Barl Breakbones

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I would love it if y'all would throw some ideas my way. I'll tell you what I have so far and highlight some particular missing pieces. Anything you come up with I can probably use somewhere. Thanks!

A ship (name?) returns from a 3-year trading and exploration voyage. Instead of docking, the ship drops anchor in the outer harbor. On investigation, a flag is spotted the meaning of which is "Plague Here." The harbor patrol sends out boats to blockade anyone from trying to visit or escape from the plague ship.

There are:
1) Families whose loved ones may or may not be alive on the ship
2) A corrupt (someone) expecting a delivery of something shocking/scandalous/illegal who is very afraid this will be discovered
3) Merchants who are "losing money every day" their goods are stuck on the ship
4) A gang of thieves who plan to sneak aboard and loot the ship, hoping that either there is no plague or else that they can pay to be cured at a temple.
5) Jittery citizens who call for the ship to be burned and sunk without delay to avoid contaminating the town/city.

The PCs might be members of or else working for any of these groups.

So here are some questions and missing details:
1) Is there really a plague? Is the flag to cover up a mutiny? Is the plague real, but secondary to the real problem on board? How did the plague start?
3) What will the town/city do to address the ship? There are magic users and a few characters with flying mounts, so someone might try to scry or do a flyover. What do they find, how can that info. get back to the PCs?
4) What really happened to the ship and its crew? How many of the crew are alive?
5) Assuming the PCs manage to get aboard, what do they find?

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I have more fun if I feel like my decisions matter. I would be perfectly happy for my PC to die or permanently lose some gear because my decisions put my PC in danger.

If I start to feel like my characters are not in danger, I take bigger and bigger risks until I get the danger I crave.

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Haven's Cross GM Kris wrote:
Hola runeface

It's Gnoll for "Peace." At least that's what the tattoo guy told me.

Is this thing on? Alex here

I would buy a 2nd edition immediately. I didn't read the above.

Zedorland wrote:
Potions cannot be of personal range spells, such as disguise self or shield.

I am shame.

Thanks for your thoughtful response!

When the town guards are chasing you, you'll be glad you invested in a potion of Disguise Self!

SRD wrote:
Weapon cords are 2-foot-long leather straps that attach your weapon to your wrist. If you drop your weapon or are disarmed, you can recover it as a move action*, and it never moves any further away from you than an adjacent square. However, you cannot switch to a different weapon without first untying the cord (a full-round action) or cutting it (a move action or an attack, hardness 0, 0 hp). Unlike a locked gauntlet, you can still use a hand with a weapon cord, though a dangling weapon may interfere with finer actions.

I'm asking whether "may interfere with finer actions" prevents me from using the buckler effectively.

•Having a heavy rifle swinging wildly from my left arm by a 2-foot cord would make it very difficult to intercept attacks with a tiny shield. So while the musket has been disarmed or dropped, it seems unbelievable that I could use the buckler.

•If, instead of hanging loosely, the musket is slung or sheathed, the 2-foot cord attached to my wrist might hamper my use of my buckler arm by being too short.

•If I hold (not wield) the musket in my buckler hand, the the strap will not hamper my movements. However, the combined weight of the buckler and musket is now more than that of a heavy steel shield... is this a problem?

Azoriel wrote:

A weapon cord is unnecessary, IMO, but you're free to use one as well if you so desire.

On land this is less of an issue. If you were regularly fighting over water, would you not worry about your expensive stuff? Do you another way to recover things dropped in the sea?

This is for a gnome Gunslinger 1/Bard 7 in a nautical campaign. I'd hate to see my double-barreled enchanted musket lost forever beneath the waves, so I want to protect it with a weapon cord. I'd also like to benefit from a buckler on rounds I cast spells rather than shoot. Is this like both having and eating cake?

If I hold the musket in my off hand while not shooting, can I also employ the buckler using that arm? Alternately, if the musket is slung across my chest, is there enough play in the weapon chord to use the buckler effectively?

Lots of butter and garlic, with orange zest and black pepper. For crunch consider a two-level dip in fighter.

This type of campaign can be very rewarding! Feel free to ask again when you have specific questions. Until then, here are some general suggestions.

•Don't overload the players with too much world info up front. Let it come out piece by piece.

•Take notes. You'll often have to improvise details, and your players will appreciate consistency.

•Read over the PCs sheets for skill point allocations. Plan opportunities for skills they have to be useful.

•Allow the PCs to experience setbacks on their path to power. It makes victories all the sweeter!

I just tell the players to level their PCs occasionally.

