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We decided in our group that the players would run an all-Kineticist party, and that I would run a series of challenges tailored for them. One scenario would be an average dungeoncrawl with a lot of easy encounters, a scenario which involves roleplaying and investigation, and a straight-up severe encounter for stress-testing. I'm building the PCs with input from the players (one wants to be a healer, another wants to have a lot of utility tricks, etc.), as well as the encounters (no demons, angels, or dragons).

What are your plans for playtesting? Are you going to run a module or adventure for the players? Are you going to have a mixed party of other classes; and if so, will you look for synergetic classes? Are you going to include things like Victory Points and exploration roles?

Discuss.


Like others, I'm not a fan of the Study Suspect mechanic for Investigators, and I've been thinking of a homebrew change for it. It keeps the need for Perception checks, and keeps the variability of the Study Suspect roll, but it assures that the Investigator always gets some form of damage bonus.

- Once a round, an Investigator can make a DC 22 Perception check against one target (not against the target's Will DC). The numbers below are based on the assumption that the Investigator's starting Perception bonus will be +7 (+2 to Wisdom, expert in Perception, +1 for level) and a 20th level Investigator can have a +30 (+20 for level, +8 for legendary, +2 for Wisdom). Using the four stages, the Investigator gets:

Critical Success: The Investigator can make 3 Studied Strikes this round, each at +4d6 damage.
Success: The Investigator can make 2 Studied Strikes this round, each at +3d6 damage.
Failure: The Investigator can make 2 Studied Strikes this round, each at +2d6 damage.
Critical Failure: The Investigator can make 1 Studied Strike this round at +1d6.

I realize that it's very spikey, but that can be a good feature to differentiate the class from the Rogue. It also negates the need to state that the Investigator's damage goes up at certain levels, because the Perception bonus increase will push them up to those levels more naturally. At 1st level, the Investigator will most often 'fail' and still get decent DPR; by level 20, the Investigator will get critical success on anything but a 1. It's not perfect, but I thought I should throw it out there for people to see.


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Level One

- The Witch's player decided to go Ancient Elf and pick up a Wizard dedication at level 1. He picked up two combat cantrips (Ray of Frost and Electric Arc), and used the rest of his cantrips for utility. Combined with his decision to lean heavily on Summon Fey in his prepared spells, he had a lot of options each turn.

- Haven taken the Nimble Ancestral feat, the Witch was constantly on the corner of the battlemap, usually spamming Ray of Frost and its 120 ft. range. This lessened the party's need to protect the squishy 12 HP magic-user from enemies, especially when he could summon a Mitflit to protect himself.

- The Witch's player went with Lesson of Fate because he felt it had the best spells available. Being Occult, Primal or Arcane didn't mean much to him. He thought he was able to cast Augury at level 1, but I told him that the spells learned from lessons still needed a spell slot of the appropriate level to be used (IE. can't be used until level 3). He also didn't use 'Nudge Fate' in level 1, because the Investigator was doing so well in skill checks. As we levelled up, I reminded him that he could also do 'misfortune' on enemies to curse their skill checks.

- He wasn't too interested in the 1st-level class feats for the Witch. He took the Wortwitch feat because it had the most possible application in a rural setting. I wanted to tell him that there would be lots of animals in the adventure (making Familiar's Tongue possibly useful), but when asked neturally about it, he didn't seem interested.

- The Witch's player happily made his Leshy familiar to be as active as possible: manual dexterity, flying, and speaking Common. He sent his familiar deep into Hallod's lair, and thanks to a string of very lucky rolls, got his familiar back out alive. After that scene, when I reminded him what losing the familiar for the Witch meant, he couldn't believe that the penalty was that high. He said he read the section, but didn't remember it being so steep.

- In Roleplaying, the Witch's player took a backseat to the other players. That was partially because 'Fall of Plaguestone' has a backstory of a Witch being blamed for a plague, but also because the first level of the adventure is very much in-town. Nothing too magically or fantastic going on, so he followed the lead of the Investigator and Oracle.

(BTW, I do plan on making an official survey. I just want to run as much of FoP as possible beforehand.)


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Level One

- The Oracle's player chose Battle Mystery, and is enjoying herself very much. Her character concept of a warrior who found religion during war worked much better with the Oracle flavour, as opposed to a Warpriest. She felt a Cleric would be more of a deliberate choice to choose Gorum and the Divine path, and go into war for Gorum. Her concept of her PC starting mundane and gaining power through her prowess fit the Oracle class much better. She was surprised how combat-ready the Battle Oracle is, as her impression from the other mysteries was that it was a squishy class. The armour, healing, and the Shield cantrip really made a good build for her.

- The Battle Oracle's player ran her character very much like a Fighter, focusing on casting Magic Weapon on her own weapon rather than using Heal during combat. Another PC died because she used her actions to get next to an enemy and the dying PC, and choose to attack instead of healing. That's a player issue, and would be an issue with the Warpriest as well. However, she said she wanted to use Weapon Surge in order to avoid using the 2-action cost of casting Magic Weapon, but thought the cost of the curse was too high. If the dying PC didn't critically fail a recovery check, the Battle Oracle was going to Heal her instead of making a 3rd attack with her Magic Weaponed Trident. Being wary of using her Revelation Spells was an on-going issue.

- In terms of roleplaying, she was very tough and menacing with oppositional and uncertain company, but genuinely caring with NPCs that elicited concern (Lawren Krent). She said she wanted to be more versatile with her Charisma checks (Diplomacy or Deception), but she had a 10 INT, so she barely had enough skill trainings to cover her character's concept as a war veteran.

- As the player's GM, I had trouble visualizing how the Oracle was different from a Warpriest Cleric. I was actually surprised when I checked on the differences on paper between the two sub-classes at level 1 (Battle Mystery gave out Heavy Armour Proficiency, while Warpriest only got Medium Armour; and Battle Oracles could choose any weapon group for their martial weapon as opposed to the Warpriest getting only the Deific Favoured Weapon). As a first-level PC, the player's Oracle PC only had one weapon and couldn't afford to buy Splint Mail with her starting gold. Mysteries vs. Domains should have been another differentiation, but as I said, the player wasn't eager to use her Revelation spells. I like the subtle differences, but for actual game play, I didn't see it come forth and matter.

- Using the Versatile Human ancestry and the Natural Ambition ancestral feat, the Oracle's player managed to get a combo with Glean Lore and Student of the Canon. She told me that Glean Lore allowed her to use Religion to roll for any Recall Knowledge check, and said Student of the Canon would help her with that roll. I told her that SotC would help her avoid critical failures on Recall Knowledge checks involving tenets of faith, and boost rolls about her own faith.

We negotiated how much 'tenets of faith' included in a world where every facet of life had a religion with holy texts and philosophers commenting on it. Could she reference the teachings of Nethys to get the benefit when doing a Recall Knowledge on magic? Could the Church of Desna's focus on exploration allow her to use Glean Lore + Student of the Canon in any situation where she was exploring, provided it was inspired by an in-campaign quote from Desna?

I ruled that what she would get if she tried that would be the most universally accepted general practise of the faith. She would get an answer that would be coloured by the religion's philosophy (Abadar's LN nature would favour Recall Knowledge checks that disapprove of risky investment), and wouldn't account for outlier events that the religion's holy texts may say little of (using Sarenrae as the source of Recall Knowledge for rooting out traitorous allies might instead focus on redeeming them when they reveal themselves to be traitors).

So far, she hasn't used that feature yet, because the Investigator is doing most of the rolls anyways.


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Level One

- I really liked having the Investigator in the game. I enjoy those crunch options that helped facilitate mystery solving. As such, I was a big fan of the PC, and was fair to him when he wanted to use his class features and feats. However, I think the efficacy of the class will vary on how willing the GM is to let feats like 'On the Scene' work as is. From my experience, some GMs think withholding information makes the game better, even if a PC is built to find information.

If I wanted to play an Investigator, I would talk to the GM to gauge how okay they are with the class making mystery-solving easier, because I feel a miscommunication of how the GM runs their game might make the class useless. Having a section in the class write-up talking directly to GMs about running a game with them would help the Investigator be GMed more fairly.

- The Investigator started with 12 INT and 16 WIS. He was very pleased in having a large Perception bonus, and didn't mind having a lower INT, since he was still able to have all the necessary skills for Recall Knowledge.

- Study Suspect was very annoying. Sometimes it didn't work, and it really discouraged the Investigator from attacking that round. I get the possible thrill of critically succeeding and getting all of your attacks get the bonus, but it felt far worse to not get access to the extra damage at all. Even limiting it to one attempt per turn was frustrating: the Investigator said multiple times that he would've tried a second time after failing, because getting a damage bonus with 1 attack was a better proposition than 2 attacks with middling damage.

- I was okay with Take the Case, and was flexible in what the Investigator could target. I allowed the Oracle to get a bonus to pushing the wagon out of the ditch from the Investigator's Clue In, in the logic that the 'case' was 'how to get the wagon out' and part of the investigation was 'trying to push it'. I also allowed the Investigator to give the 'Clue In' bonus after the ally already failed, which I think is not how it is supposed to work. However, it felt like it was much more relevant to give it to an ally who failed and needed that +1.

- I'm not entirely sure why the Investigator has both 'Take the Case' and 'Study Suspect'. They feel very similar to each other. Perhaps the reason that they are separate is that the designers wanted 'Take the Case' to take 1 minute to resolve, and wanted 'Study Suspect' to resolve in one action. I wouldn't mind having these two features rolled into one feature. Maybe make its activation take 1 minute out of combat, and 1 action in combat.

- The Forensic Investigator was an excellent party healer. The Oracle got critically hit by the Lightning Serpent and the Swashbucker critically failed against that monster's lightning attack, but the Investigator's use of Battle Medicine brought them both back to full HP.

- On the Scene felt like it should be a Class feature. The Investigator's player quickly started using it as a 'Spider-sense' for ambush encounters (relevant in 'Fall of Plaguestone'), and was useful in speeding up when the party should look closer in a particular area or not. I imagine that many PCs multi-classing into Investigator, especially those with low Perception, will take that feat.

- The Investigator player was very creative using Flexible Studies. He started the module off with 'Caravan Lore' (to help with the caravan and to better know his situation). When he started the investigation in Etran's Folly, he took 'Etran's Folly Lore' to have a better understanding of the town. I imagine that if the Investigator has a particular person he wants to investigate, he'll choose '(That person's name) Lore'.

- Watching the Investigator do its thing, I felt that the class would be a great DM NPC. A NPC investigator could recall knowledge of any sort (especially with Flexible Studies), use Battle Medicine to heal the PCs, and hand out skill bonuses freely. And their lack of combat power means that they'll rarely take the spotlight during combat: my experience is that they're far better in assisting allies and performing in-game skill checks.

What's more, the Investigator's abilities didn't automatically solve the mystery, and remove the fun of mystery solving for the players. In the game, the party still got some wrong assumptions based on the Investigator's clues, despite the facts learnt all being true. It still required the players asking the right questions.


