Koriah Azmeren

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A player in my Rise of the Runelords campaign decided to play a Gravewalker Witch, and in order to make sure he doesn't abuse the class's ability to command undead, I was hoping for some clarifications.

Gravewalker Witch

The Bonethrall ability functions like the command undead spell and allows the Gravewalker to gain undead minions. My understanding of it is that because it references the spell, it has a duration of 1 day per level. What happens when the duration ends or the (intelligent) undead makes its save? Do the undead attack the nearest creature? Do they wander off?

When I confronted the player with this possibility, he just said that if the effect wore off, he'd just do it again. Is that allowed? Or are there limits to how many times an undead can be subject to the Bonethrall ability - many witch hexes have the stipulation that "Whether or not the save is successful, a creature cannot be the target of this hex again for 1 day", so would that be appropriate here? There are no limits on how many times the same undead can be subject to command undead, but the spell is limited by virtue of being a spell.

The entry for the Bonethrall ability doesn't list what sort of action it is - it replaces a hex and acts like a spell, which both take standard actions, so is using the Bonethrall ability a standard action? What about activating the Aura of Desecration? Should these abilities be treated as hexes in all respects?

Lastly, the campaign is set mostly in Sandpoint and later Magnimar - how would people in these areas react to seeing seemingly tame undead walking around? How would he be able to keep his undead safe if the townsfolk think they're monsters?

To summarize:
1) How do undead (intelligent or mindless) behave after Bonethrall/command undead ends?
2) How many times can the same undead be subject to Bonethrall from the same caster? (Would it be appropriate to put a once per day limit on it?)
3) What sort of action is Bonethrall/Aura of Desecration? Are they hexes?
4) How would the people of Sandpoint/Magnimar react to undead minions?

After my first attempt at running Runelords collapsed due to scheduling conflicts, I'm giving it another try - this time with a generous sprinkling of sidequests to spice things up (which means I have to adjust encounters to match the party's level).

The current party of 6 contains:

Charani - CG female Sylph Magus [kapenia dancer/bladebound] 1
She was born and raised among a Varisian caravan, and doesn't actually know she's a sylph (the swirls on her skin were mistaken for Varisian birth tattoos). I'm allowing her to use her bladed scarf as her black blade, which (once she reaches level 3 and gains the black blade) will be the trapped soul of her lover that died to protect her from Sczarni criminals. She was planning on just passing through Sandpoint when she got caught up in the goblin attacks.

Oriana - CN female Halfling Druid 1
Oriana is a hermit from the Fogscar mountains who lives with Anea, her pet juvenille roc. On one of her rare journeys into town, Oriana picked up a few books on ancient Thassilon authored by Brodert Quink, and has now come to Sandpoint to find out more.

Varial Nirgasson - NG male Musetouched Aasimar Hunter [divine hunter] 1
Varial is the youngest child of Eviana Nirgasson, leader of the elves of Crying Leaf. He was sent south as a diplomatic envoy to form alliances in Magnimar, and stopped in Sandpoint along the way to observe the Swallowtail Festival. He's also a childhood friend of Shalelu, and hopes to find her while he's in town. Varial is a follower of Ketephys, elven god of hunting.

Sloan - TN middle-aged male Human Barbarian 1
In his youth, Sloan was apprenticed to a wizard and studied the arcane. He was an ambitious and prideful student, and started learning magic beyond what his mentor was teaching him. Envious of his protege's talent, the wizard used enchantment spells to turn Sloan into a simpleminded brute. Sloan eventually killed the wizard and escaped, and with the help of his half-orc half brother, regained a portion of his mind. He still seeks to return his mind to its full potential, and has arranged to meet with his half-brother in Sandpoint to continue the search for a cure.

Ta'vi Shar-Quah - TN male Half-orc Skald [fated champion] 1
Born with a curse that left animals afraid to come near him, Ta'vi had a difficult childhood among the Shikirri-Quah tribe of the Shoanti. He took to traveling alone, trying to figure out his place in the world. His travels brought him into the worship of Desna, and hearing of the upcoming Swallowtail Festival, he set out for Sandpoint.

