Oh, and I had something particularly interesting in mind for your character. Ah, well.
It's poor editing.
The Planar Binding spells are kind of a mess. Diego suggested it's a holdover from an older edition. It's also possible that someone had Planar Binding confused with summoning spells. There's indirect evidence that this was a problem for a while in the first year or two of PF1e. (See, for instance, the language about "before casting any summoning spell".)
Whatever the reason, the Planar Binding spells are just... badly written. Most of the 1e core books are VERY clear and consistent, so it's actually kind of shocking how badly they fall down here. This is a known problem; I have some discussion of it in my Guide to Planar Binding, which can be found here (along with a bunch of other stuff).
Anyway: the best way to work is to apply the Rule of Cool and just say, okay, you prep Magic Circle and Dimension Anchor, draw your circle, and cast those two plus Planar Binding and off you go. This makes perfect thematic sense and is not OP; you're spending time, spending resources, and you can't eliminate that 5% chance of failure. And it is pretty close to RAW -- and, as noted, RAW is a hot mess here.
But if you want to be a stickler and stay as close to RAW as possible, then (1) draw your circle, and (2) cast Dimension Anchor. And then (3) you immediately (within one round) start the 10-minute casting of Planar Binding. And also (4) in the same round as you do that, you cast the inward-facing circle as a Quickened spell so that you get it off in that same silly one-round window. That's kind of dumb and tedious, but it would seem to satisfy the badly-written spell description. If you get a real rules lawyer as DM he might argue that the RAW says "cast the spell [Planar Binding] within one round", not BEGIN to cast the (ten-minute casting time) spell within one round, but at that point we're really into eyeroll territory IMO.
A general note on sahkils: if you know what you're dealing with, they're easy to prep for. A lot of their powers involve fear effects. And the thing about fear effects is, they're easily shut down with low-level spells (Calm Emotions, Remove Fear) that can easily be put on cheap magic items (potions, wands, Soothing Stole, Padma Blossom...). For that matter, you can just summon a Paracletus Aeon and have it cast Calm Emotions (3x day, suppresses all fear effects).
I'm really chuffed that someone is picking this up and running with it. Thanks, Reduxist.
For people who like this sort of thing, here's my collection of guides, most of them having to do with Planar Binding.
Big caveat: this is the alignment of the characters *as depicted in the series*. It's entirely possible that Carole Baskin is really a good and upright person who's just trying to save some cats, and that the documentary did a hatchet job on her! It's possible that Joe is a basically decent guy who had a couple of bad mistakes of judgment! The events depicted are generally true, but the characters in the documentary are at least half fictionalized. So, this is about those characters, not the actual people. Okay? So:
Carole Baskin -- Lawful Evil
-- organized, ruthless, efficient
Doc Antle -- Neutral Evil
-- smooth, snaky, sensual
-- flamboyant, loud, erratic
All of them are high Cha builds who put max ranks into Handle Animal. But Joe dumped Wis hard to get that extra point of Cha, and that's ultimately what brings him down.
Finally, if you put that much effort into a single NPC, I hope he will have serious impact on the campaign - and that at least some players will care about him.
This started as a throwaway idea, but sometimes these things just snowball. If he ends up being minor but interesting wallpaper in one campaign, I'm okay with it.
Isn't this cat swarm pretty vulnerable to fireballs and similar? Not to mention color spray. That's about the two most common wizard attack spells.
I didn't specify Felv's level, because that's up to the individual DM. But your standard Worm That Walks is always a high-level caster. So he's probably at least 9th level, and more likely something like 13th. Color Spray isn't going to help.
Fireball would affect his humanoid form normally. But once he's discorporated? He's 10d6 cats that can spread across the entire city. You can Fireball one cat (probably doing way too much collateral damage in the process, because you're in a city). And... now there are 10d6-1 cats left. Literally all that's accomplished is to annoy him.
Also, if you really want to be a jerk DM, two can play at this game. PCs are strolling down the street and FWOOMPH they get hit by a Fireball from a cat 400 feet away. They'll need a decent Perception check to even see where that came from! Okay, so they spot the cat and retaliate with missile attacks. Individual Felv-cats have normal cat AC and hp so they probably kill it. And... FWOOMPH they get hit again next round, from a different cat 400 feet away in a different direction.
If he uses higher level slots, Felv can probably keep this up for 20 rounds or more. Basically he's a spam-casting sorceror with 10d6 throwaway disposable bodies to cast from. The +3 CR is there for a reason.
As we all know, H.P. Lovecraft invented the Worm That Walks.
"Cursed the ground where dead thoughts live new and oddly bodied, and evil the mind that is held by no head. Wisely did Ibn Schacabao say, that happy is the tomb where no wizard hath lain, and happy the town at night whose wizards are all ashes. For it is of old rumour that the soul of the devil-bought hastes not from his charnel clay, but fats and instructs the very worm that gnaws; till out of corruption horrid life springs, and the dull scavengers of earth wax crafty to vex it and swell monstrous to plague it. Great holes secretly are digged where earth's pores ought to suffice, and things have learnt to walk that ought to crawl."
Mm, good stuff. But it's been done many times now. What else did Lovecraft like? Ah yes: cats.
It is said that in Ulthar, which lies beyond the river Skai, no man may kill a cat; and this I can verily believe as I gaze upon him who sitteth purring before the fire. For the cat is cryptic, and close to strange things which men cannot see.
Can we combine these two ideas?
Sure we can.
* * * * *
There's a city where nobody will kill a cat. It goes further: nobody in this city will harm a cat, or even bother or annoy a cat. People will walk around a sleeping cat rather than disturb it. People will tell you that it's because cats are good luck. This is a lie. It's because harming, annoying or bothering cats is a very very bad idea.
That's because of Crato Felv.
Sometimes you get people who just really love cats. Your classic Crazy Cat Person, yes? Stereotypically a woman, but men can go that way too. And sometimes you get people who are really powerful sorcerors. Sorcery is pretty random! So, logically, once in a great while you'll get someone who is both. Like Crato Felv.
Here's an open question: did Felv intend for what happened to happen? Or did he just die suddenly, old and alone, only to have his dozens of cats do... well, do what cats do naturally when presented with a sudden windfall of fresh meat. It doesn't really matter whether it was intended or not, because the result was the same. A "normal" Worm That Walks is a swarm intelligence inhabiting tens of thousands of worms or insects. Crato Felv is a swarm intelligence inhabiting several dozen cats.
