J Michael Neal's page

Organized Play Member. 20 posts. No reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 17 Organized Play characters.


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Hilary Moon Murphy wrote:
Cogratulations to all 5 stars, especially James Risner and J. Michael Neal. Woo!
Jack Brown wrote:
Congrats to all the new 5-stars, and especially to J Michael Neal! It was a pleasure sitting at your 150th table!

Thank you.

There's another fine moment in Paizo editing in this scenario. When describing how to disable the crystals that are part of the haunt on area B, it says, "A PC can disable an adjacent crystal as a standard action with a successful DC Knowledge (arcana) or DC 25 Use Magic Device check."

What is the DC of the Knowledge check, and would it kill Paizo to proofread their scenarios a bit more?

LoboStele wrote:
I feel like a lot of the issues you guys are raising can be handled with some creative story telling. Part of being a PFS GM is taking the framework of the story you're given, and then figuring out how to work around it and guide the PCs through it.

Actually, I get told repeatedly to run a scenario as it is written.

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And now having run it, it was a disaster, though not in terms of the written success conditions; they aced getting their prestige, purely through luck.

They killed the ghost before getting any leads from her. In a move that I consider to be perfectly reasonable, the raging superstitious barbarian kept attacking with his ghost touch weapon even after the haunt was suppressed. So, they never got the information for where to go in the swamp. As I said, that's absolutely a reasonable course of action, and there's no alternative way to get that information.

Fortunately, you can manage to conclude the scenario, since the party went back to the lodge. The scenario is maddeningly vague about exactly when Zodarna breaks in (no sense worrying about the timing in a scenario like this, amirite?), but it seems to indicate that it's shortly after the party begins its investigation. So, sure, just have them skip half of the adventure and go straight to the conclusion.

In the end, that's probably a good thing. The two encounters missed are:

1) an attempt to extract 3,000 gold pieces (at 7-8) from the party or hang a nasty boon on them;

2) an encounter that exists for no reason other than to get the party to nuke its second Prestige Point.

So, straight to the lodge. The set up of the final encounter is idiotic. Zodarna's Master Illusion ability is usable for a total of eight rounds per day, and yet her timing is exquisite in having it going when the party shows up; that's the kind of ridiculous timing that is a hallmark of bad writing.

Of course, the party walks in, fails all of the potential checks to realize that there's an illusion at play, and the fighter rushes into the room and drops a crit a 55 points of damage onto Olivina before she can "cast." So, the mission is a failure, right? I mean, the party was supposed to rescue Olivina. It's why they were hired.

Of course not! They're actually better off killing her, since the primary success condition doesn't mention rescuing her, just defeating Zodarna. And the secondary success condition only says that they are supposed to keep Olivina from slandering the Society. Well, she's dead, so she can't slander them. That's a hell of a lot easier than making the Diplomacy check if you're a party without a good face. So Olivina gets hauled out on a slab and the PCs are heroes.

Then again, that part of Zodarna's plot is so idiotic that the resolution might as well be, too. She's spent a week or so torturing Olivina in the guise of Pathfinders in order to prompt her to convince the city of how evil the Society is. That accomplished, she then sets up the finale with the intent of getting the party to kill Olivina BEFORE SHE HAS A CHANCE TO SPREAD ANY OF HER STORY.

Are you serious? Is it possible for the author to have put any less effort into producing a coherent continuity? I will never run this scenario again.

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This scenario is terrible. The villain's plot makes no sense. Figuring out the villain's plot involves a series of pointless encounters that only lead to the villain because of ludicrous coincidences. It puts a lot of effort and PC handouts into a series of "clues" that neither help solve the mystery nor really add any flavor, since most players won't have any idea what they mean unless they played "Darkest Vengeance" recently enough to remember details.

And I'm pretty sure the author gets rules wrong in several places. The most noticeable how the PCs can realize that dark caller at the organ is really Olivina Sharnau. The scenario says that they need to make a DC 35 Perception check (DC 37 at 10-11) in order to realize it. The power in question says that it is disbelieved with a Will save that, by my figuring, should have a DC of 18.