Level One

- This class loves Hero Points. Using a Hero Point to re-roll a skill check to gain Panache, or using your Hero Points to avoid Dying after getting into a tight situation. I think that a GM running a game for a Swashbuckler needs to be generous giving out Hero Points, especially considering how often Swashbucklers do things that should trigger gaining them. I'd love to see the Swashbuckler have a Class Feature or Class Feat do something that interacts with Hero Points (maybe turning the cost for avoiding death to spending 1 Hero Point instead of all Hero Points).

- The Swashbuckler found an interesting way to trigger her Panache even on a failure. Using Athletics to leap across a narrow or slippery surface, landing on it triggers an Acrobatics check (as I understand the rules), which can trigger Panache on a success.

- Braggart and Fencer feels too similar before level 9. Gymnast is sufficiently different from the two in playstyle. A Swashbuckler build based around Thievery or Performance would feel more different.

- The Swashbuckler's player appreciated how durable the class is. She was surprised that the Battle Oracle had lower AC and HP than her. I approve of this, since the Swashbuckler is a very risky playstyle.

- The damage bonus from having Panache is slightly confusing. For a regular attack, deal +2 damage; for a Finisher, you deal +2d6 on a hit and (2d6/2) damage on a miss. The math feels fine, but also a little convoluted.

- It didn't come up too often, but I like the flavour of Shield Block on the Swashbuckler.


Felt I should talk about the adventure we're going to run for the playtest, to give people a better idea of how the classes performed. Just doing a homebrew means that Paizo and you wouldn't know all the variables in an encounter. By running FoP (which is an excellent module for the Investigator) by the book, others can look at the encounters I ran and judge for yourself how accurate our findings are.

I worked with the players to make the pre-gens, asking the non-Witch PCs to be made with Versatile Humans, and the Witch PC to be an Ancient Elf (I was going to let the Swashbuckler use a Frilled Lizardfolk when she wanted to be a Braggart, but she wanted to go Gymnast instead). Using Natural Ambition, I wanted the PCs to use as many feats as possible, to understand how class and general feats interact with each other, to make up for the low-levels being played.

We're going to speed-run through the campaign, to try and finish it in time. I'll update this thread when the group levels up, since the adventure nicely divides each level of adventure as a nice break in action. I'll include the side-quests in it, but not specifically call them out as such, and see where the players go with it.


I heard a while ago that there was going to be a playtest for the next Player's Splatbook, with classes such as the Acrobat class being tested. Is that a real thing? Is it happening in October?


Still puttering through the playtest, *trying* to get a game together. All this stalling is helping us ponder some of the build options for higher-level PCs, specifically multi-class feats. Cherry-picking tasty choices from other classes has some potential, although most feats seem to enhance class features, making it less valuable to multi-class into them.

However, we realized that there's an easy way to get from the Dedication feats to Advanced Dogma/Arcana. To get to Advanced Dogma/Arcana, you have to go through Basic Dogma/Arcana (or whatever the class' equivalent is). What we realized is that there's a lot of similar feats at low-levels, where two similar class would probably take that feat anyways if it wasn't multi-classing. Familiar feats, metamagic feats, etc. Taking a 1st-level feat when you could have taken a 4th-level feat may not be optimal, but as a stepping stone, it might encourage people to make a deeper plunge into multi-classing beyond Dedication.
IE. a Transmuter Wizard taking the Druid's "Healing Transformation" feat after taking the Druid's "Reach Spell", or a Rogue taking the Fighter's "Shatter Defenses" feat after taking "Intimidating Strike".

Nothing earth-shattering, just an observation.


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Pre-Gens:
- Kyra (Cleric)
- Fumbus (Alchemist)
- Seoni (Sorcerer)
- Valeros (Fighter)

Right from the top, the adventure was very good at pointing out possible inconsistencies. Why the Society didn't know where the safehouse was, why the Pathfinders were working behind the backs of the Church of Iomedae, and why higher-level Pathfinders weren't being sent on the mission. Explaining the quest and explaining why the PCs were the people right for the job felt natural. My group is fairly good at suspending disbelief, but I liked not having to lean in on that. Allowing for PCs to "bluff" during the challenge at the minotaur camp is a good sign that the module author understands common responses from players.

The Cleric, while not a Cleric of Iomedae, was opposed to lying to another church, and told her other Pathfinders that if she had a chance, she would return the MacGuffin directly to the Church of Iomedae. The other players assured Ambrus that she was also opposed to stealing, so there was nothing to worry about. "I'm more worried the goblin will melt it down with his acid" I quipped back as Ambrus, to which Fumbus responded "I don't even know how to make acid!"

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The structure of this section was very different from the other playtest adventures, and everyone got to do something useful. Seoni and Fumbus found the likely direction of the caravan their missing Pathfinder was on, and Valeros and Kyra chatted up the locals to learn about the minotaur and harpy threats they could find out in the wild. Everyone got to use different skills, and the adventure not blocking things from happening allowed the players to be more 'playful' in their roleplaying.

Not wanting to wander around in the dark in an unfamiliar area, the PCs rested and set out the next day for the safehouse. When they got there, they were told the message the minotaur victim told his healer, and left. None of the players thought to heal the wounded NPCs, but not out of a lack of caring (I think). Maybe I just didn't point out how badly hurt they were, or they just thought everyone in the world healed as well as allies of a Cleric do.

The adventure introduced a new rule, that being awake for 16 hours would make the PCs fatigued. AFAIK that's not something in the rules, so I just assumed that it was a module-specific ruling that didn't have to apply to other adventures. I like it, but I like my personal interpretation that you need only have to rest every 24 hours.

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Exploration mode for the adventure:

- Valeros: Defending
- Seoni: Detecting Magic
- Kyra: Searching
- Fumbus: Investigating (Nature)

When the group got to the ambush, Kyra and Fumbus CSIed the scene with Perception (which I used for their Initiative) and in recreating where the minotaurs must have sprung their ambush from, caught sight of two minotaurs hiding in the same ambush site! The PCs who beat the minotaurs on initiative decided to delay their turns until they engaged with them, not wanting to split the party across the stream. Fumbus and Kyra took a solid hit each, but managed to respond well. Fumbus critically hit one with his dogslicer, giving it flat-footed, which allowed Kyra to get another critical hit on it! Seoni was dogged by the other minotaur, but without AoO, she was able to regroup next to Valeros, who quickly finished off the flat-footed Minotaur and held off the second minotaur.

When the surviving minotaur surrendered, Seoni wanted to intimidate the minotaur to get out of here. I explained that it doesn't speak common, so she just pointed to the woods and grunted. I had the Minotaur run away (not back to the camp, as I felt it had been shamed too badly to return). Examining the dead minotaur, Seoni critically failed her Religion check on the evidence of Baphomet, and I told her that these minotaurs are dumb and prone to pointless violence.

Party manages to follow tracks of minotaurs back to their camp, but because an extra day had passed, they found Inisa bound before the assembled minotaurs. Seoni, believing she was performing the correct greeting, rushed in staff raised in a threatening fashion towards the priestess. I rolled a Perception check for Mildora to understand this was a misunderstanding of etiquette, not a typical adventurer introduction. Everyone at the table understood the absurdity of the situation, and I allowed it to play out for fun and laughs.

Seoni: "Alright you primitive screwheads, listen up! You see this staff? This... is my BOOMSTICK!"

Mildora: "We don't do that here."

The party is surprisingly chill with parleying with the minotaurs, especially when they are told of the troubles Ryolle is causing. Kyra even suggested they could all become Pathfinders, just like how goblins like Fumbus did. All the friendliness was fortunate. It suggests that if the minotaurs are provoked to attack, they will stand down if (2) minotaurs are killed, but doesn't specify how many minotaurs would be attacking the PCs each round. The PCs take the combat challenge: Kyra and Valeros were quickly eliminated, but Seoni and Fumbus unleashed their toughest spells and won the game for their side. But since Mildora offered to let them sleep the night there, the lost HP and spells were really inconsequential. Even the night rest was very forgiving, and helped the party breeze through the rest of the module. I guess the module assumed that players would have some qualms about sleeping amongst minotaurs?

*****************

The next day, the party marched towards Ryolle in their standard manner. (In the rush to adventure, no-one actually asked Mildora to release Inisa). Rolling for their checks, I gave them cryptic clues to the ghasts' presence: clawmarks across trees, and a lack of birds and wildlife in the area. The Ghasts beat everyone with their Stealth initiative, so I decided to have them strike after Valeros passed them. I placed their miniatures where each ghast could get a handle on a PC, and each attacked PC got sick from the Ghast's aura. (Seoni and Kyra contracted Ghast Fever, but I didn't bother resolving that, since the adventure didn't last that long).

Fumbus got the worst of it: being paralyzed, he couldn't even retch up to overcome the sickness! He just made some Lore checks that told him information about ghasts they were already demonstrating to him! Kyra unleashed a 3-action Heal, which worked perfectly given that she was in the center of the march. We checked the rules for auras, and were unsure if she could heal herself with an aura based on the wording on Page 299. I ruled that it did not, since there were some harmful auras that would needlessly hurt the caster if it included them in it. Seoni and Valeros worked on focusing fire on one ghast at a time, to lessen the sickness and chance of paralysis. When Valeros rushed in to fight his first ghoul, he had forgotten about the stench aura. Fortunately, the Fighter made the Fortitude save. On the second round, Valeros dealt exactly enough damage to kill off the ghast on Fumbus, then Sudden Charged to the one on Kyra and critically hit it! Once the last Ghast was dropped, the still-sick adventurers took a moment to retch the sickness out of them. Not a pleasant visual.

**************

Given there was one encounter left and no PC had used a magic item yet in this adventure designed to test the Resonance rules, I asked the players to try and use some of the magic items. I explained to Kyra's player how to use "Treat Wounds" with Medicine, which she used to top off Seoni and Fumbus for their remaining damage. Unfortunately, that meant they didn't need their newly found healing potions. Still, Kyra retrieved her scroll of Heroism, ready to cast it on Valeros. Seoni retrieved her Scroll of Acid Arrow. Valeros leads the way with his Viper Arrow notched into his bow. Without a shield ready, he tries to Sneak into Ryolle's lair, obvious failing of course.

The PCs saw and were seen by the enchanted guards, but still tried to get the jump on them when they closed in. The Guard rolled a natural 1 for Perception, but Seoni rolled a 13 for Stealth, matching their Perception! We had a discussion on who was beating who here: did the guards reach the DC for Seoni's Stealth, or did Seoni meet the DC for the guard's Perception? We never had any problem before resolving a skill roll with Stealth and Perception, but for some reason rolling initiative with these skills (being opposed as they are) really threw us. Eventually, we realized that Initiative works different from skill checks: Initiative is ranked, whereas skills are compared to a Difficult Class. And since PCs lose ties to enemies, I had Seoni lose initiative to someone who rolled a natural one.

*******************
Everyone but Fumbus failed their save vs. Song. The other PCs wanted to roll Deception to trick Ryolle into thinking they were captivated, but after looking at their low Deception bonuses, they declined. Despite my better judgement, I followed the module's advice and had Ryolle fly into melee with the party. Fortunately for him, the PCs had a very sub-optimal round. In order to use her scroll of Heroism, Kyra spent her whole turn moving next to Valeros and casting it. Seoni got a natural 1 on her roll for Scroll of Acid Arrow. Valeros, being in melee with Ryolle, dropped his bow, pulled out his melee weapon and attacked once.

