I've done a lot of PFS... where we basically have to run things by the rules. We don't get the luxury of fiat'ing encounters or the such to make the non-wizard characters feel better about themselves. And players know that.
And many, in PFS, just make what, in their mind, is the most powerful build they can find. It seemed to me that nearly half of the players focused a lot of optimization and squeezing every last bit of combat effectiveness out of their builds. They wanted to dominate.
Yet, I didn't see all that many pure arcane casters/builds. And, I even saw more than a few martial builds.
I won't argue whether or not wizards/arcane casters are the key MVP in or out of battle more often than martials. I think you can make a solid case either way. But, in PFS, where players don't really get to have long discussions at all about party balance (you basically show up with your character and go for it), I rarely had two arcane casters. I often had none! So... while they may more powerful or dominating (especially when played well), I just don't see a swath of people flocking to them. :/
Even in homebrews, where party members discuss roles and balance, ya just don't see a lot of times where two players but heads over who gets to fill that arcane role. I couldn't tell you why, but its often harder to fill than the cleric/healer role nowadays. So, if they get to be OP'd in some battles where they prep properly and know what tools to use and when to use them...well, that's OK :)
What ya said, Mystically.
I've run dozens of parties. Players don't all go caster. I've even had a party missing arcane casters before. In PFS games, I seem to get a good variation. A good reason why is that, in lower levels, they aren't that pwnsome. The pay off for this, IMHO, is that if a caster DOES reach higher levels, they tend to outshine other classes.
This was really the case in older editions. Low level casters were really near - useless... and high level casters were demigods. Pathfinder gives low levels more toys to play with than D&D 1st, and because martials are much tougher and the such, Wizards feel just little less OP'd at high levels than the old days.
It's hard to really determine true 'balance' with so many moving pieces in a game as deep as PF. But, I do believe that good anecdotal evidence includes things like player preference. I've had high percentages of players go for builds like Zen Archer, certain summoner archtypes, etc...(which I've outlawed or nurfed in my home games) but I really don't get as many arcane casters as you would think if they were so overpowered.
I also agree with someone else's earlier post... a lot of what the wizard does makes others shine...since their true strength is in things like crowd control, buffs, etc. Color Spraying half of the opponents means little if you don't have some good martial characters on the team to take advantage of the enemies short term plight. Back in the old days, when they were more blasty, it felt more like they stole spotlights.
I will never disagree though, that they are certainly a class that completely shines if you play the class well.
I'm polling players: I would like to know what each of you think of the next three APs coming out. Please rate each on scale of 1-5. Thanks!!!
1. Never would play. Would rather sit out the campaign.
Feel free to elaborate more after doing your score :)
Wrath of the Righteous (Campaign using Mythic Rules)
1) I use a simple spreadsheet for XP calculation. I'm sure there are similar tools on the net. Also, most of the encounters in the books show the xp totals for those encounters right there in the book, which makes calculation much easier. I used to do Ad Hoc, as a few describe above, but I got a bit disenchanted with it. In a couple of the APs, it felt like party members would level unevenly (Not between each other, but between levels). It's all personal preference.
2) I generally discourage crafting because it takes extra time, and most players are happy with that. If a player wants to make something needed, such as scrolls for wizards, bullets for gunslingers, etc, I just let them insta make them at half price.
3) I do just that, if I have six players and I increase the encounters to accommodate the fact there are more players. As others have said, I don't sweat the calculations or worry about players getting too wealthy, as they do in PFS. I just play it buy ear. Even the APs sometimes give out REALLY nice stuff that's way above the gold guidelines. With that being said, I think a good, easy rule of thumb is that everyone should have typical +X weapons/armor/etc for every 4 levels...though, again, it's not an exact science, nor should it be. If the story calls for someone getting a +4 weapon at level 2 (especially if there's a great story reason for it), I allow it to happen and don't lose much sleep.
But even if you do it before, at a Con (or a multi-slot game day, like where I ususally play), you can end up just as crunched for time before the scenario. I don't want to sit down at a table, have the GM roll in 5 minutes late for whatever reason, and try to get my ITS signed off just to be told "I don't have time. We need to get started, so we'll just do that after."
Indeed. I mean, here's the thing. For some reason, when a GM perceives time is short, they automatically cut out reviewing sheets, handling purchases, having players complete chronicle sheets before signing etc., etc. Honestly, these should NOT be handwaved, IMHO. I'd rather cut out an optional encounter, or rush players through some of the RP or combat, rather than cut out the 15 minutes that the bookeeping requires, because this is organized play, and bookkeeping/documentation is part of the process of keeping this whole thing organized.
