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My PCs are third level and are just about to enter section E (the Apostles and the ghouls). To my mild surprise, they've been leaning hard into the survival horror aspect of the story -- they really like the grosser monsters and the creepier and more atmospheric encounters.

Section E definitely raises the game in terms of difficulty, but otherwise it's not much more horrific than the other parts. So I'd like to add an encounter or two to make it more creepy and alarming. Note that it doesn't have to be a monster as such (though suggestions for creepy monsters are also welcome) -- seeing Pyramid Head standing motionless in the hotel corridor could work too, if you get me. The players seem to be responding to creepiness and atmosphere more than mechanics, if that helps.


Doug M.

Running it this Sunday for a group of five. NONE of us have played 2e before. I, and one other, have read the core rulebook. We're all experienced gamers who are very familiar with 1e and with D&D 5th.

1) What should we know before starting to play? What surprises should we expect, what should we keep in mind, what's really different?

2) Is there a short-short scenario that's suitable for a single session that could serve as an introduction? (I've seen the PFS Scenario "The Mosquito Witch", and it looks good, but maybe not for a first time -- it's mostly talk and social stuff.)

-- Also, do I understand correctly that odd-numbered ability scores under 19 no longer exist? NBD, just wondering if I'm missing something.

Many thanks,

Doug M.

The Worm That Walks template can be added to "any evil spellcasting creature". Usually it's a high-level humanoid spellcaster, but there are all sorts of other options. Anyway: I'm considering a WTW as an end boss for my PCs, who are currently 3rd level but should be 4th when they hit this thing. The template is CR +2, so I'd want a CR 4 or 5 evil monster. I could just take a 5th level sorceror or whatever and slap on the template, but now that I think about it, "evil spellcasting creature" really opens up a lot of options, doesn't it.

Basically I'm looking for novel ideas here. What've you got?

Doug M.

(I think this thread will have SPOILERS so don't keep reading beyond this post, which I'll keep spoiler free.)

Has anyone actually played this yet?

It's the single most insane thing Paizo has ever published, and I honestly have trouble seeing how the PCs can win. Four 20th level PCs, fully loaded, against the boss... and the other things... and also the special sauce? I'm sure someone will manage it, but if the DM plays it straight and unleashes the full potential of this setup, it's a crapton of damage coming at you really fast. Scry and die / rocket tag may not be enough in this case.

But I don't know. I've never played PF at this level. Would be really curious to hear an account from someone who actually reached Vol. 6. Failing that, if anyone with experience with super high level play wants to take a crack at theorycrafting how the combat might go, I'd be interested.

Doug M.

There don't seem to be a lot. I mean, yes, the Trickery domain. But evil gods whose portfolios connect to core bard stuff like music, performance, art and diplomacy? Seems like a pretty short list.

Assume a plain vanilla bard who's doing typical bard stuff but is, you know, evil. What deity might be a plausible fit?

Doug M.

Halfway through ISOS, and we're starting to get clues about backstory. One of the PCs is a gnome bard. Backstory (unknown to PC or player) is that in his previous life, he was Lowls court jester. I think he was a giggling little sadist, possibly insane, and either NE or CE.

So: what god might he have worshipped? I ask because I think I want him to find a tattoo or something. Default would be Groetus, who is creepy and a good fit thematically, but CN rather than CE. Great Old Ones are possible but might be too obvious (the players don't even realize this is a Lovecraft-themed campaign yet). Zon-Kuthon is a sadist but not in a fun way, and he's LE and not a great fit for the campaign thematically. I'm contemplating some weird minor deity like Ghlaunder or something... anyway, suggestions welcome.

Doug M.

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Magic Trick [Prestidigitation]. In terms of flavor, I think this is either the best or the second best one-shot feat I've seen. (The competition can be found over here.) Let's break this down. You take the feat, and you need to know Prestidigitation -- which, let's note, is a cantrip that almost any character can get with just a bit of effort (be a rogue and take Minor Magic, be a gnome, etc.) Then you gain various weird abilities if you take other skills or feats. So:

Adjust Scent (Survival 6 ranks): You can adjust the smell of an object or willing creature to become more or less powerful, respectively doubling or reducing by half the distance needed to detect the target with the scent universal monster ability.

This is very minor; few casters take Survival, and it's not a great power anyhow. However, this:

Chromatic Savant (Disguise 3 ranks or gnome): When you change the color of an item, the changes are permanent. You can also change the color of part or all of a living being, but the effect gradually fades away in about a month. You must succeed at an appropriate Craft check to create complex or specific designs.

THIS is just AMAZING. There's pretty much no limit to the fun you can have here. Use colored rocks to mark a trail. Change the color of your outfit whenever you feel like it. Show up at the Duke's dress ball with a bouquet of unique blue roses. Is the magus being emo and annoying? Turn his black sword a lovely shade of pink.

If you're playing remotely realistically, this ability should be worth some real money. Take ordinary bits of quartz and color them: bam, semiprecious gemstones. Take lead pieces and color them gold. Start a business on the side that makes well-cut clothing out of ordinary cloth, then add vibrant colors with a snap of your fingers. Also, you could argue with a straight face that the ability to turn everyone's clothing green in the forest, white in the snow, and black in the Underdark should give a Stealth bonus. But even if your DM puts his foot down, there's really no limit to the fun you can have here.

Oh and "you can also change the color of part or all of a living being", and it takes a MONTH to gradually fade away. An unwilling creature gets a save, but it's a cantrip -- you can spam it all day long. The 10' range is probably more of an issue. But hey, who says the target has to be unwilling? Turn all your party members green to increase their recognition factor. Turn your imp familiar blue, just because. Change your own skin and hair color as often as your clothes. I would argue /hard/ that a complete change of skin and hair color should give a bonus on Disguise checks, but again, even if your DM is being strict there's still a lot to work with here. And, hey, you can always just open up the city's most prestigious tanning salon.

As to unwilling targets: turn an elf into a drow, or vice versa, with a simple palette swap. Be a vigilante, sneak up on the corrupt Mayor or the brutal sheriff, and turn them bright purple for a month. Let's not even talk about dragons. Getting within 10' of an unwilling dragon is no small thing. But turning a red dragon into a white or copper one? That's the stuff of legends, my friend.

(Also, if your DM insists on no mechanical effects, argue for a while then say "okay but at least I can do polka dots, right?")

Lasting Changes (Extend Spell): The effects of your prestidigitation spells persist for 1 hour per caster level; this does not change its spell level.

Probably not worth Extend Spell unless you were planning to take it anyway. If yes, note that this lets you create a bunch of minor items that don't require a Craft check, and they'll last for a while.

Minor Levitation (Spellcraft 3 ranks): You can cause up to 1 pound of material to become weightless and direct it to move up to 5 feet each round as if under the effects of levitate.

This is actually pretty good, especially at low levels. No more messing around with grappling hooks! But really it's mostly for flavor: your hat slowly floats 10 feet into the air, changing color as it goes.

Repulsive Flavor (Craft [cooking] 3 ranks): You can cause a willing creature to taste foul. Once a creature with a bite attack successfully attacks the target of your spell, the target gains a +2 circumstance bonus to AC and CMD against bite attacks and grapple checks made with a mouth, such as the grab ability or swallow whole, from that creature.

Wait, this is terrific. It's an actual mechanical effect, and it's a really good one! You have to throw three ranks at cooking, yes. But this game is full of bite attacks! It's slightly nerfed because it only works after the first bite. But still... bite attacks are probably the single most common melee attack out there. Bite attacks after a first bite attack are maybe... 20% of all attacks? Well, the Bestiaries are just big books full of things that want to bite you, but let's be conservative and say 10%. "Everyone in your party always gets +2 AC against 10% of all attacks" is darn near worth a feat by itself.

I say "always", because this lasts an hour, and you can just re-up it with a standard action at any time. So you absolutely should have it on all party members whenever you're anywhere near a dungeon or other danger spot. As DM I might argue that, when active, it leaves a nasty taste in the PC's mouth... but I don't think that's going to be much of a deterrent to this becoming an autobuff.

Thaumaturgic Aesthetics (Bluff 3 ranks, Disguise 3 ranks, Deceptive): While you have a prestidigitation spell active, you can thematically change the effects of other spells you cast, such as changing the color of a fireball, granting your magic missile a specific shape, or adding a floral smell to your mage armor. This increases the DC of Spellcraft and Knowledge (arcana) checks to identify your magic by an amount equal to half of your ranks in Disguise (minimum 1).

Not many casters take Deceptive, so you're probably not going to fulfill the requirements for this one unless you're an arcane trickster or something.

But okay. Two things happening here, one mechanical, one flavor. The mechanical one is weak sauce, because the Spellcraft bonuses to understand a spell scale up much faster than the DC of the check. By midlevels it's usually auto-success, and adding half your level to the DC won't much help. The flavor effect, however, is great! Magic missiles that look like flowers, teleporting in a puff of smoke and the stench of brimstone, a crown of flames appears around your head for a moment when you cast Burning Hands, you name it. The cool factor here is only limited by your imagination. Also, note that characters *without* Spellcraft should be fairly and legitimately confused. "He cast some kind of spell, and now you can see his skeleton through his transparent flesh -- " "What the HECK, man?"

TLDR: this feat requires some building, and the mechanical effects are modest. But it's just so much darn fun.


Doug M.

Int > Dex > Cha > everything else

Traits: Magical knack, Charlatan

Illusion specialist, opposing schools necromancy and divination

1 Rogue 1 - Deceptive
2 Wizard 1
3 Wizard 2 - Magic trick (Prestidigitation)
4 Wizard 3
5 Wizard 4 - Skill Focus (Bluff)
6 Wizard 5
7 Wizard 6 - Breadth of Knowledge

So this is an NPC for PCs to interact with. He's CG and I think his schtick is that he's a Robin Hood-ish free-the-slaves / help-the-poor type. And his signature move is to use the Chromatic Savant power granted by his feat to change the color of items as a sign that he's been there. Bright blue oranges, leopard-print roses, the watch dog wakes up a rather lovely blue plaid, you get the idea.

(Pause a moment to check out the Magic Trick feats. They're balanced and they're flavorful as heck. Spending a feat on Magic Trick [Prestidigitation] gives only minor benefits, but it can be a lot of fun.)

He also likes using his Disguise skill -- he's got max ranks in Disguise and Bluff -- to fast-talk his way into places he shouldn't be, or really just for fun. And while it doesn't formally give a bonus to Disguise, he likes suddenly yelling "Palette swap!" and changing the colors of his own clothing. So the guy all dressed in green suddenly becomes a guy all dressed in spotless white except for a bright blue vest, or what have you.