Build Felv like a standard Worm That Walks with the following differences:
-- Alignment is not necessarily evil. Felv is CN. He's cranky and obsessive and all gods help you if he decides you're a threat to his cats, or any cats. But not /evil/. Really, he's beyond your notions of morality. He understands that only one thing really matters: cats.
-- DR is 5/-, not 15/-.
-- New creature type is Animal, not Vermin.
-- Not immune to sleep effects. (Come on, he's made of cats.)
-- When Felv uses the Discorporate ability, he doesn't turn into a swarm. Instead he breaks up into 10d6 cats, who scatter in all directions. In terms of physical stats, hp, move and AC these are ordinary cats. Felv himself no longer has a fixed location. He can see and hear through every one of these cats and can control them as part of himself, and -- oh dear -- he can cast through all of them. The Felv-cats cannot speak but they do have the Natural Spell feat. Having multiple bodies doesn't allow Felv to cast multiple times per round, but he can cast from any of his cat bodies wherever they may be.
The only silver lining here is that in this form, Felv's intelligence grows dim and animalistic: he's Int 6 until he pulls himself together again. Oh, and he can speak freely with cats and with creatures that are essentially feline.
-- The only ways to permanently kill Felv are (1) reduce him to negative HP while he's in solid form, or (2) kill every single one of his swarm-cats. Good luck with that.
-- CR +3 instead of +2.
Felv spends most of his time discorporated, living as a sentient swarm of feral cats scattered across the city. If the PCs encounter a random cat, there's a 5% chance it's one of him. Remember that Felv can speak with all cats, so he'll soon become aware of any interaction the PCs have with a cat, or any notable or unusual behavior they might undertake otherwise.
He pulls himself together into his sort-of human form only for special occasions. He's much more intelligent then, and he can talk. But he's also more vulnerable and he knows it. Also, he likes being a cloud of cats. So you'd better have a good reason for calling him together.
An audience with Felv is, frankly, messed up. He's a vaguely humanoid pile of cats. It's hard to get a pile of cats to stand up straight (although he can manage it if he has to), so most of the time he'll be stretched out on a couch or something. He'll gesture languidly with a hand whose writhing fingers are furry tails. He'll frown at you with a face that's made of a dozen whiskery little faces His eyebrows and mouth are cat limbs. His voice is an absolutely indescribable mash of growls, purrs, and hisses. He smells like, well, like a big pile of cats.
He's not very patient and his attention span isn't great. Talk fast.
Felv's former residence is a run-down townhouse in a formerly pleasant neighborhood now gone considerably downhill. The PCs may hear about the old "wizard" who loves cats so much -- a decent Gather Information check will do this. (Note that people aren't sure if Felv is dead or not. He hasn't been seen in person in a while, but he was always misanthropic and solitary.) And once they arrive at his place, it'll be clear that something's up: it looks abandoned, and there are cats *everywhere*.
It's pretty easy to break in. It really stinks of cat inside. There's a half-hearted trap or two. There are a couple of minor magic items. And there's Felv's skeleton, in the shreds of his robes, picked very clean by the sharp teeth of hundreds of hungry cats. (Clever PCs may think that the skeleton will serve as Felv's phylactery or something, or can be used against him somehow. Nope. Messing with his skeleton will only annoy him. And it won't even annoy him that much, because it doesn't directly involve, you know, cats.)
The one thing you get from the townhouse: it attracts Felv's attention and causes him to coalesce into humanoid form. If his skeleton has been left undisturbed, his cats will wrap themselves around it, but that's not strictly necessary -- it's just force of habit.
This is the PCs' one guaranteed chance for an interview. Start at Unfriendly, give +2 to a druid, +2 to a caster with a feline familiar. Then give anywhere from -4 to insta-kill if the PCs have annoyed, mistreated, or (shudder) killed a cat. Then just remember that Felv is a cranky misanthropic obsessive who is capital-D Difficult, and who really only cares about one thing. Good luck!
What if... Cats are our friends?:
Maybe the PCs ace the interview! That's fine. Felv doesn't have to be an antagonist. He makes a useful friend and a fantastic ally. You want to know what the evil queen is really up to, or who's blackmailing the Mayor? Felv is a disembodied intelligence who can bounce around dozens of stealthy little bodies. He can discover pretty much anything worth knowing.
The big problem here is getting Felv to help. He starts out as neutral towards PCs /at best/. More likely he's Unfriendly: why are you bothering him? When he was human he was a cranky, solitary obsessive. Now that he's... whatever he is... he's five times worse. Is the evil queen spreading plague through the city? Do people writhe under the unjust tyranny of the Chelaxian occupation? Felv deeply, profoundly, does not care. He only has interest about these things insofar as they affect cats.
Play Felv as just plain difficult. Getting his attention (without pissing him off) is difficult. An audience with him is difficult. Getting him to help? This should not be impossible, but it should be a nontrivial challenge. He'll want something like "ten tons of fresh fish, to be dumped in 100 lots of 200 lbs. each at the following locations around the city". Bonus points if the city is located in a desert. Will fulfilling his demands be embarrassing or expensive? That gets a writhing furry shrug.
That said, if you can get him on side, he's pretty powerful! So he should only be helpful for a single task or a fixed period. And then the next time, he'll want something else: the fish were great, but now he wants ten thousand small, wingless birds. Or fifty cat-grooming stations set up around the city, each with two designated combers, plus ten roving veterinarians on call. Or passage of a law banishing all dogs above 5 pounds weight.
There is one shortcut to getting Felv's help: once the PCs are aware of his existence, clever players may try to kneecap their enemies by having them harm or attack cats. If you can get the evil queen's Gray Maidens to kill a cat or two, suddenly their lives will become much more difficult. This won't make Felv friendly to the PCs, but it does add an interesting wrinkle. Getting a rival adventuring party to kick a cat? If your PCs can pull it off, let them take the win.