Zarex - NG male Fetchling Vigilante 1
Zarex claims to be a traveller, an envoy of his people, in Sandpoint to build relations and make friends. The truth is that his friend is Jubrayl Vhiski, and he's in town on 'family' business. Zarex isn't much of a fighter, but he can defend himself if needs be. His usual response to combat is to run and hide. The party doesn't mind; they've got all the help they need from the mysterious Shae, a long-distance archer who snipes from the rooftops and stands in shadows.

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My favourite thing that everyone else seems to hate? Handing out exp rather than just letting the party level up at milestones. Whether I'm a player or a DM, I like micromanging, so tracking things like exp or relationship scores or anything else is fun for me. When I DM, I'll ask my players if they want to track it themselves - if not, I'm happy to do it for them. Every party I've played with wants the exp, because it makes every encounter feel like they've earned something.

Also, I love alignment (I even use a point system for tracking that too).

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Seconding the annoyance at skill check crits/crit fails. I'm always reading stories from games where people roll a 20 on a skill and do the impossible, like achieving world peace on a crit Diplomacy check or unlocking doors that don't even have locks with crit Disable Device. It's so pervasive that I have to constantly remind my players to tell me their total roll when they get a 20 on a skill - if the DC is 35 and you roll a 20 with a +5 modifier, you're still going to fail! Conversely, if you roll a nat 1 with a +5, that DC 5 skill check is going to be impossible for you to fail at.

So my party (oread brawler, halfling druid with roc companion, sylph magus and aasimar cleric of Abadar) has cleared out the glassworks after entering through the roof, which I thought was interesting, killing Tsuto in the process. Tsuto was pretty useless (which seems to be a trend around here): aside from stunning the brawler, he spent most of combat pinned between two PCs in the narrow hallway. The druid and the cleric had just discovered Ameiko, who pleaded with them to spare her brother when she was brought to consciousness, but there wasn't enough time to pass that message on to the brawler, who was pummeling Tsuto with his brawler's flurry. A hit and a crit later and Tsuto went from 2 HP to -35 in a single turn.

Which leaves me wondering . . . how would/does Ameiko react to the death of her brother? The campaign mentions how she reacts to finding out her father was killed, but no mention of anyone else. They did have a close relationship at one point, but they've had a falling-out since then, so I imagine she'd react much the same to her brother's death as her father's. I may have her ask to keep some of his belongings (his flute, maybe), or claim some of his treasure to pay to have him buried in the cemetary.

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Name of PC: Romnir
Class/Level: Half-elf Paladin of Arshea (chosen one) 1
Adventure: Burnt Offerings
Catalyst: Bad DMing

Name of PC: Bertio
Class/Level: Half-orc Ranger 1
Adventure: Burnt Offerings
Catalyst: Bad DMing

Story: I've got a few years of DM experience under my belt, but occasionally I still make mistakes. This was one of them. My party was on the verge of going into the Glassworks (they would have recieved Tsuto's letter to Ameiko the next morning), but a player was absent and I didn't want the remaining 3 to tackle it without her. So, I added in a side mission that I found in the Pathfinder Comic that involved goblins in Mosswood - I figured I could give them an exp boost and introduce them to Shalelu at the same time (who would be played by a friend of mine who stopped in to watch the game).

So my first mistake was setting up the encounter. Instead of facing the enemies (3 goblin rangers 1, 3 goblin rogues 1, a wolverine and a goblin cleric of lamashtu 6) in stages, I just dumped them all on the board and told the party to roll initiative, thus making a group of 3 level 1s and a level 6 NPC take on a CR 7 encounter. The party was easily overwhelmed by the goblins long before the goblin cleric joined the fight - mostly due to the goblin ranger's favored enemy hitting against both the half-humans.

My second mistake was not telling my friend, who was playing Shalelu for me, to focus her attention on the goblin cleric, who was the leader of that goblin tribe. I gave him no instructions, so he had her try to draw aggro from the goblins to get them to attack her instead of the PCs.

My third mistake was when the party started to think that the goblin cleric was a druid. I wanted to make him do something that would prove that he was a cleric, so I had him channel negative energy. 3d6 damage to everyone on the board, including two unconscious PCS. Even if I had rolled poorly they still would have died - and to make matters worse, I completely forgot about the Will save they were supposed to get to lessen the damage. So 2 PCs died, another was at her negative con, and Shalelu was brought to 4 HP.