Oh and: he can change the color of "part or all of a living being", and it takes a *month* to gradually fade away. This is an awesome power to use against dishonest merchant, a slaver, or what have you. It allows a save but it's a cantrip, meaning he can just spam it until it works. Of course, it's only 10' range, so he'd have to sneak up close invisibly or whatever. But I like the idea of a gnome Robin Hood who punishes the wicked sheriff or the corrupt priest by turning them bright purple for a month.

Breadth of Knowledge is there to make him useful to the PCs, and also to mix it up: he really knows a lot about a lot of different topics. Bu-ut, he's also chaotic and he likes to tell stories or just lie a lot. And his sky-high Bluff (around +18 or so) means it can be very hard to tell the difference between "he's telling us the true and useful history of the Dungeon of Doom" and "he's spinning a yarn just for funsies". Mind, I don't see him as an *annoying* character -- more like, he's going to be helpful or not, based on his assessment of their characters. And then, true or false, he'll yell "Palette swap", cover himself with zebra stripes or whatever, and wander off.


Doug M.

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Nyvuss (unique CE silvanshee): Once the curious andlovable feline familiar of the Kellid witch Marganala, Nyvuss watched as her mistress’s disguised green hag lover lured her deeper into corruption. When Taldan authorities finally lashed her to a pyre for her crimes, the witch swore her soul to Gyronna if only the hag goddess would allow her to take the grand prince’s head. The Angry Hag obligingly stitched the burned witch and her familiar into one horrible whole, and under the next new moon, Grand Prince Rodivarian III tripped over a black cat and broke his neck in the fall. Ever since, the mad Nyvuss has served as Gyronna’s messenger, spy, and courier of foul luck, always darting in shadows and moving by night so none can see the still-twitching human face stitched into her bloated stomach.

Now there's an evocative image. This is a horrible, cool idea for an evil NPC. If you wanted to introduce this into a campaign, how might you flesh it out?

First draft: a fiendish advanced silvanshee gives you a CR 4 creature... low end of CR4; it's an excellent spy but can't really do much otherwise. So in addition to the normal silvanshee powers, let's amend its Cats Luck ability. "A silvanshee adds its Charisma modifier as a luck bonus on all its saving throws. Once per day as a standard action, it can also grant this bonus to one ally within 30 feet for 10 minutes." Let's change that to the pugwampi's Unluck Aura: "Any creature in this area must roll two d20s whenever a situation calls for a d20 roll (such as an attack roll, a skill check, or a saving throw) and must use the lower of the two results generated. This is a mind-affecting effect." Giving this a 30' range and putting it on a flying creature with +21 Stealth makes it pretty nasty, and fills the "courier of foul luck" description given above.

Oh, and there's the Lay On Hands ability. I think the way to go here is to replace it with the Evil Eye hex once/day: boom, -2 on AC, attack rolls or all saves, no save, suck it. Yes, this stacks with the Unluck Aura. This thing is bad news.

Finally, there's that second face. There's a lot we could do with that, but I think the simplest way to deal with it is to treat it something like an ogre's Vestigial Head feat: any mind-affecting attack against the silvanshee has a 50% chance of affecting the face instead.

Overall I still think this is a CR 4 creature. It's annoying as heck to deal with, and a nightmare debuffer, but by itself it does almost no damage, and if a party of 3rd level adventurers manages to corner it, they've got a decent chance of killing it. But as long as it slinks around staying in the shadows, it can make life miserable for its targets for a long time... appropriate, for the messenger of the goddess of spite.


Doug M.

Okay, two questions.

1) What's the dang feat that lets a wizard memorize three spells without a spellbook? I can't remember its name, and I can't find it.

2) So, a 7th level evil wizard. Super paranoid. Not a Mythos Cultist himself, but works for one as a henchman. (He's just in it for the research opportunities.) He has this feat. He has a lot of worries -- discovery and capture by the local paladins, the fact that his boss is a maniac who'll happily sacrifice him to Yog-Sothoth if he thought it would advance his cause, worry that Yog-Sothoth (or anyway one of his spawn) may suddenly come knocking. Oh, and he has a stomach ulcer.

What three spells do you think he'd take?

Doug M.

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How does a town prevent executed criminals from being raised? By cutting their heads off, of course. (Resurrection spells are still a concern, but there are not that many level 13+ clerics around.) The decapitated heads are displayed on stakes above the Tower of Justice for a minimum of 21 days, each with a placard briefly describing their crimes.

Plot seed: PCs are hired to steal a head. (I think this works best for PCs around 3rd-5th level.) You can tell the PCs why the heads are up there. They will probably assume that someone wants to cast Raise Dead. Depending on the scenario (see below) the head may have been a petty thief, someone who stabbed someone in a brawl, or a vicious serial killer.

Challenges: The heads are guarded, of course. The simplest scenario is, there are a couple of gargoyles sitting on either end of the row of heads. The town tolerates the gargoyles, allowing them to live off pigeons, rats, and the occasional stray dog, as long as they guard the heads. This makes a pretty straightforward combat. Clever PCs can try talking to the gargoyles. They're chaotic, so they can totally be bribed, with gold or with fresh meat.

Alternately, there's one gargoyle, and it's a creepy-looking vulture-headed thing. Whoops, it's not a gargoyle at all but a CR 7 vanth psychopomp! (Obviously there's a backstory. Bound by a wizard? Paying off a favor? You decide.) The vanth can be talked to, and it's not an evil creature, but at the end of the day it's not letting anyone get raised.

Alternately, there are X number of spikes up there... and each one is guarded with a Glyph of Warding... and each Glyph contains a Summon Monster III spell... and if one glyph triggers, they all do. So, depending on the alignment of the town, suddenly you're facing X number of Dire Bats, or Lantern Archons, or Dretches. There's a simple way to avoid triggering the Glyph (wear a necklace with three human fingerbones on it) which the local executioner uses but which the PCs are very unlikely to discover.

In all cases, to reach the heads you must be able to climb (fairly easy Climb check) or fly. The heads are clearly visible from the street below, so best do this at night. Bats hang out around the Tower of Justice (they have a nest in an empty room), so clever PCs who creep up invisibly will disturb them, alerting the gargoyles or the vanth that something's up (and possibly also triggering a bat swarm, because why not). Townspeople believe the heads are guarded by a curse, which is not true but should make PCs thoughtful.

Plot twist: The PCs' employer doesn't want to raise the head at all! They want the head for some other reason...

-- Demon eye. The dead man had a demonic graft: a glowing red demon eye (+8 perception). He mostly kept it hidden under an eyepatch, which his rotting head still wears. The eye still works just fine. With a high enough Heal check, it can still be removed and transferred to a new host. The PCs' employer may simply be a former colleague of the dead man who wants the eye for herself, or a wizard who wants it for research, or a cultist. Or they may be the person who sold the eye to the dead man in the first place...

-- Head fake. The employer is a necromancer who has come up with a cool new spell for creating an intelligent, evil undead from a severed head. However, he needs the fresh head of someone really evil; just killing a random person and taking their head won't work. In this scenario, if the PCs do any research or inquiry, mention that the head they're after is the head of a notorious serial killer or mass murderer. (Probably best with nongood PCs.) If they don't make inquiries, have "ATROCIOUS MURDERRER OF MANY" on the placard that hangs beneath the head. If the PCs hand over the head, soon the most disturbing rumors will be circulating, about the blood-sucking life-draining floating head thing that's terrorizing the poorer part of town...

-- Lore needle. This one is relatively benign: the dead man had a lore needle stuck in his head. This turns a person with one high Knowledge skill into someone with ALL the Knowledges, so it's definitely something a wizard, a bard, or just an academic researcher might want. In this scenario the PCs' employer is not necessarily evil, and may become a recurring NPC or a patron.

-- Brain infection. The dead man's brain was infected by something. (Possibly this is why he was committing crimes in the first place.) Options include brainworms or thoughtcrawlers (bad), brain moss (worse), or a slugspawn (very bad indeed). The PCs' employer may be an alchemist, is probably evil, and is quite possibly the person who infected the dead man in the first place. A drow or a derro, working in disguise, would work very well here, or your standard insane Lovecraftian cultists if you're going with the slugspawn. (Normally slugspawn form a spawning canker if their host dies early. This one didn't, and the cultists really want to recover it and find out why.)

Phew. Thoughts?

Doug M.

If you're not already following Kill Six Billion Demons, consider starting. But anyway: Gog-Agog is a demiurge, one of seven evil demigods who run the K6BD multiverse. She's basically a Pathfinder Worm That Walks -- a wriggling mass of worms animated by a single powerful colonial intelligence -- and she runs the multiverse's entertainment industry.

Here are some fun things about Gog-Agog that could be adopted to Pathfinder:

1) She seems to have the power to infect people with her worms. The host is then under her complete control; she can see/sense whatever it sees or senses. Worse yet, at will she can move her consciousness into the host. The unfortunate host is immediately devoured by an frantically growing mass of worms, with Gog-Agog bursting explosively out of the host's body in a single round. Think the Alien chestburster, only full-body. Needless to say, this kills the host very dead. The details of this horrific power are unclear; there doesn't seem to be any range limitation or anything. Presumably the host has to be willing or helpless to be infected. (Yeah, "willing" seems unlikely, but OTOH it's the entertainment industry, so who knows.)

2) Gog-Agog can appear completely human (or as any other small, medium or large-sized humanoid) to casual examination Close examination will show that she's really a mass of differently colored worms holding humanoid form, but you have to get within 10' and be paying attention. Gog-Agog regularly tinkers with new forms, usually young and attractive. A complication: none of these forms are stable. After a few minutes they begin, first to leak, then to melt, and finally to disintegrate. So, Gog-Agog is regularly distracted by putting her face back on.

3) Despite being an eldritch abomination that is also chaotic evil -- /very/ chaotic, and /very/ evil -- Gog-Agog can appear to be perfectly friendly. In fact, she can be downright chipper -- cheerful, perky, and filled with childlike enthusiasm and fun. This is an eldritch abomination that introduces itself as "Your pal, Gog-Agog!" Inside, she's a profoundly alien intelligence and also a festering mass of millenia-old resentments. She's known as the Devourer of Worlds, and there's probably a good reason for that. But she is also super easily distracted. She likes things that are cool! Basically she's a horrifically powerful pseudo-Lovecraftian nightmare thing with bad ADHD.