Indeed. I've just about given up on playing PFS online because I cannot think of a great way to meet the proper form requirements and/or an easy way to review character backup. It's something I'd like to help brainstorm when I have time and feel REALLY creative :)
On the flip side of the coin, it will add time post session and as many have stated, time can be in short supply when you are playing at a place of business with set hours.
I teach scenario time management as part of my GM 101. At our game store, we start at 5.30 to 6pm, and MUST be out of the store by 10pm. The vast majority of the time, I finish 15 minutes within 9.15pm. This usually allows me at least 30 minutes to sign sheets and pack up. Keeping things moving, knowing when to call combat, etc...are critical in PFS game store and con settings.
If people want to cheat they are going to, Nothing we do short of bringing a massive amount of work to catch a few people cheating (and frankly cheating themselves out of fun) will work.
I disagree...to an extent.
First, a vast majority of players do not cheat...not outright. But they do get lazy, forget to write things down, etc. Having this consistent, required form where consumables are recorded and consumption tracked will help bring consistency in that area.
Second, tracking sheets and random audits may not catch most deliberate cheating that takes place. But, it can certainly catch it from time to time. Just enforcing the old method I was able to call a couple out on their shenanigans. This new method is easier for me to do that. You're right. It's not completely fool proof. But deliberate cheaters often get greedy, and that leads to slip ups. Things like this absolutely help GMs and VO's to catch that a bit more often.
You're right, rknop. A LOT of GMs..even experienced ones, are not even spot checking things. And when you ask them, they say, "They trust players."
Checking sheets isn't about trust and lack thereof. It's acknowleding that this is a complicated game, and we all make mistakes. Having a GM double check this stuff keeps those to a minimum. That's especially valuable in an organized play environment where we strive for balance. Furthermore, if no one checks, then people get lazy, or even cheat, making even larger variances.
To make matters worse, those GMs who do not check make life very, very difficult for those who do. Players get upset at cons or when they travel, and one of the GMs they play with check their sheets and tell them they are illegal for play.
We need to be somewhat consistent as a community, if we want our organized play to truly be organized.
As far as this tracking sheet...as someone who spots check sheets nearly every game, and does NOT sign sheets until they are fully filled out, I can tell you that this actually DOES make things easier in the long run, and, if used, will encourage better tracking and recording of used resources like charges on wands.
Here's how I have been doing it. As far as I know, this process meets the guidelines of the rules. Remember, it says you're supposed to sign the fully filled out sheets (which means after all items bought, math done, etc).
First, I always make sure my players understand that its best to plan their next few purchases in their character's progression. That way, once they have enough money, they know what they are going to buy next.
I generally hand out the blank chronicle sheets as I'm wrapping up the final fight. I think have the players fill out ALL the blanks, with the exception of the GM signature lines. This saves me a lot of time. I inform them that if they have any purchases or used any items, they need to add those to the chronicle sheet.
Usually, only 2 of the 6 players are buying anything non-mundane. And usually 1 of those 2 is something simple (a +1 or 2 weapon or shield...I know roughly how much those should cost). I simply eyeball those purchases, make sure they marked items used if using wands, double check the math (I just estimate in my head, I'm don't usually use a calculator), and then I sign. Again, since most people don't buy items, I get 4/6 done REALLY fast...and the other two take me about a minute each.
For me, the RP disconnect was how the VO's who gave the missions ALWAYS seem to know what I was going to be doing or whom I would be speaking with. It was so meta! Evil! The fact that the majority of them boiled down to a mandatory skill checks (often with skills that few players took) didn't help. Sad to say, I won't miss them.
Michael Brock wrote:
This. We encourage our players to plan their purchases at home, so when they come in, they declare at the beginning what they want to buy, and they already know what it costs. When we do Chronicle sheets at the end of the night, they add it quickly to the items bought section. At that point, I just eyeball it (and occasionally ask to see it in the book if I don't know what it is, exactly) and sign.
Occasionally, we do have a new player who has questions. We usually reserve an extra 15 minutes at the end to help with those types of questions.
Cool, you might want to tweak the wording so it doesn't say you have to buy in front of a GM to you need to have a GM sign off your purchases before the characters next game.
What Mike said isn't really changing this process. He's simply agreeing that you can get your ducks in row, write down what you want to buy on a note, so at the table, you are completely prepared and don't slow things down. Then, when the sheets are given for that session, you fill it out, and have the GM sign it. That's when you are technically buying it. The GM approval process is still there.