What if... Cats are NOT our friends?:
It's not hard to get Felv mad at you. Just annoy, harm, or (shudder) kill a cat. Did I mention that there are cats everywhere in this town? Because there are. Lots of them. -- To keep this fair-ish, make sure the PCs are aware of the city's odd tradition of exaggerated deference towards cats. Then have cats be everywhere, and be kind of obnoxious. (I like cats perfectly well myself, but it's not hard to make them obnoxious.)
If the PCs don't bite, that's fine. Keep Felv in your back pocket. Later you can have the PCs see someone kick a cat, and then die screaming an hour later. (Probably a Phantasmal Killer, but season to taste.)
If the PCs do cross him... Felv should be an elusive and terrifying antagonist. Spell-casting cats, for goodness' sake. And did I mention this city is full of cats? Any of which could suddenly launch an attack with spells of up to 6th level, or higher if you're really feeling vicious. Is that cat watching you? Wait, there's another one over there! Lashing out randomly is not going to accomplish much, and will definitely not improve the PCs standing in the city. (Really, once people realize that "the cats are angry", the PCs will become complete pariahs -- people refusing to do business, crossing the street to avoid them, you name it.)
Felv's low Int means that he can't easily switch up tactics in mid-combat. However, between fights he's perfectly capable of assembling himself in some quiet sewer somewhere to think things over in his human-ish form (which is Int 12 or so). So, he is absolutely capable of ambushes, planting evidence to frame the PCs, and other sorts of strategic surprise.
Oh, and he'll start off wanting to play with them and torment them rather than kill them outright. Because, you know.
Killing Felv is hard. If he's reduced to 3/4 hp while in humanoid form, or if he just feels threatened, he immediately discorporates. This can be stopped with a Forcecage, circular Wall of Fire, or similar effect, but otherwise you're now dealing with several dozen cats that are fleeing in all directions at top speed. In theory you could track them down and kill them one by one -- scrying could help, or a high level ranger. Clever players may think of other options.
Felv does have a weak spot, and that's spells that target Will. If you hit one Felv-cat with a Will spell, you hit the whole organism -- and Felv's Will save, while decent, is not amazing. (This also applies to a bard's song, a mesmerist's stare, and the like.) So he can be fascinated, slept, charmed, dominated, you name it. That said, note that Felv's type is now Animal. So Charm Person and other spells that affect humanoids will do nothing -- you need spells that will affect creatures of the Animal type.
Phew. -- Oh yes: this is inspired by an idea from Arnold, of the Goblin Punch blog. Everyone should go read Goblin Punch, it's amazing.
This is one of those NPCs that's designed for the DM to have fun. Don't make him so annoying that the PCs kill him, nor so obnoxious that he stinks the place up or stops the fun train.
But within those limits, vamp it up. Ever been infuriated by someone online being just unbelievably stupid, and unbelievably smug in their stupidity? Turn that around, and mix it with a dash of Dr. Dinosaur from Atomic Robo ("I am a genius. By definition all of my plans are brilliant!"), and have fun with it.
There are two versions of the Diabolist: the Classic Diabolist from 2012's Princes of Darkness (which could be LE, LN or NE) and the New Diabolist from 2017's Book of the Damned (which is LE only). You want the Classic Diabolist -- the new one is generally inferior).
Anyway: You want to click on this link here. It will give you the Guide to the Diabolist, which is like 30 pages long and includes a lot of discussion of feats, spells, and magic items for making your character really shine. There is also a bunch of other stuff that you might find useful, including a guide to Planar Binding and discussions of which creatures to summon and bind.
Congratulations on playing a Diabolist! Good luck, and let us know how it goes!
Gwidog-Sha! is a sorceror. He was born plain old Gwidog, and then after he developed sorcerous powers he added the -Sha! It doesn't actually mean anything. He just thinks it sounds cool.
Gwidog's father is very minor nobility. He's worried about his son. The boy has been acting strange, and now he's run off! He asks the PCs to help. This works best for if the PCs are midlevel, say levels 5-8.
The trip to find Gwidog turns into the hook for a *completely different adventure*. Like, in order to find Gwidog they have to travel through a village, and the village turns out to be run by demon cultists, or is paying tribute to a dragon. Or they go through a forest, and they're attacked by an owlbear that's been enraged by a poison wound, because poachers. Or they walk into the middle of a war between loggers and treants. You get the idea. There should be roughly a module's worth of stuff between them and Gwidog.
But! From time to time, someone will /mention/ Gwidog-Sha! And, oh yeah, he can throw fire. And he can turn people into his followers. Have ordinary people, peasants and such, seem vaguely impressed and fearful of him. This works best if the adventure is taking place in a backwards region where folks are not very sophisticated. Anyway: having battled their way through two or three sessions of craziness, and possibly having leveled up, the PCs finally will encounter Gwidog-Sha! He is a sorceror and he's used his powers to take over a village...
...and he's CR-3. Like, if the PCs are 6th level, he's 4rd level. Gwidog-Sha! is a weedy young man with a scraggly beard. He wears garish robes of pink and orange (he designed them himself and they clash rather horribly). He can indeed throw fire -- Burning Hands -- and can dominate minds -- Charm Person. He yells a lot about how it's his natural right to dominate lesser minds and bring a new order to the world, where the innately superior (like himself) are seen as the natural rulers they are. Well, he yells a lot about everything. When he gets really excited his voice cracks and he sprays a bit of spittle.
Gwidog-Sha! isn't evil -- he's CN -- but he's arrogant, thin-skinned, and stupid. He has low Int, extremely low Wis, and a crippling case of Dunning-Kruger Syndrome. He truly believes that he's one of the greatest sorcerors of the age. Obvious rejoinders will bounce off his near-invincible self-assurance. Sure, he doesn't throw more than a few spells right now, but that's just because he's /perfecting/ them. With just a bit of study and practice, soon he'll be summoning demons and blasting giants with fireballs. He just hasn't gotten around to it yet, is all. No, you're confused.
Dealing with Gwidog-Sha! is left as an exercise in roleplaying. Arguing with him is almost impossible. On the plus side, manipulating him, especially through flattery, is absolutely an option -- he literally has a negative Sense Motive modifier. Or the PCs can just knock him out, tie him up, and drag him home. Cruel DMs may have him squirm loose from his bonds at an interesting moment -- say, when the PCs are in a delicate negotiation with a powerful monster for passage through its territory. "Why are you bargaining with this brute? Behold, I shall burn it to ash!"