Thankfully, my players forgave me, and actually enjoyed the encounter enough that when I offered to retcon the whole thing they decided to stick with the new characters they had made (with an exp bonus to make up for me killing them unfairly). I've learned my lesson about going off-book, and am so grateful that my players are so forgiving.

MannyGoblin wrote:
wern't they supposed to be level 2 when they reach the lodge? That no doubt would have helped.

Going by the exp for the listed encounters (I added it up), they would have reached level 2 after the battle with Rohkar - but they had also bypassed an encounter by accepting the existence of a Talking Stag without question.

Name: Kiriae
Race: Suli
Classes/levels: Pyro-kineticist 1
Adventure: The Snows of Summer
Location: High Sentinel Lodge
Catalyst: Split the party
The Gory Details:

The party, having successfully navigated all the traps and ambushes leading up to the lodge, scoped it out with confidence. Little did they know that the bandit that had escaped them earlier had warned the raiders of their coming, and that surprise was not on their side. Kiriae took up position near the stable to blast from range, but bad rolls and a surprise ambush meant that she probably should have gone inside with the melee fighters.

Name: XIII
Race: Human (Taldan)
Classes/levels: Monk [Monk of the Empty Hand] 1
Adventure: The Snows of Summer
Location: High Sentinel Lodge
Catalyst: Trying to be a hero
The Gory Details:

XIII decided to try to wrestle half-orc cook Ten-Penny Tacey through the window of the kitchen, but failed miserably. Hearing Kiriae and Lulem (Aasimar Druid)call for help, XIII rushed over to help them, throwing his body in front of them to shield them from harm. Unfortunately, there was nobody there to protect him from harm.

Name: Maldrek
Race: Daemon-spawn Tiefling
Classes/levels: Unchained Rogue [Chameleon] 1
Adventure: The Snows of Summer
Location: High Sentinel Lodge
Catalyst: A cool stunt and poor rolls
The Gory Details:

Maldrek and Gofud (Half-orc Inquisitor) stormed the lodge, but they took several rounds to make meaningful headway against the enemies. Several rounds in, Maldrek saw XIII, Kiriae and Lulem facing certain death outside. The tiefling threw himself through a window to help - and he would have, had he not rolled a 1 on the attack roll to backstab a raider. Instead, he landed on his face and was torn to shreds by the merciless bandits.

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I'm two weeks into running Reign of Winter for a group of 5 and the lodge destroyed them.

The party:
LN Half-Orc Inquisitor of Abadar (Sin Eater/Heretic/Sacred Huntsmaster)
LN Human Monk (Monk of the Empty Hand)
NG Suli Pyrokineticist
N Garuda-Blooded Aasimar [small, because she was born to gnome parents] Druid (Storm Druid)
CN Daemon-Spawn Tiefling Unchained Rogue (Chameleon)

Stats were rolled, and I encouraged them to be creative and take archetypes. They avoided the Snowman trap by going around it (walking backwards because they thought that's what "turn back" meant), they made all their reflex saves to not fall through the ice, and they saw the crossbow trap tripwire easily. However, during the earlier encounter with 3 raiders one of them got away, running back to the lodge to warn everyone, so the raiders in the lodge were prepared.

The party circled the lodge, peeking in windows and scoping it out. They saw all the healthy raiders gathering in the main hall, so they started planning their attack strategy. The rogue and the kineticist worked together to shoot a blast of fire into the room with the sick raiders, not killing any of them, but sending them running into the main hall. By this point, the inquisitor was getting impatient, so he declares "I am going to break down the door."

His strength check doesn't even come close. However, this is what finally starts combat - the 5 of them vs. 10 raiders inside (6 healthy, 4 sick). I have the raiders fight on defense, taking up positions near the doors and readying attacks for when the party rushes in. One raider goes for it and goes outside to fight them. He fights the inquisitor and the rogue (poor rolls on both sides means he's still standing after 2 rounds). The druid and the kineticist take up blasting positions near the stable (despite the druid not having any offensive spells aside from her domain power), and the monk circles around to try to drag Ten-Penny though the kitchen window.