Apropos of nothing except that I'd really like to adapt her into a campaign someday.


Doug M.

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The Lord of Life is a religious leader. In appearance he's a slender, attractive young man with a shaven head. He wears white robes and sandals and is surrounded by beautiful people. He's not affiliated with any known god. His doctrine is sparse and vague, and he has few rituals and no holy symbols. But what he does have is the ability to raise the dead. And not just the recent, intact dead! No, the Lord of Life can raise those who've been dead for decades. He can bring back the departed from an incomplete corpse, a skull, a fingerbone, or a mere handful of dust.

Furthermore: the Lord of Life seems to have unparalleled mastery over both arcane and divine magic. He regularly casts very powerful arcane spells, but he also conducts rituals that give the same results as high-level clerical and even druid spells. In fact, the Lord of Light seems to have a spell ready for pretty much any situation.

The Lord of Life leads a group called the Servants of Life. The Servants are cult-like, but they haven't broken any laws and don't seem to be committing any obvious evil. However, the Lord of Light's ability to bring back the dead has brought them a lot of attention, very quickly. He'll do this for much, much less money than the fees usually charged by the churches. In fact, he's been known to bring back the dead for just a few hundred gp, or even for no money at all. He'll also do occasional cures and Lesser Restorations, but the recovery of the dead is his main event. He does this exactly once per day, at sunrise.

If you want to talk to the Lord of Light, you must go through one of his two assistants: a breathtakingly gorgeous woman named Lucia, and an older man with a limp and a baleful glare named Skotos. Anyone who throws a detection spell will find that Lucia detects as moderate good, while Skotos detects as moderate evil. If this is pointed out, Luce will say that Skotos has suffered terribly, and that Life embraces all.

Visitors are encouraged to join the Servants of Life. This involves shaving your head, putting on white robes, and learning some fairly simple rituals. Strict obedience to the Lord and his immediate subordinates is required. There's a feast every night and the food is actually excellent. There's a lot of group hugging. The group -- cult? -- has purchased a large property (they don't seem to be short of money) and members spent a certain amount of time cleaning, decorating, gardening and the like. The locals consider the Servants eccentric and somewhat suspect, but must admit they pay their bills and cause no problems. PCs might encounter the Servants as wallpaper, harmless eccentrics who talk a lot about Universal Love and the benefits of an ovo-lacto vegetarian diet.

What's actually going on:

Inspired by [url]this post over at All Sorts of Critters[/url].

So the Demon Lord Haagenti has some good boons, especially on his Evangelist track. The peak boon there includes the ability to create very cheap potions of True Resurrection. Yes, really. At 16th level you can crank those out once/day for a mere 350 gp. Oh, and you also get immortality in an eternally ageless youthful form -- which means you still get age bonuses to mental stats, but don't suffer any penalties to your physical stats. Pretty sweet!

The Lord of Life is a 16th level Evangelist of Haagenti. His base class is wizard -- the Spell Sage archetype, to be precise. That means he can cast cleric, druid and bard spells up to 3X/day, subject to certain limitations: it takes two wizard spell slots, and the casting time is greatly increased. Still, it's spontaneous casting of ANY spell from those three spell lists. Also pretty sweet.

So True Resurrection normally costs 25,000 gp. This guy can cast it for a mere 350 gp. That means he can subsidize his little commune, charge far less than the rival churches for casting clerical spells, and still have money to burn. That said, money isn't really what he's after. He'll take modest cash payments from ordinary supplicants, but he's really interested in people who are powerful -- class levels, political clout, you name it. Those get their resurrections cheap or free, and then basically get brainwashed in return. The Lord of Life casts like a 15th level wizard but with access to all bard, cleric and druid spells below 9th level; he also has a succubus and a mesmerist on call. Dominate, Suggestion, Geas, Alter Memory, the succubus' Profane Gift, you name it. Unless someone has an *amazingly* high Will save, they'll be turned inside out for useful information and then reprogrammed.

Oh yes, the assistants. Lucia is a succubus / bard 4, and Skotos is a Mesmerist 8/ Demoniac 2. Demoniac isn't actually a great choice for a Mesmerist, but Haagenti has granted him the Hideous Urges corruption and also a Demon Talon in place of his left leg. Skotos believes he'll eventually be transformed into a demon. Meanwhile, Lucia is the beautiful, kindly face of the Service of Light. She casts Misdirection every day, which is why she pings as good.

Most of the cultists are neutral or good aligned commoners who have no idea what's really going on. Many of them had family members raised or diseases cured by the Lord of Light, so they're devoted to him, but not to the point of fighting or dying. There's one very sweet little old lady who's an Adept 6 or so, and Neutral Good; she's the target of the succubus' Misdirection.

There are two thug / mooks who do have some idea what's up. They're Ftr 5 / Rog 3 and they accompany their master almost everywhere. He cast Imbue With Spell Ability on them, so if trouble breaks out, they'll throw buffs on him and then get out in front.

Build notes and tactics:

The succubus, the mesmerist and the mooks have various duties, but protecting their boss is Job One. Note that a succubus with PC stats has a crazy high save DC, and if the mesmerist is in play that all just gets even worse. PCs who don't have access to mind-protecting magic are likely to get turned around fast. Kindly DMs may give advance warning -- "this NPC who went to investigate has shaved his head and is talking about how the divine energy of Life permeates the multiverse", or the like.

The LOL's base stats are something like Str 8 Con 10 Dex 10 Int 21 Wis 16 Cha 18. (Remember, he gets boosts to his mental stats for being Elderly, but takes no damage to his physical stats.) He also has a Profane Gift bump to Cha from the succubus. While it was tempting to put it on Int, he's not going to run the risk of a sulky demon ripping away half his brain on a whim. A 2d6+2 hit of Cha drain would hurt, but he can fix that in a day. His Will save is at least +13, so he's not too worried about her spamming Suggestions (though maybe he should be). Pretty sure he'll have an Int boosting item, so likely a working Int around 25 for casting purposes.

He walks around all day with Mage Armor and Magic Vestment on, so with his Protective Grace and a +1 armor item his default AC is 21 -- not much, but in just a couple of rounds he can boost that fast.

If it comes to combat, his preferred tactic is to stay behind meat shields (his AC and hp are not great) and throw save-or-sucks. He'll fight intelligently but will bug out the moment he thinks he's seriously threatened.

Plot seeds may follow, if anyone finds this interesting.

Doug M.

PCs may attend an auction where a servant of Mammon is auctioning off interesting items. They'll be after one item in particular... but I want to build out the catalog. Parameters:

1) Value between 5,000 and 50,000 gp.

2) Does not weigh more than 50 lbs. (Items are delivered by teleporting devils.) Note that information can be an item.

3) No ordinary magic items. I mean, a +2 sword has a fixed value, yeah? So it's not really a suitable item for an auction.

4) Stuff that is creepy or disturbing, or anyway odd and unusual, is good. It's an auction run by Team Evil, and the bidders will probably be a pretty louche crowd.


Doug M.

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Yeah, Monstress really is pretty good. It's a monthly comic from Image that tells an above-average fantasy story with lush, incredibly detailed art. It's won a pile of awards and it's easy to see why. It has a spell-casting cat called a "nekomancer". If you like this sort of thing, you will like it a lot.

But anyway: the Blood Fox. In the comic, he's an Ancient. That's roughly equivalent to the Elders in Golarion's First World: not a god, but immortal and very powerful. The Ancients used to be CR 20+ near-gods, but their powers somehow got diluted when they bred with humans. So they're a lot weaker than they used to be, but still very formidable. The Blood Fox has been exiled by the other Ancients for extreme wickedness. (He didn't like that having part-human descendants reduced their power, and decided that genocide was the logical solution.) Now he lives alone on a magical island, surrounded by illusions. He passes the centuries getting high on a drug he brews from the bones of a dead god.

In appearance he's humanoid but with the head of a fox. (Here he is saying a friendly hello, and here he is going full-blast with a psychic offensive.) He's decadent and degenerate, and it's implied that he's stoned out of his mind much of the time. But he's still intelligent, manipulative, hateful, and very, very dangerous.

So the Blood Fox actually maps pretty well to a rakshasa -- either a maharajah rakshasa, or a mythic rakshasa, or just a standard rakshasa with a bunch of PC class levels. He's stuck on the island by some very powerful curse. He's thousands of years old and has basically Knowledge (Everything) +a lot, so you could visit him to ask him a question. He's pretty bored so he's ready to swap information.

Complication: he's not the only thing imprisoned on the island. Just getting to the island should be a challenge. (In the comic, it's literally surrounded by a belt of damned souls, which is impossible to cross without paying the undead Ferryman.) And once you're there, you need to be alert against the other inmates.

Challenge: the Blood Fox is basically Hannibal Lecter. He's willing to trade information, and can be urbane and pleasant, and he's ready to be distracted or entertained. But he's capital-E Evil and extremely dangerous to deal with. Like the good Dr. Lecter, he wants to (1) get inside your head and mess with you, and (2) escape. He may ask the PCs to do something seemingly innocent, even benign, that is actually a part of an elaborate escape plan stretching over centuries. Letting the Blood Fox escape is of course a terrible, terrible idea that will, at a minimum, seriously tick off whatever Powers locked him up in the first place. But even short of that, the Blood Fox's idea of fun would be to give you absolutely true and honest advice that will lead to some horrific outcome.

TLDR: the Blood Fox is a cool high-level NPC who could easily be adapted to many different campaigns. I'd do it myself, except then I wouldn't be able to recommend Monstress to my players.

Doug M.

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So this is inspired by a blog post Arnold wrote over at Goblin Punch a couple of years back. Arnold's stuff is awesome and everyone should go read Goblin Punch, it's great.

Seed: the PCs meet an NPC who has the formal title of "Wind-Wife". This NPC is married to the North Wind. I imagine the NPC as female, but season to taste; the North Wind doesn't really see gender (though it is sexual; see below). Let's call them Kim. I see Kim as a ranger or fighter who is around the PCs' level. S/he is, ohhh, a guide across a wilderness area and starts as friendly if not allied. The PCs should be told that Kim is a "Wind-Wife"; beyond that, you can provide as much or as little information as you deem appropriate.

The North Wind is sentient and practices serial monogamy, taking Wives for anything from a few months to a few years. There's a courtship. Its tastes vary over time. In the last few decades, all the Wives have been either melee fighter types, or lawyers. There may or may not be a religious aspect to this -- flavor to taste. Anyway, being a Wind-Wife brings Kim a number of benefits.

