Blue Dragon

GM Rutseg's page

8,023 posts. Alias of Balacertar.


Iron Gods: Iron maps;


Shackled City: Player's Guide - Shackled City map


The Storm Chronicles: Seers of the Drowned City maps;

About GM Rutseg

This guide is an idea taken from other GMs in the boards, compiled from my own experience with PbP and tips I have been gathering from other people.

Game expectations

The following are more of a requirement than a guide if you accept to play in a game I GM. Players who do not comply will be asked to improve and eventually asked to leave. Think of these things as non-optional "table" etiquette.

Have fun
No, seriously, have fun. If you are not having fun, why are you playing? If you find you are not having fun in one of my games, please send me a PM and I will do my utmost to rectify the situation. If it cannot be resolved, I am perfectly happy for you to leave the game. This is about all of us enjoying ourselves.

Talk. Let everybody know your feelings, or at least let me as the GM to know them. Whether you are not liking the style or you are losing the interest in the game, let me know. If you feel unsure about the direction the party is taking let others know. If you feel the game is bogging down, let it be known. If you see no clue on what to do next, let us know. Do not wait for others to speak up or the GM to raise clarification. Address problems as they appear.

Try to be polite while doing so. If you have a complain, try to address it privately with that person or the GM. If you have a compliment, state it publicly.

Make use of the "favourite" button. If you liked someone's post, let him know. If you agree with some suggestion someone is doing and have no time to post, let others know marking the post as "favourite".

Post frequently
Be ready to post every 24 hours. The main thing is to ensure that no one is waiting more than 24 hours for your action. If you take longer and we are in combat, I will stack your turn, or post an action for your character if I feel the party is in danger and you can do much to help.

Even if you feel current interaction should be addressed by other character, post stating so, provide that feedback. You can express the internal feeling of your character and by doing so, let everybody know a bit more about your character, how do you see current events, and that you are following them.

You can expect a couple of updates a day from my side at the least. On specially calm weeks that can raise up to 10 or even more posts per day. Weekends are more complicated for me, but most of the time there will still be some activity. I will let you know about periods I am not available. If you know you will be not available for more than a couple of days, please, let us know so we do not wait unnecessarily.

Character profile
You will need to keep a current copy of your character in your profile. This character sheet shall contain all the required information to both understand your character motivations and run the game. You shall provide Background and Personality sections, but you can send a PM to me with any background you want to maintain concealed from the public. I recommend Ash’s Guide to RPG Personality & Background as a help to flesh out your character. You can also add a section with your character appearance, either as a description or a link to an image you used for inspiration.

You will also need to provide all the stats of your character for the current level and a current inventory in the profile. If you have spells available, you also have to keep track of your prepared spells in your alias profile. Check out Crucible's Guide to PbP Character Sheets to get good advise about this topic.

Because the statsblock is the part most often checked out, it should be kept always visible in the profile without spoilers. Because of the same reason, keep Background, Personality and Inventory within spoilers.

Vital statistics
Place your vital stats, expended spells and active conditions in your forum tag line. It really helps for those situations when a GM needs to make a roll for the whole party (eg. everyone makes a reflex save). That means I can easily do the rolls, resolve all the effects and move the game along in a single post.

How to post vital stats
When you edit the profile for your alias, anything that appears on the following fields will appear on your tagline in posts on a PbP thread (in this order):
1. Gender
2. Race
3. Classes/Levels
All you need to do is to fill these three fields with your vital stats while editing your character profile.

Status lines suggestion:

1. Gender: hp 70/70 | AC 23 t.16 ff.18 | CMD 24 (+4 vs trip) | F +8 R +13 W +6 (+4 vs. sonic and language effects) | (Sing: 13/22 L1: 3/5 L2: 2/5 L3: 1/3) | Ini +6
2. Race: | [b]Senses[/b] darkvision 60' +9[spoiler=Skills]Acrob+6,Bluff+6,Climb+6,Diplo+6,Disg+6,Esc+6,H.animal+6,KArcana+6,KDung+6,KH ist+6,KLocal+6,KNat+6,KNob+6,KPlan+6,KRel+6,Ling+6,Perform+6,S.Motives+6,S. Hand+6,Spellcraft+6,Stealth+6,UMD+6,Concentration+6[/spoiler]
3. Classes/Levels: Female Human [url=]Bard[/url] 1 | bless 1 min

Player status
During combat I will use an OOC status line at the bottom of my posts. You can expect to find there: current effects and round when they will come to an end, player current hit points, enemies damage taken, terrain features clarifications and initiative order (with bolded names for active characters).

