, though that might bring into question the Long Jump rules, so...
It's balanced (in a different way) and it's extremely satisfying in a way that RAW just... isn't. RAW makes my brain itchy. Even in light of Servant's posts (is that the correct diminutive there? sorry if it isn't), my group all agreed to 1d10+10 for that very reason!
Also, an edit to my previous post: it should be 25% better than the basic spell (in line with the rest of the feat's improvement over basic Heal), not 25% better than the basic feat.
Now, I'm entirely unconvinced as to what the intent of the feat should be - I like my version for the reasons listed and I can see why the RAW version is the way it is because of the consistency you pointed out in your earlier post (and also the point you made about the higher minimum still incentivizing 2 action heal!) - but, for the sake of answering your question?
1) So that, like the 1 and 3 action versions, the 2 action version can be 25% better than the basic feat, instead of ~10% better than using the basic feat.
2) To keep the numbers in line with each-other in a way that satisfies people who see a pattern (that, yes, doesn't necessarily govern the feat). :P
If you look at the feat as "this feat more or less increases your healing by the level of the heal spell cast", then there's no reason to change it at all. That keeps it in line with something like Toughness (though Toughness is explicitly worded that way). If instead you look at the feat as "this improves your healing by x%", it needs changed. Now, I agree that the first way of looking at it is probably correct, but with no way to really know what the specific intent of the feat was at design, I guess do what you want? :P Anyway, those are the reasons you might want to make that change, if you were inclined to feel the change should be made.
The warg was really fun. And, obviously, the gnome who was just recently freed from the belly of the beast was not in favor of keeping the warg puppies. He even rolled an attack to bat at one with his staff, but did zero damage (we hadn't yet read the errata / rule that attacks do 1 damage minimum regardless of modifies) so ruled he just poked at them suspiciously. :P
I'm very transparent as a DM. Like, probably too transparent, and that might perhaps ruin some things but has so far helped keep everything on track, cohesive, and mutually enjoyable. As part of this policy - and seeing the attachment the rest of them already had to the warg puppies - I informed them ahead of time about the moral dilemma and we reached a group decision on how they wanted to handle it. Some of them agreed the decision complicated the idea of keeping the warg puppies and put them in a spot they didn't want to explore in real time in person, and we agreed that the easiest solution for our table was that, once driven off, the warg mother - injured in her argument with the father - met her death in the forest.
Using the warg mother even after the pups were slain is an interesting turn, though! The idea of her coming back would be very fun. If it were me, I'd not use her outside the Guardian's Way encounters. That can be a very difficult series of encounters. Granted, my group approached them in broad daylight AND coaxed their leader out before starting a fight, so it was rather front-loaded. And one of them was accidentally still playing at 2nd level, rather than third. Whooops. But it was definitely a tricky fight. The hobgoblin herself one-shot the cleric into Dying. Of course, he was the one running level 2 AC and HP, but... :P
Also... undead Calmont sounds fantastic.
Speaking of the kobolds... my party spared them when they surrendered and I think are planning to let them live in the citadel after they fix it up. What should I do about this? Unlike the goblins, which are stated as being interested in coexisting with Breachill society, the kobolds strike me as the kind of creatures who would refuse to let the party touch "their rooms" and demand tribute and fealty from anyone who came to visit or work in the citadel.
My players are a counselor, a psychologist, and a speech language pathologist, and the SLP is playing a dad-trope character, so their idea is to "set firm boundaries" and "put the kobolds on a behavior management system," which is hilarious. New treasure in return for being polite to guests, maybe? I'm curious to see what they're going to do. But I'm also curious what you all think, and what states your players have left the citadel in, in prep for fixing it up in the next book?
Do you know what dimensions to set this too in roll20? I am having a hell of a time getting it all to match up.
What do you mean? If you mean the maps from the AP itself, I think the issue is that they're surrounded by a border of half squares, so they won't line up. If you mean the community maps, then I... honestly, I just Alt+Drag them until the map's grid lines up closely with Roll20's grid and then let it work from there.
I don't think you mean the tokens, because those should auto-size to the grid, right?
My group and I really enjoy the way goblins "are" in Pathfinder 2E! Especially after they met the Bumblebrashers and got to RP with some non-hostile goblins. Sadly, none of them are playing a goblin - something they found particularly sad once they realized some of the ridiculous heritage feats available to goblins. So we decided that we would make a "B-Team" that are all members of the Bumblebrashers, and that would give them a chance to not only play goblins but to test out classes and ideas they were interested in. The idea was that they would keep pace, in level, with their own "A-Team" characters (to see all the class options available to their new classes) and that we would play a short adventure with them at a good breaking point in each subsequent book of this AP, while their regular team was gallivanting around on new continents. We thought it would be a fun way to keep the Citadel and Breachill in our campaign beyond just "where we stop for some downtime".
So... Meet Bumble's Brashers!
When a group of adventurers showed up to help the Bumblebrashers reclaim their home, it was agreed that their mascot, Big Bumble, might serve the tribe by clearing out the cultists. After all, they had chosen a terrifying and powerful mascot to represent them. The group was, of course, warned that she wasn't very good at telling friend and foe apart, but the hope was that she would be every bit as fearsome and incredible as the goblins naturally assumed she'd be. They also drew a map, to be helpful.