Not wanting to play Ryolle too dumb, I decided he would end his turn in the air, flying down to strike and then come back. When Fumbus finally got free, he threw two Alchemist's Fire Flasks at Ryolle. He missed both times, but still got him with the splash damage. As Ryolle was directly above them all, they asked me if the splash damage would rain down on them as well. I couldn't think of a precedence for how splash damage would work if it fell straight down. So I ruled that the splash would no longer be damage after it travelled 5 feet, landing as harmless cinders.

Ryolle got into "retreat mode" on his turn from Valeros' Attack of Opportunity, so he began to fly away. I made sure to make that point clear to the party, so they wouldn't wait on the ground with readied actions if it was clear he was bolting. Valeros dropped his melee weapon, jumped towards his bow, and took a shot with the Viper Arrow at the retreating Harpy. Even with a penalty, he managed to hit! But when we looked up at what Viper Arrow did, and how it wouldn't affect Ryolle at all, we were all underwhelmed. Fortunately, Seoni managed to finish the Harpy with a Lightning Bolt, even though he made his saving throw.

The ending was a happy one. Kyra was pleased that the Pathfinders decided to work with the Church of Iomedae, and that the minotaur tribe was willing to parley with the Pathfinders. And I think someone (maybe Mildora) returned Inisa to safety.

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Thoughts: This has been my favourite module for the playtest so far. The skill DCs have been reasonable, and more importantly, the difficulty of the adventure was just average. My players were expecting another meatgrinder, and were surprised at how easy it was. For sure, they felt threatened at several parts, but unlike other modules, they weren't having their HP and spells being widdled away by tough encounter after tough encounter. It definitely felt like a more average RPG game, with more joking and roleplaying going on. Unfortunately, the lowered difficult meant that the PCs didn't need to use the magic items as much as they did in other adventures. The magic items were okay, but I honestly didn't need to reference the new rules, because each PC maybe used one magic item in the entire adventure.

Also, every PC seemed balanced against each other. It was a lot like "In Pale Mountain's Shadow", where the casters didn't feel brittle or the martials too limited. Casters generally ran out of their non-cantrips around the same time the martials ran out of HP. It may be the case that PF2 has its sweet spot around Level 4-7. In any case, every PC did well, and the players were satisfied with what they did in the adventure.

- Seoni had the most spotlight on her, but she was also the Charisma PC as well. She never needed to use Ancestral Surge, as there was always something else more important (like moving away from a foe she was in melee with).

- Kyra managed to keep everyone healed without exhausting her Channel Energy reserves; she never needed to cast Fire Ray once, since she was always in melee.

- Valeros dealt a surprising amount of damage and his AC helped him avoid a lot of hits, even without a shield raised.

- Fumbus' player was pleased that he could play the Alchemist like a Rogue, leading with his dogslicer and falling back on his Alchemy if he needed it.


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Players:

- Unburdened Dwarf Fighter (Two-Hand Weapon) Cavalier Archetype, Pathfinder Hopeful

- Razortooth Goblin Rogue (Finesse) Goblin Renegade

- Cave Elf Wizard (Universalist) Osirionologist

- Versatile Human Cleric of Shelyn, Esoteric Order Scion

After updating their PC to the then-current Rules Update (1.4), the players dove straight into the adventure. The set-up worked well: everyone knew everyone, Keleri, and the stakes. I was able to read the boxed text, answer PC questions about the logistics of the adventure, and we were off.

The spellcasters were very key to getting the group where they had to go quickly. The Wizard cross-referenced the rules for overland travel, and told everyone that his Phantom Steed spell, if cast for everyone, could get the party the most mileage. The Fighter was upset, since she had specifically chosen the Cavalier Archetype to have a steed to move her faster than her base speed could go. However, with the countdown for the adventure and being unsure if her mount's slower land speed would be the difference between victory and defeat, she left her steed at the base camp.

The Cleric had a combo she wanted to try: Cast "Augury" to ascertain if it would be 'weal' or 'woe' to ask a certain question with "Read Omens". Since Augury could only look 30 minutes in the future, and Read Omens takes 10 minutes to cast, I ruled that this could be done. She then proceeded to do this five times: Augury a question, then ask it to Read Omens. I secretly rolled for Augury, but only one of them was 'Nothing'. They showed an interest in finding the gnomes, and with some intelligent guesses, were able to ascertain exactly which hex they could be found in, starting with the assumption they were in the forest, and eventually narrowing it down to their home hex.

(If you're thinking I was too lenient on the spellcasters... you may be right. The Wizard had Quick Preparation, so not-preparing-the-right-spells-today wasn't a big issue. And I could have been deliberately unhelpful when answering Read Omens. But I did veto them on other things. I told the Wizard that Locate RAW can only go as far as 500 feet, which is useless in a hexmap unless you're right ontop of it. Also, the Cleric wanted to use Read Omens to discern things about the release of the Mu Spore, but I explained to her that it also RAW can't be used for events further than a week away. And before she went full Diviner, I told her she had to wait a day at camp to change her spells. A GM who wasn't as on their game as I was might have let the spellcasters be OP by just assuming a spell does something it doesn't actually do.)

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Using Phantom Steeds, they left the next day party managed to reach the gnomes' hex in one day's travel, and spent the night in a Rope Trick protected by an Alarm spell. The next day, the Rogue found the village with a lucky Perception check. They were told the threat posed to the Gnomes, and agreed to stop the Rocs for them. Spending the day there, the Wizard sent a "Sending" spell back to camp to inform Kelevri how the mission was going, and where they would be going. (Before going to bed, he burned through some Locate spells to see if there were any random valuables or monsters in the village).

Because I hadn't mentioned anything about Random Encounters, the Cleric had prepared a suite of combat spells that morning (in case Saruman and Wormwood were oppressing the Hobbits), but planned to prepare another suite of Augury + Read Omens since (she reasoned) the party wouldn't get caught on the road. Using those divinations, they ascertained the Rocs were in the northern mountains, but not exactly which hex they were in. The party camped at the base of the mountain (Rope Tricking, of course), and used spells to find where the Roc Aerie would be. They rolled a Nature check to see if they could tame the Rocs, and I told them "Maybe."

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At the start of the day, the spellcasters prepped spells they felt would work well against fliers: Feather Fall, Fireball, Flame Strike, Fly, and Air Walk. Reasoning that the Rocs would likely not be in their Aerie if the PCs were to go there, I had the Rocs spot the party (which was easy to do) and attack them as they neared their home. The Rocs won initiative and the pair swooped in and picked up the two casters off of their steeds, flying away with them.

The Wizard asked for a clarification about Feather Fall, if he could use it twice in a round. I explained that it used a Reaction, which meant that if both PCs were dropped at the same time, only one could be Feather-Falled, and the falling rules as written resolve a fall immediately (no round where you start your turn in free-fall). The two spellcasters reasoned that they needed to spread their escapes out between two rounds. The Cleric tried to escape from the Roc's clutches, failing the first time, and critically failing the second time. She then tried to grapple the Roc, reasoning that she could hold on to it if it let go of her, but I told her that RAW she couldn't grapple a creature that large, and the Roc would be a good enough flier to shake her off if it wanted to. I let her take back that action (since it wouldn't make sense) and when she asked me if she could cast Air Walk (which she just remembered she had), I let her take back the second escape check, since her first check failed so badly, it would be reasonable for her PC to have not tried again. The Rocs spent their next 3 actions flying higher, and then released the PCs. The Cleric walked on air, and the Wizard Feather-Falled down to the ground.

Meanwhile on the ground, the Fighter made a Recall Lore check with Nature to determine that the two Rocs were a mating pair, and that they might have young in their aerie. The Martials tried looking for it, but I told them it was A) Probably not close to them and B) Probably very high up from the ground. The Wizard (who I ruled would have landed near the Martials since the Rocs ascended straight up) moved up to them to cast Fly on them. The Air Walk spell was definitely helping the Cleric avoid falling damage, but per the 45 degree ascension/descension rule, I told her that she couldn't just "jump off" her spot to get away from the Rocs.

Me: "There's nothing actually there, but your feet are creating a consistent reality of a slope you and you alone can walk on."

Cleric: "What am I, a mime?"

The Cleric attempted to heal herself up, but the Rocs tag-teamed her and dropped her to 0 HP. And as amusing as it would have been to portray her unconscious body rolling down an imaginary slope, I ruled that being unconscious allowed her body to fall straight down, since she didn't have control over it. (Looking back, I probably could have let her rolled down the 45 degree slope while conscious, although her landing would have been messy and out of Feather Fall Range. Alternatively, the spell does say you *can* walk on air, not that you can't fall. The specificity of the angle of walking might allow a PC to fall, but that opens up another can of worms of tripping someone who is Air Walking.)

**********************************
The Wizard caught the Cleric with Feather Fall, and healed her with his Tourmaline Aeon Sphere. I ruled that the Rocs fly away, reasoning that the PCs are very unlike their regular prey, and not worth the effort. I didn't tell them that however, so the Wizard cast Rope Trick and everyone jumped into it to brainstorm. We took about an hour out-of-game going over the logistics of beating the Rocs.

- The Wizard reasoned he could use long-range spells like Fireball and Acid Arrow to strike the Rocs before they can reach them.
- The Fighter, using her Recall Lore check, suggested that they just need to kill one of the Rocs, reasoning that the other mate would leave the region to find a new mate.
- The Rogue pointed out his ability to Intimidate the Roc, but I told him that Intimidation would only last a day.
- The Fighter had Felling Strike, which she said could ground a Roc and take away its flight advantage.
- The Rogue suggested going back to the camp and hiring a Druid to "Speak with Animals" to the Rocs, and get them on their side.

Eventually, the Wizard convinced the party that beating the Rocs using his and the Cleric's long-range spells to take out one of the Rocs, with support from the Martials given flight to provide a barrier for the "artillery". He showed a number spread of expected damage from Fireballs and Flame Strikes, starting with a readied 5th level Fireball to hit the Rocs as soon as they enter range. Using Nature to ascertain a general range of expected HP, he was able to determine that the average roll of that many dice should kill one Roc, even if they non-critically succeed each save.

The Cleric asked them to give her a day to prepare some Divination spells to determine what was best to do. The next day, she asked about the best thing to do, including not fighting the Roc. As I was unsure that they could actually beat the Rocs with this plan, I hinted heavily that not facing the Rocs, and hinted strongly about magical treasure elsewhere in the mountains (Area K). The Cleric was able to convince the party to take a break from the Rocs, which no-one else was *that* eager to jump back into. I told them that attacking the Rocs wasn't time-sensitive (they wouldn't change their behaviours or gather allies to protect them), but the party may run into them if they stay in this area.

The party decided to travel through the mountains towards the mouth of the next river, and I secretly rolled if the Rocs would find them on their daily hunts.

TO BE CONTINUED. . .


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Took a break from running the playtest to take a seat as a player. Looking to fill in gaps from the rest of the party, I chose a Thief-ish with a high INT, and decided to go with a Monk w/ INT 18 at level 5. I've claimed that INT was clearly the dump stat for PF2, so I decided to put that to the test, and max out INT for a class that didn't need it. Here is my experience.