Initiative will always be rolled by me at the beginning of an encounter, as well as Perception and Stealth rolls in order to determine a Surprise round if I judge it applicable.

Saving throws and other rolls required to determine the success of an NPC action, will also be rolled by myself unless I directly request you to roll (usually if the effect is not an encounter changer or I am posting from a hand device).

In order to speed up exploration phases, I will assume the party trapfinder takes 20 on Perception in every door, chest and similar places, as well as on Disable Device to unlock such kind of places. I will not take this assumption on other places as corridors, unless the party states so with the appropriate effects on time consumption, but see next paragraph. I will likewise assume take 20 on Strength checks to unblock a place. In case of traps found, I will let the trapfinder to make the roll to disable it.

On a normal, non stressful situation, I will assume the whole party takes 10 on Perception and Stealth while moving unless stated otherwise. I will use the party best Perception bonus (taking into account light capabilities and march order) and the worst Stealth bonus. As for Perception checks I take into account distance, doors and other obstacles, distraction and other circumstantial modifiers. As for Stealh checks, I will apply a -10 penalty for moving at full speed, unless you specify you are advancing carefully. That said, everybody will be free to roll Perception and Stealth whenever they wish. I do use Appraise skill checks in my games in place of Perception when you need to stand out an object in a room crowded with other objects (for example to appreciate the statue is holding a fine masterwork battleaxe you could use in combat), using the same take 10 strategy to speed up things.

During diplomatic interactions, I will take a similar treatment on Sense Motives, assuming a take 10 and applying the best Sense Motives bonus for the party even if this might be not totally intended by rules. You will still be free to roll whenever you wish. You will be expected to roll your own Diplomacy or Intimidate checks during interactions, but I might roll for you if I need one and you have not provided it. In general I will take the roll from the leading character during the interaction, and apply the rest as helpers for up to 2 characters. You are expected to provide dialogue and arguments with your checks, and posts with just rolls will be ignored. I will apply circumstantial bonuses depending on how good I feel your interpretation and arguments have been, giving a bonus from +2 to -2, or even a +4 or -4 upon specially striking circumstances.

As for Knowledge checks, I will provide info within spoilers and the type of knowledge check required and difficulty for those creatures which type is clearly identifiable (like and ooze or a dragon). If I do not provide a Knowledge spoiler, you can then perform a single unmodified general Knowledge roll, I will look if you have the appropriate knowledge and provide any information you might have thanks to it. I take into account common creatures exists, and thus the DC to identify things like a skeleton, a zombie or a goblin will be 5 + CR instead of 10 + CR.

Finally, when posting rolls during combat always roll for actions in the order in which they occur. When in doubt, roll reactions to GM first, reactions to players next and then your actions. I will expect for you to roll Knowledge checks between reactions and your actions.

Further, I may make a roll of any kind on your behalf if you do not post within the 24 hour timeframe (see above for more on this).

Exploration phases like dungeons are long and tedious in PbP. And Shackled City has plenty of dungeons and the first chapters have specially long ones.

As a result it is very important the whole party works together to make exploration flow and interesting for everybody. As for what you have read on the 'Rolling' section, I have already lessen you plenty of the work, removing the need to roll for Perception and Stealth, and removing the need to wait for the Trapfinder character in order to advance in the dungeon. Then, what I will require you is you push the party in whatever direction, it does not matter which one, do not wait to agree with it with most of the party, that is something feasible when you are sitting in a table together and within 5 seconds you can check if everybody agrees to follow corridor A or corridor B. In PbP those decisions take a horrible amount of time in something mostly irrelevant, as most of the times there are no more reasons to follow path A, B or C. As such, if you are exploring and you read the result of past exploration, do not wait for the trapfinder or someone else to post where to go, place a post saying where your character is heading next. Me as the GM will move the party in that direction on the proper march order. If you really feel you have to wait before moving, please post saying why do you think so and adding the actions required (as for example opening a table cupboards or further researching a pool in the room), or at least make your character state where do you vote to go next.

The Shackled City is a very long adventure, as such I will try to cut up on those parts I feel less relevant. I will look for non combat solutions to some encounters and remove some of them here and there. Because I want to encourage players to not explore every single room in the dungeon in order to keep the story advancing, I will let you know if you are missing something very important, and compensate for any treasure you do not find by adding treasure elsewhere during the adventure.

Challenge Rating
The Shackled City was originally designed for 4 characters under D&D 3.0 rules. Given the difficulty of some of the encounters, when the special edition adapted the AP to D&D 3.5, they changed the advise to run with 6 characters.