As the strangers ventured away, the tribe waited, anxious and curious, for news. Eventually they returned, carrying a great brown pelt with them. The pelt of Big Bumble! The adventurers brought promises that their mascot might live on in the form an ingenuous craft they would engage in the moment they had time. But, more than that, they brought an amazing story! Big Bumble, released from her room, became a fury. The group hid from her, and could only relay what the battle had sounded like, but they found her body, dramatically posed in a pool of blood and water from that annoying roof-drip, the munched and mutilated bodies of their feared tormentors in her wake.
With just enough details to wildly exaggerate and extrapolate greatness from, a story of complexity that short attention spans attributed to some cleverness Big Bumble herself was involved in (in reality the oddly involved Rube-Goldberg-with-a-bear-esque plan my players concocted to free and direct the bear without seeing her themselves utilizing ropes and carefully held doors), and a near-holy artifact handcrafted for them to immortalize Big Bumble, there has been talk among the tribe that Big Bumble may have become more than just a mascot...
Our usual Fighter player is playing a Razortooth Bard whose muse is the concept of Big Bumble herself. He wildly attributes traits and opinions to Big Bumble that a bear simply cannot hold, and has eagerly built you up in his mind to fit his idea of what she should be.
Our usual Alchemist is playing a Barbarian of some kind (Unbreakable Goblin?), and is - obviously - going to be a Bear Animal Spirit Barbarian, empowered by the rage and drive that Big Bumble exhibited in her final rampage through the cultists.
Our usual Sorcerer is going to take over the bomber role as Charhide Alchemist who is the classic goblin arsonist. The connection to Big Bumble isn't yet established, if there is one, but we're very excited for the feat that lets a goblin set themselves on fire!
Finally, our usual Cleric is going to be an Irongut Rogue who likes to steal food and other things, too. Probably admired Big Bumbles imagined gluttony, even though that was mostly directed at other goblins!
I already have an idea for their first adventure. We agreed we wanted to do a level 1 "get used to the classes" romp before jumping into the first place we planned to play them, which would be level 6 or 7 - sometime during Cult of Cinders. So I decided that Breachill would face a new crisis just a few days after "Big Bumblefest", a festival thrown in honor of the clan's savoir, Big Bumble (and the adventurers who helped her), where the party's homemade item would make its debut (my players are scheming to turn Big Bumble's pelt in a Chinese-dragon-like puppet that two/three goblins can wear and dance around in).
Goblins tried to attack Breachill. They were singing about "Bumbles" and "brashers" and incomprehensible things, and some townsfolk think the local tribe is responsible. They aren't! Now, the tribe is in trouble again, and it's time for new champions to save the tribe. Sure, those adventurers helped save them from Calmont and they were instrumental in Big Bumble's apotheosis, but they're busy, and these four goblins are inspired! So they go out searching for these goblins that are continuing to give their kind a bad name.
Well, it turns out, the Bumblebrashers aren't the only tribe in town with a new god. With the death of Ralldar, a nearby lesser barghest is hoping to muscle in on territory that used to be his. Now, he obviously hasn't used the territory in forever, but barghests are territorial and I'm thinking no one would want to mess around the old stomping ground of a crazed greater barghest that's refusing to move on to new pastures. Now that rumors of his death have spread, though, it's time to muscle in. So a regular barghest is trying to unite smaller goblin tribes and has its eyes set on the Bumblebrashers and the town of Breachill, and it's up to this party to stop it!
I'm only looking for a session or two, and that might be ambition. I'm thinking they discover what's going on and convince some goblins to mutiny - maybe there's a tribe or two that wanted to live kind of neutral lives but is scared - or maybe there's another tribe they can drive to disorganization by killing the Hobgoblin leader that's not the barghest's lieutenant? Hopefully it ends in a pitched battle setpiece again a (weak adjusted) barghest with some NPC support.
I do maybe want to touch on the difference between goblins who remain like the evil goblin stereotype and the Bumblebrashers, and maybe bring in some pieces of their interactions with Hobgoblins, and maybe a barghest trying to be a new goblin god isn't the best way to do that. But what I really want is an opportunity to discuss some of the lore behind Ralldar, because it's cool but the PCs don't have a lot of ways to get that in Hellknight Hill. Between what they see in his cave and what he'll yell at them in combat, I anticipate they'll figure a lot of it out, but I think this plotline might be a way to introduce some more of it, with goblin dialogue and "villain speeching" from the new barghest. What do you think?
Mechanically, it might not appear at face value that there's anything different between a spider's climb speed and a charau-ka, but I think this is where we as players have to take a step back and remember we're using the rules to tell a story in a world with things that work, often, as in our own world. A spider can climb on a ceiling and on smooth walls. We know this, not just because the Hunting Spider's Descend on a Web ability allows it to "move straight down ... suspended by a web line", which it only makes sense to do from a ceiling (or, I suppose, very specific kinds of walls and overhangs?), or page 55 of Hellknight Hill which confirms that said hunting spiders "drop from their perches on the ceiling", but because we've seen spiders on our walls and ceilings. Now, imagine a monkey stuck to your wall like Spider-Man! We know this to not be possible for our monkeys, even though we know they're good climbers. So a fantasy monkey would have to be using some kind of magical ability or specifically different physiology to climb like a spider (which the cultists aren't).