- This Elf Monk was the first PC that I was really excited to play for PF2. Having INT 18 along with the Rogue Multiclass Archetype gave him so many different skills. It felt like Dick Grayson and Barry Allen merged into one awesome fast-moving roundhouse kicking crime-solvin' superhero! All the different feats (Ancestry, Skill, Class, Archetype) really came together to make a PC that was very exciting to play. My only regret is that I couldn't use the improved armour proficiency from the Rogue Multiclass Archetype without losing Incredible Movement.

- Waiting for the game to start, I overheard the other players complaining that PF2 PCs are "so anime!". I piped up and told them my Monk had a speed of 50 ft. per action, could produce flame at-will, and could slide down walls like Cable from "Deadpool 2". I don't know if that's anime or not, but I'm too old to not like playing an awesome PC.

- The GM and I have a good working relationship. Before the game started, I told him I built my Monk with Dubious Knowledge, but asked him if he wanted me to change it, so he wouldn't have to improv results all the time (I changed it). He runs his game more "Theatre of the Mind" than I do, but he's usually forgiving when our inexact knowledge of our surrounding area gets us into dangerous terrain. When he was unsure about which spell the BBEG would have used due to a paragraph of unfamiliar spells, I pointed out that casting Fireball could hit 3 PCs at once.

- Our party was on the plot like a bloodhound. We got into the mystery, and it threw us a few times. Trying to figure out if the magic cast at the crime scene was by the home invader or by the resident meant we had to come up with different theories for what happened. The use of fire magic around valuable books, and our changing theories about who cast them, really made us juggle our assumptions. "Arclord's Envy" had one of the smoothest flows of learning clues and finding the culprit that I've ever experienced in a crime-solving mystery. Kudos to the writer.

- I think the first encounter was the best of them all, at least how the GM ran it. The Flesh Golem was appropriately tough, but more interestingly, it had stakes and was fluid. We spent some time figuring out ways to "question" the Golem, thinking about how "Talking Corpse" or other spells could get important "data" out from it. As he ran it, the Golem wanted to escape, and rampage on the streets. Thus, we wanted to preserve the Golem, while preventing it from leaving the domicile. It wasn't yet another fight-to-the-death encounter, and I'm glad that me going out to warn the guards was rewarded.

- Retrieving the body from the Golem's underfoot was a very weird scenario. With my incredible speed, I was weaving around the plodding super-Golem like Dash from "The Incredibles", but apparently, I couldn't just pull it off. Each time I did it, I simply "loosened" him, although his condition vis-a-vis the heel felt like he shouldn't have been so tightly caught to it. I tried to hold on to the body and "hide" in the arc of the foot as it fell, assuming that the arc was big enough for a human body, considered the stuck body wasn't mush. But I still took damage while hiding there. A lot of damage, even while making my Reflex Save!

Looking back on it, it feels like a "Sword in the Stone" scenario, where the only challenge was to yank free something stuck. The flavour text sort of hides this fact behind a scenario and flavour text, but when it came to mechanically interacting, it was only strength that mattered. The clever strategies other players tried didn't really amount of anything other than giving me and the Barbarian more chance to free it.

- I played in Living Greyhawk a decade ago, and the Carriage encounter is precisely the kind of rigged scenario I remember from those days. Getting wedged in a tight alley, with the only way out involving breaking through wooden walls, with fire elementals moving in to immolate us alive, is crazy hardmode. It was made harder by our party deciding not to do the things our classes were good at: the caster wasting a high-level spell attacking a window, the Cleric trying to be as agile as me, and nobody but me trying to handle the horses (barely avoided a disastrous roadcrash with my terrible Nature modifier as our flaming carriage escaped).

- Infiltrating the gala was fun. Everyone else went as guests, but I used my Circus Lore to come in as one of the entertainers and spy on the VIPs. I managed to follow the BBEG through the servants' corridors and got close enough to him in the shadows to overhear him admitting to the murder. By the time I got discovered, we probably could have gone to the authorities, but we all reverted to D&Disms and fought him and his cronies. It took two doses of Dispel Magic to get rid of an animated statue, which would have probably ended us if we fought it fairly.

The BBEG Wizard had so many HP, it was an utter slog to finish him off. The Barbarian had grabbed him and I was using "Flurry of Blows" on him in flank, and the damage he was doing to us was not equal to what we were doing to him, but he would not surrender. My experience GMing for a PC with Quick Intimidation was that we wouldn't have these long, drawn-out, and pointless combats. Looking back, I wish I had readied my "Flurry of Blows" to him spellcasting, because I think that would have disrupted his spells. One PC grabbing a caster and another reading an attack might be the perfect "mage-killer" combo for PF2.

FINAL THOUGHTS

- I really liked how the PC turned out. Keeping INT high in lieu of higher STR wasn't as big a sacrifice as I thought it would be, especially after the deeper penalities for untrained skill checks were initiated. My "Flurry of Blows" attack rolls were so inconsistent, that I usually only hit once per two dice rolls. Missing out on 2 damage per hit thanks to a STR 14 instead of STR 18 didn't make a big difference. Having a great Arcana and Society check made a greater difference to the investigation. I never needed to use my Innate Spell to "Produce Flame" since my speed always allowed me to get into melee with anyone I wanted to attack.

- The adventure had some promise. When I run it, I'm going to see what was the GM perogative and what was written by the writer. The mystery part was very strong, but the combat and skill encounters felt unnecessarily difficult. We all had fun in it, but some parts dragged, or our options felt very limited.


I was thinking over my experience playing a Monk specializing in Crane Stance, and I recalled how little I used it. Because the Crane Wing Attacks deal the same amount of damage as Powerful Fist, I didn't need to activate it when I leapt into battle. The +1 to AC wasn't something I would want more than making another attack, even if that attack suffers a major penalty. Perhaps if the bonus to Leap were bigger, I'd consider it more often, but given the Monk's Incredible Movement, the Monk was mobile enough that I didn't need the Crane Wing Stance's bonus to get where I needed to go. Maybe if Crane Wing Stance was with a class that didn't move so fast, I and others might activate Crane Wing more in rounds where they can't get into melee.

Does Crane Wing need to improved?


I haven't had a Divination school Wizard in our playtest yet, but so far, the Cleric has been incredible in using Divination. Having Augury and Read Omens available has proven very useful in getting information from me. Browsing through the spell lists, it seems like the Occultists get it even better: all the Divine Divinations, as well as the Arcane ones. Honestly, the Divination school Wizard doesn't feel like the best choice for being a Diviner.

Which class would be the best choice for a Divination-based spellcaster?


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I know that it's a new system and there are a lot of little things to be absorbed and learned, but this little nugget was hard to find (page 190). Fighters getting some breathing room for ACPs as they get higher-level armour, or Rogues being able to upgrade to light/medium armour without sacrificing skills. I think some reminders in the Magic armour section, not just in the regular equipment section, would help emphasize this point. Also, more exposure to the Expert/Master/Legendary quality of items in general.


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For context, I had started playing in this adventure, expecting to have finished it before running it as a GM. Sadly, delays in one game made it last more weeks than my game, so I finished GMing Pale Mountain while still playing it. As such, I tried to not influence the direction of the party, and just be the dumb Paladin doing what the party told me to do. I think it was helpful observing someone else run the adventure, and see how they did things differently.

The party I played with was a more traditional group: I was the Paladin, with a Rogue, Wizard, and Alchemist. I often paired up with the Rogue to give her flanking and protect her with Retributive Strike. Even though the Rogue kept meeting creature immune to precision damage (which she wasn't happy about), she dealt a surprising amount of damage with her magic weapon. Because the party was a bit more frail, I was often in the front-line, acting as literal cover for the other players as they advance or hide behind me. All of the others were great at ranged attacks, meaning I didn't have threats pinging at me outside of my melee reach. The Alchemist was very versatile: sharing healing duties with me, offensive energy with the Wizard, and skirmish attacking with the Rogue.

Compared to the group I GMed for, who had a lot more niche specialists. The Ranger was the only real ranged attacker, as shown by how hosed they were by the Manticore's 40 ft. range attacks. Likewise, the Barbarian was the only worthwhile melee attacker, the Druid was a healbot whose most important actions were always in-between combats, and the Sorcerer was the source of 90% of the party's interesting thinking-outside-of-the-box options. Running the monsters against this group, I felt that focusing fire on the PC who was most vital to success would leave the other 3 PCs with nothing worthwhile to do. The party I played with, if one PC fell, another one could step in and finish the job. It was a good contrast between different styles for party composition.

One thing both of them did well was destroying the Mummies: both parties used Burning Hands on them!

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Both of us forced some encounters to be interacted with, and let other encounters we felt were too difficult be avoided. For me, I forced the Manticore encounter both going to the Tomb and coming back, but let the players avoid the Elemental rooms, and just keep fiddling in C4. My GM had the Manticore ask for tribute from the Tomb instead of attacking, but didn't let us 'brute force' Room C4, so we had to fight all four of the elementals. I found the Elementals to be tough but beatable; and given our group composition, was glad that we didn't have to handle the Manticore. My party gladly gave up the non-essential treasure we found to let the Manticore be appeased.

Both parties managed to get the Countdown Clock and leave the Tomb before the Heralds arrived. Neither group were interested in staying and fighting, whether they were driven to return the MacGuffin or just didn't want to fight a bunch of warriors with a tough reputation. The party I played with just barely got away, but constantly pushed themselves. We had serious talks about whether to rest or soldier on, even when people were out of prepared spells and alchemy. It gave me a good insight into how my players felt in the other game. *I* knew how long it would take the Night Heralds to get there, but they didn't. They couldn't know if this was a module that gave players a fair shake of beating them there, or if they were meant to get there too late for story purposes. The party I GMed for was so efficient, that time restraints never mattered.

For the group I played with, it felt like we were getting battered to our last spell and HP every day, and we had only one day's distance between the Heralds and ourselves. I feel that my group did a lot better in combat than the group I GMed for. We got through every combat intact, and even when we were running low on HP, we managed with judicious use of healing and positioning. For the group I GMed for, they felt more imperiled than this group, even though they probably had more HP spread across the group. For all their success, they believed they were always close to losing; for all my group's struggles and how close we got to losing, we soldiered on and didn't complain about the hard knocks.

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One thing both groups had in common was avoiding the Gnoll camp. Well, tried to avoid. The party planned to sneak past them instead of going around, which wasn't an option for my clunky Paladin, but we did it anyways, and it worked out in the end. I got a lot of chances to play up 'compassionate Lawful Good' in this module. At one point, the GM said I could easily push a boulder on some gnolls beneath me; instead, I announced myself and drove them back to their camp alive by impugning their prowess as warriors. Later, when I cornered the last Gnoll who was badly burnt and whining, I told the GM I would non-lethally bash it with my shield, and let it wake up the next day.

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As a shield ally, I got the 'pleasure' of trying to understand how Shields work back when it was still unclear. The GM was very lenient, using the approach Paizo eventually accepted as proper. Having an Oil of Mending was very useful in maintaining my Shield. Paladins being so MAD, it was too hard to be good enough at Crafting to maintain them myself, and it was awkward always asking the Alchemist to do it, since those checks took a long time in-game. There was one time with the Mummies I actually used Shield Block without getting a Dent. That was a highlight!