Pathfinder characters are more powerful than D&D 3.5 ones, and I plan to run the game with 7 characters which should make most encounters even easier. As such I will be using Pathfinder versions of any monster with equivalent CR, and make use of community provided conversions of other NPCs, or at least give relevant combats an HP boost.

It is possible I adjust the CR of encounters by adding or removing enemies to adjust to the larger group. That said, I run under the idea of "keep it simple", and most probably I will adjust the rate at which you level up and the amount of treasure you have access to make it slightly higher or lower than expected by the AP in order to keep the balance. As a result, the more powerful the options you pick when levelling up, the less levels you will achieve in order to easily maintain the challenge level. My recommendation is you optimize character stats but let you go with other personality and background design reasons and enjoy rather than pure stats maximizing. If necessary I will compensate giving you extra levels.

On death levels, although what I explain in the "rules" section, and my attempt to keep things challenging, death in my games is rare. I consider my mission for everybody to have fun, not to challenge your character maximization and player tactics skills. In the end characters are heroes, and real life is complicated and frustrating enough. I want to explain this Shackled City story, I want to do it with you and your characters are an integral part of that story, I am the least interested to lose them in the way.

That said, bad rolls exists, bad decisions and horrible party coordination also exists. Some of the encounters in the AP are pretty dangerous, thus, expect some deaths to happen, but let's hope we reach to the end with little casualties.

Level advancement
I will keep track of experience points behind the scenes as a reference but I will call for character advancement following the adventure guidelines and the current challenge the party seems able to manage.

Hit points advanced after level 1 will be half the hit dice of the class you advance on plus 1 (like PFS).

I will require to post summaries of your level ups in the discussion thread, and add links to those summary posts to your character profiles so it will be very easy to check out what did you obtain on each level up.

In order to keep it simpler both for GMs and players, but willing to give options for everybody to find the pieces they feel in need, I will restrain the available sources to a selection of the RPG line material: Core + Advanced Player’s Guide (APG) + Advanced Race Guide (ARG) + Bestiaries (B#) + Ultimate Magic (UM) + Ultimate Combat (UC) + Ultimate Campaign (UCa) + Inner Sea Guide (ISG). Bits of Pathfinder Unchained will be used as well, mainly the classes chapter and the Background Skills section. No Pathfinder Player Companion and no other Pathfinder Campaign Setting than Inner Sea Guide will be allowed. This is not a hard limit, but rather a way to keep the game and character creation sane. No third party material will be allowed at any case.

Companions and summoning
I plan for a large group of players and want for them to have the spotlight as well as not bogging down encounters with extra characters. If your class has a feature that involves a companion, you will be requested to exchange that feature for one that does not involve adding a character (for example, if playing a paladin you should take the celestial spirit option for your divine bond). Although summon spells will be not completely banned, characters builded around this concept or making extensive use of those creature spells will be requested to look for different strategies for their characters. As a result specialized feats as Augment Summoning will be not available.

Reach builds
I will prefer if you chose different options, as handling AoO in PbP is even more painful than in face to face. I will definitely require you to add AoO into all your combat posts if you still decide to go this route.

Only spells from the Core book will be legal. Spells from other sources might be available through adventure discovery (magical research, NPC spellbooks, found scrolls, etc.). I feel this necessary to balance the power level in relation to the AP, as this was created with a much older set of spells in mind.

I will allow wizards and clerics PC casters to research spells from other allowed sources during downtime (check "Sources" section), but this means things like a gravity bow wand will not exist unless a PC creates them.

House rules on access to spellbooks in Cauldron.

Magical objects
Only objects from the Core book will be granted for selling. For any other thing ask first. Cauldron is a large town, which means you can only find objects of up to 2,400gp value. For things more expensive than that, you will need to request the item to Sasserine, which means a couple of weeks shipment delay. The downtime within chapters might be enough in some chapters for your order to be attended. Not so much for others. The merchant life campaign trait in the Player's Guide cuts this delay by half.

Magical objects creation:

All Core magical objects creation feats will be allowed. Being an urban adventure there will be good conditions for magical object creation. But be advised at some points, and specially at higher levels, the downtime will be short.

Restrictions on object creation by allies obtained through the Leadership feat will be imposed. Check out with me before picking up that feat.

Character retraining
The retraining rules will be available. The intention is to help overcome poor early decisions or the desire to direct your character into another direction after some party composition change or lose of interest on the current focus. If you are unsatisfied on how a decision has become in the long run, just let me know.