Similarly, a Fly speed on its own doesn't give any altitude limits. And, in googling random crap to see if I could make a point with that, I discovered that a bald eagle is usually listed as flying around 10,000-15,000 feet (googled them because they have a fly speed of 60 ft in Pathfinder 2e), while I saw that "maximum height" for a common crane is 33,000 feet which "allows them to avoid eagles in mountain passes". Meanwhile, a flash beetle has a flight speed, too! And... look, I don't know where to find data on a 3 foot long beetle, but I'd be surprised to see an oversized firefly up around where an eagle could fly.
Point is, I don't think we can say Amanda Hamon or James Jacobs wrote a bad adventure because they relied on spiders doing a thing that spiders can demonstrably do and monkey-analogs not being able to do a thing monkeys demonstrably cannot do.
And Kennethray is right: if you look closer, mechanically, the core rules agree we need to step back and remember the rules are supposed to make sense. CRB 463 states: "You might still have to attempt Athletics checks ... to Climb extremely difficulty surfaces, or to cross horizontal planes such as ceilings" (emphasis mine). It doesn't give guidance as to when you might or might not have to make these checks - those are the mechanics giving the GM (or AP writers) license to make calls based on what makes sense. So, mechanically, the rules absolutely differentiate between the creatures in climbing ability. Think about it: you want to know if a creature can Climb on the ceiling because you see Climb speed, so you flip to page 463 where the rules for Climb speeds are located. It says you "might have to make a check" to do that. It says nothing else. The book has forced you to ask your GM, so you ask the GM "hey, does this creature have to do that?" Now, your GM, having seen a spider, says "I think spiders are normally able to navigate a smooth inverted surface, so I don't think a spider has to do that."
Normally I'm very, obnoxiously keen on overcomplicating things, but I think this is one of those situations where we can safely rely on common sense.
Hello. I was wondering if anyone took out the portraits and headshots of the NPC's from the books yet to use a tokens or printouts for their Players. Id Like to upload them to the Roll20 AoA game I am starting up but I cant seem to clip them out of the PDF. Any tips for extracting the images or if there is a spot when them already extracted?
Here's a Hellknight Hill Token Bundle I made! It has a token not just of every NPC used in Hellknight Hill, but a token in a matching aesthetic for every monster except (unfortunately) the Hunting Spiders, the Bloody Blades, the Skeletal Champion (awkwardly re-used the Skeletal Hellknight token for them) and the Boggard Scouts (used the art of Werrt).
Text and most discolorations were removed from art from the Hellknight Hill PDF. The only thing I didn't take the time to painstakingly remove was some of the dramatic molten stone from a few of the NPCs, but I tried to at least make it cohesive and fitting.
I'm curious for the other DM's, how many of you had a player walk into the Gelatinous Cube on the second section?
So, one of my players took the "Hellknight Historian" background - she's playing a middle aged Arctic Elf Alchemist who goes by "John" and got really interested in the Hellknights and their architecture during his midlife crisis in the same way you get the trope of "WW2 Dads". John arrived pretty much entirely to see the citadel, and took the job just to get to go see it, so he's been leading a guided tour for the rest of the party that the other three are somehow really invested in.
Anyway, naturally, John was leading. And John got absorbed by the cube.
I was going to give him a roll, but I asked his player, "Realistically, is John actually paying attention to where he's walking right now?" And, bless her, she roleplayed her character to a T and informed me that John was hyperfixated on playing tour guide. So into the cube John went!
That was actually a really fun fight. I tried my best to give John some company in the cube but they rolled extremely well and just got backed into a corner by it for the most part. It's been over a month now and my wife still shudders when she hears the word "cube", but we all had a great time!
Did anyone get to vore their party with the Warg? The gnome in my party - and his player - had such a hilarious and visceral reaction to the entire encounter (I had the Warg ambush them after they made a bunch of noise fighting the Graveshells, assuming they'd be weakened, and he entered the scene by bursting through a door and yelling "GOT YOU!"). I considered doing it again with the Tixitog, but that just seemed mean. ;P
Ohhh, good point! RAW Healing Hands on average increases the amount of healing by the spell level across all uses (or twice the spell level, if you're lucky). That's pretty consistent
I was looking at how many "times more effective" using Healing Hands was compared to not using it. My way is definitely overthinking it! :'D
That said... Given I'm the kind of person who likes to over-complicate things, I like consistent percent-based improvement from base more than a consistent "this more HP healed." The 2 action version is supposed to be a stronger healer, and I don't ensuring it's as much stronger than base as the rest of the uses. I'll probably still go with my version, since I personally find it more satisfying, but you've definitely solved my question as to whether Healing Hands is working as intended or needs tweaking.
Thanks! Loved the answer. :)
I got extra bored at work while talking to one of my players about whether we should use the tweaked version of the feat or the RAW version of the feat, and, based on mutual interest, we dug deeper into the stats.
Turns out, the tweak I was curious about doesn't significantly improve the feat; RAW significantly weakens it.
No one questions how Healing Hands affects the 1 or 3 Action Heals, so I didn't look at it at first. In trying to determine how (im)balanced my proposed tweak was, we decided to. Obviously, without an additional static value added in, the minimum values between basic Heals and Healing Hands heals are the same (a 1 is a 1, no matter what die you're rolling). But, both the average value and the maximum values for Healing Hands Heals are 25% better than the basic Heals.