Companion Wind. Kim has a companion wind that hangs around. It's basically an animal companion type thing, except it's a wind. In a pinch it can fight like an air elemental, but that's not its main purpose. It reconnoiter; can carry messages any distance (and it's darn fast, and tireless); and gives Kim the ability to cast Alter Winds, Whispering Wind, Entropic Shield (winds provide 20% miss chance against missiles) or Gust of Wind, all at will. It's smarter than an air elemental but it does wander off sometimes. It hates enclosed spaces (buildings, caves) and simply won't enter them. It's good for minor, Prestidigitation-type stuff like fanning fires or drying clothes. If killed in combat, it reforms in d6+1 minutes.

Wind Power. If you don't have detailed weather patterns worked out, just roll a d4 three times / day, at morning, noon and sunset. On a 1, the wind is from the north, and will be until the next die roll. When a north wind is blowing, Kim can call on their spouse for help. This isn't exactly the full North Wind, mind. It's more like asking for help from your spouse's little finger or something. Still, that's pretty powerful right there. Kim can ask d3 favors /day from the North Wind, which include Control Winds, River of Wind, Sirocco, and Control Weather. Kim can also ask the wind for a Wind Walk once/day -- basically being blown along by the wind. The PCs can be carried along too, but it's a rough ride if you're not used to it; Reflex saves or be sickened.

Wind Wife. Whenever the wind is from the north, roll a d20. On a 20, the North Wind shows up in person. (If you do the math, the North Wind visits about once a month or so.) Kim can also call on the North Wind. This has a 50% chance of success when the wind is from the north, otherwise 10%. (The North Wind is not particularly protective of its spouse, and Kim is pretty independent, so they won't attempt to call on it except in a dire emergency.) The arrival of the North Wind is extremely dramatic; gale force winds, a sudden drop in temperature, and a roaring loud enough to make normal speech impossible. Whether the North Wind takes a physical form, and what that might look like, is up to you. Meanwhile, roll a d6:

1: Venting. The North Wind is angry or upset about something and has sought out Kim to complain and look for comfort. Kim needs to go off and calm their spouse. This will take d20 x 10 minutes. Meanwhile, the side-effects of the North Wind's unhappiness will make normal activity quite difficult. The North Wind will ignore the PCs unless they force themselves on its attention (probably not a good idea).

2-3: Just stopping by. The North Wind just wants to visit with its spouse for a bit. It is in a fine mood and will adopt whatever attitude Kim has towards the PCs. So, if the PCs have made Kim Friendly or Helpful, the North Wind will feel the same way towards its spouse's new friends.

4-6: Conjugal visit. Kim is literally whisked away. They return d6 hours later, yawning, stretching, and with extremely wild hair. Any reasonable request made to the North Wind through Kim is 80% likely to be granted, but not until after Kim has returned. These visits are always followed by d3 days of unusually calm, mild weather.

Should Kim be killed somehow, flip a coin: 50% chance the North Wind simply mourns (awful weather for d6 days, but otherwise no effect), 50% chance it rages and seeks revenge. In the latter case, the PCs better be able to show they weren't responsible, and point to whoever was.

If Kim becomes a recurring NPC, then at some point the North Wind will move on. If the relationship ended well, Kim will have some permanent token of the North Wind's affection -- a magic item, a wind-related SLA, what have you. In theory a PC could become a Wind-Wife; the minimum requirements are a positive Cha modifier, a positive Con modifier, and either at least three levels in a melee class or at least 3 ranks in Profession [lawyer]. Details beyond that, including courtship and wedding ceremonies, would be up to the DM.


Doug M.

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Plot seed: a cleric of Mammon has some compromising material on a highly placed politician. Details TBD, but let's say they're letters showing her guilty of treason or some similar crime. The cleric has somehow obtained them. Being a cleric of Mammon, he's arranged an auction to sell this material to the highest bidder. However, the various bidders will include evil characters who may want to simply take the kompramat by force, torture its location out of him, or whatever.

So, help requested: how can our evil cleric best secure his auction? He's 10th level, so will have access to 5th level cleric spells, and can buy or blackmail access to arcane spells too. Assume he has a fair amount of money to burn.

My first thought: use Lesser Planar Ally to summon a devil, have the devil take the material to Hell, returning only for a pre-arranged rendezvous and handing the material to whoever has the code phrase. The winner of the auction gets the rendezvous date, time, and code phrase. This doesn't solve the "kidnap the cleric and torture it out of him" problem, though.

Note that I'm not looking for an absolute and final solution -- just one that would be difficult for PCs or NPCs below let's say 10th level to overcome.


Doug M.

I'm looking for enchantment spells that can wait for a very long time -- months or years -- before taking effect. Does anything like that exist?

Put another way, imagine a situation where a high level caster can do a favor for you. In return, they want a guarantee of you doing one act for them in the future. As part of the deal, you agree to fail a saving throw against one spell. Is there a spell that will do the job here? Most of the obvious ones -- Dominate, Geas, and the like -- have durations that are measured in days. so that doesn't work.


Doug M.

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Character concept: a Lawful Good Mystic Theurge who's pretty much a pure crusader type. In Golarion, he might be a devotee of Ragathiel, yeah? He's a blaster who is all about DPR. Can work as part of a team, but given a few rounds to prepare he can also buff himself up, summon some meat shields, and then get the job done flying solo.

Middle-aged human, 9th level, Wiz 3/Cler 3/MysTh 3 so he's casting like a Wiz 7 / Cler 7. Very probably an Evoker with Versatile Evocation. He has burned one feat on Improved Familiar to get the Lantern Archon. Yeah, that's suboptimal, but this build is about flavor. Besides, the 50 lb. teleport means he can keep his spellbook and all unused magic items back home, calling hem only when needed.

Otherwise, how would you build this? I'm looking for blasty-ness and also thematic notes (Law, Good, Light, Fire, making evil things explode).

Thanks in advance,

Doug M.

Has anyone used the psychic duel rules from Occult Adventures? I have to say, they seem clunky and uninspiring. But maybe I'm missing something?

If you have used them, how did it work out, and what do you suggest?

Thanks in advance,

Doug M.

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Mr Jingles is a bard. I think he's a gnome, though he could be a halfling, or human -- whatever fits your campaign. He's an NPC who is 6-8 levels higher than your PCs. So, if you have a group of 3rd level PCs, Mr. Jingles will be 10th level, give or take. He's missing one leg at the knee, which reduces his movement by 5'.

Mr. Jingles will show up one day, introduce himself, and ask for help with a minor bit of adventuring. There's a monster nearby, and it's guarding a big pile of treasure. Mr. Jingles can't take it alone, but with the help of the PCs... The monster will be APL +4 or so: a creature that the party would have great difficulty with normally. But with Mr. Jingles' help, it'll be MUCH easier. Mr. Jingles is optimized for support! He has lots of buffs and cures, and of course his Inspire Courage alone is going to give the party a massive power boost. Jingles offers to split the treasure 50-50...

What happens next:
...and he does; it's all on the up-and-up. With Jingles' help, the monster is defeated easily. (Remember, we're talking about a Nth level party taking on a CR N+4 monster with the help of a N+7h level bard. So, if they're third level, it's a CR 7 monster, but with the help of 10th level Jingles it's pretty straightforward.) Jingles doesn't fight, and he hangs well back from danger -- hey, he's a one-legged gnome -- but he buffs like crazy and he's also a very savvy and experienced adventurer who gives lots of good advice. So the PCs get a nice score, Jingles claims his half. High-fives all around.

And now Mr. Jingles has an offer for the PCs. He's relentless about searching for rumours about monsters and treasure. But he's not much of a fighter himself. So he offers to set the PCs up at a base of operations: the mansion he inherited from his former partners, adventurers who left him behind to go travelling in distant lands. It's an isolated place in the woods, but it has lots of rooms and a large, lockable treasure vault in the basement.

If the PCs accept, they'll find that Jingles is indeed very good at finding monsters to fight and treasures to be looted. In campaign terms, this may mean a couple of sessions where the PCs just cut down a bunch of high-level monsters with relative ease, allowing them to gain piles of treasure well above normal WBL and also level up faster than normal.

Of course there's a catch.

What's actually going on:
Jingles' adventuring party got wiped out by a powerful monster -- I'm going to say a dragon, but you can season to taste, pick whatever fits your campaign. Let's call him Vincent. Vincent left Jingles alive for lulz, but first told him that he had to bring a pile of victims and treasure in return for his life. Possibly the dragon enforced this with magic, a Geas or something. Or maybe he just bit Mr. Jingles' leg off and ate it, very slowly. In any event, Jingles is a tool of the dragon, and he is trying to assemble a hoard of victims and treasure.

Jingles isn't actually evil! He's Chaotic Neutral and a huge coward, but he's not evil, and -- depending on how the PCs treat him -- he'll be somewhere between shifty-guilty and wracked with guilt and shame. If the PCs have really been friendly, he'll feel just terrible. But whether out of fear or magical compulsion, he's going forward with the plan.

Fun while it lasts: Life with Mr. Jingles:
Jingles seems to be optimized for buffs and cures. He's actually optimized for buffs, cures, divination, and lying like crazy -- lots of spells that bump his Bluff score (which is sky-high to begin with; he's a skill monkey bard who has specialized in Bluff, Diplomacy, and Knowledges). And he'll be sincerely helpful, especially when it comes to accumulating treasure. There will be suspicious bits:

-- He disappears sometimes for days at a time. (He's visiting Vincent.)
-- His own share of the treasure disappears fast. He says he's investing it for his retirement. (Vincent again.)
-- It's obvious that other adventurers lived in the mansion; there's a chapel to a god, a sparring room, a wizard's study with a shelf of (non-magical) research books, whatever. Vincent sighs that they left him behind, then changes the subject.
-- Vincent encourages the PCs to keep treasure and valuables in the vault. If the PCs are suspicious, he'll agree to any reasonable precaution. (Of course, it's all being piled up for Vincent.)

Jingles' behavior will grow more erratic as The Day approaches. Again, this will depend on how friendly the PCs have been to him and how well they've treated him. If they've really been good to him, he'll have a breakdown and spill everything just before Vincent shows up. Otherwise, it'll be a fun surprise.

Enter Vincent:

I think Vincent is CE -- probably a black dragon? -- and I think he overplays his hand: instead of taking the PCs and all the treasure, he laughs and tells Jingles this isn't enough, and he'll have to do it all over again. This pushes Jingles over the edge, and he desperately offers to help the PCs against the monster.

