Clockwork Spy

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Organized Play Member. 326 posts. No reviews. 2 lists. No wishlists. 1 Organized Play character.

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It has been a long time since posting on these forums, but since the success of Pathfinder Unchanged (still around the corner for most), I felt this was the perfect time to simply share a few changes of our own that has vastly improved the feel and quality of our games.

Now first I want to start out by saying these are just two rules changes we introduced, but I feel have had the best/easiest impact on play. When making these changes, we always had golden rules that any changes we made must be easy to explain to players (a few sentences or less), must not break the game, must not break logic/common sense, and must only "fix" what we felt has truly been broken. With that said:

Improved Shields:
A light, heavy, tower shields gain an additional +1 shield bonus. So Bucklers still grant +1, light shields grant +2, heavy grants +3, and tower grants +5. In addition (like how mounted combat feat works), as long as you have a shield equipped, and are still receiving its bonus to AC (didn't shield bash, etc), once per round you can attempt to block an incoming attack. The blocker makes a melee attack roll, if that check is equal to or higher than the attack roll made by your opponent, then the shield takes the damage instead. If the attack roll is a critical, then you can attempt to block the confirmation roll. If successful, the critical hit is a normal hit instead and the shield eats the damage too.

Example: Monster attack 5th level fighter with a 16 STR and a shield. Monster gets a 23 on his attack roll. Fighter attempts to block (hasn't tried this round), and rolls a 25. Success. The monster still rolls damage. Monster does 17 damage. The shield take 17 damage (minus hardness). If the shield breaks, that's it. Get a new shield or kill that monster already.

Improved Counterspelling:
I have always loved the idea of counterspelling, just hated the rules for it. All of the normal rules for counterspelling still apply, except:
As an attack of opportunity, a spellcaster can attempt to counterspell. The spell must still be a valid spell for counterspelling, and must be within range of the spell he is casting. Regardless of success, you cannot cast a spell on your turn (rule for only being able to cast 1 spell a round minus quicken still applies).

Example: Mage A is attempting to cast a 2nd level spell. Mage B attempts to counterspell. He has does not have the Improved Coutnerspell Feat, so he decides to counterspell with Dispel Magic. He must be within medium range to do so (the range of the spell 100 ft. +10 ft./lv). Regardless of success or not, Mage B cannot cast a spell on his turn, except for a quickened spell. He can still use items (wands, staffs, scrolls, potions, etc) and class features or that crossbow you've had sense level 1. This rule allows counterspelling to be more "reactive" than "proactive", which to me is always how its felt in literature.

Well, if these go over well I will post our fixes for metamagic feats (making them worth a while and not outdone by rods), evocation spell damage as well as spell damage dice in general (making high level spells actually feel like higher level spells), and a few specific spell tweaks like Magic Weapon being a worthwhile spell.

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Zwordsman wrote:
16. teleport killed the caravan trade

did anyone else read this like the 80's song "video killed the radio star"...

...or is my age just starting to show.

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I really like what Banalitybob said above. Seeing as I too run almost exclusively sandbox games, there are a few more things I would like to add.

First - Pick a theme! Pick a theme to the game that you and your players will all like and that you feel inspired to run. You say your running in Tian Xia, but what type of game are you running? Are you running a classic fantasy adventure, steam punk, noir, cops & robbers, pirates, guild members, etc. My themes going back a few years where (sci-fi, classic fantasy/dark, steam punk, now I'm currently running a cyberpunk Pathfinder game). Having a theme allows you to narrow what classes/archetypes people will pick, what races make sense, what languages they choose, what skills they focus in. This is a good thing. Its okay to say "no elves in this game". I usually say "certain races are restricted, and any character you make HAS TO BE TO THEME OR YOU WILL REMAKE". When I ran steam punk, I had Alchemist (salesmen), a runaway gunslinger (fighter), a playboy (bard), and a "cute" theif (rogue). My friend is currently running an underdark game and has said (no humans, elves, halflings, but added drow, orcs, and a few others).

Second - Stick to the theme. I hate it when a GM says he's going to run a Renaissance game and then adds automatic weapons, mechs, and robots. I literally threw a book at him. Pick a theme, enforce the theme (both through rules and through fluff), and then stick to it.

Third - Plan, plan, plan. You cannot go wrong with writing up a ton of side quests or random encounters. More options the better. Also, try to write quests that stick to theme (see above). I also recommend reading my post if you haven't already here. This has 7 quick rules to help you out.

Fourth - Be prepared. Have as many resources as you can help you come up with stuff on the fly. You're going to have to. A good sandbox GM can come up with any needed when needed. Here are some tools that I use ALL THE TIME.