Heal has three options. For two of the three options, no one questions that a Cleric with Healing Hands should be 25% better than casters using basic Heal.
For this option - the 2 Action Heal we're talking about - RAW is no better than the basic heal at minimum values, 8.33% better at average values, and 12.5% better at max values. My interpretation is 22% better at minimum values which scales to 25% better with average values and stays like this up to max values.
Using my version of the feat, a Healing Hands Cleric is consistently 25% better off for having the feat. RAW, this effectiveness is halved (at best) when you try to use one third of the spell you're supposed to have improved. The only "unexpected" behavior in the interpretation I had of the feat is that the minimum value of of the 2 Action Heal is 22% better than normal, when these minimum values are otherwise no better than normal. RAW Healing Hands offers needlessly complicated, unexpected behavior that is not only unstable but worse than a player should expect.
Of the two, I think a more powerful cast of the 2 Action Heal on low rolls is fitting with the (assumed) design principle that the 2 Action heal is a direct improvement on the 1 Action heal (single target vs. vastly improved single target) makes much more sense than an inconsistent option that - if intentional - seems designed only to close the gap between the 1 Action and 2 Action Heals (while still leaving the 2 Action Heal the clearly better option for single target Heals, if you can afford the action economy). So my table will be using my interpretation. Obviously, anyone who reads this is free to do whatever they wish.
If anyone cares about the numbers, here's the spreadsheet I used. I tried to make it pretty. :P
Thank you for the quick and efficient replies.
As you've both said, I'm aware that, as a GM, I can run my table however, but I definitely wanted to see how other people look at the rule, and these two answers have been helpful! If anyone still wants to chime in with opinions, I'm game to read them, but I doubt the topic's that interesting. Anyway, it's sounding like the consensus is "don't bother, it's not unclear."
We don't want to reinvent the wheel, and generally if I am assuming a formula that isn't stated in the rules I have to take a long look at what I am doing and wondering if I am complicating something needlessly.
"Complicating Things Needlessly" sounds like the scathingly self-deprecating title of a comedy special about how I ruin my own life. :'D You've captured me perfectly; that's par for my course!
There's definitely nothing inherently wrong with the two action version staying the same. In this case, for me, it's a matter of liking to think in patterns and algorithms. In my mind, 1d10+10 is just more comfortable. I think it's smoother and more more natural than 1d10+8, which seems more complicated. Scaling all 8s to 10s is an increase in the order of (dice) magnitude and simple; I understand that's technically doing more work, but leaving the 8 sends up flags to my brain that I've missed something - it feels intuitive to me that the +8 is based on the d8 and not arbitrary, so I see the die size increase but not the bonus and suddenly the bonus feels more arbitrary. For some reason - maybe some degree of non-neurotypical thinking :P - that irks me. I was wondering if anyone else got that feeling.
I can definitely see how "only touch the things the Feat explicitly tells you to touch" is simpler to most people. I don't feel I'm trying to reinvent anything, though and I don't need to take a look at what I'm doing because I understand exactly why I'm making the assumptions that I'm making - it's not like I dug into deep math to chase some esoteric formula I believed govern the rule. I don't think it requires the kind of soul searching you suggested. ;) I just glanced at it and noticed a very simple pattern that didn't seem satisfied, so I just wanted to get a group consensus from other GMs and players with more typical thought processes and more experience with Paizo. :P
tripling the average impact of on a 2 action heal
This is a good point, and the kind of "be mindful of balance!" advice I was hoping to get. While any GM is free to do whatever feels most comfortable for themselves and their players, it's a reasonable consideration to look into game balance when tweaking numbers. (I accidentally ran Flaming Sphere as a 15ft "square" burst instead of "one 5ft square" and that was... different!) In case there was any doubt that I complicate things needlessly, I thought I'd do the math on the subject on the off chance any future PF2 players start googling this subject. I doubt it, but I'm bored and awake and felt like messing with Google Sheets:
Turns out, the thing you're tripling is the variance from the basic spell's average. (Not variance in the stats sense.) For example, an average 1st Level RAW Healing Hands 2-Action Heal (man that's a lot to type) heals 1 HP more than base, while the homebrew version of Healing Hands heals 3 HP more. If you're instead casting at, say, 3rd Level, then the RAW heals 3 more HP than base and the homebrew heals 9 more HP. But, when you're looking at the average impact, I think you have to look at a different number:
The average healing on a 1st Level, basic Heal spell is 12. The average healing on the same spell, with RAW Healing Hands, is 13, which is 8.33% (or 1.0833 times) better than the basic. You've made the healer, on average ~8% more efficient. The average healing on the same spell, with homebrew Healing Hands, is 15, which is 25% better than a healer without the Feat (1.25 times). So, on average, 25% more efficient. To look at how much better a healer with the homebrew version of healing hands is than the RAW version, I looked at how much more, on average, a homebrew caster heals than a RAW caster. If I chose the right metric, than 15 HP is 15.38% more than 13 HP. At least, 15 is 1.1538 times greater than 13.