The dragon should thoroughly outclass the PCs -- APL + 6 or so -- but it's overconfident, and it's attacking the PCs on their home ground (the mansion), and Jingles knows exactly how it thinks. With his help, they should have a chance at pulling off a crazy upset. You'll want to plot this one out in advance. But the endgame should be, they have a decent shot at winning.

Jingles may or may not survive -- season to taste.


So you can get pretty much all the Numenara stuff ever published for $15 via the latest Humble Bundle.

Is it worth it? I've heard good things, but... how good are we talking, here? And how much could be scavenged or ported for a more standard PF campaign? Who here has played Numenara, and has thoughts about it?

Thanks in advance,

Doug M.

Sorceror, 7th level human (could be some other race, but default human) who'll face a lower level PC party at range. The PC party has two healbots AND a Wand of CLW, so just putting damage on them is kind of pointless. However, it may take them several rounds to close with her -- like, she'll be on a boat, they'll be an a slightly faster boat chasing her. So, I'm looking for a build that can zap at range with debuffs and obnoxious battlefield control spells. My first pass is "lots of Web and Glitterdust; use Reach Spell to burn 3rd level slots to zap the PCs at longer range; maybe spam some flying summoned monsters". But I'm pretty sure you guys can come up with something much more obnoxious.


Doug M.

A character wants to stow a weapon, draw a weapon, and attack, all without moving. Possible?

Stowing a weapon takes a move action. RAW says "If you have a base attack bonus of +1 or higher, you may draw a weapon as a free action combined with a regular move." This suggests that you CANNOT draw a weapon as a free action if you combine it with any move action other than a move. This is consistent with the existence of the Quick Draw feat.

OTOH: under that interpretation you can draw a weapon as a free action while moving, but not while standing still. Like, "I'm happy right where I am, I just want to draw my sword and attack." "Nope, sorry, you have to take a move action."

What is correct?

Level 6 human fighter; any archetype. He's a slavemaster, and the idea is that he's a whip expert. He doesn't have to be perfectly optimized, but I'd like him to a bit more than a speed bump for my PCs. Maybe disarming with the whip? Anyway, asking for help because I really don't understand whip builds.

Thanks in advance,

Doug M.

Primal dragons, lawful neutral, native to the Elemental Plane of Water. "Although not inherently evil, brine dragons have little patience for kindness and philanthropy. As they age, they grow more and more opinionated and obsessed with power — by adult age, a brine dragon counts itself a failure if it doesn’t rule over a collection of “lesser beings” such as humans, merfolk, locathah, or even sahuagin."

And that's about it. Bestiary 2 gave us the primal dragons, and they *looked* cool as hell, but each one came with just a sentence or two of description squeezed at the end of the long, complex stat blocks.

Well: I'm toying with the idea of using a brine dragon or two, and I'm wondering if anyone has more information about them. Has anyone gone into more detail in published / canon stuff? Have they popped up in any of the APs? Failing that, does anyone have any suggestions about how to use them? I'm looking for a CR 8-9 marine surface encounter; that would be a young brine dragon (CR 7) with about CR 5-6 worth of mooks, which I suppose could be "humans, merfolk, locathah, or even sahuagin." Failing /that/, suggestions for a substitute creature filling the same niche (draconic, not evil but greedy for treasure and high-handed) are welcome.

Thanks in advance,

Doug M.


Your ship is approaching one of the Pillars of Anferita, a sea stack off the coast of Cheliax.

The magnificent Pillars of Anferita are located just west of the foot of the craggy Eismonts and south of Cape Kraken, says the guidebook, on the southwestern Chelaxian coastline. These majestic formations are beautiful but perilous. First, they provide a twisting labyrinth that have been used by pirates to hide from her Magestrix’s Imperial Navy. Second, there have been intermittent reports of monsters, including sea dragons and evil fey that use enchanting songs to lure sailors onto the many reefs that weave among the stacks. Legend says that the Jistkan Imperium had a fortress or base in the Pillars, but if so, no trace remains...

You don't hear any singing, enchanted or otherwise. The base of the central pillar is a haven for gulls, seals, and other wildlife that chirp and bark in the distance. Salty air assaults the senses, burning the nostrils on each deep inhalation. The wet surface of the pillar offers many nooks and crannies creating a dimpled appearance suitable for climbing up the pillar’s edge. High above, the top of the pillar can be seen cresting to what must be a great plateau.

There is a rope hanging down to the water's edge. It looks like you can climb up to a narrow path that zig-zags up the side of the sea stack.

Opening for discussion.

A one-shot feat is defined as a feat that that does not have another feat as a prerequisite -- it's not up a feat chain somewhere. Ideally it shouldn't lead to other feats either, but eh, that one is negotiable.

So what are the best one-shot feats?

Doug M.

So my 6th level PCs may come up against an erinyes soon. It'll be an outdoor encounter where the devil is trying to stop the PCs progressing from Point A to Point B. And I'm scratching my head a little over best tactics. For reference, here's the erinyes:

Erinyes stats:

LE Medium outsider (devil, evil, extraplanar, lawful)
Init +6; Senses darkvision 60 ft., see in darkness, true seeing; Perception +16


AC 23, touch 17, flat-footed 16 (+6 Dex, +1 dodge, +6 natural)
hp 94 (9d10+45)
Fort +11, Ref +12, Will +7
DR 5/good; Immune fire, poison; Resist acid 10, cold 10; SR 19


Speed 30 ft., fly 50 ft. (good)
Melee +1 longsword +15/+10 (1d8+8/19–20)
Ranged +1 flaming composite longbow +14/+14/+9 (1d8+6/×3 plus 1d6 fire) or rope +15 touch (entangle)
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 12th)

Constant—true seeing
At will—fear(single target, DC 19), greater teleport(self plus 50 lbs. of objects only), minor image(DC 17), unholy blight(DC 19)
1/day—summon (level 3, 2 bearded devils, 50%)


Str 20, Dex 23, Con 21, Int 14, Wis 18, Cha 21

Base Atk +9; CMB +14; CMD 31
Feats Combat Reflexes, DodgeB, MobilityB, Point-Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Rapid Shot, Shot on the Run
Skills Acrobatics +18, Bluff +17, Diplomacy +14, Escape Artist +12, Fly +19, Intimidate +17, Knowledge (planes) +8, Knowledge (religion) +8, Perception +16, Sense Motive +10, Stealth +15
Languages Celestial, Common, Draconic, Infernal; telepathy 100 ft.


Entangle (Su)
Each erinyes carries a 50-foot-long rope that entangles opponents of any size as an animate rope spell (CL 16th, DC 20). An erinyes can hurl its rope 30 feet with no range penalty. An erinyes’s rope functions only for the erinyes who made it and no other. The save DC is Dexterity-based.

Treasure triple (+1 longsword, +1 flaming composite longbow [+5 Str bonus], rope)

1) The Erinyes has Stealth +15, which means she'll probably be spotted if the PCs are paying attention -- there are five PCs and three of them have good Perception. So while she'll probably see them first (they're approaching from a distance), and could buff or precast, an ambush is unlikely, and it becomes a straight Init roll-off.

2) The only thing to precast would be Minor Image and, umm... an illusion of a fearsome monster to distract the party and eat some attacks? Minor Image has a nice long range, so there's that. I don't know what good it will do, though -- the PCs shoot it once, get a Will save for "interacting", and probably the illusion pops. Ideas for clever use of this spell are welcome. One that I'd considered: illusion of a fearsome monster that pins the party while the erinyes talks to them. This will almost certainly end in combat but I like monsters that chat.

3) Okay, so the devil's best tactic would seem to stand off at a distance and artillery-duel the PCs to death. Against 6th level PCs, "flaming composite longbow +14/+14/+9 (1d8+6/×3 plus 1d6 fire)" is pretty solid. Mind, that's a FRA. The erinyes does have Shot on the Run so an alternative tactic would be to burst out of cover, make a single attack, then duck back into cover. Not sure if that's worth giving up two attacks, though.

4) If the PCs are doing well in the artillery duel, I guess the erinyes' backup tactic would be to close to within 220', unleash Unholy Blight, and hope some of the PCs fail their saves and are sickened. Then next round get closer end either use the entangling rope, zap someone with Fear, or call those barbed devils to flank.

I think that covers the high points. Thoughts, advice?

Doug M.

Character is a human cleric of Asmodeus: Rog 1 / Herald Caller Cleric 7 / Diabolist 1. Yes, that's suboptimal, and yes that's deliberate. It's the new Diabolist (eyeroll), which dumps a level of casting, so basically he casts like a 7th level cleric except he has some extra skill ranks and hp and an imp companion and can sneak.

Basically this is an NPC boss who buffs himself, pre-summons a bunch of monsters, buffs them, and then sends them into battle. (The tactical situation will probably give him several rounds advance notice before the PCs appear.) So he'll throw multiple waves of summoned monsters. The setting will be underground, so monsters that can sneak, hide, climb and/or pounce will be particularly favored.

I'd like the option of him being a recurring villain, so any spells or abilities that might grant him a quick escape when things go pear-shaped would be a plus. Not strictly necessary, mind -- if the PCs corner and kill him, then they do.


Doug M.

So putting this up front: my last PbP ended badly. I took it over from another GM; that didn't work out so well. Then Real Life intervened, things slowed down and dragged, yadda yadda. So now I'm not sure: was that a one-off, or is my head no longer in a PbP place?

The only way to be sure is to try. So that's what I'm doing. It seems reasonable to test this with a short scenario, so I'm adapting the Season One PFS Scenario "Fingerprints of the Fiend". (Heavily adapting. That scenario has a great skeleton, but I'm going to mess with the details.) Like most PFS scenarios it's pretty straightforward and, more to the point, pretty short. If it works out well, then sure, we could go onwards. But let's see how it works out first.

So, full disclosure: this is a short-term, experimental campaign run by a DM who's putting a toe back in the water after a failed campaign and some time away. Just so we're all on the same page here.

This is a prologue post. Don't post any characters yet. Recruitment standards will be coming up shortly.

I'm thinking to run a scenario where the PCs are working for Andoran intelligence against Cheliax.

So, two questions: (1) Is there anything in canon about the Andoran intelligence service? A name, a location, who runs it? (2) If there isn't, any thoughts or suggestions on how it might work? Andoran is NG aligned which seems like it might make things a bit harder.

Thanks much in advance,

Doug M.