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Kaisoku wrote:

Good stuff!

Sounds like you read the Alexandrian (or at least heard about the three clue rule from a similar source). For those that want a longer essay on this critical rule, check it out here.

With regards to creating the world, a great article I read was about a design method, the "Slaughterhouse" (named after the designer's dungeon he was creating). It's a great way to give a sandbox game a living feel with your planning. Click here for the link.

Lastly, a little bit of advice that I gave my brother who was doing his own sort of sandboxy game, was to go with the flow and be ready to wing-it. The best tool in your arsenal for when your players blindside you, is the chart: Monster Statistics by CR.

I did read some of Alexandrian stuff! Great stuff in there.

I'm going to give that Slaughterhouse stuff a read when I get back (off to an interview ATM).

...and yes. Actually I literally use the PRPG website EVERY SINGLE SESSION I run. That website is countless useful. My endless resources of material come from these great resources as well... (fantastic sight. I use the pickpocket generator all the time) (this website has tons of generators, check them out) (this one is ridiculous)

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[WARNING LONG] - So I have been running sandbox games for several years now. Out of my gaming group, my games tend to be the ones of any success. By success I mean running for a while, everyone having fun while doing it, and the game coming to a fun ending. (not to say my friends games are not any fun)... I've made some mistakes, tried new things, and made improvements on my game. Recently, one of my friends attempted to run a sandbox game. He asked me for help, and he listened to the "WHAT", but not "HOW" or "WHY". Recently, his game came to abrupt end when 4 players dropped (out of 5). Not including the 2 or 3 that dropped before I came into the scene. In light of that, I want to help you guys avoid "Game Killers" of running a sandbox game.

1 - Do not tailor the game to the players or their characters. Players should be encouraged to play whatever they want. If they come to an obstacle they cannot overcome, let them fail or come back to it later. This will influence players to be more well rounded in their character creation, or at least as a group.

2 - DO NOT ASSUME ANYTHING, EVER! I cannot stress this enough. DO NOT require a skill check [OR ANY TYPE OF ROLL] to move the story/plot/mission/quest further. If the players need to find a clue to move on, they simply find it. If not, then call for a skill check. Lets use the locked door as an example. The 3 obvious choices are lockpick (if able), bash (if able), find keys (if able). If there is a possibility they could fail all 3, it should not be required to get through that door. Instead, the door should have something else behind it that helps the players if they do succeed. Such as a shortcut, treasure, or possible just an empty room (whatever the situation calls for).

3 - The 3 clue rule. When planing a mission/quest/adventure, always try to leave at least THREE (3) possible conclusions to said mission/quest/adventure or 3 clues to solve it. If the players feel/look like they are getting stuck, or are bored, or lost, give them clues. For example, I had a player get stuck trying to move through the sewer under a ruined city. Climbing up and moving through the city was always an option (a dangerous option, but an option). Never assume the players have a particular skill or a particular skill high enough (or roll high enough) to accomplish anything (see above).

4 - Be FAIR. This doesn't mean what you think it means. It means, in a TRUE sandbox game, if a character gets killed by a goblin, the character gets killed. If they fail a save, they fail. If they succeed, THEY SUCCEED. Plain and simple, whatever the outcome maybe, move on.

5 - Do NOT become attached to anything! When fleshing out your world, do not become attached to it. I know this can be difficult, especially for your NPCs you worked so hard to be cool. But here's the truth. They ARE NOT COOL. No NPC can, will be, or should be cool EVER. I use a rule of thumb that if you think the players will like an NPC, the players will try and kill them. And you need to be fine with that, and allow it to happen (because it will). This includes NPCs, locations, items, and even plot-lines. That's right, quests. Your players will hate your quest you spent 5 hours on, and love the one you spent 5 minutes on. This leads me to my next point...

6 - 10 Minute Rule. When planing a mission/quest/adventure/anything (except the world), do not spend more than 5 to 10 minutes on it. Jot down a few bullet points, important names, 3 clues, reward...and DONE. That it. Trust me, your players wont even realize.

7 - The WORLD. This is the ONLY exception to the above rule. Spend days, weeks, or even months planing the world. Create towns, cities, economy, factions, companies, governments, gangs/criminals, guilds, schools, religions, magic, and the meta-physics of your world/universe. The one thing that makes any sandbox game work is a world for your players to explore, become immersed in, and do stuff in. So, after you have a world (or a small piece of it) fleshed out, plan plenty of things for your players to do in it; and expect for about 1/3 of it to NEVER get used. See rule 6 above. I recommend creating about 10 to 20 missions for your players to pick and choose what they want to do. If the players come up with their own thing...roll/role with it.