While the gap in actual amount of HP healed widens as spell level increases, these percents remain static. The numbers begin to look more dramatically different, but the overall impact of these differences stays about the same. At the level of 1st Level spells, an extra 2 HP is less than your average NPC Strike; at the level of 5th Level spells, the difference between homebrew and RAW feats is, on average, 10 HP (a homebrew caster heals 15 more than base and a RAW caster heals 5 more than base). A level 9 Nessian Warhound, which a 5th level caster could reasonably face, does, on average, 26 damage with its bite - so the difference is still less than a Strike you might take from an even-leveled NPC.
That's a needlessly complicated way to say:
At minimum values, RAW Healing Hands is no better than basic Heal, while homebrew is 1.2222 times (22.22%) better than both. At average values, RAW Healing Hands is 1.0833 times (8.33%) better than base, and homebrew is 1.25 times (25%) better than basic and 1.1538 times (15.38%) better than the RAW feat. Rolling at maximum values, RAW Healing Hands is 1.125 times (12.5%) better than base and homebrew is still 1.25 times (25%) better than base and only 1.1111 (11.11%) better than RAW Healing Hands.
A homebrewed Healing Hands caster heals roughly 1.25 (25%) times more across the board than the caster without the feat. It benefits from consistency - your caster is always healing better than their counterparts. A RAW Healing Hands caster is not necessarily better than their counterparts if they roll low. This evens out at higher levels, where the chance of rolling a minimum value grows lower and lower. Because the base value added to the die roll is the same as before taking the feat, the major benefit is the chance to roll higher numbers. A lucky caster can be 1.125 times better than someone without the feat or no better than. The utility your caster gets out of the feat will depend on how "lucky" they are and sort of(?) increases with level (less likely to roll all 1s as you start adding more dice!) but, on average, they should be about rolling at 1.08 times the impact of their old 2-Action Heal spells.
I haven't looked under the hood of PF2e enough to see how different version of the feats balance out against the impact of other feats. Frankly, I don't want to - that's too much, even for me! :P And I'm fully aware the bulk of people reading this thread sincerely don't care. But, if you're thinking of messing with this spell at YOUR table, there're some numbers for you to look at!
You know... If I did the numbers right. Either way, it was weirdly satisfying to poke at it. :|
TL;DR, I did some math I guess and it seems seems tweaked Healing Hands is a consistent improvement over base, but kind of high (1.25 times better than base) and RAW Healing Hands depends on how well you roll (ranging from not better at all to about 1.125 times better, with average rolls being 1.0833 times better).
I have what should be a simple question about the Cleric Feat "Healing Hands" that, for some reason, I can't really figure out. The Healing Hands Feat says you roll d10s in place of d8s when you cast Heal. That much is easy to understand; what gets me is the 2-Action, single-target version of Heal, which reads: "The spell has a range of 30 feet. If you’re healing a living creature, increase the Hit Points restored by 8."
To me, Healing Hands should increase that 8 to a 10, but nothing explicitly states that. My understanding of the design principal is that you're essentially rolling 2d8 but one is assumed to be the max roll. This is also supported by the Heightened text which scales the +8s evenly with he additional rolled d8s. So a 2nd level Heal which rolls 2d8 does the equivalent of 4d8 if half of them rolled max. My interpretation is that it should then scale to 1d10+10, in the same way as if you'd rolled 2d10 and one had rolled its highest value. Intuitively, this is how my formula brain is breaking down the structure of the spell, but I can't find anything that states this. Do I have the wrong idea, or is it important to keep the +8 the way it is?
I have a player looking to make a Bard and he's got some questions about Reach Spell. I think I know the answer, but we were wanting some clarification. It states that it increases the range of spells that have a range by 30 feet. He wants to know what effect that has on, say, Grim Tendrils, which does not explicitly have range but has an area.
I'd think the answer is "it does nothing" - and I'm almost entirely sure the answer isn't "60ft line" - but I also thought an argument could be made for starting the 30ft line anywhere within 30ft as opposed to originating from the caster. The rules for range and area states that an area spell with a range can center/begin its area from any space within range. The rules for increasing the range of Touch spells state you increase range from 0. Technically, "Touch" is a specified range - so the spell "has a range" to satisfy the requirement of Reach Spell - but I suppose an entertaining argument could be that spells like Grim Tendril are also "Range 0" spells that can become spells with an area (that isn't effected by Reach Spell) and a Range of 30ft.
Like I said, I'm pretty sure I know what the answer is. But... thoughts?
I remember in the Hellknight Hell GM Reference, it was mentioned that "town level 4" means that you can do level 4 jobs to Gain an Income. I recall item level being mentioned in that thread, but I can't quite remember what the answer was on that. I believe it was that, for the time being, it only means job level but that's because they haven't yet decided how they want to handle town stats in this edition?
I have four players. Not a one is trained in Thievery or possesses Thieve's Tools. Now, I understand that these types of skills are pretty fundamental in an adventuring party, and yet here we are. I'm not against saying "you can't do it so you miss out" on some things, such as unlocking a door that might lead to a quicker/safer route or accepting that my players simply don't understand the plot-hint-in-form-of-mysterious-book because they are hypothetically abysmal at Religion and/or Society, but some of the gear in this adventure is literally locked behind a Thievery check.
Any idea of what to do?