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Could be PFS, a module, or anything else. Any level. It just needs to have Hellknights, the more the better. And ideally, yeah, it should be good in its own right. That's all.


Doug M.

The dungeon is a prison / interrogation center / temple to Asmodeus / devil summoning center. It's run by Chelaxians. It's crawling with Hellknights and devils. The PCs will be a group of Shoanti on a commando mission to retrieve or destroy the McGuffin, which is of course in the possession of the local boss. Everything is around level 8 / CR 7-10.

So: how do I get the PCs in reasonably intact and with their stuff? Not quite high enough level for teleportation magic (and the methodical Chelaxians would ward their dungeon against that anyway). I'm willing to handwave in one (1) Chelaxian traitor. The traitor can open a door, but the dungeon complex is under a fortress. (Castle Vraid, if you're that deep into Golarionology.)

Maybe they arrange to be "captured", and then the traitor gets their stuff to them, kills the guard and cuts them loose? Not unthinkable, but a bit clunky. Also, a motivation for the traitor would be nice -- why would a Chelaxian help Shoanti? The obvious answer would be "because she works for a rival Chelaxian faction that wants to see the leadership of Castle Vraid humiliated", and I guess I can go with that, but I'm open to other ideas.

Thanks in advance,

Doug M.

Toying with the idea of running something Shoanti-based, and looking for more info about them. I have the basics from waaaay back in Curse of the Crimson Throne -- barbarians, Storval Plains, Cinderlands, yadda yadda. And I know they've popped up in splatbooks. But is there anything that goes into them in more detail? I think there was one PF Tales novel that was set in part among them?

Online sources are also good, if anyone has links.


Doug M.

So, the bloatmage. A very flavorful early prestige class that gives you extra spells or spell slots, but at the risk of flying into a homicidal rage if you overdo it. The bloatmage's rage appears to be unique:

If her exertions push her beyond twice her normal blood point level, she immediately flies into a homicidal rage, striking out randomly with her most damaging attacks and abilities at friends and foes alike for 1d6 rounds or until her blood pool is reduced to 0 (whichever comes first). At the end of the rage, her blood points drop to 0, her hit points drop to –1, and she begins dying.

I say it's unique, in part because it isn't very well defined -- is it a mind affecting effect? "Randomly with her most damaging attacks and abilities", how does that work in detail? That said, it does seem to be an emotion effect, which means it should be vulnerable to the calm emotions spell. Let's take a look at that:

This spell calms agitated creatures. You have no control over the affected creatures, but calm emotions can stop raging creatures from fighting or joyous ones from reveling. Creatures so affected cannot take violent actions (although they can defend themselves) or do anything destructive. Any aggressive action against or damage dealt to a calmed creature immediately breaks the spell on all calmed creatures.

Okay, so under RAW that's pretty straightforward: a creature affected by Calm Emotions "cannot take violent actions". So, the bloatmage might still fly into a homicidal rage for d6 rounds, but she wouldn't be able to "randomly attack with her most damaging attacks and abilities", because those would be violent actions.

This nerfs one of the restrictions on this PrC, but I don't think it's actually unbalanced. I would say the bloatmage stands there gritting her teeth for 1d6 rounds, then falls down at -1 hp and 0 bloat points. This by itself is a pretty significant restriction. Also, Calm Emotions allows a Will save. So, to be sure of it working, you'd want to cast it the round before the bloat attempt, so that the bloatmage could choose to fail the save. (Can a person in a homicidal rage choose to fail a save? I'd say no.) That means this is pretty useless in a combat situation. It could be used to help the bloatmage bulk up her bloat pool in advance, and at higher levels that's no small thing. But I wouldn't call it game-breaking.


Doug M.

Wait, has nobody ever done one of these? I did a quick search but didn't see one.

Doug M.

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The King is not popular. Maybe he's a cruel tyrant; maybe the kingdom is very hard to manage. Whatever the reason, lots of people want to control, kidnap, or flat-up kill him.

What's the nature of the threat? He's unpopular -- it could be anything. Assassins. A coup by treacherous nobles. Poison. Enchantment. Abduction. Mind control. A sudden onset by armed bravoes. A chandelier falling on him. You name it... someone might try it.

And your job is to stop them. You get one (1) 10th level character of any PFS legal class, 20 point build. All spells, feats and items are allowed with the exception of the Leadership feats (since otherwise everyone just ends up building a 10th level PC and their 9th level cohort). You get wealth by level (but see below). Your build should plausibly be able to stop as many different kinds of threats as possible. Perhaps the best builds are going to be full casters with a carefully curated spell list, everything from Detect Thoughts to Slow Poison. But otoh, maybe a super-skill monkey with sky-high Sense Motive, Perception and Diplomacy will be even better. Let's see. Simply put, your goal is to build a character who is optimized for keeping another character alive, and doing so against the widest possible range of potential threats.

If you require that level of detail, we can say that the King is an Aristocrat 3 with 15 hp. So he's not much use in his own defense. Also, the royal treasury is completely empty. Maybe the worthless King blew it all on champagne and parties. Or maybe his wicked uncle did that, and the good King is trying to fix the damage. Or maybe the royal treasury just got cleaned out by war, or robbers. Whatever... the King has no useful items. But you are allowed to use your WBL to equip the King. Also, the King trusts you: he will accept buffs and harmless/helpful spells, will allow you to stay near him, and will obey reasonable instructions for his health and security. But he actually does have to govern the kingdom, so he must be able to move around and interact with other people. Locking him in a room surrounded by traps and monsters isn't an option.

To keep this fair, I've privately generated a list of several threats, which may be mundane or magical. Whoever can plausibly see off the threats will be... the Kingsaver.

What've you got?

Doug M.

The witch-watcher is a witch archetype from _Heroes of the High Court_, and I think it's worth a second look not because it's good -- it really, really isn't -- but because it's kind of a a perfect storm of bad design decisions. That's an extreme opinion, but let's walk through it and see if you agree. (You can find the complete archetype here.)

First there's the concept: a witch who acts as a guardian and protector. That's a cool idea! It doesn't even have to be for nobles, particularly -- one could imagine a witch protecting a particular family, or a temple, or whatever. So far, so good; it's probably going to be an NPC archetype, but that's fine.

Next there's the name, and here's where things start to go awry. "Witch-watcher" is... umm... not such a great name? Generously, it sounds like "dishwasher". Less generously, note that it's a witch archetype, so strictly speaking it's a witch-watcher witch. And then we look at the witch-watcher itself, and... oh dear. Let's start with the bad news: this archetype gives up one spell slot per level. That's pretty huge, especially since witches don't get bonus slots for specializing.

So, what do you get in return for this? Well, every day you get to pick one person as your "covenant ally". You have a short list of specialized buffs that you can throw on that person. A couple of these buffs are actually okay-ish in principle; for instance, you can choose to give your ally spell resistance, or an AC bonus of up to half your level, or a bonus on all saves of up to half your level. That doesn't sound so bad! Except... (1) Granting the buff burns a standard, and (2) your ally must be within 30 feet, and (3) the duration of the buff is your Int bonus... in minutes.

This is, mechanically, crap. Most of the covenant ally effects can be duplicated by low-level buffs. For instance, a 5th level witch-watcher can grant a +2 buff to AC for 3-4 minutes. A wizard of the same level can simply cast Cat's Grace, which gives the same buff plus bonuses to CMD and Reflex saves, lasts longer, and still leaves the wizard with more spell slots to play with. If you only want AC, okay, a cleric can give you +2 with a simple casting of Shield of Faith. Similarly, the "give more hp" buff is basically Aid, a first level spell. Giving up one spell slot / level to gain a handful of weakish buffs is just bad design. -- And before you ask, the buffs don't interact with witch hexes in any useful way. This is a witch archetype, but it could just as easily be a wizard, sorceror, or cleric archetype. It's a cool idea that is weirdly flavorless in the execution.

It's particularly annoying given that this is obviously an NPC archetype. The point of a witch-watcher is to hang around the King or whoever, protecting him. But I can, without breaking a sweat, think of at least three different ways of doing this that would be mechanically and thematically better than "cast some feeble, short-lived buffs on the King" -- and I bet you can too. (And can I just note how silly that 30' range is? The witch has to hang around within 30' of the King, 24/7, or she's completely useless.)

I will note one odd feature: reading the RAW, the ally can be chosen from anywhere -- it's just "a single creature" -- and consent is not required. So, I could choose Great Cthulhu and give him a minor AC buff or a few extra hp. Alternately, I could use this to rig gladiatorial bouts -- the combatant may not even realize he's being buffed, and the covenant ally ability is (Su), which means it won't show up to most magic-detecting spells. IOW, the witch-watcher works better as a match-fixer.

If I'm going off on this, it's because it represents a pattern I think is really common in Paizo's design of archetypes (and PrCs too, but that's another story): Come up with a thematically cool idea! -- and then nerf it so badly that nobody in their right mind would want to play it. Here's hoping they adjust this philosophy for PF2.


Doug M.

Lester was sent by... someone... to torment an old hermit who lived in a cave outside of town. Lester thought this would be great fun. At a minimum, he'd get to make the target utterly miserable; with a bit of luck he could turn the victim to evil, winning a soul for Hell. A great opportunity for an ambitious imp!

A year later, the hermit is dead, and Lester is... he's not sure what he is. But he's not really an imp any more. Lester is one of the good guys now.

(How? Long story short, the old hermit was actually a high level Lawful Good monk who had spent decades meditating on Benevolence. His spirit was both pure and immensely powerful; Lester went to corrupt, and ended up being redeemed.

Lester's appearance has changed. He still has membranous batlike wings, but they're a a pale blue now. Otherwise, he looks like a tiny hairless humanoid -- a little bald halfling, perhaps -- with pale blue-green skin. No horns, no claws, no poison stinger. His tail is prehensile now and can be used to hold things. His feet are like little monkey hands. He's taken to wearing a simple brown robe, like his master used to.

There's one other big change: when Lester's master ascended to the next plane of existence, he left behind a tiny fragment of himself to guide and help the confused imp. This is Old One, Lester's tutelary spirit. Old One has only limited intelligence -- he's just a tiny splinter of the hermit's great good soul -- but he's a good and kindly guide. He appears as an elderly human in a simple robe, slightly transparent and glowing faintly blue.