The only point that I am trying to make, the only point of confusion I suffer, is this one thing: if a player is utilizing a single spell from the Rise of the Runelords Anniversary Edition book for his character, why is it inappropriate for that player to photocopy that single page instead of bring a the entire 400+ page book with him?
I have a story or two about a player who would do things just like that. I'll put the same advice out there that I gave him.
First, I hope...REALLY hope you don't buy any book, must less a really expensive one like that one...for just one spell. I've seen people do that. Far be it from me to tell someone how to spend their money, but I will tell ya...if that one spell gets banned down the road, they get REALLY upset. Outside of some of the rules books like Ultimate Equipment, many of the other books serve other purposes. RotRL is a campaign book, eh? My advice is to only buy that book if you're going to use it as a campaign book, or for the flavoring it provides. That way, you won't be disappointed if your one spell gets banned.
Second, a player should build his characters around what he owns, or what he's willing to carry around, whichever is the most limiting factor. Just sticking to core, AGP and Ultimate Equipment covers a myriad of builds. Carrying around a 10lb behemoth (like RotRL) for one spell isn't a great idea no more than buying it for that one spell. Just sayin'.
The rule is there to insure not only is the GM running the game provided with a copy of the spell/feat/rule that applies, but also that you have purchased that specific source. That purchase entitles you to use anything legal from that source. A photocopy doesn't prove you purchased anything, it just proves you have access to a copier. That could have a copy of a friend's book, something you downloaded somewhere illegally, etc.
For the more LN types out there, "because the rules says so" is usually a good enough reason, lol. However, for those diggin' deeper, this reasoning may work as well. None of us non-staffers, even VO's, speak directly for Paizo, but what Chad says here makes a lot of logical sense to me. And in the 50+ legal PFS games I have played, I have had a number of players attempt to pass off bootleg PDF print outs (and well as on handheld devices) as backup for their characters. What's interesting, is I had people do that to me at a con..where I know they spent some money in travel, hotel, etc. They could have easily bought the PDFs with some of their left over money, or invested in a cart.
The reality is, if you're doing an organized play system, and you don't have some basic controls in place, there are people who will simply use bootleg stuff and cheat your company of money you should probably be earning off the event. I hear a lot of GMs say, "I trust my players!" That sounds great! But, the reality of life is that people love to cut corners and even cheat when presented with easy opportunities. This is why we lock our car doors. It's EASY to get past a car door lock if you put your mind to it (or just break the glass), but locking the door discourages that person enough to maybe choose another car to rob. Leaving it open makes it very tempting to those who may not normally take larger steps to theft.
I don't speak for Paizo, but I'm taking a shot in the dark and guessing that having these rules primarily helps the GMs (I know it does for me) by forcing the players to have official documentation about their build that the GM can rely on as being legal and accurate. However, I bet a secondary reasons is that it helps to dissuade those who would normally cut corners and not buy the books they make their character with normally.
Yeah...but it makes things MUCH easier for me...and I generally end up turning people away, so I'm not terribly concerned about barrier to entry. I know that sounds a little uncaring, but the reality is that I run these things on very tight timetables. In order to knock these out by bed time, it helps immensely to have everyone's HL file that I can just important right into the system.
If you happen to be in Utah at some point, I do run plenty of local games where my requirements are only what's listed in the Guild to PFS Organzied Play...so HL is not required at all there. In my ongoing campaigns where time is not an issue, I manually enter everything for my players who don't own the program.
Michael Brock wrote:
Unfortunately, they do. I've had so many people tell me to my face that their players simply cannot afford a buck/week or whatnot. Then, we wonder why some store owners aren't open to the idea of reserving regular tables for PF players. We have a terrible reputation for being incredibly cheap, at least here in Utah. While, two tables over, the Warhammer and Magic Guys drop $10-$50 each every time they walk into the store, lolz!
This is a convenience for me; I know it doesn't constitute a legal proof of ownership. But if I tell the GM at the table I've copied this, myself, from my own legally-owned books, I'd hope he believes me.
Please understand...this isn't about believing or not believing. At least, not from my point of view. It's about me, as a VO and GM of a form of organized play, accepting what the campaign leaders have described as a legal additional resource, and rejecting those that they say are not. (I tell my players, if I followed a deity in Golarion, I would be a follower of Abadar...LN all the way baby.) I think this is REALLY important.
At PaizoCon, I had people get upset because I checked sheets. They stated that their GMs in their home towns trusted them. I explained it wasn't about trust...it was my role to review the sheets. As it was, I found numerous errors, including a 30 point build. I believe they were legitimate mistakes...but, again, this wasn't about trust. We all make mistakes. It's about maintaining gameplay balance by insuring everyone is building their characters by the rules.