For smaller lockboxes, I can force the players to pay an expert to pick the lock for them. Might be fun. For larger lockers and stuff, that doesn't work. I was thinking you could just break the box, like a door, perhaps at risk of damaging fragile items inside. Certainly, there are generic hardness/durability rules. What would y'all go with?
Oh, yikes. That's a tricky one. That happened to me. They went in the front door but decided to go north instead of south, so I read the "when entering area A6" text right around when they found the collapsed wall leading to the courtyard.* I was kind of up front to my players - IC, they know the rumor about the deed, and OOC they know they're going to get the citadel - "sooner or later, the first floor's going to have to be cleared out."
That's poor IC motive right there, but it inspired my players to come up with a reason. Or maybe that's just the way they all already are. :P We have a very... single-minded elf tourist who, at the point we're at, it just here to look at cool Hellknight stuff, and he keeps demanding they "finish the tour". Meanwhile, we have a carpenter/mason and amateur architecture buff who is really invested in hearing the "guided tour" start to finish, so they're dragging the other two along on a circuit of all the rooms. :'D
*Thinking about it now, I'm not sure the rubble on the north side of the courtyard IS traversable. I ruled it as difficult terrain since similar rubble piles on the exterior walls are stated to be potential entrances, but the module doesn't really there's any possible way into the courtyard except through A6. Ah well! We had fun.
James Jacobs wrote:
You can find it here. I'd take it that James not disagreeing that Breachill is level 4 means that it is, indeed, level 4. Haven't dug through my PDFs of the AP, though, to verify where it says that, but if Asurasan says that's what it is, I'd be inclined to agree even more!
That's a great idea! It covers over both of those potential narrative problems, and means that the players don't have to take the initiative in setting up a bucket brigade which - let's be honest - a lot of very focused players might not think to do.
I ran it as "you spend 3 actions, and those spectators are removed to safety." The text specifies you don't have to move to the actual spectators in order to collect them, just be on the correct side of the room, so it stands to reason that - since you aren't tracking motion towards them - you don't actually "move" towards the door.
The question I had, then, was where the characters end those three actions. Right where they started? Next to the door? Generically in the middle of the room, by the rug, to represent them rushing back in to save more people? As written, it sounds like "stand in place and burn your turn to reduce the spectators-in-danger counter".
Actually, I had some problems running this encounter, and none of them were what I was expecting. Keeping track of the fire rules was almost no problem at all, nor was managing the mephit's shenanigans. Mostly because the party killed it in the first round with a lucky frost vial followed up with hydraulic push. The problem I faced was that the room is massive.
I talk a while about my experience running this encounter, and my issues with it.:
The meeting hall is 145 ft wide and 90 ft deep. It's 13,050 square feet. That's about thirteen times bigger than my entire apartment. Meanwhile, the entire courtyard that the Order of Nail conducted live training drills with multiple recruits in is, like, 3,000 square feet. Less, actually, because of its shape. Their courtroom, even including the public seating gallery, is 1,340 square feet, and that's one of the biggest spaces in the citadel!
Scale-wise, you can immediately see the problem. Based on art, the meeting hall is proportional. The issue seems to be that the meeting hall was drawn before the ground scale was decided upon. Whoever drew the grid on the meeting hall map said "a person takes up a 5 foot square, so a whole chair takes up a 5 foot square" and drew one of the squares around one of the council seats. Looking at the citadel map, a chair takes up about 1/4 of a square. Maybe 1/9. The office chair I'm sitting in, for reference, is about 20 inches - 1.68 feet - in width. (If you're wondering if I pulled out a measuring tape and got this number, I can promise you it's much worse than that!)
Splitting hairs over map scale is a bit annoying, but it also causes problems in terms of running the encounter. Ignoring that it took my players an entire round just to be able to engage the mephit, by virtue of them going first, the task of putting the fire out becomes incredibly difficult. Or at least tedious. The average human moves 25 feet in an action. The fire starts at the back of the room, and the water buckets from the bucket chain appear at the front of the room. It takes an interact action to throw the bucket of water, and presumably a manipulate/interact action to pick it up. It takes about two movement actions for a human being to get from middle of the room to the door. Let's say the players happen to be standing by the door at the start of the round buckets begin arriving. That's one action to pick it up. Considering that the first fire not only starts in the back of the room, but a back corner, it's reasonable to assume that it takes three movement actions to get to the edge of the fire, unless the GM has been spreading it in a diagonal bee line towards the center of the room. It takes another action to throw the bucket, and then another three actions to get back for another bucket. The entire loop of "pick up bucket, go to fire, return for new bucket" takes 8 actions. Maybe it takes 6 actions, at least until the fire is pushed back to the doors, when it most certainly takes 8. Obviously, elves do this more quickly, and gods help any dwarves that try. For a character of human-like speeds, it's two or three rounds per bucket.
A bucket puts out a 4 squares of fire. Four characters can put out 16 squares every two or three rounds, if they're working at maximum efficiency (good luck doing that with half of the room being difficult terrain!). Every round, the fire increases its size by 50%. At that rate, the original 4 squares of fire become 6, which then become 9, which then become 13 squares of fire, and so on.