Imp Spiritualist 2
CR 3
LE Tiny outsider (devil, good, extraplanar, lawful)
Init +3; Senses darkvision 60 ft., detect good, detect magic, see in darkness; Perception +11


AC 17, touch 16, flat-footed 13 (+3 Dex, +1 dodge, +1 natural, +2 size)
hp 30 (3d10+2d8+5); fast healing 3
Fort +4, Ref +6, Will +9 (+11 if Old One is not active)
DR 5/evil or silver; Immune fire, poison; Resist acid 10, cold 10


Speed 20 ft., fly 50 ft. (perfect)
Melee quarterstaff +8 (1d4-1)
Space 2-1/2 ft.; Reach 0 ft.
Spell-Like Abilities (CL 6th)

Constant—detect good, detect evil, detect magic
At will—invisibility (self only)
1/day—aid, augury, suggestion (DC 17)
1/week—commune (6 questions, CL 12th)

Spiritualist spells (CL 2nd)
0-Daze (DC 13), Mend, Mage Hand, Message
1-(5/day) Cure Light Wounds, Sanctuary (DC 14), Summon Monster I


Str 10, Dex 17, Con 10, Int 13, Wis 12, Cha 14
Str 8, Dex 17, Con 12, Int 15, Wis 16, Cha 18
Base Atk +3; CMB +1; CMD 15
Feats Dodge, Weapon Finesse, Phantom Ally
Skills Acrobatics +9, Bluff +10, Fly +21, Heal +8, Knowledge (arcana) +9, Knowledge (planes) +9, Knowledge (local) +8, Perception +11, Sense Motive +7, Spellcraft +9, Use Magic Device +8
Languages Common, Infernal
SQ change shape (dog, cat, rat, or raven, beast shape I)


Prehensile Tail (Ex)

Lester's tail acts as a third hand in all respects except that he cannot use a weapon with it; he can use it to draw or hold objects of up to 5 lbs. weight.

Old One
5th level Dedication phantom
HP 26 (4d10+4)
AC 19
Attack 2 slams +5 (d8+1)

Old One is slightly unusual; he has more autonomy than a normal phantom (in fact, Lester defers to him) and is remarkably cheerful for a Dedication phantom.

Lester really isn't sure yet what to do with himself. He slinks around invisibly or in the form of a stray dog or cat, listening to people, then trying to do good with Mend or by giving whispered advice via Message. Unsurprisingly, the mysterious bodiless voice isn't always received well. A lot of odd rumors are now flying around. Meanwhile, Old One offers ghostly advice and spiritual encouragement. Lester tries using his Augury and Commune powers to get guidance (someone is answering on the other end, though presumably not who it used to be). He thinks about using his daily Suggestion to nudge humans towards the light, but it seems presumptuous -- though he'd probably swallow hard and try it if he saw someone about to do something obviously dangerous or evil.

In a fight, Old One steps up while Lester spams Summons and cures. (He's really, really not a combat character.) Again, he'll try Suggestion in a pinch, but things will have to be fairly desperate. Lester still retains the impish instinct to work invisibly or from disguise, so it will require some diplomacy (or convincing threats to innocents) to get him to reveal himself.

Plot seeds:

-- The PCs come looking for the hermit, only to find that he's been dead for some little time. Someone has buried him and someone is taking good care of his cave, but nobody seems to be around.... If the PCs are obviously good-aligned, Lester decides to help them. Alternately, he could become a recurring nuisance to an evil party. (Note that an invisible Spiritualist who you can't easily find and kill can be a huge PITA even to much higher level parties.)

-- Lester's former boss, a thoroughly horrible Bone Devil, gets wind of what has happened. Unacceptable: this mistake must be corrected. The Bone Devil doesn't know that the hermit is dead (nor how powerful he was while alive), so he contracts a pairaka div. The div is disguised as a simple (female) human pilgrim, and sent forth: her task is to either corrupt or destroy the hermit, and to utterly destroy Lester. The div owes the bone devil several large favors and is anyway utterly evil; it will not be swayed from the mission.

Something bad happened to Zult a long, long time ago.

Hound Archons almost never fall. They're so devoted to their duties, so honest, so brave, and yet so kind. They're basically the ultimate Good Dogs. It's really hard to turn a Good Dog to Bad. But the multiverse is vast and ancient, and strange and terrible things have sometimes come to pass. Nobody is sure what happened to Zult. One theory is that is that he somehow got involved with the Book of the Damned, and was blasted by its soul-blackening evil. Another is that somehow he got cursed with memories too horrible even for an archon, and bargained his service to Abaddon in return for a long drink of oblivion. But everyone who would have known the truth is long dead, and Zult isn't talking.

Zult now serves Charon, the Horseman of Death. He lives in Abaddon, on a mansion overlooking the River Styx. Think of an old-fashioned plantation house on the banks of the Mississippi, except that instead of cotton fields it's a blighted, poisonous wasteland dotted with a few twisted, leafless trees, under a black sky with the only light coming from the red eye of a dead god, where the desperate souls of the damned scuttle for shelter, pursued by remorsleless packs of ravenous daemons. And instead of alligators, hydrodaemons, basking on the muddy shores of the Styx. But otherwise pretty much the same.

Zult is gaunt and white-furred, with patchy fur and pale milky eyes. Despite this decrepit appearance, he's actually strong, quick, and dangerous. He is a curiously erudite creature, and almost always ready to have a conversation about any learned topic -- most particularly literature. The interior of his mansion is mostly dark, foul, and crumbling, except for the enormous library. That's clean, pleasant, and well-lit. (And very well secured. Don't mess with Zult's library.) Zult has thousands of books, gathered from across centuries and a dozen different planes, and he's always happy to talk about them! If he's not trying to kill you, of course.

Zult's service to Charon seems to be "runner of odd jobs". While he radiates evil, he's not obviously a daemon, and he's a soft-spoken creature who is capable of diplomacy and tact. He's also a vicious fighter in a pinch, and of course he can just plane shift away from most sorts of trouble. So the Horseman of Death sends him on minor diplomatic missions, or to discover odd bits of information, or to recover lost items. He can thus be encountered pretty much anywhere. Depending on the situation, he may have up to 5,000 gp worth of magic items to help him disguise himself, locate his target, or otherwise carry out his mission.

When he's not traveling the planes, Zult is always found at his mansion, either reading a book (90%), or hunting the souls of petitioners with a pack of daemons (10%). His mansion staff includes 10 ceustodaemons, a sullen, croaking, hydrodaemon Rog3 valet, and an advanced cauchemar. At any given time, there's a 50% chance he has a visitor (1-2 a Thanadaemon discussing a mission from Charon, 3-4 a Night Hag bargaining for souls, 5-6 a Leng Ghoul come to peruse the library).

Zult's fellow archons view him with a combination of horror, loathing, fascination and pity, and they've made a number of attempts to end his awful existence. Zult has survived them all, and he truly doesn't seem to care what his former colleagues think.

Zult Hound-Breaker

Unique Fallen Hound Archon / Fighter 10 CR 12

NE Medium outsider (archon, extraplanar, evil)
Init +6; Senses darkvision 60 ft., detect good, low-light vision, scent; Perception +11
Aura aura of menace (DC 21), magic circle against good


AC 29, touch 12, flat-footed 27 (+9 natural; +2 Dex; +8 armor; +2 deflection vs. good)
hp 120 (16d10+32)
Fort +13, Ref +10, Will +9; +4 vs. poison, +2 resistance vs. good
DR 10/good; Immune electricity, petrification; SR 20


Speed 40 ft.
Melee bite +18 (1d8+5), slam +18 (1d4+3) or greatsword +22/+17/+12 (6d6+3 vital strike / 2d6+3, crit 17-20)

Spell-Like Abilities (CL 6th)

Constant—detect evil, magic circle against evil
At Will— death knell, deeper darkness, greater teleport (self plus 50 lbs. of objects only), message


Str 19, Dex 18, Con 12, Int 14, Wis 14, Cha 12

Base Atk +16; CMB +20; CMD 32

Feats Breadth of Knowledge, Cleave, Greater Cleave, Improved Initiative, Improved Vital Strike, Improved Critical, Iron Will, Power Attack, Skill Focus (Bluff), Step Up, Toughness, Vital Strike, Weapon Focus (Greatsword)

Skills Acrobatics +11, Bluff +20, Diplomacy +11 Intimidate +20, Knowledges (all) +9, Perception +10, Sense Motive +10, Stealth +13, Survival +14; Racial Modifiers +4 Stealth, +4 Survival
Languages Celestial, Draconic, Infernal; truespeech
SQ change shape (beast shape II)

Gear +1 vicious greatsword, +1 deathless field plate, 2d6 basic soul gems. Zult can consume a basic soul gem as a standard action to gain fast healing 5 for 10 rounds.


Change Shape (Su)
Zult can assume any canine form of Small to Large size, as if using beast shape II. While in canine form, he loses his bite, slam, and greatsword attacks, but gains the bite attack of the form he chooses. For the purposes of this ability, canines include any dog-like or wolf-like creature of the animal type.

Houndbreaker (Ex)
Zult treats all doglike or wolflike creatures -- including dogs, wolves, extraplanar creatures such as hell hounds or cayhounds, and hound archons -- as a ranger's favored enemy: +4 to Bluff, Knowledge, Perception, Sense Motive, and Survival checks against creatures of this type, and he gets a +4 bonus on weapon attack and damage rolls against them.

Bound to Abaddon (Su)
Zult can only be killed in Abaddon. If he dies on any other plane, he reforms in 2d6 hours in his mansion by the Styx. This process cannot be interrupted by any magic short of a Wish or Miracle.

Studious (Ex)
All Knowledge skills are class skills for Zult, and Charon grants him 2 skill ranks / level to spend only on Knowledge skills.

As a general rule Zult will prefer to talk than fight. He's an excellent liar and a diplomat; it's impossible to insult or upset him, and he makes sure to mix plenty of truth with his falsehoods. If forced to it, he'll always teleport away first, eat a soul gem, activate any buffs available, and then teleport back. He makes liberal use of Power Attack and Cleave, and goes after weaker looking foes first, hoping to eliminate them with a critical. He can't be killed outside Abaddon, but he doesn't like failing his master; he seems to be sincerely loyal to the Horseman of Death. So while he's not afriad of death, he won't throw himself into combat pointlessly.