Retraining focused on maximizing character capabilities will not be accepted, like changing a feature that has become useless after being great during some levels. Unless you are a Fighter, you are granted feat retraining in that case.

Hero points
The hero points rules will be used, because I both like the extra relevance it gives to certain moments and consider the game improves under the extra survivability of the characters. You will start with 1 hero point and obtain another one each level, with a maximum pool of 3 points.

Due to forum dice mechanics, the pre-roll bonus will be not available (only after die bonus will be legal). Hero points spells and items will be not available. Hero points feats are legal though.

This is an urban campaign. Although ultimately any class can work fine, I think it is fair to provide a list with the classes I think the tone of the Shackled City campaign fits the best:

  • Bard
  • Cleric
  • Fighter
  • Magus
  • Monk
  • Oracle
  • Paladin
  • Rogue
  • Sorcerer
  • Wizard

A list of classes that might fit in the Campaign with small effort:

  • Barbarian
  • Gunslinger
  • Inquisitor
  • Ranger
  • Witch

Initiative management
I call the system I follow as "turn stacking", and it is the one I have found to work the best in PbP environments specially when you have large groups when the probability to have someone with a busy week is even higher.

The way it works is reducing the number of clusters, or in other words, the number of people you have to wait in order to state your turn.

It consists on clustering all the enemies in the same initiative, taking the most frequent initiative bonus or the average for the group. After the enemies all the players can post their actions on any order, as if others where delaying. This has the great advantage whenever you reach to the thread you can instantly post if another turn has passed, but still giving a value to high initiative bonuses, because those characters gaining the initiative to the enemies, will still have one extra round of actions.

In addition, if one character (or two in a large group of 7) is the only one yet to post, I complete the turn posting the enemies actions and "stack" the actions from the players still to post. That means during the next turn they can effectively provide their action for their past round and their current round. I find this system to better balance keeping the pace of the combat and the flexibility of when the GM can post, and the right of the player to play his character and the party not to lose precious action resources.

This system reduces the pressure over players and GM to be available at certain moments of the day. You do not feel responsible to provide your actions for others to keep playing, neither you feel the group is losing the combat because the GM set you on defensive mode or plainly delayed your action. The game keeps moving while everybody keeps useful.

Treasure management
This part is one of the most time consuming in a Pathfinder game. Because on PbP there are no real downtimes for the players, I will try to simplify enormously this task.

Objects value will instantly identified, assuming you take 20 Appraise later on just to speed up things and ease treasure management (note I still use Appraise in place of Perception to find Treasure in certain circumstances).

Magical objects will be automatically identified as long as someone in the group has Spellcraft maximized (as many ranks as level). Only in the case I feel a magical object is too far from the capabilities of the group I will call for Spellcraft checks in order to identify magical objects.

Once mundane equipment begins to be not interesting for the group, I will not bother listing it among the Treasure found. Instead I will convert everything to gold pieces for the ammount you would get on selling. I understand this might break the sense of reality of most players, but it is such a common task and it requires so much time from the GM and the player taking track of the Treasure that I want to simplify without hurting the acquisition capacity of the group. I hope you can understand.

Finally, I will require a player to take care of treasure tracking. I can provide a Google Spreadsheet template to help with the task.

Besides I have been GMing so many years and I am aware of most of the rules fairly well, I will be forgetting some of them here and there. A polite remind or request for clarification is more than welcome.

I do not adjudicate rules loosely. Expect things like cover, shot into melee penalty, difficult terrain, concealment, underwater combat rules, weather effects, damage reduction and monster defensive options, etc. to be applied. As a result you might experience a considerable increase on encounter challenge if you are used to less rule caring playing.

Finally, as many other things, I try to be pragmatic while ruling, and do not lose my time with the more time consuming rules that provide little to the game. Expect things like mundane ammunition tracking, carrying capacity, food, lodgement, to receive little or no attention. That does not mean you do not have to care at all, if you are isolated in a position during hours do not expect to shot 100 arrows without being requested how many you had, if your strength is 7 do not expect to carry a full plate, if you end up in a desert during days we will look if you have some food... The secret is just try to keep it reasonable.

I use Google Slides to manage movement and present general maps to the players. They are publicly editable (with the link) and you should not need a Google account to use them. It exists an APP for Google Slides, which will allow you to edit the map also in your tablet or smartphone.

Everyone needs to update their own positions as part of their posts. Where this is not possible, please describe where you would like to move to, and me or some other player will do it next time possible.