Also, where are the pressure plates in area C2? The whole encounter at the Eylusia Building is bothersome, but that's a notable omission.

Then again, given how wretched "Darkest Vengeance" is, it's only fitting that the sequel should be a complete disaster, too.

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1) Could you use Bless Equipment and Quick Channel together? If so, would you have to spend double the number of channel uses to give an item a quality as listed? Or would you just have to use one additional use to do it quickly?

2) Bless Equipment says that you have to touch the item that you are enhancing. Greater Bless Weapon says that you can enhance two items that are both within range. While those aren't incompatible ("two items within range" could mean two items that you can touch simultaneously) it seems like an odd way to phrase that. Was Greater Bless Equipment intended to be usable within a normal channel range? Or am I reading too much into this?

Can a multiclassed Brawler/Maneuver Master Monk stack Brawler's Flurry and Flurry of Maneuvers, making all of the flurry attacks followed by a single maneuver? The relevant wording of Brawler's Flurry is:

Starting at 2nd level, a brawler can make a brawler's flurry as a full-attack action. When doing so, a brawler has the Two-Weapon Fighting feat when attacking with any combination of unarmed strikes, weapons from the close fighter weapon group, or weapons with the "monk" special feature. She does not need to use two different weapons to use this ability.

and the relevant wording of Flurry of Maneuvers is:

At 1st level, as part of a full-attack action, a maneuver master can make one additional combat maneuver, regardless of whether the maneuver normally replaces a melee attack or requires a standard action. The maneuver master uses his monk level in place of his base attack bonus to determine his CMB for the bonus maneuvers, though all combat maneuver checks suffer a –2 penalty when using a flurry.

That makes it seem like you can, since the Brawler's Flurry is described as a full attack action and Flurry of Maneuvers allows you to add an extra maneuver as part of a full attack action. That seems a little out of hand, though.

What is the effect when a paladin's or a cavalier's bonded mount is charmed by an NPC? Specifically what I'm looking at is the harpy ability Captivating Song. If the mount fails its save, presumably it starts galloping off towards the harpy. If the PC is riding the mount at the time, does she have any way to regain control?

Is Formach supposed to be wielding a warhammer or a greatclub? The stat block says a warhammer but he isn't proficient with that. (His god's favored weapon is a light hammer.) So how can he have Weapon Focus (warhammer)?

thaX wrote:
Centipede would get a bonus to stealth because of size. (+8?)

That's already factored into its +19 bonus, which is: +3 from Dex; +8 for being Tiny; and +8 racial bonus.

semoene wrote:

Hello! I recently ran Shades of Ice II: Exiles of Winter and feel that, perhaps, our GM was a little unfair with a ruling. I'm relatively new to organized play, so I'm hoping to find some guidance here.

Curious, I flipped to the white dragon encounter and read under the "During Combat" portion that "The moment the PCs enter, Aralantryx shrieks in anger, swoops down, and blasts the PCs with her breath weapon." In our session, the dragon waited until our archivist was pretty far into the room -- more calculating than angry. Again, I'm new to organized play, so I won't presume to know; is this okay?

I missed this part of the original post. The reason the dragon waited until the archivist was pretty far into the room was because he moved all the way in without stopping. The dragon is perched at the ceiling of the room. She doesn't teleport directly in front of someone walking into the room the instant he steps in; these things take time.

And put me on the list that has no idea how the centipede got a Stealth check that high. I let it slide at the time because I didn't think it mattered given what happened and there was so much going on at the time that I didn't want to stop everything and ask. But there was no invisibility so I don't know how it is possible for it to get higher than a 39.

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I'm the GM in question, so let me explain my reasoning as it went.