After a 5 round stand off, the raiders make their move. 3 of them leave through the door near the well, sneak around the building and get the drop on the kineticist, knocking her down to half health with ranged attacks. The druid gets in front of her, intending to take the hits. She goes down to 0 and runs for shelter in the stable. The monk comes to help them, standing in front of them and taking a volley of arrows. The monk goes down.

The rogue, having finally gone into the lodge with the inquisitor to fight, sees them through the nearby window. "I want to dive through the window and stab the guy in the back," the rogue's player declares. "Okay, I need an acrobatics check for the jump, a strength check to break the window (you'll take damage), and an attack roll to hit," I reply.

15 for acrobatics, 18 for strength . . . 1 for the attack.

The rogue is now outside by himself, surrounded by 3 raiders. And one of them confirms a crit. So the rogue, the kineticist and the monk are all dead or dying in the snow. The inquisitor is doing pretty well by himself inside (he's the only one rolling well tonight), and finishes off the raiders. I decide to be merciful at this point and not have Rohkar join the fight - he'll still be there when they come back. One of the raiders outside goes looking for the druid in the barn, and gets stabbed by her readied action - which also puts her below 0 for taking an action while disabled. The inquisitor kills the rest of raiders, then finds his allies dead outside and finds the unconscious druid in the stable. Everyone else starts rolling up new characters while he goes and interrogates Ten-Penny, who is fully willing to cooperate after what she just saw. She picks the lock on the cellar door, they rescue Lady Argentea, and ride off back to Heldren, leaving the corpses of their allies behind.

Now, I'm considering what to do next. Part of me wants to be evil and have their former allies be raised as zombies along with the rest of the raiders, but I'm trying to stick to the campaign as written as much as possible and Rohkar just doesn't have the juice for that many zombies (his scroll of animate dead gets him 5, plus the 3 scrolls of lesser animate dead can get 3 more, and if I really wanted to, he could prepare lesser animate dead himself instead of all his 2nd level spells, but that's kinda pushing it). The replacement characters being considered are an azata-blooded aasimar gunslinger, a samsaran witch (white witch), and a human barbarian. I offered to let someone play as Ten-Penny, but nobody took me up on it.

I thought I'd have to boost some of the encounters to deal with 5 players, but after what happened, I'm glad I didn't.

I've been DMing for my university's gaming club for a while now, and I keep getting people wanting to get into the game, so I offered to run RotR for a bunch of beginners (I had played it as a player myself previously, but that campaign died as soon as we reached book 2). I restricted them to core races/classes, to keep things simple, and we rolled for stats (everyone rolled quite decently).

The party:
Oriana, a NG halfling druid from the Fenwall Mountains. She's a bit of a hermit, living in high solitude, but she loves books, so every few weeks she'd fly into a nearby town/city with her roc Anea and pick up something new. She just finished her last book (an abridged history of Thassilon), and has flown into Sandpoint to find something new to read just in time for the Swallowtail Festival.

Romnir, a LG half-elf of Varisian descent who has recently taken oaths as a paladin of Arshea. Romnir cares less for the Empyreal Lord's aspect of freedom and more for their promotion of sexual encounters. He came to Sandpoint hoping to find other followers of his deity and join them in "worship".

Bertio, a N Chelaxian half-orc ranger who is stereotypical as you can get for rangers. He prefers to spend his time out in the wild, hunting down goblins, and generally being antisocial. He only returns to civilization when he runs out of ammo - and it turns out, now happens to be just such a time.

Haerra, a CG Varisian half-elf Kapenia Dancer/Spell Dancer (Magus archetype) and the only Sandpoint local in the campaign. She spends most of her time entertaining, performing her dances at Sandpoint Theatre, but she has always dreamed of getting out of Sandpoint and seeing the world. With trouble brewing, this might just be the opportunity she's been waiting for.

It's fascinating seeing how your players interpret your own campaign. Not to say that you're wrong Arash, but your interpretation of events puts things in a new perspective. I don't think the party hates you as much as you think they do.

The DM's a she, by the way :)