Obviously this is the sort of thing that will work better with some groups than others; season to taste.
This is a plot seed for low to midlevel PCs. It is unashamedly stolen from The Librarians, because it's a cool idea. Hat tip to John Rogers.
* * * * *
The PCs are travelling through a forest or similar wilderness area. It's raining. Suddenly they hear the sound of distant shouts or screams! Investigating, they quickly encounter a young woman staggering through the underbrush. She is disheveled, covered in blood, and almost incoherent with terror.
"That... that thing! It has my friends! Oh, gods, they're still in there!" [breaks down sobbing]
Upon examination: she is well but not expensively dressed, and shows signs of elven blood. (She is, in fact, a half-elf.) Although her clothes have been slashed by what look like claws, her injuries are minor -- there's a lot of blood, but most of it is not hers. A simple Diplomacy check will calm her down enough to get her story.
She and her friends were a group of young people who dreamed of becoming bold adventurers. One day, they encountered an empty house in the woods and decided to explore it. Adventurers in training, right? And this seemed harmless enough... Alas, they had hardly entered the house when horrible, terrifying things began to happen. They tried to leave, but doors locked, windows suddenly looked out on vast terrifying otherplanar landscapes... and then the Bad Man came. One by one, they were taken. Except for the Last Girl: she remembered that she carried a magical scroll, a spell that opened doors. She's had just a little magical training (she wants to go to the Academae someday), so never dared try it before, but... it worked! She escaped!
But her friends are still in there.
(Additional wrinkle: she may mention in passing that they're from [city] in [country]. However, the PCs are traveling through [other country], and [city] is hundreds of miles away from here! If this is pointed out, the Last Girl will become a bit hysterical for a while. "We -- we can't be in Varisia! That's a /foreign country/!")
Okay, so the PCs investigate the house. Right off, this place looks creepy as hell; it's an ancient house, with a design from a couple of centuries ago, but the walls are cracked and stained, the yard is choked with weeds, strange fungi grow out of the woodwork, and so forth. Possibly some oversized moths are flapping slowly around... season to taste. Rain (you remember it was raining?) streams off the roof as thunder rumbles ominously overhead.
Above the door are wooden letters spelling out the words "R E F U G E". Give the PCs a moderately difficult Knowledge (history or local) check. If someone succeeds, they get
So now what? Well, greed and curiosity should nudge the PCs inside. If not, Last Girl will begin weeping: "My friends are still in there! Oh, can't you please help them? You're adventurers... isn't that what you do?" If the PCs still hesitate, she'll rummage through her pack and pull out a scroll -- "This is all I have. Take it! Just, please, help them!" The scroll should be a random first or second level spell. The goal here is not so much to bribe the PCs as to emphasize Last Girl's pathetic desperation.
Into the House:
Once the PCs go inside, stuff starts to happen. Things fly through the air and just miss them. Doors open or close when they're not looking. There are horrible disturbing visions. Words like GET OUT and DEATH appear in blood on the walls. Animated objects attack them, then fall to the ground. And they can hear something moving around upstairs...
Last Girl clearly does not want to go back in the house, but she doesn't want to be alone either. So she'll go in with PCs. At some point a muffled shriek will be heard from another room; Last Girl will yell, "That's my friend! John, are you all right?" and will run through a door. If the PCs follow, there will of course be something dangerous and horrible on the other side. In fact, Last Girl will show a positive talent for wandering off stupidly by herself. If not followed, she'll disappear, leaving only a pool of blood and a torn item of clothing.
Efforts to escape the house will be fruitless; opening the door reveals a formless grey void, or worse. In fact the House is its own demiplane, and can move from place to place or world to world. And it doesn't want the PCs to leave...
What's actually going on here:
The House of Refuge never changed; it's still a good place. Unfortunately, it's been taken over by a very bad person. Some years back, a very wicked young woman made a pact with the Abyss. She gained the services of a powerful demon... but in return, she had to murder an innocent at least once per month. This worked great for a while, but finally justice caught up with her. She fled, with the forces of good right behind her... and encountered the House of Refuge.
The poor House foolishly let her in, and since then everything has gone to Hell. The House is something like a construct; it's programmed to respond to need. And she *needs* to kill people -- if she doesn't, she dies and the demon takes her soul to the Abyss. That's a very powerful need! So the hapless House, thanks to a glitch in its programming, has been turned into a mobile base of operations for a Chaotic Evil serial killer and her demonic sidekick. The panicked, hapless Last Girl is, in fact, the BBEG.
I see Last Girl as a sorceress with a level of rogue, but season to taste -- if you think something else will work better, go for it. I'd put her three levels ahead of the APL, plus the rogue level. So if you have a party of 3rd level PCs, she's a Rog 1 / Sor 6. If your party is bigger than the standard four, or the players are very experienced, add another level of sorceror or two levels of rogue. Her Bluff should be sky-high -- rakshasa bloodline is good here -- and she should have lots of illusion and misdirection spells, along with something to conceal her alignment. She'll probably have Still Spell and Silent Spell too. She's cocky and overconfident -- this is all a fun game for her. But part of the game is to stay concealed until the last possible moment, so she will make every effort to do that. If she fails a Bluff check, or the PCs become suspicious otherwise, her first trick will be to burst into hysterical tears and then faint.
As for the demon companion, at APL 1 or 2 it's a quasit. At higher levels it can be a babau, a shadow demon (recommended!) or a vrock. Add PC levels and/or templates to adjust, but you want a CR that's APL +3 or so. The demon is the sub-boss; the PCs should not confront the demon and the Last Girl at the same time.
Inside the House:
The PCs should be encouraged to think "haunted house, inhabited by a monster / magical serial killer". In fact there are three things going on here. First, the House of Refuge is trying to warn the PCs. Unfortunately it's not designed for talking, so it's limited to cryptic messages in blood and the like. It locks the PCs in and plane-shifts because it senses that they are powerful adventurers, and is hoping they will prove Last Girl's undoing. It will try to warn them if it can, but its programming won't allow it to attack Last Girl directly.
Second, there are restless spirits of Last Girl's previous victims. These can be anything from minor haunts up to seriously dangerous undead. The House reluctantly protects Last Girl from them, but they can be very threatening to the PCs.