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Having seen this first as a player, then as a GM, then back as a player, I've come to appreciate the experience. 4th-level definitely has its own feel: the magic available is extremely limited, but is there, unlike 1st level. Things like Ladder Tokens still feel special (and are useful). Both groups worked hard to beat the clock (my group drove the camels to fatigue, and the other group used "Phantom Steed" to travel faster), but the module played very differently when two groups with different play styles came at it.


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Came across a weird rules interaction while play Sombrefell Hall. Sorcerer had a Wight in flank with a Paladin, and killed the Wight. The Wight's Final Strike triggered, as did the Paladin's Retributive Strike in response to the Wight. Now, as written, the Paladin can hit the Wight and enfeeble it, but because it's already dead when making the attack, dealing damage to the Wight won't negate the damage, since Retributive Strike can't kill what's already dead. That doesn't seem intended, just a result of wording getting in the way of intent. It also feels like more monsters will have this kind of ability, where Retributive Strike won't work or be useful as expected.

Perhaps a change to Retributive Strike's wording from:
"If Retributive Strike incapacitates or kills the triggering creature..."
to
"If the triggering creature is incapacitated or at 0 HP after hitting with Retributive Strike..."

would make it work more like people expect it to.


My group and I are focused on "Doomsday Dawn", but we are interested in doing the PFS modules as well. The tight schedule of the playtest isn't really giving us a lot of time to fit in the PFS modules. Maybe if the group gets demolished in "Heroes" or beats "Red Sails" in one session, we could squeeze one in.

How long will the surveys for the PFS playtest modules be open for? We could probably get them all done before the end of December, maybe mid-December.


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Characters:
- Goblin Paladin of Irori (Shield Ally) Warrior
- Half-Orc Alchemist (Bomber) Scholar
- Gnome Sorcerer (Angelic Bloodline) Mind Quake Survivor
- Human Cleric of Saranrae, Acolyte

The party met each other at Rozenberg, not knowing each other. They immediately start judging each other.

Cleric to Paladin: "Are you a real Paladin?"
Paladin to Alchemist: "Why do we need a potion-mixer for this?"
Sorcerer to Cleric: "You look too normal to be hanging out with us."

The whole party was abysmally slow, with the Gnome's 20 ft. being the fastest. I checked the overland travel rules to see if the party could get there in a day. Apparently, they couldn't. Not wanting them to miss the adventure, I told them they'd need to get riding horses.

When the party arrived, I described the setting. The Sorcerer joked that the pathway leading to the water meant we must be in Innsmouth territory. I let the Acolyte of Saranrae make the Recall Lore check for the ankh on the mansion. She critically succeeded at the check, and after I told the info given in the module, I gave her some more background info on the Oscilar family as told in the background, since she expected to get a bit more out of a critical success.

**********

Party went to the front door and knocked. When Lucvi opened the door, the Sorcerer introduced himself, the party, and his rat familiar Nibbles. When Lucvi gave them the cold shoulder, the Alchemist shoved the Eye's message in her face and demanded that they see the Professor. I told them that this only made Lucvi more reluctant to let them in, and suggested that someone make a request to get inside. The Sorcerer rolled well at that.

They talked to Verid, who critically failed his Deception check when asked what he was doing out here. I'm glad he failed on that check, because the module's response was extremely suspicious to the players. The Alchemist whispered to the Paladin (speaking Goblin): "He's crazy, or a cultist of the Dominion." He made up for it by get a 32 for Deception when asking the party to spend the night at his mansion.

Cleric (to me): "So we have to pretend we *don't* think he's going to kill us in our sleep?"
Me: "Yep."

When Verid offered the party the use of the upper bedrooms and his kitchen, the Paladin proclaimed: "I'll be staying in the kitchen tonight!" He was a bit disappointed that there was no-one to serve him in the dining room, so he went through the pantry and found some pickled preserves to nosh on. The Alchemist claimed the biggest room, so that she could do her experiments there.

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The Sorcerer's room was next to the padlocked door, which made him very curious. As soon as the Cleric went into her room, he went to the Alchemist and dared her to open the lock. The Alchemist critically failed her Pick a Lock check, and broke her tools. Her player wasn't happy when I told her that the rules said her tools could only be replaced, not repaired, so her character went back to her room.

The Paladin's player reminded the Sorcerer's player that he had a Skeleton key, so they met up and decided to use it on the lock. The Paladin asked if there might be more food up there, and the Sorcerer said "Let's find out!". With only a +6 to his Thievery, he critically failed on the first check, and the Key's magic was broken. The Paladin ran to the Alchemist and asked for her to fix it. Checking the rules, it said that it could be fixed, which was different from how ordinary thieves' tools worked. I ruled that both kinds of tools could be fixed. That just meant that the Alchemist wanted to fix her tools first. The Paladin jumped on her bed, fidgeting and chewing on his toenails while waiting for his Key to be fixed.

********

Meanwhile, the Cleric was casting Augury in her room. She asked if she should investigate what the Professor is really doing. The result was "Weal". She found the Sorcerer in the hallway and asked him for help. While the Sorcerer was trying to smooze with the researchers (to no avail), the Cleric took a walk around the building, looking for windows, cellar doors, or any odd architecture. She told the Sorcerer that everyone was in the Salon, and their private rooms were unoccupied. The Sorcerer opened the doors for his familiar, who would search the rooms for incriminating evidence, while the Cleric of the Deity of Honesty told herself she would tell them what she did once they were done.

In Verid's room, the rat found his journal, with the cryptic last entry. That got the characters to investigate his room themselves. The Sorcerer found the trap door in the closet, and commented that the lock on it was a lot like the lock on the door next to his. They decided to confer with their partners.

**********************************

Everyone agreed Verid was hiding something (The Alchemist recognized the name 'Ramlock' and its connection to the Dominion), and that they needed to figure out what was going on. The Cleric declared that they couldn't tell anyone else, in case any of them was a cultist. The Sorcerer suggested using Acid on the locks, but the Cleric mentioned that she saw a window to the attic above the Sorcerer's room. The Sorcerer got a critical success climbing up to the window, but he got a critical failure trying to be Stealthy while breaking the glass with his kukri.

The other players closed the balcony door and moved into the hallway to be nonchalant. Soon, Verid and his students were coming up the stairs. Lucvi had gone out to check on the noise, told Verid that the attic window was broken, which caused him to rush up there to investigate. The Cleric asked him what was more important than his research; both she and the Alchemist saw through his weak excuse of 'family heirlooms'. The Paladin asked: "Do you have any food up there?"

As soon as Verid unlocked the padlock, the Cleric pushed him aside and the party rushed up to the attic to find evidence. It was the Cleric that found the dead body with Verid's letter-opener still in it.

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With the mounting evidence, Verid reluctantly told the party what had happened to him. They all asked for Perception checks to intuit if it was true. The Alchemist and Sorcerer got very low rolls, but I had the Sorcerer roll a Dominion of the Black Night Lore check to recognize the similarities with his Mind Quake. I then had the Alchemist roll an Academia Lore check to recognize the theoretical soundness of what he was saying. Given how important Verid is to the win condition, I tried my best to convince them to trust him.

The Sorcerer convinced Verid that he could get the help he needs with the Esoteric Order. I reminded the party (through Verid) that his disassociation usually occur at night-time, and that it might be dangerous to travel at night with him in this state. They agreed, and worked to isolate him. They told the students to gather up their research and sleep upstairs. The Cleric and Sorcerer stayed with Verid in the basement, ready to observe and intervene with his altered state.

The Alchemist (who still didn't trust Verid) and the Paladin waited up in the library lounge. They passed time by playing board games and card games. The Paladin beat the Alchemist at Chess with opposed Warfare Lore Checks, but the Alchemist beat the Paladin at Cribbage with opposed Society checks. That's when someone knocked at the door...

TO BE CONTINUED


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All the talk about what Resonance does got me thinking about how other games have handled a potential unlimited amount of magic use via magic items. Looking through the AD&D DMG, I found "Potion Miscibility", with a table of interesting effects if potions are mixed in the lab or in a PC's system.

Imagine if PCs weren't limited by how many potions they could quaff between extended rests, but each time they imbibe an additional potion, the GM rolls percentile dice to see if miscibility occurs. 25% for the second potion, 50% for the third potion, etc. Or +10% for each potion after the first. Then some random effect happens, perhaps shortened duration, perhaps opposite of intended use, or nullification of the potion.

I think the idea has potential. It's not a hard limit to using potions, just makes it riskier to keep relying on them.


Players used Gust of Wind to knock the Manticore out of the air, but I didn't have a precise idea of how high up everyone was from the bottom of the mountain. I checked the rules, and it seems that if someone does not have an Edge to Grasp when they start falling, they'll instantly go to the ground, where they can make an Arrest Falling check. Succeed or fail, they'll be on the ground.

It sounds like it would be easier to adjudicate, but I'm kind of disappointed that there's no way to stop mid-air. Plus, it seems that PCs with Legendary Acrobatics and Catfall can instantly go from mountain-tops to the ground. Feels like that would eliminate some interesting encounters, like the fights that happen in mid-freefall.


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After playing with a traditional D&D party, I helped my group make a party that was more Primal, more nature-orientated, to see how they did with such a Nature-heavy adventure. I also informed them of the broad strokes of the adventure beforehand, so they could make relevant builds.

Goblin Barbarian (Cat Totem) Nomad

Elf Ranger (Crossbow) Hunter

Goblin Sorcerer (Red Dragon Bloodline) Goblin Renegade

Halfling Druid (Storm Order) Scout

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Party decided they didn't know each other before mission, since they all had loner backgrounds. They took the commission given to them, and since the Ranger was the only party member that used a weapon, I gave him the +1 weapon, even though the notes suggested not making it a ranged weapon. The party turned down the camels when the Sorcerer told them he could cast Phantom Steed... for 3 people. After checking with me that the Elf Ranger could go all day on foot, they headed off for the tomb.

When I asked the Druid to make a Survival check on the journey, she asked if she could cast Guidance on herself first. I said no, because I recalled that rolls that represent a long time period couldn't benefit from things like that spell. Wouldn't you know it? She missed succeeding by one! So we went through the rules to see if it was true, and noticed that those rules were in the "Downtime" section and not in Exploration. It did say what I thought it said, but Downtime was made to be of a vague length (hours to days to weeks), whereas Exploration could be seconds, minutes, or one day. Since the module was vague in what the PC was doing in-game when the player rolled, I retroactively allowed the Guidance. On the second day, she used Lucky Halfling to succeed.

The party arrived at the base of the mountain in 3 days' time. Their marching order was Ranger, Sorcerer, and Druid, with the Barbarian slipping in and out of the brush, stealthing like a cat. The Ranger was seeking, the Sorcerer was detecting magic, and the Druid covered their tracks.