If encountered in Abaddon, Zult's mansion can be a relative oasis of peace... maybe. Zult loves good conversation, and a suitably high Knowledge check can get him to offer hospitality. This is always very dangerous, though; Zult is completely amoral and has no sense of honor whatsoever, and he'll turn on a guest the moment the value of their souls seems greater than the interest of their company. Also, he will absolutely betray and attack anyone whose interests may be hostile to his master. If he thinks a party is powerful enough to present a challenge, he'll dissimulate and delay while sending messengers to summon powerful allies. That said, if the visitors are amusing and their errand seems harmless to Charon, it's perfectly possible that Zult could provide a night's hospitality, several hours of really interesting conversation, and -- if the PCs are well mannered -- the chance to peruse a truly amazing library.

I need a quick build for an NPC 10th level fighter I'm looking for vigh AC, the ability to dish out lots of damage very fast with a two-handed weapon, and... something memorable and interesting, preferably in a nasty way. NPC WBL. Interesting combinations of archetypes and feats are welcome.

Thanks in advance,

Doug M.

My group is taking a break from PF to play some 5e. One issue we've encountered: in PF, once you get a certain amount of treasure, you head for Ye Olde Magic Shoppe to convert that gold into +1 swords, rings of protection, and what have you. But 5e doesn't seem to have a straightforward system for pricing and acquiring magic items. Am I missing something? When my player says "I have 2,000 gp -- what can I buy with that?", how should I respond?

Thanks in advance,

Doug M.

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This has nothing to to with PF2 and it's not a rant. If you want to talk about PF2 there are a bunch of forums for that.

It's like when you're a kid and you're moving to a new house and your parents tell you it's going to be great, you'll love the new school, the house is bigger, lots of kids your age, you can ride your bike, maybe we'll finally get a dog! And maybe all those things are true. But even if they're all true it's still hard to leave the old house. Because that house is full of memories.

I'm going to miss theorycrafting and weirdass feats and insane feat chains and seven freaking Bestiaries. I'm going to miss amazing 3PP APs like Slumbering Tsar and Way of the Wicked. I'm going to miss AM BARBARIAN and the Beastmass. I'm going to miss spending days writing a Guide to the Diabolist because cool stuff for the Diabolist was spread across eleven different splatbooks. I'm going to miss the Spell Sage and all the weird obscure spells he had access to. I'm going to miss using the Advanced Monster Search function to find a CR 7 lawful evil undead with the cold and incorporeal subtypes. I'm going to miss picking apart the obediences, boons and benefits of a bunch of different evil gods *and I didn't even much like the obedience / boon / benefit system*. I'm going to miss complaining about the SRD not being updated.

Again, this isn't about PF2. Maybe one day PF2 will have seven Bestiaries! Maybe there will be awesome new 3PP APs! Maybe I'll come to love the new house just as much as the old! But right now we're getting ready to pack out, and I'm just thinking about how I used to sit on the front steps in summer with an ice cream sandwich.

Doug M.

PCs got ambushed by boss vampire and spawn, unexpectedly turned the encounter around -- whacked all the spawn and very nearly killed the boss. He fled to his nearby mausoleum. This is a variant vampire who doesn't have Gaseous Form; otherwise, he's pretty straightforward.

Background: the vampire was an aristocrat / fighter type, has been living in his family mausoleum for centuries, picking off the occasional homeless person or addict. He was supposed to be a recurring NPC but, eh, what can you do. I don't want to make a huge long encounter of this -- the PCs rolled really hot and had some good tactics, so they get to kill the boss, fair enough. (They were supposed to make a deal with him. Ah well.) So, I'm not going to scramble to retcon in a bunch of minions or whatever. That said, walking into a vampire's tomb shouldn't be *too* easy -- there should be some stuff in there besides a locked door and a coffin. So:

1) I don't have the mausoleum mapped out, but I guess it should be pretty simple -- a few rooms, a bunch of sarcophagi and coffins. If anyone has a link to a decent map online, I'd appreciate it.

2) For traps, so far I have a false coffin with a glyph of warding inside it -- not more than a speed bump to a bunch of 9th level PCs. Painting the whole place with glyphs will get old fast. Any other suggestions for traps? Maybe a haunt effect?

3) As I said, I don't want to retcon in a bunch of minions. Still, the skeletons of his family might animate to defend the ancestral space, or something like that. Again, no more than a speed bump. Are there any mindless monsters that a vampire might keep hanging around his lair? (He's already exhausted his ability to summon stuff.)


Doug M.

Huh, the "Pearl Seeker" paladin archetype hasn't gotten any love. Let's take a look.

A pearl seeker is proficient with light and medium armor but not with shields, and gains Swim as a class skill.

Mmkay, not great but thematic.


Pearl seekers gain their power from a rare resonant sensitivity to the vision-granting entity. A pearl seeker gains Psychic Sensitivity as a bonus feat and can use detect psychic significance at will as a spell-like ability.

This ability replaces detect evil.

Man, I hate to lose detect evil. In return, you get... umm, a grab bag of weird skill unlocks? Of which unfortunately only three overlap with the paladin skill list (Heal/Faith Healing, Diplomacy/Hypnotism, and Sense Motive/Prognostication). Hum. Well... the occult skill unlocks are very situational, but there are times they can be useful. For instance, if you have a +1 Wis modifier and some knucklebones, it's a 60% chance to know a creature's alignment, and a 35% chance to know its class. Usable only once/day and requiring a 10 minute ritual, to be sure...

The cantrip is a cantrip. It might be better than detect evil; it really depends on how your DM chooses to interpret "psychic aura".


At 3rd level, a pearl seeker gains the 1st-level domain power of the Aquatic terrain domain, using her paladin level as her effective druid level. At 8th level, she gains the 6th-level domain power of the Aquatic terrain domain.

This ability replaces aura of courage and aura of resolve.

Dude! You're Aquaman! -- Seriously, in an aquatic or near-aquatic campaign? This is gold. The first level power is as follows: "You can channel energy (as a cleric of your druid level) a number of times per day equal to 3 + your Charisma modifier, but only to heal creatures with the aquatic or water subtype or to command them (similar to using the Command Undead feat against undead)." The bestiary is full of aquatic creatures with crap Will saves. Need to investigate that weird wreck? Throw some chum in the water, wait until a couple of sharks show up, now you have some strikers and flank buddies. Note that this works against ALL creatures with the aquatic or water subtypes, which is an immensely long list. At 3rd level you have a flat 5% chance of shutting down an ancient black dragon! More generally, as long as you're in or near water, you're in good shape. I'd consider throwing a feat at this just to get Improved Channel.


A pearl seeker casts divine spells spontaneously, using the spells known and spells per day from the bloodrager progression table. At 7th level, she gains slipstream as a bonus 1st-level spell known; at 10th level, she gains ride the waves as a bonus 2nd-level spell known; at 13th level, she gains fluid form as a bonus 3rd-level spell known; and at 16th level, she gains seamantle as a bonus 4th-level spell known. She also adds hydraulic push and hydraulic torrent (as a 1st and 3rd level spells, respectively) to her paladin spell list (but must learn these spells as normal).

This ability alters the paladin’s spells.

Okay, I'm not sure what to make of this one. Spontaneous casting is always good, but the bloodrager spell list is not all that -- it's mostly damage and combat spells that don't really integrate well with the paladin either mechanically or thematically. But OTOH I haven't spent that much time with the bloodrager, so maybe I'm missing something? The extra spells seem thematic but not particularly powerful.


At 5th level, a pearl seeker must choose a mount as her divine bond, gaining a hippocampus mount with the following companion statistics.

Size Large; Speed 5 ft., swim 80 ft.; AC +4 natural armor; Attack bite (1d6), tail slap (1d4; secondary attack); Ability Scores Str 18, Dex 13, Con 15, Int 2, Wis 12, Cha 11; Special Qualities darkvision 60 ft., low-light vision, scent, water dependency.

This ability alters divine bond and replaces channel positive energy.

Okay, this is probably why no love for the pearl seeker. This is both mechanically underwhelming and... well, silly. It's limiting the player to a very specific vision. It's bad enough restricting the paladin to one and only one mount. Sticking her with one of the dopiest mounts in the Bestiary is just adding insult to injury. Also, here at the end let's note that "Pearl Seeker" is just not a great name for any archetype, never mind a paladin.

That said, IF you ditch or amend the silly hippocampus, this actually looks like a flavorful and interesting archetype, if a bit underpowered. Thoughts?

Doug M.

Setup: a huge cavern in the Underdark with immense stalactites hanging down from the ceiling. One stalactite contains the dungeon (it's a small one, just a few rooms). You reach it by a rope bridge that extends from a tunnel entrance up near the cavern roof, a couple of hundred feet above the floor.

The cavern floor is partly filled with stagnant water. Half submerged can be seen the immense skeleton of a truly titanic humanoid. It is, in fact, the corpse of a thanatotic titan. The titan is truly dead, but its malign influence pervades the waters. The stalactite-dungeon was the base of a powerful mystic theurge who wanted to study the dead titan and the local ecosystem without getting his feet wet.

An advance team of paladins has established a bridgehead at one end of the rope bridge. They're not going inside, though, because (1) they suspect (correctly) that the place will be full of puzzles, traps and illusions; and (2) they also suspect (correctly) that once the PCs reach the McGuffin, all hell may break loose.

The 9th level PCs have to trek a bit across the Underdark, rendezvous with the paladins, and enter the dungeon. I have the dungeon part mostly ready, but could use some suggestions about the outside.

1) What's a good name for an Underdark cavern where the remains of a dead god are very slowly dissolving into a fungal swamp?

2) What sort of unpleasantness might come flapping or floating up from the swamp while the PCs are on the rope bridge? Right now I've got "a couple of vrock demons" or "a couple of advanced harpies with the Fungal Creature template", but neither of those are really moving me. PCs on a rope bridge should present some interesting tactical options, especially since only one of them has flight capability.

3) Any suggestions for making the paladins sympathetic? Both players and PCs are not fans of paladins and will certainly end up betraying them to gain the McGuffin. I'm okay with that but I'd like to give them a twinge. "Paladins are helpful and nice" won't do much -- the PCs will accept the Cures and betray them anyway. Any ideas?

Thanks in advance,

Doug M.

I'm looking for a short one-shot adventure for 9th-10th level PCs. A dungeon crawl with limited RPing would be just fine. Interesting tricks, traps or puzzles are good, as are novel or original use of monsters.

Why: because I have three experienced players who have agreed to try class / race combos that they haven't before (or not in a long while, or not at this level). So basically I'm looking for something to challenge and test their tactical and mechanical abilities. RPing I know they can do, and we'll get to that later.

Length: one shot startup session, so something we can play in a few hours. A smaller portion of a bigger module could be okay.


Doug M.

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