Please, please, please write about how your character moves in the post. Don't just say "see my location on the map". That will help to maintain the roleplaying flavor and also make sure we don't have to constantly flick between the map and the gameplay thread to find out what's going on. It can also help me to adjudicate what happens as you move. Describe your movement.

It is important to note Google Slides registers the last modifications, feature I generally use to check the movements where correct, and you can also use to check what was the state of the map at certain moment (just take the post time you want to check and go to that moment on the last modifications feature).

Finally, in adjudicating movement (mostly for attacks of opportunity and traps) I will assume you take the most direct route to an enemy while still avoiding attacks of opportunity and hazards. If you close to a square and you cannot get there within your available movement without provoking, I will make an AoO against you. Otherwise, though, I will assume your character does not move like a brain-damaged zombie and avoids such things. If you would like to specify how you move, please use a dashed line to show where you moved (or describe it if you're posting from a phone).

Tips and advice:

Gathered from Doomed Hero, Painlord and my own.
- Avoid walls of text. If your character has a lot to say, divide the texts by paragraphs and insert normal text describing how he says it among the bolded text.
- Do not hog the spotlight.
- Do not derail Gameplay. Do not lose the time on unnecessary discussions. If the adventure is clearly leading you in one way do not try to derail it just to demonstrate how clever you are. Let the GM and the other players explain their story.
- Use the Discussion thread. If you need clarification over a rule or you do have to post about anything else not related with the current actions, post it on the Discussion.

Keep it moving
Painlord says "Always be pushing" but I think "Keep it moving" captures it a little better. After all, you can pull as well as push. The main idea is to always provide a hook for another character to pick up on and keep the game moving towards the goal. If your post doesn't provide a way forwards, consider revising it. After all, we do want to finish the adventure some time this century, right?

Example: Post that doesn't keep it moving.

Jambon sits down, head in hands, heavily wounded and exhausted from the fight.

Example: Simple modification to the above that keeps it moving.

Jambon sits down, head in hands, heavily wounded and exhausted from the fight. "Well, friends, looks like we all need a rest. Shall we set up camp for the night?"

Post contingency actions
If you are unsure if something works in a certain way, try it out, if not, I will just ignore the action or tell you what other thing to do. It just saves a lot of time in PbP. Even more if you add contingency actions in spoilers.

For example:

If no one says against this direction, I check the left door for traps.
[dice=Perception] 1d20 + 6 [/dice]

[spoiler=If nothing found]
I open the door and go into the room if there is no immediate danger.

[spoiler=If the door is locked]
I call the party rogue to open the door. If we don't have rogue, I try to force it open with my axe [dice=Strength] 1d20 + 4[/dice].

GM answer:

Great contingencies post! Thanks for helping the action to keep moving!

The door seems to have no traps at all. When you try to open it, you discover it is locked. You call the rogue and he take 20 for total 26 unlocks it.

Your torch light goes inside the room, and you see a big birthday cake. All of a sudden your Pathfinder friends come out around and greets you all. "Happy birthday!"

That saves us from expending 3 days checking questions and answers back and forth to decide where to go and what happens with it.

Important conclusion
Thanks for reading. If you are trying to get into one of my games, you can send me a private message (PM) with your opinion on what do you think about these rules for the game, clarifications or any other thing you would like to be included or work different. It is always an extra point to have players that try to be sincere and improve things in your game.

I would also like you to carefully read the following guides. They are no absolute words bug are good advice to think about:
- Doomed Heroe's Guide to Play by Post
- Painlord's Guide to a Better Doomed Hero
- Pailord's Guide to PbP GMing
- Crucible's Guide to PbP Character Sheets

Thanks to GM Damo for the idea and the borrowing of some parts of the text.

-------Other info-----------------------
GMed adventures

How to create your PFS character for PbP

JJ steps forward and delivers a set of quick powerful blows with his staff. The zombie seems specially resistant to his attacks, unerring as they are, but ultimately it collapses shattering into dust under the accumulated awesomeness of the young man.

Marigold casts a spell in the defensive, raising a prayer that affects both enemy and allies, except for Maxim. She then steps back into the room.
I adjusted the order of actions for the burst to affect also Velasia and JJ

Informing about the incantations being cast, thanks to recognizing common casting words, Maxim readies his gun once more for shooting.

Convinced by the presence of the zombies, Kikinnin quickly steps over the dust of the first one, and slashes powerfully at the second cutting it in half. The zombie shatters to dust exactly as the first one did.

Velasia looks at the dwarf with hate.

Violet: paralyzed (Will DC 18)
Round 1: Foes, Kikinnin Round 2: Marigold, JJ, Maxim