1) Yes, there are billowing clouds of ice crystals. White dragons have Snow Vision, which means that they don't suffer Perception penalties in snow, which is a cloud of ice crystals. No one in that room has any concealment from the dragon because of atmospheric visibility conditions, though the dragon has concealment from the party if it's up in the clouds.

2) I was in a bit of a difficult position. The party was poorly constructed, with a Bard2, Bard4, Alchemist4, Witch4, Zen Archer4. All of the level 4 characters are played by a group that wants to play together. Before we began I recommended that someone play one of the melee based pregens so that the party was better balanced, particularly after the same party (minus the Bard2) had a horrible time getting through Shades of Ice Part I without any melee capability. The players declined my suggestion. This party makeup affected a number of decisions I made along the way.

3) With the disappearance of faction missions I really don't like the way that the end of this scenario is constructed. As far as the PCs can tell, they have everything they need to have accomplished a complete success in the mission without ever opening the door into the refrigerator the dragon is trapped in. The party came very close to deciding not to open that door and I was really hoping that they would choose that option, because they were poorly built to deal with her. But I didn't feel at all comfortable saying anything since the second prestige point is tied to killing the dragon. In my opinion, that's dumb but that's what it is.

4) In the end, the Bard2 opened the door and went in by himself with the rest of the party scattered around the previous room and not positioned to support him at all. The dragon came down and dropped him to -10 hit points in one round. The zen archer did a bit of damage to her and then she flew back up so that no one outside that room could see her or attack her.

5) At that point, the rest of the party stayed outside the room. The only thing that happened was that the witch cast Cure Moderate Wounds and sent her centipede into the refrigerator to deliver it. She made the Stealth check described but there was no invisibility involved. As an aside, I find this application of the Stealth rules to be idiotic; yes, the centipede started outside the room and thus had cover. However, the dragon was watching the door from above. That anyone can use Stealth to walk across an observed floor just because they started their turn outside the room is stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid. That's an aside, though, because I let the Stealth work despite my loathing for that rule.

6) When the centipede discharged the spell, I ruled that it broke stealth. It has always been my understanding that spells have visible manifestations. Now that I'm looking for it in the rules I see that it doesn't actually describe the general effects of spells one way or the other. So I may have been operating under assumptions from a game system (Champions) that makes it clear that all powers have noticeable manifestations unless otherwise specified. I may have erred on this, though it would be a lot better if the rules would explain what happens when a spell is cast or discharged. At a minimum, all of the artwork in the books indicate that held touch spells have visible manifestations.

7) However, as is pointed out, #6 probably doesn't matter since the Stealth would have been broken once the centipede's turn was over. Relating back to #5, a lot of players I deal drastically overestimate how much hiding they can do with Stealth and I think this was a case of that. If you're out on a bare floor, you can't hide. And even if I had allowed the centipede to hide under the bard on the ground, that would have been a move action and the centipede didn't have any left.

8) Okay, here is where I broke the rules and the tactics as written, but understand that I was doing to help the party, not hurt them. If Paizo wants to claim that I failed by not running as written, let them. However, I really believe that the consequences of my not doing so worked out to the party's benefit relative to what might have happened. Yes, I had the dragon swoop down, grab the centipede and fly back up. The rules breakage happened because I lost track of which combat maneuvers can be done in place of a melee attack, and thus done in the middle of a Fly-By Attack and which can't.

In the end, I don't think it would have mattered. Had the dragon come down, grabbed the centipede and waited to fly up on its next turn it would have done so successfully. The alternatives for it were to fly down and attack the bard, which likely would have put him back down and led to a PC death, or to attack the centipede which had a pretty good chance of killing it outright, or to land by the door and breathe on the three party members crowded right there and possibly drop some of them.

I really didn't want to do any of the above because, as I said, the party composition was horrible for trying to beat the scenario and I can understand not wanting to play a pregen. So I tried to go easy on them.