Right? I just ask them for their sheets and spot check math, feats, etc. I usually pick stuff I do not already know (so I can learn more about the character and rules) which usually means I pick non-core stuff since I know most of the core stuff by now. You'd be surprised! :)
A quick read through makes this look pretty good. It feels like its a bit rushed for so many levels covered, but the quests seem to be what's providing a lot of that extra XP needed. The only thing that bothers me a little bit is that some of the quests seem to be things that players would do normally along the way that they would not get extra xp for in most circumstances. Regardless, it seems crammed with action, RP, flavor and some good plottin'. Like with most of the APs, I think a little work on the GMs part to add some extra fluff and sidequests to the solid foundation that's already there could make this an absolute fantastic experience. It still looks super fun running it completely as written.
BPorter, I agree with much, if not all, of your review. I was hoping for something with more depth and fluff, and I really enjoyed what was there. The artwork was a miss for me, as well. Some of it was definitely below what I've come to expect from Paizo. But, like most books, I can see players dismissing 2/3rds of the crunch tehre as being completely underpowered (and just too fluffy) and seeing the same 1/4 or 1/3rd of the crunch used over and over again as it's quite a stand out, such as that 2nd level page spell you mention in the review.
I'm glad I got it only because I'm a full time GM with LOTS of new PFS players. It will be great to point the fluff pages to them to get them up and running from the lore stand point. But it is a really tough recommend, especially at the price point.
The biggest issue I have with audits is time. I would like to be able to do them each time I sit down to GM, but time constraints make that hard, especially for someone whose tables tend to run long as mine often do. (Any suggestions on speeding that up and providing an avenue for audits are certainly welcome as far as I'm concerned.)
There's a few recommendations.
First, it's OK to realize you cannot possibly review everyone's sheet completely in most settings. Spot checks are your friends. I set myself a strict 15 minute review time limit. If I don't get to check everyone's sheet, oh well.
Second, especially at higher level of play, understand you won't catch every error on each look over at the sheets.
What I do, is spot check. Pick 3 things to check on the sheets, and do so on as many character sheets as the time allows. It may be attack calculations, HPs and feats. Anything that you see on the sheets that you don't understand, or know, ask the player about. See a feat you don't recognize? That's the one to ask for additional resources and the page showing the feat. Have the player look that up while you look over the next sheet. This not only proves to you that the feat is legal, but gives you the chance to learn a new feat you were not previously familiar with.
Next week, pick 3 different things, such as gold levels, armor equipped and highest level spells. Use the same approach as above. If possible/appropriate, start with the players you skipped the week before.
The golden rule is Do what you can. Anything is a HUGE improvement over nothing. When players know GMs are checking, they are more likely to review their own sheets more regularly, since they now know there's a chance that they may get called on if there's a mistake... again, this is very similar to how MOST of us are super careful about our taxes even though they are very rarely audited. The chance of an audit in and of itself leads people to be more careful.
You also mention that you spot check if something seems out of whack. I would like to add that to my Points above as I hear that on a lot, too.
I feel most of my player sheets are accurate, or close enough. If something looks at of whack in play, THEN I look at it.
I have no scientific proof backing this up....but I think this method, which the vast majority of GMs I talk to use, is broken. I'm guessing either the GMs aren't as good as they say they are in catching broken stuff, or they just don't call it out enough for fear of pushback or taking time. All I can tell you is that I found numerous, significant issues with my spot checks that these players' GMs did not see after dozens of games in motion with the broken builds or whatnot. Again, in one table I had layers from all different areas with large issues including 30 point builds, illegal feats, gold value off by 1000s, etc. This representation of the result of our collective mindset as GMs is not organized.
We need to work together, as a team, to raise the bar. It won't happen overnight...and we will not hit a home run each time. But if we take some simple steps to raise the bar at our tables, and do it in a way that is respectful and helpful rather then condescending, we might put the 'organized' back into our play.
Nine months ago, give or take, I joined PFS as Venture Captain of the Salt Lake area. I had run Adventure Paths and the such for years. I knew that Organized play had some stronger rules and reporting attached to it. I was running a PFS play by post at the time...and within a month, I had people reporting me because I adjusted some of the rules at the time to facilitate online play. In my first few month running games locally and reviewing sheets I was constantly reminded by a number of players that while not everyone in my region had all the backup for their characters in order, they all KNEW they better have it ready for any convention, because those are super official and stuff!