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When the party ran into the first encounter, most people sensed there was something hiding behind one bush, but no-one noticed the big hyena behind the other one! Because the Barbarian was Sneaking, and the map suggestion only had a few places one could Hide behind, I placed her behind one of the trees behind the Druid, far away from the hyenas. That left the Ranger to take the brunt of the hyena's attacks. He had to burn a Hero Point to get back to positive HP after two rounds of being the sole recipient of Pack Attacking hyenas. Eventually, the casters and the Barbarian helped mop up the hyenas, but not before both the Ranger and Sorcerer got dragged away after being knocked prone. The hyenadon escaped with 1 HP, because the Ranger was in no shape to fire on it.

It took the Barbarian a long time just to get into melee because of the difficult terrain. The Ranger told the Barbarian she had to stay with the party from now on! Remembering how much difficult terrain was on the ground meant I had to count carefully to judge how far someone could actually move.

After the battle, the Druid used up all of her Heal spells from her Minor Staff of Healing, but still couldn't bring him to full HP. She wanted to make an Overload Resonance check to keep using it, but I told her that this only worked when a PC used up their resonance, not when a magical item had all its magic charges used up. She said she would keep her Druid Heals in reserve in case someone needed it badly.

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Before they started marching, the Ranger wanted to use his Survey Wildlife feat, and rolled well. However, he was hoping to know a bit about monsters, but the feat suggested that at his capability, he could only learn about herbivores and unthreatening creatures.

The party mixed up their exploration roles. The Sorcerer became the Seeker, so the Ranger and Barbarian could investigate their surroundings with Nature and Desert Lore, respectively. The Barbarian recalled information about the Gnoll tribe in the area. The Ranger didn't get anything important, and since he wasn't Seeking, the Sorcerer didn't notice the quicksand until the Barbarian was stuck in it!

As a weird feature of Exploration rolls vs. Initiative, the Ranger rolled a higher Perception than the Quicksand, but I ruled that he couldn't warn the Barbarian in time; if he was Seeking, then he could have. I also only asked the Sorcerer to roll a Perception check to notice the Ankheg mound (which he failed), so they were surprised by it as well.

I misread the placement of the Ankheg: I thought that the bug was waiting in the quicksand itself like a shark! Beating everyone else on Initiative, it rose out of the quicksand right in front of the sinking Barbarian and unleashed its acid on the first 3 party members. Oddly, the Barbarian critically succeeded on her saving throw, the Ranger made his saving throw, and the Sorcerer failed his saving throw (PCs doing worse the further back they were from the bug). I had to check the rules to see if critical saves or failures affected persistent damage. At the time, I ruled that saving against the Ankheg halved the persistent damage, but now I think I'm wrong.

I had a hard time finding the rules for being "submerged" and "suffocating". After a few minutes searching, I went into "Rose Street Revenge" because I remember there was quicksand in that adventure. It gave me some advice, as well as references in the main rulebooks to adjudicate drowning.

The Druid rolled well for Athletics to pull the Barbarian out of the quicksand, who joined in the walloping of the Ankheg. The Ranger fired at it from range, but didn't use Hunt Target; unfortunately, the Ankheg retreated underneath the quicksand, which meant the Ranger couldn't use Hunt Target, missing out on bonuses that would have helped him detect the beast. Lesson learned!

This time, the party would not let the beast get away. The Sorcerer heightened his Summon Monster spell to get an Earth Mephit to go down there and finish it. I informed him that the Earth Mephit may have problems in quicksand, since it's not solid earth, and it has darkvision instead of tremorsense. The Sorcerer guessed where the Ankheg was, and told the Mephit to burrow underneath the quicksand and strike it from beneath. He guessed right, the Mephit won initiative with its Stealth, and the Ankheg was dead. The Sensed rules helped adjudicate this interaction well.

*****************

The party decided to camp there for the night, reasoning that threats would stay away from an Ankheg nest. The Druid use up her remaining heal spells, leaving the Ranger and Sorcerer with a few unhealed HP after resting that night.

The next day, the party came across the Gnoll camp, and saw that it was fairly unprotected. Because I wasn't sure how clear their environment was to them, I made it clear that they could bypass this part of the river by taking a longer route around, and avoid the camp. Each person was unsure what to do here: they didn't want to get caught by these gnolls tracking them later, and there might be vital information (and treasure) down there. OTOH, it wasn't necessary for them to fight, and my description of "2 gnolls and 3 tents" made them nervous about where "the third Gnoll" was.

They asked me if they could roll to know what to do here, sort of a meta-narrative hint on what was the best thing to do. I told them to roll their respective Lore for Recall Knowledge for relevant advice. Good rolls on Criminal Lore, Hunting Lore, and Scouting Lore told them that starting fights for no good reason in an ambiguous situation wasn't a good thing to do. They took the long way around.

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I wasn't clear on how the module determined how it got the "8 miles a day" average for movement. Looking at movement and the effect of difficult terrain, I decided that their choice to avoid the camp wouldn't stop the party from reaching their destination at the end of the day. After doing poorly at climbing the mountainside, I tacked on another few hours, and checked the rules to see when/if they got fatigued if they spent more than 8 hours travelling. The only advice I got was what happened when PCs took Extended Rests: because it said they had to take them once every 24 hours, I ruled that they could keep going after nightfall, as long as they rested before morning, and rested their full hours into the later morning.

(The Druid once again wanted to use Guidance and the Lucky Halfling feat when climbing, but I ruled that these checks definitely involved several actions altogether, so a bonus or re-roll couldn't be used here. Every single PC failed to climb safely.)

**********************

The party proceeded up the narrowing pathway alongside the mountain. They came across the dead Gnolls, and the Druid critically failed identifying the quills in them, believing them to be Giant Bee stingers. Very soon, they discovered what it was. Every PC beat the Manticore in Initiative, seeing it flying towards them. The party was in for a big surprise when I sprayed down quills from 40 feet away, outside of everyone's range except for the Ranger! It entered a pattern of strafing them from a safe distance.

The Ranger employed Hunt Target and tried to knock the Manticore out of the sky with his Sleep Arrow. It made its save. So he followed up with more and more arrows.

The Sorcerer cast Invisibility on himself and cast Summon Monster (Quasit) to poison the beast (I ruled that commanding summons didn't act as a hostile action for the Sorcerer). The Manticore saved against the poison and killed the Quasit with one swat of its paw.

The Barbarian, with no ranged attacks, resorted to moving person-to-person and feeding them their elixirs and potions of healing.

The Druid kept using a 3-action Heal on the party. Her healing was so impressive that, by the time the Manticore was running out of quills, the party was fairly healthy. I rolled a Perception check for it to see if it recognized how deadly the party was if it had to land and fight in melee. It succeeded, and flew away to look for easier prey.

**********************
The party didn't know why the Manticore flew away after strafing them so effortlessly (no-one knew about how many quills it had or how long it took to regrow it). They just assumed it was playing a game of cat and mouse, and would be back to finish them off later. The walk up the last part of the trail was very tense, like castaways floating in shark-infested waters! As night fell, the Sorcerer reluctantly pulled out his Everburning Torch to help the non-Goblins see.

Reaching the secret entrance, the Ranger (back to Seeking) heard the Gnolls who escaped the Manticore were already there. The Sorcerer hid the torch and attempted to spook them by mimicking the Manticore's call. Although the Druid failed to properly assist him with mimicking it, the call was good enough to get the Gnolls to raise their bows into the night, looking away from the approaching party.

The Gnolls were quickly put down, the spellcasters eager to use their spells on them. Zakfah, left alone with 3 HP left, fell on his knees and begged for mercy. The Sorcerer and Ranger decided that he might be worth having around, and attempted to Coerce him into joining them. The Sorcerer rolled a Critical Success, which meant that Zakfah would work for them (in a non-dangerous fashion) for one day, and not betray them afterwards! I was surprised at the efficacy of this, and the party was delighted to have a Gnoll Hireling. The party opened the door and decided to rest inside the first safe room inside.

Part 2 coming soon...


I really like the Critical Failure state of Recalling Knowledge, but I'm a big improviser. Some people might not be good at coming up with false or incomplete knowledge as I am, especially for a module they bought to do the work for them.

As a suggestion, perhaps when a module asks for a Recall Knowledge check and states what the PC knows on a successful check, maybe you can also include something to tell the player when they critically fail? Not for every single one, but for DCs of 8+level. It would be a lot of added value, and a well-phrased Critical Failure in a module could still move the story along. I know that when I GMed "Rose Street Revenge", my Critical Failures punished the players too harshly; I wish I had given them a wrong fact that moved play forward.


Characters:
- Half-Elf Fighter (Guisarme) Laborer
- Elf Rogue (Bludgeoner) Street Urchin
- Dwarf Druid (Plant) Farmhand
- Gnome Bard (Polymath) Gladiator

I told the players the gist of the scenario, so they all wanted to be PCs that were ex-slaves, and were good at solving mysteries. It turns out that they should have been more combat-orientated. . .

The players were given the opening spiel, and I decided to give them the chapters one at a time, as I felt that "Snippets" felt the most logically one to start with, and "Dragons" worked into the flow of the investigation at the time ("we've got no leads, so we might get something here."). Because the time sensitivity of the investigation was vague (people were dying, but no deadline to solve it), I let the party take a long rest between each chapter, especially since they were level 1.

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Each PC took to finding the Barbers well, using their Lore or Charisma to investigate their location. Each player got a success, and quickly got to the shop. The Rogue and Bard decided to enter alone, asking the others to watch the front. They got all the information they needed, and when the rest of the party joined them, the Druid caught onto the ambush that was being planned. The Bard talked down the boy, but the rest of the party was so choked at the idea of being set up, they just walked out the back door, and called the Barbers out for a brawl!

The Rogue rushed into combat to get Sneak Attack, but quickly became surrounded and dropped to unconsciousness by the thugs. The Druid sent his familiar to Stabilize the Rogue, and the Fighter cleaned up the gang. He had killed one thug with an Attack of Opportunity on their turn. Then on his turn, he killed another with one hit, moved up to the two others, killed another with one swing, and then glared at the survivor. The Bard strolls behind the last Thug, makes a Demoralize action against him, telling him to drop his weapon or the Fighter will drop him. The Barber quickly talked. The party was disappointed that it was a dead end, but let the Barber go anyways. The player running the Bard asked if anyone wanted to hire Snips as a hireling, but no-one could justify associating with him.

(One thing I forget to convey to the party was the clue Snips drops about 'the death of the Half-Elf Cleric'. I never had the living Barber share that fact, which would be problematic later).

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In "Dragons", the PCs had no problem working with kobolds, or being taught how to look for traps. It was the mechanics that humiliated the Rogue. I asked her to roll an Underworld Lore Check to know more about their opposition, but she failed. Then everyone else rolled, and everyone beat the minimum DC, even with the -2 penalty. Then when the group found the first Pit Trap, it was the Druid that disarmed it. Later, the Druid found the next trap, and the Rogue failed to disarm the Slashing Blade Launcher. So they just avoided the trigger and moved on. The player of the Rogue wasn't pleased.