As a player, I want to feel that my build choices matter. This happens both when I pick something (a skill, feat, etc.) that turns out to be helpful in an encounter, and (perhaps even more so) when something I chose not to take would have been helpful.

If the players run into an obstacle for which they lack the most obvious solution, they usually get creative, which makes for fun gaming.

Reduce the fraction of characters' power that comes from magic items.
Limit the number of ongoing magical effects (buffs) active at once.
Rebalance Monks and Rogues.
Rework stealth/perceiving/surprise rules.

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I was disappointed to learn that Trapped Puzzle Box does not summon cenobites.

Are you willing to play a less complicated PC?

If not, consider writing a guide for your DM as to how this character operates, especially how and when and how much you can boost your defenses. If your PC is much more effective than the other PCs in the party, your DM may not be the only one feeling frustrated.

I get:

Cost \ Ability (Before race mods)
5 \ Str 14
5 \ Dex 14
2 \ Con 12
0 \ Int 10
10 \ Wis 16
-2 \ Cha 8

Then play any race that can give you a bonus to wis.

I assume the stone does not pass quite in front of the character's eyes; that would be a serious drawback to any ioun stone, fiery or no. As for the dancing shadows, these probably would not be worse than those cast by a torch carried by a companion in combat.

This piece of equipment is a nice answer to: what to do with a burnt out ioun stone? Its cost should be stone + component + spell casting service cost. I imagine these to be rare in a typical game world.

Take a close look at the PCs that your players make. If they have lots of skill points spent in social skills, plan for intrigue and alliance-building. If there are multiple stealthy characters, plan for secret missions where the party can use stealth to bypass some encounters. The style of game the players are looking for is usually shown in their PC builds.

My tweak to the alignment system is that most mortal creatures, even killers, pirates, and orcs, are neutral. To qualify for a non-neutral alignment you have to be extraordinarily dedicated to an ideal, like a paladin or cleric, or else an aligned supernatural creature, like fey (chaotic), undead, or an outsider (with exceptions).

Edit: oh, and it's axes "ax-eez"

Gorbacz wrote:

The problems with encumbrance are several:

...turbo realistic...
...encumbrance is binary...
...trivialized by magic...
...[tracking encumbrance] is a chore...

All this together means I've ditched encumbrance early on... and so far it works just great.

Gorbacz, any way you play the game that works for you is terrific. I do have a different experience of encumbrance.

Modest touches of "realism" like encumbrance, keeping track of purchases, and rations help my immersion. They also make it exciting or at least interesting when magic or wealth reduces those needs. Like at 1st level I can carry limited gear. Then I get a masterwork backpack and lighter rope, so I can carry more. Soon the cleric can feed everyone through create food & water, which frees up even more capacity. Eventually I (usually) get a handy haversack, which allows the party to take lots (but not unlimited!) of tools and equipment along with us. It's a small way that characters grow in power.

.. And I just don't find adding up the weights of my equipstuff to be a burdensome chore.

paladinguy wrote:

"Noting the direction of the scent is a move action. "

And that's the part I missed =/

I've been playing D&D/pathfinder for under a year, and there are just millions of rules. I can't know them all in my head, and I generally want to tell my players "Yes, you can do that", rather than say "Hold on while I google it and read all about it and everyone pause the game and wait 5 minutes so I can ultimately tell you NO."
It's a hard balancing act.

Even people who have been playing for years don't know all the rules; I see it as a shared responsibility. I'll say "Ed, can you look up scent?" while I look up that new spell or swim rules.

Quandary wrote:
So AFAIK, failure to pass a Swim check while using Sky Swim would just mean you don't move at all (and a creature that cannot breathe air at all would need to be holding it's breath all the time anyways). If you want to go beyond the RAW, I don't see why you would ever sink more than 5' per round.

Hmm... rereading the swim rules, I agree with you. It only says that characters that fail swim checks by 5 or more (or presumably, don't make a swim check at all) "go underwater," but it does not say by how far they go underwater.

The spell says "Still air is treated as calm water," so whatever the DM would say happens to a character sinking in water would apply equally in the case of the spell.

You generally cannot take 10 in combat. I think you can only take a 5' step in a movement that your form has. Using moves to make swim checks means no full attacks while sky swimming.

Edit: Also, if they don't make a swim check in a round they should "sink" through the air.

One of the great things about Pathfinder is that there are a million spells and character options. One of the bad things about Pathfinder is that there are a million spells and character options, so it's hard to know how they all really work.

Observe the line "Those without a swim speed must make Swim checks to move as normal." in the description of the spell.

Under the rules for swim: swim:
"Make a Swim check once per round while you are in the water. Success means you may swim at up to half your speed (as a full-round action) or at a quarter of your speed (as a move action). If you fail by 4 or less, you make no progress. If you fail by 5 or more, you go underwater."