So, in running local games, I made sure to continuously communicate and uphold RAW at the table. I spot checked character sheets regularly, and reviewed with players when they used illegal copies of books as backup, illegal feats, poor builds, etc. (I always limit myself to about 15 minutes of checking, and I check people who I haven't checked in a while so everyone eventually gets looked over). I had some people walk away very upset I did this, but the rules are the rules, right? And, it is usually the GM who enforces the rules of the game, and the rules of the PFS organized play, at the table.
So, imagine my surprise when, at PaizoCon, I learned that a very small minority of other PFS GMs were checking sheets at all. I questioned over a dozen players, including my friends from Utah who game. None of them had their sheets checked unless they sat at my table. Every player I asked told me I was the only one.
I only do spot checks, as I hold to a 15 minute rule...but at the con alone, I found a 30 point build, two players with gold off by thousands, 2 players who did not have ANY backup (books OR chronicle sheets) for their tier 7-11 characters and one with a completely illegal item.
The fact that sheets are very, very rarely reviewed isn't limited to the con. It was clear that many of these players, from all over the country, had rarely, if ever, had their sheets checked. A 30 point build is easy to spot, but it had been on the character sheet for well over a dozen sessions by the time I saw it.
I passionately believe that checking sheets creates a fair, even playing field for the players which, in turn, makes the game more fun (after all, it's hard to have fun if a player or two in the party has a 30 point build with illegal items). It is my intention to encourage GMs to check sheets at each session whenever possible. In talking with other GMs and VO's about my concerns, some agreed. Those who did not had some common concerns I'd like to address here, as part of my plea to the community.
There's no time
It is not fun/It does not create a fun environment
I trust my players. Reviewing their sheets and backup sends a negative message to the contrary.
That brings me to another point...nearly half of the mistakes I found didn't make the character too powerful, but the opposite! I've seen 15 point builds, characters missing gold, feats, favored class bonuses and more. A player disappointed with his character performance may leave your game without saying a word, never knowing that he was missing critical elements that his character was actually entitled to!
I've heard about people leaving PFS because GMs who check treat them like jerks.
If you do this, you will invariably tick someone off. It's bound to happen. There are those who do not want to buy the book to back up their character, take the time to look up whether the feats they saw on d20pfsrd.com was actually legal, etc. You will have the occasional player who doesn't respect that organized play is exactly that. Sure, they could join or start their own AP or homebrew where none of this matters...but they're going to give YOU a hard time at your table. I've had it happen four times in the last nine months. Trust me, you don't want those types of players at your tables in PFS anyway. Give them Mike's email address and politely ask them to play somewhere else.
I hope this helps. Again, ultimately, I would like to see a stronger presence of double checking sheets somewhat regularly in order to create a more fair and consistent experience that comes to mind when we talk about organized play.
Salutations. I'm GM'ing a number of Pathfinder Society games online, and I'm looking for more players. I'm running...
Saturday, July 20th 2pm-12am Crypt of the Everflame (Tier 1-2)
All times are EST. Time was approximate and may run a bit over.
I'll be using maptools, Skype and herolabs to run the game. In order to participate, you will need the following...
* Your PFS Legal character in herolabs.
If you're interested in one or more of the games, email me at jcservant at cyberlightcomics dot com for more details. Make sure to include
If you have general questions about the requirements or the such, please ask here so that everyone may benefit from the answer. Thank you very much and happy adventuring!
I use "Combat by Description" along with some additional rules to provide the abstraction necessary to make the combat move quickly and objectively.
For example, when it comes to flanking, an enemy has the 'flanked' condition once he is attacked by melee weapons by two people. For AoE spells, a d6 is rolled with modifiers from a simple table (such as +2 for spells over 10' in radius) for each potential target. All results 6+ are considered in the AoE.
You can see my systems in action on my Pbp games. http://paizo.com/people/JCServant/campaigns . I've been using it for over half a year now (with some tweaking along the way), and most of the players like it enough to stick around.
Todd Morgan wrote:
Another vote for this. If one person isn't comfy, we don't play up. That simple. I have found that this solves the issue until Paizo can come up with a more elegant solution.
The wording on this could have been a bit clearer, but Don has it right. You can run/play WBG as many times as you want. You can apply the sheets to first level characters ad nausium, as long as you don't apply the multiple of the same Chron sheet to the same character. You can apply a module one time to a 2nd level character. Basically, the PFS Guide superceeds this documenent...or, IMHO, just clears it up :)
Jason Nelson wrote:
I use the same rule. The new character starts out at about 75% of their original character's GP value, as well. This tends to balance out, since they are buying exactly what they want for their build, whereas the character who died may have been 'worth more' but had some items that were not really optimized for their build.