When the party reached the T-crossing, the 2nd Slashing Blade Launcher was not found, and the Fighter got hit by it. The party heard a much larger number of kobolds than expected coming down the tunnel (Ghost Sound), with two of them running around the corner. The Bard and Druid stayed behind the trap, while the Fighter and Rogue planned to rush in. The Druid critically succeeded at tangling a kobold, then healed the hurt Fighter. The Bard began summoning a Bloodsucker. The Martials began fighting through the kobolds, when they saw the Kobold Sorcerer around the corner. Now with a target to hit, he unleashed 3 magic missiles, all at the Fighter... and the Fighter still stood. As the Martials finished off the kobold spellcaster and the Bloodsucker finished off another, the remaining kobold fled down the sewers, never to be seen again. Since the Bard and Druid didn't have decent offensive spells, they let him get away.

Finding the journal, the PCs made the connection to their investigation, but didn't realize that the person who made the list was involved in the crime.

**********************************
For "Puddles", the group took the bribe money, and proceeded to sweet talk their way into an introduction, and kept the money. When they entered the house and saw the structural instability, they liked the idea of Crafting some supports, with the Druid giving Guidance to everyone. Well, pretty much everyone failed their DC 15 checks, which sprayed them with acid, and upset the bats. Everyone got bit by the bats, and when they realized how hard it is to get rid of persistent damage, they ran out the front door.

The Druid managed a good enough Diplomacy check to ask the bats to stay put. The party planned to move as quickly as possible up the stairs, in hopes that the upstairs wouldn't fall down on them. They rushed the stairs, taking damage from the crumbling steps, found the ooze and killed it.

(I was confused by the lay-out of the map, thinking that the front door was where C1 was. It was only when the party went upstairs did I realize that the map *was* the second floor.)

The party did well, succeeding at every investigative check, except one. The Rogue, trained in Religion, critically failed her Recall Knowledge Check on the Holy Symbol, so I gave her false information. Because they had identified a connection to the crimes with the Deity of Undeath, I said that it was a Holy Symbol of Urgathoa. Once again, I failed to convey a connection to Wennel, which wasn't helped by the cryptic "W" in the note that they did find.

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So for the final chapter, the party was theorizing that some undead cleric of Urgathoa obtained a list of ex-slaves, and was hunting them down. The curious phrasing of their mission ("Find Zor", assuming that the serial killer had kidnapped her while he killed everyone else) made the party suspicious that there was some conspiracy going on. An evil church had accessed the Church of Milari, and perhaps Zor was in on it! What else wasn't Ambrus telling them? I did my best to remain non-commital.

The party found the location, and was able to repel down the cliff to the ruins. They had a plan of circling the ruin while the spellcasters sent their familair within. However, when the Fighter came across the front step, he sunk into the quicksand at H1, and the undead all charged into the area, which sent all the PCs charging after them, or to get near the Fighter. We spent the entire combat in the northwest corner of the map.

The Rogue did an upstanding job of going toe-to-toe with Wennel. Her use of a mace helped her get past his resistances. The Druid, when he unleashed his Heal against Wennel, also did some amazing amounts of damage. But I played Wennel to the hilt, and it was lethal. I cast Ray of Enfeeblement on the Rogue first turn, used Harm on Wennel to heal himself, stood my ground and raise shield instead of jumping the quicksand to engage with the Fighter. Wennel just kept removing the damage that he got hit with: two times, he was less than 5 HP away from dying!

As I said, the party wasn't well-made for battle. The Bard had Telekinetic Projectile and the Druid had Tanglefoot, but that was it. Though he never used it, The Bard insisted on always preparing Illusory Disguise, in hopes of tricking someone. Having another Summon Monster might have prevented him and the Druid being ripped apart by zombies. The Fighter probably could have killed Wennel if he crawled out of the quicksand towards the Cleric instead of towards the party; I feel that one move cost the party their lives. Eventually, Wennel wore the party out of healing spells, and killed them all.

Because they never made the connection that Wennel was the 'W' and the writer of the list, they never employed any of the clues they gathered. In fact, they didn't even have the items there with them! They assumed that because this was an investigation, they had to turn it all over to their Venture-Captain.

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As a GM, I felt this adventure was a good teaching module, that brought a lot of the gameplay of the new system to light. Its layout wasn't a big selling point. The maps were often confusing, with important monster and terrain features running over to new pages or different columns. I wish that the authors had made their own maps, instead of repurposing old flip-mats.

And I wish that the adventure was as much about investigation as it sold itself on. It felt like four good combats, with the investigation surrounding it somewhat prefunctory. I confess that much of the plot obfuscation was my own fault, but it feels like the party didn't miss too much from that. Wennel's threat wasn't the secret of his identity, but that he was an absolute beast in a fight!

Besides the TPK, here's how the players did, starting with the PCs I think did best, and ending with the underperformers.

Fighter: Like in "The Lost Star", the Fighter was a monster. Many enemies' HP was equal to or less than the Fighter's damage on 1 hit. He demolished any combat he could participate in, and surprised me how well he survived attacks. He did reasonably well in the Lore department, succeeding at least once in each chapter. His player was happy that he managed to extricate himself from the quicksand.

Bard: His Charimsa was useful in several spots, especially how Versatile Performance allowed him to be Diplomatic/Demoralizing/Impersonate with Performance. He felt that he was like an actor trying to act his way through real life, and he enjoyed the roleplaying he got from that. He liked the versatility of his Summon Monster, although he was disappointed that he didn't get to use all of his Utility spells.

Rogue: As mentioned above, the Rogue's player wasn't happy that she wasn't better at her skills than other people. She was planning on a more combat-heavy Rogue, but she still expected her training in Stealth and Thievery to matter more than it did.

She was happy that she managed to create some Alchemical items beforehand. I let her perform some Downtime checks before the adventure, and in conjunction with the Ancestry Feat Ageless Patience, she managed to spend all her starting money to buy an Alchemist's Tools and start with 4 Bottled Lightnings and 4 Minor Elixirs of Life. Unfortunately, she usually leapt into battle instead of tossing in the bombs, and got caught behind enemy lines trying to take full advantage of Surprise Attack.

Druid: He was the Healer, and was a great Healer. He must have used his Familiar to fly in a Stabilize spell 4 times, and helped give the Martial PCs many second chances to finish Wennel. If he wasn't the party's default healer, he may have chosen spells that weren't Heal. Goodberry really didn't do it for the party, especially since food wasn't a concern. The lack of damaging spells really hurt in the final encounter. His assurance in Athletics was useful in going down the ropes in "Haven", but I told him ahead of time that DC10 was enough to go down. The player did enjoy having a "Groot" as a familiar.


Player characters:

- Dwarf Fighter (2-handed weapon) Pathfinder Hopeful
- Goblin Rogue (crossbow & teeth) Goblin Renegade
- Elf Wizard (Universalist) Budding Osirionlogist
- Human Cleric of Shelyn (Reach weapon) Esoteric Scion

Half of the players took the chance to integrate themselves into the narrative, and the other two just rolled with the opening narration. The group took the opportunity to get a rough mapping of the Ossuary, which combined with the Rogue's familiarity allowed them to know basically everything there.

In Exploration Mode going to the Dungeon, the party wasn't optimized. The Cleric was detecting magic since the Wizard didn't have that spell, the Fighter was Sneaking because she had nothing better to do, the Rogue was covering their tracks to avoid sewer monsters and rival gangs, and the Wizard was investigating the surroundings, looking for evidence of vampires. Nothing the characters did actually helped them (the Wizard critically failed his Lore check, and thought he did find evidence of a vampire), but the party took to it in a natural manner, which was a good first response.

When the party entered the first room, the Wizard and Fighter saw the Ooze, and both got critical hits on it! Their excitement and high-fiving died off when I told them the ooze was immune to critical hits. :p Still, they killed the ooze with only the Cleric taking any damage.

I ruled that the party could talk and cast spells in the first room, but once they went down the stairs, excessive noise would alert anyone. So the Rogue went down to sneak up on his allies, and that was when I pulled out the rules for sneaking. Apparently, PCs have to make rolls every time they use the Sneak action, so the Rogue was moving 10 ft. per check. He decided to slip behind a corner for his 3rd try, but fumbled it on that attempt, and alerted his comrades. He made a Lie action to tell them he was captured and escaped, but he failed that check as well. Since the Goblin Rogue and the goblin NPCs were playing a game of cat-and-mouse, I decided to make everyone roll a Deception roll for Initiative, since everyone was pretending to be still talking.

Since only the Rogue had been revealed, the other goblins moved up to him, with only one getting a shot off. Wanting to be able to see, the party let the Cleric go first, to cast Light. That sparked a 10 minute rules referral on what counted as "Unattended" for the Light spell. Eventually, I referred to the skills section under "Thievery", because the Steal An Object action was more helpful in explaining what being "unattended" meant. I ruled that the Cleric could Light an object attached to her, and we moved on.

The party moved in and quickly routed the goblins there. The rogue went up to stab another goblin, but I used the Scuttle ability to get out of range. The Rogue's player argued he should have known his former allies could do that, so I let him rewind and shoot the guy with his crossbow.

Once it was the goblins' turn again, they were in a fighting retreat toward the Fountain. The Cleric spent all of her actions to move up next to them as they entered the Fountain room, but then realized that she didn't have Attack of Opportunity, so she couldn't stop them from running, and had taken up the space for the Fighter! The Fighter asked for a way to get next to the goblins, even though the threshold to the Fountain room was blocked by Cleric and goblin. Cue another 10 minute searching for jumping. Eventually we found the "Leap" action, and I ruled the Fighter could move through the Cleric's space (roleplayed as the Cleric crouching while the Fighter uses her back as a springboard to making a running leap) and leap over the goblin. Landing next to the two goblins and having an Attack of Opportunity ready (which she had displayed as being capable of last round), the two living goblins surrendered.

(Looking back on how I ruled the Leap action in this adventure, I may not have run it correctly. She started the Leap action in the Cleric's space, which she was allowed to end in according to Page 311, but there are also rules where you can't enter a foe's space without rolling for it. However, Leap doesn't specific how vertical you get while you Leap horizontally, and the goblins are fairly short. The PCs used the 'jump off another PC' trick later in the adventure, and I think I'm fine with allowing another PC to give the leaper a free adjustment in height. But I will be clear that they don't get vertical and horizontal for free.)

Telling the goblins to stay put, the PCs decided to examine the room. The Rogue pointed out the idol, and the Cleric detected it as magical. The Wizard identified it as being evil, and was going to extract it, but the Fighter quickly interjected "Follow Pathfinder Protocol!" She rolled a Pathfinder Society Lore role to Recall Lore on how to deal with idols of evil deities. Her result was so good, I told her that good Pathfinders check for traps before interacting with magical items.

While the Wizard was identifying the idol (without touching it), the Cleric and Rogue began to convince the surviving goblins to move on. The Cleric failed her Request check, so the Rogue used his Quick Intimidation feat to Coerce them to not interfere with the battle. The party hadn't been badly hurt yet, so they waited until the Wizard identified the idol properly. The Rogue told the goblins to put the idol in the fungus room, and then beat it. When the waters started to clear, the Fighter took a sip from the fountain, and found herself healed.