So, the PC should have been using move actions to make swim checks, or else "sink" through the air, out of reach of the drider. This means no full attacks while using this spell to reach the drider.

Under scent:
"A creature with the scent ability can detect opponents by sense of smell, generally within 30 feet ...
The creature detects another creature's presence but not its specific location. Noting the direction of the scent is a move action. If the creature moves within 5 feet (1 square) of the scent's source, the creature can pinpoint the area that the source occupies, even if it cannot be seen."

So the shapeshifted druid would first have to get within 30' of the drider, then use a move action to scent the direction of the drider, then cast sky swim, and then swim in the direction of the drider. This would prevent the druid from charging. All that is possible, but probably the PC did not go through all those steps?

In hindsight, the drider could have walked 20' along the ceiling away from the druid (provoking an AoO with 50% miss chance), then fired an arrow or cast magic missile. Then the druid could have used a move action to scent the direction of the drider, a move action to move 15' closer and... I guess the drider could have won after all.

I think the lesson here is that PCs can't always do what players think they can do.

You could compromise and instead of applying movement, dex, and skill penalties, only apply movement penalties. You could agree not to check encumbrance mid-adventure unless the PC tries to carry waayy too much stuff, so that the player can total between sessions.

Oh well, I guess if the players had a good time then the encounter was a success. Hawks don't get scent, so I'm not sure how the Hawk was flanking, but that doesn't sound like it was a huge factor.

Was the spell "Air walk?" That's a 4th level spell, which makes the PCs level 7+, which makes a solo CR 7 creature not a significant threat.

What level are the PCs?

Edit: sounds like they had fun and you learned some ideas for making encounters more challenging, so it's definitely a success.

Just the right bullets

Sorry, couldn't help myself ;)

Many groups ignore encumbrance outright.
Many groups have a gentlemen's agreement not to track encumbrance so long as no one abuses immersion by doing something goofy like trying to carry a spare suit of plate mail.

Personally I like making strategic decisions, and what to bring adventuring is a great source of fun decisions to make.

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Driders are smart. Here are a few ideas:
*The drider spends the whole time up on the ceiling or walls, as far from PCs as possible.
*The drider has deliberately made the floor slippery and/or cluttered with trash and webs, making it difficult terrain.
*Dancing lights and ghost sound can draw the PCs further into the cave. The drider can cast web to block the entrance from 160' away.
*There are pits or other traps concealed beneath the webs and dust on the floor.
*Let the drider use some of its double treasure to help it fight the PCs.
*Let the drider take full advantage of its 120' darkvision to engage the PCs from range.
*If the PCs are relying on a single light source, have the drider attack that light with dispel magic or deeper darkness.
*Split the party by Casting Suggestion: "go find for reinforcements." If the party is all within 30' of each other, the drider can catch all of them in the area of effect. Someone is likely to fail the save.
*Give the drider an escape plan for if it takes 30+ damage. Maybe a potion of fly or gaseous form and a hole in the ceiling?

You mention you're having trouble challenging your PCs. Do many of your encounters feature a single foe? How many encounters are there in a typical adventuring day?

I'd be happy to run a few encounters right here. 4 first-level PCs, PFS legal. First encounter is urban.

I love the fluff. For immersion it's important that I can tell my players what is the country to the north, let them recognize holy symbols of different faiths, have them meet not just a merchant but one with a varisian accent... I can't just make up all that stuff on the fly and keep it consistent and interesting.

It's important for my storytelling that PCs have a default understanding of their world– that way they can be surprised!

You could say the armor is unwearable until repaired/fitted by someone with appropriate craft skills and a workshop.

Armor's pretty heavy, and bulky as well. Are you tracking encumbrance?

If the concern is that selling loot is giving your PCs too much wealth, you can always reduce the size of future hoards until they are back in balance.

As the party healer, this villain can wait until the PCs are in a pitched battle, summon a bunch of monsters (apparently as support), wait for a PC to be down or nearly down, and then turn against the party.

Evil Oracle can feed info about the PCs weaknesses and strategies to their enemies. There are unlimited ways this guy can mess with the PCs. For instance, he could suggest a "contact" who can upgrade their magic equipment, but who also curses it. Heck, he can offer to make a meal and poison everyone.

Sounds like this party is weak on the ranged combat front. Make sure to have flight and the ability to create obstacles and difficult terrain. Be protected vs. the evoker's two favorite energy types. Arrange for an ally to hit any fliers in the party with targeted dispel magic.