Third, of course, there's Last Girl and her demon pal. Last Girl will try to lure or maneuver PCs into danger, softening them up; the demon will strike from the shadows and then retreat, using hit and run tactics. The demon's nature should not be immediately obvious; it should wear a dark hooded robe, cloak itself in shadow, make use of illusions, or otherwise take care to disguise what it really is.
For most of the session, Last Girl and the demon will be toying with the PCs. Only once the demon is revealed and defeated will Last Girl realize that there's a serious problem here, pull the gloves off and start striking to kill.
All light in the house is reduced a step -- normal darkness acts like no-darkvision magical darkness, low light requires darkvision to see, and so forth.
Oddly, the House does not radiate evil. (Clue!) Attempts to smash walls or doors will work, but the House will "heal" the damage within a minute as soon as the PCs backs are turned.
And, a big one: healing spells don't work here. (It's a side effect of the House's extraplanar nature.) At your discretion, a paladin's Lay on Hands and healing potions might still function -- but normal healing, nope, you got nothin'. If these seems too much, you could allow healing to be impeded instead -- but keep in mind that this is an excellent way to crank up the tension. PCs suddenly get a *lot* more cautious when they can't just be healed...
Wrapping it up:
If the PCs manage to kill Last Girl, they win! A search will now reveal a cupboard full of treasure, taken from Last Girl's previous victims. The House quickly recovers, becoming a normal looking small house surrounded by a lovely garden. It rewards the PCs with hot baths and a Hero's Feast and then drops them off wherever is most convenient for them. The House is now an ally of the PCs, and may show up again some day when they are in particularly desperate need.
If you really want to get wacky, you can basically turn the PC party into Doctor Who: the House lets them stay as long as they like, and it can take them anywhere in the multiverse! However, it does have a strong attraction to places where people are in danger, in trouble, or in need...
PCs can be super paranoid. They may quite reasonably be suspicious of Last Girl! And there's tremendous variation among parties. Some will charge right in, others will *never* go in there. Some will throw the Girl in a sack -- hell, some will torture and kill her -- but others will close ranks to protect her. It really depends.
You need to know what button to push to get them to enter the house. Saving innocent people? Getting treasure? Fighting something new? Maybe have the Girl announce, with trembling lip, that if they won't go in... *she* will save her friends. She saw someone cast the Protecting from Evil spell, once, so she's pretty sure she can do it.
And of course, consider hinting at treasure. Don't be obvious about it! Hint. Like, "It was a mess inside, and smelled bad, but there didn't seem to be anything dangerous... until we got to the room with the books. I told Bob, I told him not to touch anything, but..." Nothing gets PCs interested like creepy powerful magic books.
Some specific potential problems:
-- "The PCs aggressively interrogate the Girl!" -- she breaks down crying. (Remember, her Bluff should be high high high.) If they see through her Bluff, or attack her, she flees. Consider having her pre-buff a bit -- Expeditious Retreat is good -- if you think your PCs might go this route.
-- "The PCs attack the Girl!" -- if your PCs are murderhobos, maybe don't even bother with this scenario. It works best with good-aligned characters, obviously, though neutral characters may also be vulnerable to sympathy or greed.
-- "The PCs set fire to the House!" -- guys it's raining really hard. But if they're determined to damage the House from the outside, then the Girl darts inside and the House just teleports away: skip to "They Won't Bite", below.
-- "The PCs throw the Girl in a sack!" -- if your PCs are really that level of crazy paranoid, then skip this scenario entirely. You might, however, consider a scenario where they encounter a hysterical injured girl who actually is running from a monster... and who is also the child of a powerful, influential and extremely thin-skinned local nobleman. "You threw my daughter in a *what*?" Season to taste.
Nope, they just won't bite:
If the PCs ABSOLUTELY refuse to take the bait... then, okay, they don't. Any paladin in the party should be very ashamed, but a party of standard PC murderhobos can probably shrug and move on.
Don't punish them for this! In fact, quite the opposite. A few sessions later, the PCs encounter an adventurer who tells a horrible story: he's the last survivor of a party who met a desperate young woman in the woods. The rest of them followed her inside the house, but he stayed outside to keep watch. He heard them screaming... and then he heard the Girl's voice. Laughing. Laughing.
And then a few sessions after *that*, have the PCs travelling along, when suddenly Last Girl runs out into the path in front of them, screaming, "Help! My friends!" And then she looks at the PCs, says, "Oh, crap." And turns around and runs back to the House and in the door.
You won't have the advantage of surprise with that one, but you can still have a rousing adventure through the House, culminating in a fun boss fight with the Girl and her demon pal. Never waste a hook, amirite?
Radegund, The Magpie wrote:
Do I know whether spiders are likely to run or attack, when peppered with arrows? (Or, rather, do I know anything that tends to scare them off?)
They don't like fire.
Smaller Spiders fear larger ones. There's a rough hierarchy based on size, and bigger Spiders have no compunctions about eating smaller ones. Big Spiders are really bad news, because they get smarter as they get bigger.
And can I place the bird on my shoulder or otherwise free up an arm? Otherwise this'll get *extra* tricky? (Maybe the hound can carry it?)
The hound can't carry it. The bird is hooded, so it'll cling on to your shoulder. That's going to be painful if it gripes, and it will probably gripe. But it won't fly off unless struck -- a hooded hawk has a strong aversion to flying blind.
I've added a stat line. Please let me know if you'd like any changes.
It's a bit of overkill right now. Can you prune it back to the essentials? AC, Perception, Init, key saves.
Note for future reference:
I think the concept of a "level appropriate encounter" is, as the man says, more what you'd call a guideline than an actual rule. And Tolkien agrees with me! Remember, he's the guy who pitted four low-level hobbits and one Ranger against *five* Nazgul.
Point being, "Run" is going to be a real option sometimes. Even if it means eating some Shadow. The Fellowship of the Ring totally ate a bunch of Shadow points when the Balrog grabbed Gandalf. (Good thing they were able to take a long rest in Lorien!)