Knowing where the other goblins, the skeletons, and Drakus was, the Rogue led them to the statue trap. I informed the Rogue's player that it could be disabled, but that it would be difficult, and failing might mean he gets hit by it. The Wizard, using his background's lore, recalled that drinking from the fountain, or wearing a holy symbol of Pharisma, would allow entry. The group was fairly healthy, and didn't want to 'waste' the water. That's when the Cleric got a good idea. She spent all her spell points for her domain power Fabricate, and planned to make Holy Symbols of Pharisma for all the characters! I told the player that such an action would work, but after checking the time it took to cast Fabricate (two actions for an item that lasts 10 minutes), I suggested that they plan out their entrance to Drakus' lair.

[u]Party Plan[/u]
- Cleric makes Holy Symbol for Fighter, then Wizard, then Rogue, then Cleric. While doing this, Wizard summons a Fire Beetle.
- Cleric opens door, walks into room, attacks Drakus.
- Wizard sends in Fire Beetle, using Light Flash like a S.W.A.T. team's flash grenade.
- Rogue jumps in and sprays Drakus with arrows.
- Fighter moves into melee with Drakus and pounds him.

[u]What actually happens[/u]

- With everyone prepared, Cleric tries to open the door... and realizes it's jammed. She fails the first time, succeeds the next time, and then walks into the room with no Drakus in sight.
- Drakus, who hid when he heard all that noise outside, leaps from cover and attacks the Cleric twice, misses both times.
- The Wizard, just now realizing the Cleric would be in the Light Flash, instead maneuvers the summoned creature in for a flank.
- The Rogue jumps in and gets a Critical Hit on Drakus!
- The Fighter moves into a flank with the Beetle and deals a lot of damage, leaving Drakus with just 9 HP left.
- Drakus walks away from 4 enemies (missed by the Fighter), knocks out the Wizard with one attack, and leaves the room looking for his reinforcements.

The Fighter manages to catch up with Drakus and end him, but by then, not even a Coerce action from the Fighter could discourage the goblins from attacking the party now that it was in disarray.

Cue two hours of the Wizard being unconscious, the Fighter facing goblins four ranks deep, the Rogue not being able to flank thanks to the narrow halls, and the Cleric duelling the Goblin Commando one-on-one to keeping him from killing the Wizard. A lot of it was also due to bad rolls by the PCs, but as soon as the party fell out of standard operating procedure, things went south. Eventually, the Rogue used a Leap action to get into flank with a goblin, killing it, and giving the Fighter a chance to move forward. The Martial PCs went into the Shaman's Lair and killed him (with the Fighter's Attack of Opportunity as he cast Burning Hands) just as the Cleric's epic duel was almost over. She had spent all of her healing (and a head-dunk into the fountain) when the Fighter and Rogue rushed up to close with the Goblin. The Fighter offered him surrender, but I had been roleplaying the Commando to be really sadistic (spending 3 actions just firing at the Cleric) so he took his turn to get one last shot at the Cleric. The Rogue was going to kill him, but the Cleric begged for her to make it non-lethal. Her anathema was Hate and Ugliness, and she was afraid wanting him dead when he could be spared could be considered 'hate'.

The party cleans up the rest of the dungeon, with only a prick on the Rogue's finger as trouble.

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Here are the experiences of the players, who I'll arrange in the order I think did the best.

Fighter: An absolute beast. Her damage, especially on Critical Hits, was incredible. Powerful Charge is a very useful feat, especially for a Dwarf. Her small number of trained skills (most of which were still negative because of Armour Check Penalties) didn't hold her back. She did very well using her Lore checks, meeting the DC I had set for the Wizard and Cleric. At only one point was she in danger of dropping, and after a Heal by the Cleric, she kept on going. She had zero Resonance thanks to the Ancient's Blood feat, but that didn't affect her at all.

Cleric: Very useful warrior and healer. She wasn't as happy with her experience, even though she did very well. She was supposed to be attacking behind the Fighter or helping the Rogue get flanking, but combats weren't as straight-forward as they expected. Taking the Healing Hands feat made her Heal spells very effective, but the rules around Recovery rolls meant she couldn't do much to get the Wizard conscious after getting to positive HP. She held herself very well against the Commando, mixing her self-Heals and attacks prudently. She was upset that her de-buffing spells didn't make much of a difference, but the Commando saved against both of them. I think her PC was so great that things going sideways for her didn't kill her, just frustrated her. She was happy that she got to use Fabricate, since she just choose that Domain for the glaive.

Rogue: Did fairly well. It felt like all of his skill training really didn't make him great at anything, just good enough. If he failed at something, he could try something else if he had the chance, since a high roll mattered more than his skill bonus. The DC of the trap seemed too high for the Rogue to reasonably succeed at. The Rogue felt like the old Bard: master of nothing, second-best at everything. He was indecisive between taking Razor Teeth and Very Sneaky as his Ancestral Feat, and after playing, he was happy with Razor Teeth and looked forward to getting Very Sneaky.

Wizard: Spending most of the game unconscious wasn't great for his morale. The players are still getting used to Attacks of Opportunity being limited to certain PCs, so the party misread how well protected the Wizard was. The Wizard got healed quickly, he just rolled very poorly for his Recovery checks. He liked the tactical choices with his cantrips and Summon Monster.

(A weird rules interaction we noticed was cover interacting with spells. The goblins got cover against ranged attacks and reflex saves for area effects, but not Electric Arc. It felt like that cantrip should be treated like a ranged attack.)

My experience was I liked the system and the adventure in particular. It felt like a typical dungeon and a good venue for teaching the players how the new system worked.


For my Human Ancestry Feat, I take the General Training feat. For my General feat, I take the Ancestral Paragon feat, giving me an Ancestry feat. For my Ancestry feat, I take the General Training feat. For my General Feat, I take the Ancestral Paragon Feat, giving me an Ancestry feat.

Repeat until your character sheet is full. ;)


Played Seelah the Paladin in the second half of "The Lost Star": another player dropped out, so I was asked to fill in for them. Some random thoughts:

- When the other players told me what I missed, they recounted a lot of hard battles. All the spellcasters were down to 0-1 spells and 0-1 spell points, and the Rogue and Seelah were at half HP.

- I felt very vulnerable at first, but the high AC and shield block provided me a lot of reassurance. Drakus never hit me.

- As a big fan of 4ed and the Defender role, I did manage to be something of a Defender. When exploring new rooms, I went in with shields raised. During the Drakus fight, I used Retributive Attack twice. I never hit with it, but the GM decided to attack me instead of my nearly-dead allies.

- While our GM used a map to place us, our table was so large and the map (based off of the module) was so small, I really couldn't tell where I was without asking the GM. Drakus' room was so small, there wasn't much room to maneuver in as a melee character.

- I tried to use Seelah's Thievery and Pickpocket abilities, but there was too much combat and not enough sneaking. I though about taking the holy symbol off of Drakus, but everyone and the GM said to just attack him. And giving my negative score for Thievery, I think they were right!

- I also tried to use my Criminal Lore in an useful manner, but to no avail. There was no opportunity to test out how Lore checks worked.

- Managing my anathema was a little difficult. Most of the treasure in the dungeon was stolen goods. The other players argued that most of it was untraceable, so there was no way to know who to give it to. As I understood our commission, a representative of the local governance gave a mission to retrieve a specific item, and that anything else we found could be claimed by us. To me, that would have satisfied my Paladin's need to not steal. Our GM didn't care about the anathema, so it didn't matter, but I could see other GMs being sticklers.

- The group found the secret passageway, and after the Rogue scouted it out, we decided to ambush him by going through the passageway. Despite 4/5 of the PCs making too much noise and all of us making clumsy exits from the passage, we managed to beat him that way. The Alchemist and Wizard's splash effects were serious threats to my low-HP party members.

- The Rogue must have rolled 8 times to finally succeed at opening the DC20 door. His Thievery bonus was so high, he kept missing a Critical Failure by 1 or 2 when he didn't succeed. And since there was no consequence for failure other than losing the tools (GM ruled that Drakus didn't hear him), the party was just waiting for him to succeed or break his tools.

- It was only after the party was deep into the dungeon that our party checked how skills worked, and realized that many of the skills required tools to use them. Our Rogue got poisoned, and we immediately left the dungeon to buy a Healer's Kit to treat him.

- The GM said he was curious to test out the Grappling rules, so when I encountered the Giant Rat, I decided to grapple it. It turned out very well: I caught it, and then the Rogue sneak attacked it. Everyone was pleased that Grappling is so simple (and I was happy that my Grapple bonus was the same as my attack bonus!).

Overall: I liked the adventure. It felt like a classic dungeon, with a main theme of monsters along with a smattering of random monsters and an endboss. As level 1 characters, it felt like we could interact with the entire dungeon and take it on as a fair challenge. And the challenges we faced referenced most of the common rules you'd expect to know for the game.


First you have the Cleric spells, then you have Channel Energy, and then you have your Domain powers. Domain powers have their own system (cast a number of times equal to your spellcasting modifier), as does Channel Energy (cast a number of times equal to your Charisma modifier +3) and Divine spellcasting (where you get a fixed amount of spells with DCs modified by your Wisdom, along with different spells based on your Domain).

I understand why these things are separated, but the class feels very busy. If I could, I'd axe the Domain powers, or just merge the Domain Powers with Channel Energy.


I'm running this scenario sometime next week, and I want to test the "Urban adventuring" side of the adventure. I want the party to have a spread of non-combat strengths (a CHA character, a DEX character, etc.), as well as flavour and mechanics that may or may not work well in a city.
Really playtest how a campaign setting affects the efficacy of a PC.

- Aberrant Sorcerer. Oddball, may stand out, but its Persistent Pain at least deals nonlethal damage, which can be useful to question them later and turn them over to authorities.

- Wild Druid. The Pest Form spell could be useful to disguise themselves as vermin, but their Anathema might push them to not play nice with citizens.

- Divination Wizard w/familiar. See how useful a Dresden detective can be.

- Elf Monk w/ Nimble feat and Crane Wings. See how important be faster and a better jumper than anyone else matters in an urban adventure.

Does that seem like a balanced party? Can anyone think of a possible pregen that might stress-test urban adventuring?


Just double-checking something. If my PC gains the ability to cast a spell from a different spell list (say, a Wizard casting a Divine spell), you get to use your class' Primary ability to cast that spell, right?

As I understand it, because Adapted Spell adds the cantrip to your method of spellcasting, it would allow you to cast it using the same ability mentioned in that method. The Wizard's section of spellcasting states it casts spells using Intelligence, but it doesn't differentiate between 'arcane' and 'divine' spells; so any divine spells a Wizard could cast could be cast using Intelligence.

Does that sound right?


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Spent today puzzling through character generation, and I found a lot of my hang-ups were searching for rules I thought *should* be there, but were not. Attacks of Opportunity for non-Fighters, what weapons small PCs could and could not wield, what skills a Cleric could take. Once I cross-referenced enough to realize 1) only Fighters and some monsters can make AoO, 2) Halflings, Gnomes, and Goblins don't have limitations on weapons, and 3) Any class can be trained in any skill, I realized how many game-changers are not in the rule book. That is, we would expect them to be there, being PF, but they're not, so it opens up different kinds of play.

I'd suggest to everyone to not just look for what the rules allow you to do, but also what the rules don't forbid you from doing. In 1999, the 3ed playtesters hampered their efforts by playing inside constraints that existed in 2ed but not 3ed. Treat this playtest like it has no connection to PF, and do weird things.