In my homebrews, players who stick with their characters longer accrue points (awarded when they earn hero points and levels) that they can invest for the occasional extra feet, better stats, etc. These benefits are lost if a character moves to a new character for any reason. Again, they tend to feel similar in power despite this draw back, since when they are built, they can build completely optimized from the ground up and skip certain feats and decisions they may have taken to survive through lower levels.
I also allow retraining, and I was surprised to see that retraining rules in UC closely resemble my own. The relationship rules in UC has also been something I have been using since I read the original ones in Jade Regent. I really like what a lot of what's here, as I have already experienced that these types of sub-systems really do add to the flavor and fun of campaigns.
My counterpoint: WBL rules make inherent sense. You fight some low-level mercenaries and they won't have much valuables you can take with you. You fight a high CR dragon and it has a bigger hoard than a younger one. While the amount of resources a character gets at a certain level may appear arbitrary, I have enough confidence in the developers that they actually balanced that number with the expected gear characters should have to deal with the challenges they are facing.
But your counterpoint doesn't explain why a party can't do things like take a year to perform in public and earn a few thousand gold (putting them above the WPL), inherit items/gold, start a business, sell a ship they got when they killed pirates, or do any number of things that would earn them more money than WPL allows. Making money by magic items is only one of a myriad of logical options that players can come up with that puts them well over WPL. It's always been up to the GM to either come up with in game reasons why they cannot, outright stop it (or make changes to rules such as lowering the gold value) with no explanation other than to cite game balance or allow it and hope it doesn't break the game. The direction that Ultimate Combat gives is only a guidelines. It's up to the GM to provide the support or whatnot. If you feel that too much wealth isn't an issue, then feel free to ignore it. If your GM suddenly has hordes of monsters attacking your town after you've created X GP in magic items, you'll have a good reason in the back of your mind what might have motivated him to do so :P
Unless Sean and the other developers can learn how to teleport into your living room, nobody can stop you from houseruling ( or interpreting RAW ) as you like. However, my personal hope and actual expectation is that a new rule ( or in this case, a change to an existing rule ) is given context so as not to appear arbitrary.
Seems like you're carrying quite a torch here. Hopefully I can help out. The WBL has been a guideline based on game balance for some time. It may feel arbitrary, but it's completely necessary and was decided on carefully. It's one of the few things however that doesn't tie in well with the 'fantasy world.' There's never been a great in story reason why a person couldn't receive a large inheritance, take a year off and work a craft to make a lot of money, or just find a really great magic item/gold horder early in their career rather than later.
It's all about game balance. A party's average wealth has strong impact on their ability to handle combat in conjunction with their APL vs. the CR rating of the encounters. If WBL is much higher or lower than the guideline given for your party's live, you can expect that the guidelines given for how tough an encounter is (based on the APL vs CR table) to no longer apply properly.
There's no really great in game reason given for the WBL guideline...much less for the fact that the average gold per encounter table shows less for the slow xp advancement track and more for the fast one. It's may feel arbitrary, but it's all set in the name of game balance. Fleshing those rules out for item creation, which is what this book does, similarly makes no more attempt to give in-game reasons for its guidelines than the CRB did with its tables.
Wealth is hardly the only place where this applies. As a GM, I know I have even created house rules that were done purely for similar reasons /game play balance reasons that had no direct tie-in with the lore. It's all in the name of fun...and proper game play balance is a huge part of the fun in any game. I absolutely love they way PF rules tie in really well with lore (it does that better than many Pen and paper games), but at the end of the day, it IS a game, and some rules/guidelines have to be there for fun/balance reasons even if there's not a great way to tie it in with the setting/lore/RP.
I have to agree with you, BPorter. While everything in this book isn't a home run for me, a lot of it is. I appreciate the character background immensely as a great tool for helping those players who want a deep RP experience, but lack the creativity or time to make a background that's exciting or deep. While more crunchy rules have its place, having RP tools like this is priceless.
Having experienced both seasons, I can certainly say that Season 4 is more difficult, and players are having to learn to be more cautious (and playing up a lot less often). I have not killed a player in a Season 4 deal yet, but have come close a few times. I agree with some earlier posts that mention that both player and GM have to learn to adjust to get the best out of these situations. For example, if a party is fighting something with a special attack (that you would never see in earlier seasons, especially), it would be good for the GM to review those rules with the table once the attack is known to the party (through knowledge check or first hand experience) so they know all their options.