Furthermore: balancing encounters in ME is trickier than in vanilla 5e. That's partly because it can be hard to get long rests, and it's partly because some of the monsters are a bit odd. Mirkwood spiders, for instance, can spray webs like Spider-Man, as a ranged attack that leaves you immobilized if it hits. If you face a lot of spiders, that can overwhelm even powerful characters. So... just sayin'.
Incidentally, rations seem horrendously pricy. What happened to the good old days of buying "iron rations" by the week?
Dang, that does seem a lot. Could it be a typo, I wonder.
-- BTW, you just got Inspiration. Congratulations! Now: spend it. I'll hand out Inspiration pretty freely, so there's not much point to hoarding it.
It's all about expectations. The usual pattern is "subscribers get it, then players guide comes out, then it ships to non-subscribers and your FLGS". They've maintained that pattern pretty consistently for literally years now, so everyone is cool with it.
A couple of years ago there was a hiccup with the Crownfall AP, and the Players Guide was delayed by a couple of weeks. There was some anxiety and some acting out, because people had gotten very used to the schedule.
Hello you Companions,
Occasional lurker here. I've been keeping an eye on you for a while and have been really impressed by this campaign. I think you have a great group, and I'm particularly struck by how you're all keeping it very Tolkein throughout.
This campaign inspired me to pick up the recent Humble Bundle -- Cubicle 7 is basically bundling *all* their Middle-Earth RP stuff for just $15. Now I'm reading through it, and toying with the idea of starting a ME5e campaign of my own. So if you don't mind some random guy from the internet poking his nose in... would any of you have any thoughts you'd want to share with a potential MERP DM? Good and bad points with the system, things that have really struck you, comments you'd like to share?
Feel free to reply by post or PM, or not at all.
Thanks much in advance,
1) Okay, this is actually a pretty incredible Bundle. You can get the Players Guide plus a bunch of stuff for $1. Raise it to $8 and they throw in the Loremaster's Guide (DM Guide) and a bunch MORE stuff -- including the excellent Mirkwood campaign. And for just $15 you get pretty much everything Cubicle 7 has ever published.
2) Cubicle 7 did an *amazing* job of adapting the 5e engine to role-playing in Middle-Earth. This may be the best Middle-Earth RPG anyone has ever done, and the best that anyone will do for many years to come.
3) Rumor has it that they're losing the license. IDK if that's true, but it would explain why they're selling hundreds of dollars worth of stuff for $15 or less.
4) Honestly, this is just great stuff. It's provoked an emotion I rarely feel: pleasure and admiration just from reading an RPG splatbook or scenario. The whole thing is an obvious labor of love. The quality is consistently high. Many of the scenarios could be adapted to other systems with just a bit of tweaking.
This may be the single most amazing TTRPG Humble Bundle I've seen (although the PFRPG "buy all the 1e campaign books", which is running right now is a close second). Strongly, strongly recommended.
(You can find it here.)
Hm. I imagined her as an ongoing character, with the villain reveal coming gradually. -- Also, I have about half of a campaign written with her as a major character -- one of six evil witches or hags who are the secret masters of a city. If that sounds interesting, you can find a sketch of it over here.
Whoops, missed one: my Guide to the Spell Sage. Probably because it's incomplete, and now will never be completed... Still, if you're interested in this archetype, check it out; the partial guide gives you plenty to get started and to run your Spell Sage up to mid-levels.
Coming in a bit late, but this character here would be pretty much a perfect fit. She's sweet, kindly, and would totally help a group whose interests aligned with hers! And she makes all sorts of potions!
Of course, she's actually a Souldrinker and a neutral evil serial killer. But she's /nice/.
Bad guys don't have to be Runelords. After Blood of the Coven came out, I once built a town run by coven of witches, from CR 7 to CR 12 or so... give me a sec. [rummage, rummage] Okay, here's a sketch.
* * *
The Silver Witch [LE Middle-aged human Witch (Dimensional Occultist) 12]
The Silver Witch is a respected citizen, a merchant and landlord who's also the Treasurer of the city government. She's also the founder and seniormost member of the coven. That doesn't mean she's in charge -- it's a rough democracy -- but does mean the others usually defer to her.
The Silver Witch wasn't always a witch. Many years ago there was a young silver dragon who, in her pride, thought she could outwit the powers of Hell. In the end Hell took its due and she tarnished and fell. As punishment for her wickedness, the powers of Law and Good forced her into human form, where presumably she could do no harm and might in time repent.
This presumption was terribly wrong. The transformed dragon walked away from her previous life and made a new pact with the powers of darkness. Today she hardly remembers her original shape. She does still retain a number of draconic characteristics, though: she's proud, fierce, territorial, highly intelligent, and does not suffer fools gladly. Oh, and she likes being surrounded by nice things. Her house is full of lovely items -- expensive but tasteful carpets, paintings, sculpture, silver... a hoard, you might say.
The Grey Witch [NE Middle-Aged Gnome (Bleachling) Witch 4 / Rogue 3 / Arcane Trickster 3]
The Grey Witch is Witch Town's crime lord. There's only one Thieves Guild in town, and she runs it. As one of the rare gnomes to survive the Bleaching, she seems dreamy and a bit distracted. In fact she is an absolutely ruthless, emotionless killer who has ruled the local underworld with an iron fist for many years. Unlike the Silver Witch, she’s a hands-on manager who regularly accompanies her minions on missions. She’s not foolish or reckless, but she’s pretty completely without fear, so she has no objection to mixing it up in a fight; if things go bad, she has a couple of fast-exit spells prepped, just in case.
The Grey Witch has kept an odd, bleached version of the gnomish obsession with novelty: she finds new things interesting, but almost always very briefly. So, she’ll go to some trouble to acquire an interesting art object or magic item, but after a few moments of examination she’ll shrug and toss it aside.
The Thieves Guild does a fair amount of thieving, but the biggest parts of their business are a protection racket plus gambling -- formally illegal, but there are several dens in town. The games are rigged, of course.
Nothing really makes the Grey Witch happy, but watching fools get their well-deserved comeuppance can bring the faintest hint of a smile to her pale lips. (Note that in her world, anyone who believes in rules or fair play counts as a fool.)