If two PCs work together on each side of the room, they can help a total of 12 spectators in the first round. If any one of them breaks off to fight the mephit, it takes longer to set up the brigade. If none of them do, there's more fire to put out. Let's assume it takes two rounds to save enough spectators for the bucket brigade, using the 5 the town council also save. If your PCs don't send a councilor to organize the brigade, the buckets arrive on the 5th round. That can be brought down to "right then and there at the end of the 2nd round" with a bunch of councilors sent to manage it, but then your PCs aren't necessarily in a position to start using buckets. Let's make another assumption, then: the PCs begin the 4th round ready to use the buckets. They must pick up the buckets and move towards the fire, so they can throw the buckets on the 5th round.
The first starts at 4 squares.
If ALL four PCs dedicate themselves to the buckets - a poor idea, because now spectators are passing out and under threat of death - they can put out a total of 4 x 4 = 16 squares of fire on the 5th round. That limits the fire to 15 or 17.
It takes the rest of the round, maybe another to start another cycle by the buckets. During the fifth round, the fire expands. At this point, the math is less certain, depending on how exactly the fire had spread, connected, and possibly been separated by PCs with buckets. The fire will expand over at least the sixth and seventh rounds, maybe even the eight and I think even the 9th before more buckets can be thrown? Meanwhile, spectators are choking and dying.
The point is, the fire seems to expand faster than the PCs are equipped to deal with it. Looking at the cantrip list, the only non-bucket way to deal with fire is to expend spell slots or items. A Quick Bomber alchemist can put out 3 squares of fire per round for as long as they have frost vials prepared, but I don't know why an alchemist would have used all of the reagents during daily prep to make ten frost vials. So you're trudging back and forth across this massive room trying to put the fire out and, even if you devote all your resources to it, it's a losing battle. If you throw councilors at the bucket brigade and ignore spectators, who then die, you can start trying to tackle the problem earlier; if you get all the spectators out to focus on the fire later, the fire is huge by the time you try to deal with it. In lieu of running a bunch of simulations that no one wants me to do, I'll just tentatively conclude that it's almost impossible, especially with the addition of the mephit, to deal with the fire, unless you have a very clever, lucky, and well-prepared party... and maybe not even then.
Maybe there's something I'm missing? Maybe a PC starting in the front left bench can burn a spell slot on create water, which they've just happened to prepare that day, and get a head start... In most cases, though, I think the room being this large and having that much to do makes the encounter frustrating to run. I know my players got frustrated, both with the ground they had to cover and putting the fire out.
When I ran it, it was a fun mechanic which worried them while they were trying to do other things. Some of them focused on the mephit, while others bonded over rescuing the spectators. Two of them advocated leaving as soon as the spectators were safe, because one of them kind of wanted to see the place burn and the other reasoned it wasn't really their problem (that player very much understands how to play true neutral). Given the tedium of fighting the fire in such a large space, I ruled that the two of them left while the other two stayed and, with the assistance of some councilors and a guard or two, were able to put out the flames. I allowed them to do this without adverse effect because they had each tied a wet cloth around their mouths. This, I advised them they could do, but balanced the meta-information I'd just handed out by stressing they should only do it if their character would reasonably think of doing so. Bless them, one of them agreed they weren't very familiar with fires, but the other one gave a reasoned argument and the first copied them once they saw it happen.
Overall, it proved an interesting set-piece encounter, but I had to hand wave a lot of it and provide some prompting or aid in other parts about what they could or couldn't do. The inability to cover much ground even spending a whole turn moving strongly irritated all four of my players. The ones who dedicated themselves to saving survivors didn't mind as much, but did grow bored saying "I spend all three of my actions to collect some spectators" - I tried my best with narration and encouraged using these turns to do some character building, which worked and provided some entertainment - and the ones who needed to move around to try and handle the mephit or do something else escalated their complaints about the rooms size. One of my players even calculated the square footage on the fly.
Narratively, the players seemed baffled that not a single spectator could escape the room without direct intervention, especially as the fire begins the encounter threatening and scary but not immediately dangerous - there isn't enough smoke or chaos to obscure the southern exit or enough danger to freeze them all in fear - and that no one but the random heroes (three of whom were from out of town!) were trying to put the fire out at all. They pointed out at least once a round that the entire building would have burned down and roughly twenty individuals would have died if three strangers and one enterprising citizen hadn't dropped everything to handle the problem themselves, unprompted. I explained that they had to rescue the spectators because they were jostling and having problems getting free of the benches as a few of them had started freaking out (and because the module wanted them to feel like heroes) and that they town WOULD have resolved the fire had they not already been there doing it (the buckets arrive at the door, the lead person pokes their head in and sees people fighting the fire, and assumes it's handled), but my players weren't very happy with the encounter. A smaller meeting hall wouldn't have ironed over these narrative points, but it would have made it less noticeable by reducing the time scale so that it felt more like an immediate response by those people who were already there. I leaned on the "we clearly need more fire drills" joke suggested earlier in the thread, but it didn't land as well, because one of the other players had already yelled "don't they have any FIRE DRILLS in this town?" :P
The narrative was neat, and, leaning into the imagined experience of our characters, we got some fun out of this encounter. Two characters bonded over effort expended in the heat of the flames, and we had some good in-character lines during and after the crisis. We all agreed, however, that it wasn't the best first encounter we could have had.
And you can imagine the exasperated vindication felt by the player who measured the meeting hall mid-encounter when I introduced the citadel at the very end of the session and it was clear that the Breachill's meeting hall - which was only part of its town hall - was somehow 3/4 as wide as the entire citadel...