In the end, NEVER say no. Says yes, asked for a roll/role, and decide the outcome. Sometimes players may want to do things or ask for things they cannot do or have yet...that's fine; just tell them "not yet".

A few more pieces of advice. Keep DC's low, use NPC classes ALOT, do not overuse Core classes, keep treasure rewards low but frequent, give players plenty of options, and above all BE CLEAR WITH YOUR PLAYERS, BOTH AHEAD OF TIME AND DURING THE GAME!

I'm interested in any feedback you guys have, or pieces of advice you have from times you've run sandbox/open ended games.

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Actually, I have to defend the OP here. I run sandbox games almost exclusively. I actually give my players a one page handout of character gen rules and things to expect in my game ans suggestions. I then give them a two page handout explaining everything the players need to know about the world before session 1. I explain to them in person and on paper the type of game I am running and if they lake the skills to handle certain obstacles, then they simply cannot do them. So, yes, I feel no sympathy for your players. More so, let them get killed and make a new character if they play "dumb".

At the same time though, I also make EVERY SINGLE QUEST/MISSION have at least 3 options for completion (not including failure). And if they do fail (and they have), they still get half xp for the mission (and no reward). And it seems you left them 3 options as you described above.

[lock pick doors, bash open doors, or go downstairs and get the keys (perception check?)]. So, again, I feel NO SYMPATHY for your players. If they are playing dumb, let them die. DON'T GET MAD! I cannot express this enough. I know you needed to rant, but don't get mad. Let their own consequences play out. Let the dice determine their fate...not you.

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Vorduvai wrote:
Adamantine Dragon wrote:
I think that several of us demonstrated quite well that magic shops do not automatically reduce role playing, unbalance the game or create free access to magic items as if there is some sort of Infinite Capacity Vending Machine of Magic Items. In the case of careful use of magic shops the game really operates much like a game without magic shops.

I gotta say that I am coming around to this line of thinking. Prior to the original post's discussion I was definitely against it, but negative extreme connotations of "Magic Shoppe" overshadowed what can truly be a cool concept. It just has to be treated with some degree of thought and consistent within the context of the campaign. I see now for me it's not the "Magic Shoppe" issue but the 75% availability issue...and even that's not really an issue if it's not the entire list of Magic Items potentially on the racks.

Somewhere I keep running into a need to homerule a line of separation, beyond gp value. What's commonly known and understood in the heroes' line of work? What's uncommon or rare? What's never been seen before and so jealously guarded as to provide an advantage to that country/society/clan/whatever? What's made by crafters that they'd never sell except to those they implicitly trusted (by reputation or quest)? Somewhere for me there's another line besides "artifact" and "magic item" but not sure how to tackle that one. It's not a problem in my campaign now, but I could see it becoming that way later on - especially if I loosened up the reigns on incorporating the Magic Shoppe concept.

I use the minor/medium/major item rule. That's what it's for. Major items are never available. They are almost exclusively quest items. That quest can be contained within the confines of said city, however. Medium items are extremely rare and are only available as I "once in a blue moon" drop them in. Minor items above 5000 gp are uncommon at best, below are a little more common. These items are still not readily available and have a 75% chance rule. Items below 1000 gp tend to be more common. Potions/scrolls/ and sometimes wands are readily available. Not all though. I use the Ultimate Equipment Guide common and uncommon to determine what is READILY available and CHANCE to be available.

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I will use maps, but not mini's. I cannot stand running a game, the fight is about to begin, and the gm says "Hold on for 15 min while I set this battle map up on the table where everyone is keeping their books/character sheets/laptops/food & drink/ etc." It breaks game. At the same time, I under stand what I describe may not be what they imagine. I always bring a dry-erase board with me to every game. If they need a map, or I feel they need one. I take 30 seconds to a min to draw out a basic layout, maybe a few important details. It they takes no effort to say, "there are goblins here, here, and 3 here. You guys start anywhere in this region (circle a small area)."

Done. From that point on, the only thing my players need are distances. It prevents us from worrying about things like diagonals and the third dimension.

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LoreKeeper wrote:
Foghammer wrote:
Zaister wrote:
LoreKeeper wrote:
Just out of interest: can a monk wear a +1 brawling t-shirt without violating the no-armor clause? Assuming that he doesn't use armor bracers or anything that would "turn off" the t-shirt.
I think you can only put armor enhancement bonuses and armor special abilities on items that are actually... armor. I guess a +1 brawling t-shirt is just as off-limits as, say a +1 light fortification chandelier.

Which is ultimately no more ridiculous that placing the enhancement on a suit of padded armor, which is nothing more than a quilt-turned-coveralls.