The Blue Witch [NE Half-fiend (erodaemon) Bard (Court Bard) 4 / Witch 3]
Half-erodaemons (it turns out) can, with a fairly modest disguise check, appear pretty close to human. The Blue Witch looks like a half-elf with rather lovely pale blue skin. In fact she's a sadistic serial killer who enjoys taking the form of a dear friend or loved one. She's compulsive about this -- she considers herself an artist, and it's actually difficult for her to kill someone *unless* she's gotten emotionally close to them first. The other witches use her as a spy and assassin, but are often impatient with her psychological quirks.
The Green Witch [CE Green Hag Druid 3]The Green Witch spends most of her time in the woods outside of town. She's the weakest of the coven, so might be the first one that PCs encounter.
The Green Witch is horrible in the usual hag ways, but with two more thrown in. First, she likes altering her form to go seducing and killing good-looking young people (far beyond the usual minimum required by hag reproduction). She occasionally has gone cruising with the Blue Witch (and if you run that sort of campaign, the two of them could make a memorable encounter) but they're really not looking for the same thing -- the half-fiend wants to build an emotional bond with her victims, while the hag wants a spasm of satiated lust followed by the delight of the victim's shock and horror when the truth is revealed.
(Most green hags kill their partners. The Green Witch usually does too, but will occasionally go "traumatize, mutilate, release" instead, because it's fun. The other witches would very much not approve of this if they knew about it.)
And second, the Green Witch loathes clerics, especially clerics of good or lawful deities. She'll stalk these. She might attack if the chance arises, but first she'll try either to seduce them into some wicked act or, failing that, to frame them for various petty or loathsome crimes. She's about hatred, not murder per se; her goal is not so much to kill the good-hearted as to destroy what they are.
The White Witch [NE Old Human Witch 10 / Souldrinker 2] Like the Red Witch, the White Witch is a well-respected member of the community: she's the sweet old lady who runs the Magic Shoppe. She specializes in potions but sells other magic items as well. Everyone knows she's a spellcaster, but most think she's a midlevel wizard -- she's careful not to let anyone see her cast spells above third level.
The White Witch is the most social of the witches, and has friendships and contacts at every social level of the city. She makes sure that no guild or group can arise to challenge the authority of the city's secret rulers. At the same time, she's the only one of the coven who'd readily turn on the others; she's very old (much older than she looks), she could move on to another town any time, and she chafes at the thoughtless arrogance of the Silver Witch.
The Purple Witch [CE Annis Hag Brawler 4] -- If the Blue Witch is the coven's spy and assassin, the Purple Witch is their brute muscle. Under the Silver Witch's influence, the town has legalized slavery for criminals and debtors; the Purple Witch oversees the town's slave market and work gangs. She's got a Hat of Disguise so that she looks like a hulking half-orc rather than the monster she really is. She's not very bright, but she enjoys the many opportunities that her job provides for breaking bodies, minds, and spirits. She's as loyal to the Silver Witch as a chaotic evil hag can be.
It looks like a bunch of campaigns started when this first came out (autumn 2017), but they all seem to have fizzled out pretty quickly.
The Levee is a really interesting AP. I'm honestly not sure how good / playable it is *as an AP* -- with all respect to Mr. Pett, it reads more like a super sandboxy collection of high concepts than an AP as such. If I ever ran it, I suspect I'd have to modify the hell out of it to make it coherent and playable. But it's very interesting -- there are a lot of cool ideas and no shortage of well developed NPCs and weird, intriguing situations. So I'm mildly surprised to see that no group ever stuck with it.
Is this just the usual "every time a new AP comes out, a bunch of new PBP campaigns begin and within 90 days six out of seven have fizzled"? Or is it that non-Paizo APs generate less interest and have less staying power? Or something else?
Not that there's anything wrong with the SDS! I always thought it was a clever idea to hardwire them into Golarion with the Runelords and all. But they're not the only game in town.
Moral philosopher Jonathan Haidt has six "moral values", each of which has an opposite. If you google Haidt you'll find a lot more detail, but here's the short version: the more or less "positive" moral values are
A couple of details: People sometimes balk at "authority" as a positive moral value, but the idea there is that almost everyone recognizes that there are some sorts of legitimate authority that should, under normal circumstances, be respected and/or obeyed. Also, "sanctity" includes a lot of religious values but goes further -- it includes things that we consider precious or important. If you're unhappy at the idea of chopping down a grove of redwoods, that's probably coming under "sanctity".
Okay so: each of these has an opposite.
Care --> Harm
Most of us view the second column as negative moral values -- we don't want them to be directed at us, and we usually don't want to think that we're engaging in them, and if we do engage in them we usually try to lie to ourselves about them. 'Authority / Subversion' may seem odd here, but remember that Haidt is talking about morally legitimate authority; if you acknowledge the government as a legitimate authority, then you probably pay your taxes and resent people who don't.
Anyway: it seems like this could be an interesting / fun framework to build into a game. Actually, I half wonder if anyone out there has tried already...
I ask because I just noticed there are still a few copies of Zogonia on sale in the store.
It's not that Zogonia disappeared after a single collection... that's not too unusual. (See. e.g., Downer and about half a dozen others.) But the author / artist, Tony Moreland? He seems to have disappeared without a trace; I can't find any sign of him online. That's... less usual.
Does anyone know anything?
The earliest Holomog could appear in an AP would be the back of 2020. However, since that AP is probably already in the planning stages, I'd guess we won't see anything until 2021 at the earliest.
What we can do is keep the idea in the air: "Hey, that's a cool piece of your IP that we'd love to see more about."
PC is a 5th level wizard starting a Lovecraft / Mythos scenario. It's been established he has a Mythos-related backstory, but no details have yet been filled in -- at the moment, it's a "Noodle Incident" type of thing. I have some ideas, but I'd be interested to hear what the group mind comes up. Here's what I've got so far:
-- incident was Mythos-related
And at the end of the day the wizard PC staggers away, sanity barely intact, plagued by terrible guilt, recurring flashbacks, and the Spooked drawback. Which, as everyone who has ever played Call of Cthulhu knows, is about the best possible outcome for surviving a Mythos incident...
Anyway! Thoughts, suggestions?
Fire Mountain Games has vanished from the face of the internet; their website is defunct and their FB page hasn't updated in years. The owner of FMG and creator of WotW abruptly went silent back in 2013. He's known to be still alive (or anyway he was six months ago) but he's no longer producing any gaming material and afaik he's let FMG lapse entirely. There's a lot more to the story but that's the TLDR version.