Just to throw my two copper in, because I'm bored at work and downloading Book 4 now:
"Because it's an interesting thing to do" is fine and all, but I understand the concern of wanting a push to go do the thing. "Who makes adventurers that don't adventure?" Plenty of people do! PLAYERS like to adventurer, and a good player will work with the GM to contrive a reason for any given PC to go on any given adventure, yes. Saying "we sit in the castle and manage our holdings" is, truly, a boring way to play the game.
But I more often than not see people making characters first and adventurers second. I won't fault anyone for making a character who jumps at every chance to explore new places, face new challenges, and meddle in problems for the sheer joy of getting stuff done. They can be a fun character, but they're a particular type of character. Usually, though, adventurers aren't adventuring automatons. As boring as "we sit in the castle and don't do anything" is, I find "wind me up and point me at the next plot hook, no matter how tenuous or seemingly inconsequential" almost as boring. As much as it's the players responsibility to find reasons for their characters to engage with an adventure, it's the GM's responsibility to know the party and make the characters WANT to engage.
At least, that's my philosophy of running a game. And I suspect it's a decently common one. Saying "it's a thing to do, your players are wrong if they don't go do it" isn't helpful. Maybe it's true for your group, but I don't think it's the point of the thread. Not all characters are motivated to take the initiative to solve a problem they're only vaguely aware of, especially when it's hilariously dangerous to do so. Take my degenerate party, for example:
* A Human Cleric of Cayden Cailean who used to be a bartender until he got blackout drunk with Cayden himself and woke up with a fresh holy symbol and sash. As of the start of the game, he IS a wandering adventurer, and he DOES sometimes poke at problems, but they've ALWAYS been small problems he was immediately aware of.
* An Arctic Elf Alchemist whose main goal is Hellknight tourism. He's in his mid-life crisis and taken up Hellknight scholarship the same way people suddenly get really into WW2. He's really only here to see the Citadel and maybe own it - it's his personal Normandy D-Day pilgrimage. That's his motivation through Book 1... we aren't yet sure why he keeps at it, aside from wanting to stay in the Citadel.
* A Dwarven Fighter who identifies more as a craftsperson than a fighter. He's moved to Breachill over 20 years ago to pick up a trade after leaving a turbulent youth and was only at the Call for Heroes to spectate. He happened to jump up when the fire happened, and now he's committed to seeing that through, but we can't guarantee that motivation will extend to messing with a portal that's not an active threat to his town.
* A Feytouched Gnome Sorcerer (also Fey blooded, because of course) who is mostly just irate that their good sleep keeps being interrupted by prophetic nightmares from Desna. Less interested in saving anyone, more interested in making the bad dreams stop.
Now, there are plot threads and motivations I can lean on. As mentioned above, the Gnome with horrible apocalyptic nightmares can be pressured into making progress, because the nightmares keep pointing towards the next gate and they're getting worse. They will likely irritate the rest of them into going through with it. And Cayden Cailean hates slavery, so I can rope the Cleric into any action against a group of slavers - I'll just have to make it clear that messing with the next gate will help oppose them. But that's it, unless I do some messing. Now, my Dwarf has a missing brother who never stopped getting in trouble, and that's a perfect fit for this particular book...
But the point is, there are a lot of interesting characters that don't want to jump at the distant, whispered call for adventurer. My players will find reasons to keep playing, and I'll find reasons to encourage their characters so they don't have to jump through hoops to do so, but I don't think they're doing anything wrong for creating and playing consistent characters that might, on occasion, simply not want to take "unnecessary" risk. After all, they aren't really here to be heroes - they just wanted to see a cool building, or deal with a fire, or resolve some minor local problem before moving on.
So, regarding the goblin dogs in encounter A1, I was wondering about properly "resolving" that encounter.
I understand if the PCs come barging in, the dogs get spooked and attack them. Quick-thinking PCs can either toss out some meat or perhaps scamper backwards, but that's that.
I also understand that you can give indifferent dogs a morsel of meat to make them friendly towards you, and that's pretty neat.
Let's assume my party opens the door slowly (leaving the dogs at indifferent). The text says they are curious but suspicious, and that you CAN use Command an Animal on them. The encounter awards XP as if you've beaten the dogs in a fight "if the PCs improve the the goblin dogs' attitude by one step or successfully use the Command an Animal activity on them". If the situation is just that the dogs keep their distance as the PCs pass through, and it's possible to pass indifferent dogs without them attacking you, then carefully entering the room and then carefully leaving it means you can resolve the encounter without earning XP.
I know that not every situation has to award XP to the players. And, since I'm using milestone leveling, whether or not the PCs get XP is irrelevant to my party. But two things suggest to me that more might need to be done with the dogs, and I have a player that works with animals and might find an animal-related encounter very interesting, so I wanted to make sure I wouldn't be bypassing part of the encounter as intended:
1) XP is awarded if you kill the dogs, improve their attitude (from indifferent to friendly or hostile to indifferent) or successfully Command an Animal.
Does this mean that indifferent dogs need to be successfully Commanded to "stand down" or "go sit" or somehow be convinced that it's okay before they're willing to let the PCs pass, or is it simply that you experience no hindrance or benefit from ignoring indifferent dogs?