I don't take issue because of monks or fighters, I take issue with the logic that such rulings are derived from. If one of my players wanted to wear a +1 tunic, well, okay! That PC just paid 1000 gold for a +1 armor bonus to AC.

Making the distinction between clothing and armor in this case is splitting one hair too many.

The problem then is:

- is the t-shirt "light armor" for the purpose of the brawling enchantment
- is the t-shirt "not armor" for the purpose of flurrying, monk AC and fast movement

New Light Armor

Cloth - 1gp - +0 AC - -0 ACP - 0% ASF - same speed - 1 lbs

Cloth Armor - Cloth armor counts as light armor for the purposes of spells, feats, special abilities, and armor enchantments. Any character can wear cloth armor without violating their class features, such as a monk. While cloth armor is listed as 1 gp, see equipment chapter for prices on different cloth armors (clothing).

This is what I use. I just imagine this was an entry in the armor table.

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alright, not sure if anyone is still interested in this, but a friend I work with happens to be a programmer and we are starting to work on a random mundane item generator that will include all weapons, armor, and gear for core rulebook, advanced players guide, and ultimate combat.

It will have options for deselecting any book or armor or weapons or gear. I also have plans to have it capable of having a custom section so that you can add your own house ruled items. We should have a beta test available fairly soon.

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Okay, a few things here that I felt I really wanted to mention. Not sure if any of this is mentioned, but I felt like I wanted to place these for a wishlist of Ultimate Equipment.

- New special materials (like an adamantium equivalent for leather armors)

- Tables listing a complete list of mounts and prices
(such as horse, camel, donkey, skeletal horse, pony, robot horse, axe beak, drake, hippogriff, griffin, etc)

- Tables for dropping a random amount of coin. Everything from a single copper piece to dragon horde. I want to be able to randomly give players a few coins, jewels, and mundane gear because they decided to pick pocket or steal from a few crates and barrels.

- Tables for random mundane gear.

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A massive list of different mounts and their prices.
I want a price list for horse, axe-beak, giant lizard, camel, skeletal horse, dinosaur, etc all in the same place. Maybe different breads too, last a lighter faster horse.

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I feel like I just "have" to post this...

Rules As Written wrote:

Touch Spells in Combat: Many spells have a range of touch. To use these spells, you cast the spell and then touch the subject. In the same round that you cast the spell, you may also touch (or attempt to touch) as a free action. You may take your move before casting the spell, after touching the target, or between casting the spell and touching the target. You can automatically touch one friend or use the spell on yourself, but to touch an opponent, you must succeed on an attack roll.

Touch Attacks: Touching an opponent with a touch spell is considered to be an armed attack and therefore does not provoke attacks of opportunity. The act of casting a spell, however, does provoke an attack of opportunity. Touch attacks come in two types: melee touch attacks and ranged touch attacks. You can score critical hits with either type of attack as long as the spell deals damage. Your opponent’s AC against a touch attack does not include any armor bonus, shield bonus, or natural armor bonus. His size modifier, Dexterity modifier, and deflection bonus (if any) all apply normally.

Holding the Charge: If you don’t discharge the spell in the round when you cast the spell, you can hold the charge indefinitely. You can continue to make touch attacks round after round. If you touch anything or anyone while holding a charge, even unintentionally, the spell discharges. If you cast another spell, the touch spell dissipates. You can touch one friend as a standard action or up to six friends as a full-round action. Alternatively, you may make a normal unarmed attack (or an attack with a natural weapon) while holding a charge. In this case, you aren’t considered armed and you provoke attacks of opportunity as normal for the attack. If your unarmed attack or natural weapon attack normally doesn’t provoke attacks of opportunity, neither does this attack. If the attack hits, you deal normal damage for your unarmed attack or natural weapon and the spell discharges. If the attack misses, you are still holding the charge.

...and so we go to Armed Attacks

More RAW wrote:
“Armed” Unarmed Attacks: Sometimes a character’s or creature’s unarmed attack counts as an armed attack. A monk, a character with the Improved Unarmed Strike feat, a spellcaster delivering a touch attack spell, and a creature with natural physical weapons all count as being armed (see natural attacks). here my point. If delivering subsequent "touch" attacks count as being armed, and being armed is just like making attacks as monk, don't they get full-attack actions with their fist? So, why wouldn't a Magus or Eldritch Knight or high level mage not get iterative attacks with Chill Touch.

Sorry Dev's...I love you and the work you do, but as the rules are written do not support this "suppose-to-work-THIS-way" feel. You CAN multiple attacks with Chill Touch...GET OVER IT ALREADY!!!