The only hole I see in this plan is that the party members have 10 levels of getting to know the guy to catch on that he's batsh*$ crazy and evil.

You sure this isn't going to make the players hate you?

Specific: your DM can just say "the troll hits AC 22." Then you can declare hit or no.

General: Out of kindness for a noob DM, consider dialing back the complexity.

I like choices and making smart decisions that affect my chances of success or failure. Prepared casters give me more of that.

Cerebric Fungus.

Check out its "Unsettling Appearance (SU)" ability.

Give it vegepygmy minions; they are immune to its abilities.

I'm here because the author described this adventure as a "gritty horror/mystery." More like this!

Run a one-shot NOT in your campaign, so you have a chance to work out some of the kinks without mucking up your story.

We Be Goblins is fun and free.

A non-lethal contest with NPCs

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Build your network of allies through diplomacy and volunteerism.
(not really abuse)

Here's a non-fiendish CR 13 encounter


Lamia Matriarch, Treant, Air Elemental (Greater), 2 Dire Tigers

For some reason the PCs have earned the enmity of a Lamia Matriarch. First she uses alter self and guile or invisibility and stealth to spy on the PCs to get a sense of their abilities, if possible. If her intelligence-gathering is successful, she spends some of her double treasure on items to
protect against the PCs abilities, such as fire protection or Protection from Good potions to hedge out summoned creatures.

Using charm monster and lies, the Lamia convinces a treant and his forest-defending pals that the PCs are a dire threat to the local woodlands. The treant uses treespeech to locate the PCs, and then animates two companion trees. The Lamia buffs herself with mirror image and divine favor. Then the Lamia buffs her team with haste, invisibility, and mage armor before they move in to attack.

The air elemental comes straight down from the sky on top of the least-armored PCs. Hopefully there's a cliff or river to dump these PCs in. The invisible Lamia casts an illusion of a wall of thorns in an attempt to temporarily isolate two PCs from the others. The treants gang up on one of these PCs and the dire tigers attack the other. The treants focus on sunder. After that the Lamia might either cast Suggestion ("Drop your weapons and flee.") on an apparently non-magic using PC, or else move into flanking position to melee.

I don't buy the idea that characters know that if they leave themselves open to attack twice in quick succession that foes generally can take advantage of only one of those openings.

I love the flavor of the witch. I made (and hope to play soon) a guy who is terrified of his patron and the creepy spy (his familiar) that his patron sent to follow and torment him.

I find Slumber to be OP and dull, and Misfortune to be OP and dull. However there are still fun, flavorful, effective hexes and enough good spells for my PC to pull his weight in combat.

Didn't read the whole thread.

While this tactic works by RAW, I would not allow it at my table. To perform this move, the character would have to know something about the rules of his or her universe that he or she cannot.

CR 20 might be a bit high for 5 level 10 PCs. What are the PCs packing in terms of saves, AC, and to-hit (ballpark figures)?

This might hurt a bit.
CR 13:


4 Vrocks see the airship from a mile away. If the airship has lanterns or other light sources, this can be at night. Each attempts to summon an additional vrock. The 4 combined have about an 82% chance to get at least 1 and 42% chance of getting at least 2 summoned vrocks. The vrocks teleport to within 200' of the ship and check it out. They want to get a feel for the PCs ranged combat and flying ability. In these first visits, the vrocks use their telekinesis to try to throw characters overboard.

The vrocks have high intelligence, telepathy, and spellcraft +14. If any of the vrocks see PCs cast short-duration magics, especially Fly, Summoning flying monsters, or upper-tier rounds per level buffs like Haste, the vrocks teleport away and return in 5 minutes. They do this up to 6 times.

Once the vrocks decide to get serious (after about 1/2 hour of harassing the airship), they cast their several buffs, teleport near the ship, and try to get off a dance of ruin. 3-4 vrocks participate in the dance while the rest stand guard.

I've run two parties through Carrion Crown. One is Fighter, Sorc (slightly customized for investigation), and Rogue; the other is Paladin, Bard, Alchemist.

The rogue's player has been enjoying making lots of social rolls to gain allies and learn about Ravengro, using stealth/disable device to gather information, linguistics to make money through translation work, and using knowledges to do research. The Sorcerer uses knowledges to do research, diplomacy and intimidation to influence people, and perception to look for clues. The Bard uses social skills and performance to help the party's status among the townsfolk and to flirt with female NPCs, disable device on locks, Bardic Knowledge six times a day, and in combat he uses bardic performance (rousing oratory) and archery. The alchemist does a lot of alchemy and some research.

Everyone's having a good time getting full mileage out of their skill points.

You are no more required to play PF with these people than to play checkers with them.

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