I worked as an editor on books 3 through 6 IMS -- you'll see my name in the credits there. So obviously I'm biased, but I think it's an absolutely terrific AP. I can't help with 2e conversion (I'm just getting started myself) but if you want to talk about running the AP, feel free to PM me.
Steve Geddes wrote:
A reasonable question. I suppose I'm very slightly annoyed by the ongoing chirpy hopefulness in the face of the obvious reality.
Let's check back in six months or so and see where we are then.
Holomog hasn't had a lot of attention. So far there's only been a single six-page article in Distant Shores, written by Crystal Frazier back in 2015 or so. But it's different and interesting and I really hope Paizo returns there.
1) Holomog is the mirror image of Nidal -- it's a human land that survived Earthfall by making a deal with the good-aligned Empyreal Lords. So Holomog is a capital-G Good-aligned land, but (as far as we can tell) not in a stupid way. And it's ancient -- like Nidal, it should have lore and records going back thousands of years.
2) Holomog is a matriarchal society with a very different social structure from anything else on Golarion. At the top, it's run by the omwa -- a handful of people with near-godlike powers who rule (as far as we can tell) wisely and well. (Those people are all women, mind... apparently there was one male who reached that level, and all we're told is that it didn't work out well.)
3) Holomog is plugged into the Geb-Nex rivalry; they border Geb and have warred with it (unsuccessfully), while Nex is as friendly as an evil undead kingdom can possibly be.
4) Holomog has an unusual ethnic mix (a society of humans but with significant minorities of aasimars, catfolk, grippli, and ganzi) on top of an unusual religious mix (almost everyone worships an Empyreal Lord, except for some Green Faithers). Oh, and there are some people who worship Asmodeus as a Lawful Neutral female deity... and some of them can be LG and still be clerics of Asmodeus... and somehow that seems to work. I suspect that last bit may get retconned out, because 2E seems to be more rigid about that sort of thing. But it's the sort of cool weird detail that is sprinkled across the whole writeup.
5) Finally, Crystal wrote a bunch of interesting mysteries into the setting. What caused the Paroxysys, the mysterious detonation that destroyed Old Anuli? Who was the one man who passed the Crucible, and why didn't it work out well? Why does a neutral good-aligned land produce so many ganzi? What's going on at the bottom of Crater Lake? These were well done, and left at least this reader eager to know more.
Did anyone else find this stuff interesting? Are there other Holomog fans out there?
NP, Gifted Adept it is. And come to think of it, that fits perfectly if we assume he got his third trait (blow things up better with Fireball!) at the same time that he got his drawback (flinch at shadows generally, freak out over outsiders and undead in particular). Thanks!
Okay then, a bit of shopping to mop up the last few gp, and he's ready to go.
Well: some fine-tuning of Walter, and a question.
Dodge -- I see this as more of a reflexive flinching away from danger. Dodge is never a great feat but it's never a bad feat; he'll need it because he's squish, and also it's thematic.
Iron Will -- As noted, this is represents his will to push forward through the terror.
Spell Focus (Evocation) -- He's blasty.
Spell Specialization (Burning Hands) -- He's very blasty. Fire is good, yes? Fire cleanses. Next level he'll swap this to Fireball.
Varisian Tattoo (Evocation) -- Did I mention blasty? +1 ECL on all evocation spells. I think he picked this up at the Academae in Korvosa, back in the day. Lonely pudgy colonial kid, not a lot of friends. It's no wonder he spent a lot of time in the Restricted Stacks of the library...
He's taking a drawback, so three. Highlander -- +1 to Stealth and it's a class skill.
Magical Lineage -- Fireball. Won't become relevant until 7th level.
Havoc of the Society (+1 damage on every spell that does damage) -- If you allow this; in the original splatbook it was for sorcerors who were members of the PFS. If not, then Gifted Adept, which is +1 ECL on a single spell. Yup you guessed it: Fireball.
He's blasty, because he's terrified. If he had been more blasty, maybe he could have stopped the bad thing from happening. If he can become more blasty, maybe he can stop more bad things from happening! Burn! Burn! Kill it with fire!
I said the drawback was Haunted (-2 on saves against spells with the Evil descriptor). Upon consideration, Spooked might fit even better: "Whenever you perceive a fey, outsider, or undead from within 60 feet, you become shaken for 1d4 rounds unless you succeed at a Will save with a DC equal to 15 + the creature’s Charisma modifier." He'll have a decent Will save but even so he'll get shaken around half the time. N.B., I think it might make sense to add "aberration" to that list? I have no problem with it.
Three big ones. Headband of Wondrous Intellect +2. The points are in Stealth.
Lesser Rod of Metamagic [Intensified Spell]. So 3X / day he can use a 1st level slot to throw a Burning Hands for 8d4. This sounds great, but of course Burning Hands has a range of just 10 feet.
Pearl of Power (1st level). Because the Spell Sage archetype is always starved for slots!
So the question: is Havoc of the Society okay as a trait? I like it because it's thematic (more fire! more, more!). But if you say no, np -- Gifted Adept works too.
I see DMLC has filled in the Campaign tab. Nice.
I am sticking with Walter the Spell Sage, because I think the Spell Sage is a cool concept and will be challenging / interesting to play. That said, seeing that Lovecraft quote up at the top is making me think hard about the Mythos Scholar. Not because it's mechanically better, but because mmm, flavor.
Oh, I just went back and noticed you're doing background skills. Okay, Walter will be even more of a know-it-all skill monkey. I just have to think what profession or craft a nerdy kid from a colonial frontier might get involved with...
Meanwhile, a nerdy detail question about a wizard's spellbook. (This will be of interest to wizard players only.)
Wizards start with four 1st level spells in the spellbook and then gain 2 spells every time they level up. So, at 5th level I would have six 1st level spells, four 2nd level and two 3rd level spells in my spellbook.
If I wanted to have more spells in my spellbook, I could have purchased a scroll and scribed the spell into my spellbook. The cost of that would be as follows:
1st level spell, 25 gp for the scroll and 10 gp for scribing = 35 gp
So, my question: is it okay if I add additional spells to my spellbook, as long as I pay for them (as above) out of my starting money?