I have noticed that certain 'specialized' builds really struggle in some of the season 4 stuff. The sapmaster ninja that normally does crazy non-lethal damage had a really hard time against some of the early encounters in a Season 4 I played as the monsters there were immune to it.
I'm pretty excited about most of the changes, though I am hopeful that a better solution is found for the wealth issue. With that being said, I'm SUPER excited that previous AP's are being sanctioned. I have an RotRL group going now, and its great knowing that when it is done, we'll have a lot more options to choose from in deciding what we want to do next for credit. Two thumbs up!
Agreed. For what its worth, I appreciate the 'sneak peak,' so to speak. It allows an opportunity to know about future chances and open discussions about a few things which haven't been finalized yet...and these are opportunities which may not be afforded to use if the traditional means of communication were used. (And I'm one of those people who have not had a chance to see it yet...I got the news through friends)
And a big thanks to Ryan and Parrim for all their hard work on their very excellent podcast which I enjoy whenever I get the chance. If you guys aren't listening to it, you should try. Aside from this PFS sneak peak, they have regular interviews with other Paizo staff which offers other unique insights into our favorite hobby.
Concern about Caravan vs Ship:
Yeah, we didn't have those disconnects. Let's take a few of them on.
You wonder why they take a caravan instead of a ship. Remember, the first leg of the trip started as a 500 mile trip to Brinewall. First, the PCs are connected to the four NPCs as an assumption (it should be one of the traits they take.) including Sandru who owns the Caravan. Another factor was that no one returned back from Brinewall ... so going with the support of a caravan makes a lot more sense than just being dropped off by ship. The text points out that taking a boat is significantly more expensive, and they're unlikely to find anyone to take them to the ruins known for being dangerous across those parts.
Once they are there, and they know they have to press on, there are a number of reasons they take the caravan. The closest port, Riddleport, is hundreds of miles away and not a nice place. They'd have to go WAY down to Magnimar to charter a ship.
Those are just from the book and maps. A GM may also make up other feasible reasons for them to go over land (let's admit it. In MOST of these adventure paths, things are pretty linear, and players sometimes want to go off the given track for a variety of reasons. It's part of the GM's job to point the main road as the most attractive. I think the AP does a decent, though not perfect job of that. I've run this part twice, and no one has ever wanted to take the boat route...but if they did after being presented all the above, plus the fact that Sandra and other NPCs prefer the caravan for various reasons, including better protection should they be accosted on the way, the GM may need to improvise.
LOL...that's a LOT of adventure paths. Heck, that's most dungeons. If you do normal perception take 10 checks for baddies, technically, a battle in one room can trigger a lot of other encounters. Why DOESN'T these BBEG's bring all their minions and attack all at once with them? THere CERTAINLY makes the most sense.
Well, maybe, but you'd have a lot of dead parties, hahahahaha
So we make excuses saying the BBEG was planning in a room, didn't hear, things happened so fast, they didn't have time to prep, etc.
JR does the same thing. They aren't the best excuses, but they are there.
When the party finds the Seal, it's in a warding box. Opening it tells the baddies where the party was at, but does not tell them where they are going. They cannot send a huge army based on a one time flare. However, they put one of their people on alert, in Kelsgard, figuring the party / Ameiko may come that way.
When they do, I imagine Kimandatsu figures she can take them . Not to mention the five storms probably don't have a great way to send hundreds of oni to Kelsgard on a moment's notice. Obviously, she reports the party's position at that point, and tries to take them in her stronghold where she doesn't have to worry about intervention from Kelsgard. My party had a HELL of a time overpowering ALL those ninjas (I DID rule they got them all at once, hahahahah).
I'm in book 3 now. The oni are not all knowing, and the party hasn't opened the box since. So, they have an idea they may be coming...but the book is very clear that if the party takes their sweet time going across, because of the weather, the oni will get less suspicious, presuming the storms kill them. I haven't been through the whole thing yet, so my comments end there. Again, I know it's not the DEEPEST plots in the world or anything, but I haven't had issue just yet with players questioning all of this terribly. And if they did, the NPCs I have in the party can help shed SOME light on it.
I will fully admit, I don't have players that try to go TOO far outside the box. Just a wee bit, hahahahah. I would love to hear some other issues...but I think the two major ones you bring up ARE addressed to some extent in the books (and require some GM work in other areas. I have some critiques for the AP, especially book 1. But that's a post for another day, hahaha.
I love playing clerics. It's my favorite. The fact that you can build them so many different ways with the domains and spell focus is awesome. I remember my first cleric...Sarenrae followers....cast fireball (group started at level 5ish) and the group was surprised. "Cleric? Fireballs?" "Ayup," I said. "I call it fiery cleansing!"
And the the healing domain, having free empowered heals was super awesome. Yeah, I was a bit of a healbot at times, but I healed really well.
If you're RP'ing a character who never flees...then you must be willing to accept the fact that sooner or later you WILL fall, because there's always the danger of a foe who is more powerful than you or your party. Golarion is a DANGEROUS place, especially for the uninitiated (re: low level).
That's why I love that the vast majority of Paladin codes (as seen in the awesome book, Faiths of Purity, usually do not have such strict tennants. You may have taken an oath to defend the weak, or be the last person to leave, but a Paladin that stands his ground and dies on principal alone is one that does not live to teach those principals to others.
If you're RP'ing a character that won't use the tools given to him because of some code...well, you got to be willing to accept the occasional challenge it creates. And that's fine. A code without a challenge is hardly one worth mentioning.
But TPK's are fun for absolutely no one, and casual non-heroic deaths for characters my players work so hard for just doesn't happen in my campaigns. I'll mess with a character, give him a scar or a permanent penalty/deformity/curse/negative level(s) or have a favored item destroyed or stolen, but characters aren't going to die in my campaign unless they are very stupid or utterly heroic.
I have to disagree just a bit. TPKs can certainly be downers, but I wouldn't say that are absolutely no fun. The Gamemastery Guide gives some very great suggestions for how to handle a TPK which can be inventive and fun. My last group used it as a launching point for a brand new campaign. And the occasional PK or TPK reminds players that their characters are mortal and that decisions need to be made carefully . (I totally admit though that a TPK that happens suddenly through no fault of the party can be pretty crushing. I haven't seen one in an AP just yet, though. Even in circumstances where they were above their heads, the party could usually flee or something).
Will Johnson wrote:
Totally agree with Will here. While I'm sorry to hear about one or more of you bowing out of PFS, I will tell you that I play PF multiple ways and enjoy each one for what it brings to the table. I have two weekly APs, two Pbp's and one to two PFS deals each week (yeah, I stay busy). You don't have to go OCD like me...but if you wanna run an AP, there's no reason you can't run/join an PFS once/month and/or attend the concs to meet new players and the such. APs and home groups are fun, and I won't give them up...but so is playing PF in a convention setting with new people I'm just meeting for the firs time. Because PFS doesn't require a commitment level like an AP does, you can have your cake and eat it too :)
I had a party that almost had a death or two to shadows in another game. It was a stark reminder to them that even lower level stuff can be dangerous, and they need to go prepared to handle a variety of encounters.
What I find useful sometimes is to drop hints of what's to come.
Example using RotRL and Shadows:
The early investigation reveal that a body has been stolen and necromancy (via an item) was at work. Use that opportunity to have the Father recommend that the party be careful. Have him encourage them to purchase some Holy Water (maybe he gives them a few vials free) and anything else that might assist vs. the type of tougher creatures you see in the later dungeon. You can tailor this advice with a bit of meta knowledge, yet because of the evidence they discover, it's comes across very NON-meta. I'd recommend not doing it too heavy fisted however. If the party doesn't take the clue, and they charge forward without proper preparation after a hint from the good father...well, let the chips fall where they may!
I'm sorry that you're having that issue with it. I just completed it a month ago, and had a different experience.
In Kalsgard, it makes sense that the evil power that be have to pull punches. So, I ran that as written. However, once the party heads to the castle, it's no holds bar. You COULD run each room as separate planes of existence, but I don't. When I run a dungeon, especially one filled with intelligent bad guys, I read the whole thing. For me, it made sense that as party came up the steps, and were spotted, some ninja fought them, as written, to slow them down (and try to push one or two off)...and by the time the party made it to the top, ALL the other ninjas/thugs were ready to attack.
It was an epic battle for them just to get in the castle, that hit them so hard, they had to go back to heal and stuff. Then, when they returned, they had to deal with the leaders. Each of those battles were pretty tough, though no one died...and the way one got away was just memorable as hell.
You DO have to be careful what you wish for, though. If you use the line of logic that bad guys should be able to throw everything at players because, ya know, they're just smart, have foresight, etc, going for the super realistic approach, you'll probably wipe your party every time they attack an organization like this one. After all, it's not unusual for an organization like this to have two dozen men at the ready. And, if they are prepared, you add surprise as well as outnumbered against your players...well...good luck! :) At the same time, I agree that the idea that the bad guys sit in rooms playing poker while their partners death cries fill the halls is also not right. Like with most things in life...balance is key. As GM, it's up to us to find that balance.