9) 2,000gp was not the dragon's price. All the dragon did was ask how much the witch would pay to get her familiar back. It was the player whose first offer was 2,000gp. I had been prepared to start the bidding at 800gp and get bargained down to a fraction of that. So, the way I see it, the dragon cheated the witch out of about 500gp and the witch cheated herself out of the rest.

10) The party didn't get cheated out of a fight. Nothing would have prevented them from fighting the dragon either before or after they rescued the centipede. They discussed doing so and chose not to. That said, it would have been a tough fight for them and had I just run the dragon as written, it's pretty much a guarantee that the Bard2 would have needed a Raise Dead when it was over and he may not have been alone.

Does the additional 2d6 of damage apply to sunder maneuvers? What about golems and other constructs? Do these count as inanimate objects?

Diego Rossi wrote:

PRD wrote:
Benefit: Pick one spell which you have the ability to cast. Whenever you cast that spell you may apply any one metamagic feat you have to that spell without affecting its level or casting time, as long as the total modified level of the spell does not use a spell slot above 9th level.

It give you a sequence. Take a spell, apply the metamagic. Now check if it respect the conditions set by the feat.

The metamagiched spell would use a level 10+ spell slot? You can't use the feat benefit.
It is 9- ? You can use the feat benefit.

I don't think this reply makes any sense. It might work if the feat used the conditional tense, as in, ". . . as long as the total modified level of the spell would not have used a spell slot above 9th level." But it doesn't; it refers to the spell slot that the spell does use.

From reading the threads maybe this is clear to other people but I find the wording of the Spell Perfection feat to be really ambiguous. If it didn't seem that everyone else thinks otherwise it wouldn't be ambiguous at all and would clearly mean the opposite of what people are saying. It says, "Whenever you cast that spell you may apply any one metamagic feat you have to that spell without affecting its level or casting time, as long as the total modified level of the spell does not use a spell slot above 9th level."

Everyone seems to interpret this as saying that you cannot, say, use the feat to put Quicken Spell on a spell of 6th level or greater because that would raise the modified level of the spell to more than 9. But that's not what the feat actually says. It says that the one metamagic feat you apply using doesn't change the level of the spell and it uses a spell slot of the same level as the base spell, unless you put other metamagic feats on it.

As the feat is written, you should be able to use Spell Perfection to put any single metamagic feat you know on to whatever spell you have perfected regardless of level. The caveat would apply only to putting additional metamagic feats on that same spell. I could believe that that's not what the designers intended but that's not what they wrote.

andreww wrote:
If your gm opened up with horrid wilting then he was not following krunes stated tactics.

I'm not sure how leaving it in his back pocket really helps us out. Whenever he does pull it out it means instant death to a party of 7th and 8th level characters. Literally the only party members not dropped below negative Con in one shot were the two that Krune couldn't see. So if he summons things into that chamber and then teleports out the only real change is that there won't be a sleetstorm around when he does use it and so it's all over right there.

I just don't think you should ever have a bad guy with an implicit caster level of 25 (8th level spell + 5 levels of metamagic feats on it) in a subtier 7-8 adventure. That isn't making an adventure exciting and challenging. That's just giving your players the finger. The bit about having built him up and so they had to deliver is crap. Aside from that being a dilemma of their own making, the previous season ending scenarios all had big build ups and none of them were like this. So how were players supposed to figure out, "No, this time we really mean it!"

What's Krune's CR anyway?

Cao Phen wrote:
Out of scenario prep and inside scenario prep seems to have been subletly emphasized. Clerics can choose to leave slots open to place in a spell midgame, arcane casters can purchace scrolls. I understand that this seems like a cheap shot to players who think they are prepared, which is why this scenario was player reviewed are skewed to 5-star "challenging to play" to 1-star "save-or-die spam".

If the key is taking out all of the runes, the requirements are too specific to expect people to adequately prepare for it. It never would have occurred to me to buy scrolls of spells with the [Death] descriptor. And it definitely would never have occurred to me to leave spell slots open. Given the briefing we got the reasonable assumption was that we would be under heavy pressure from the moment we stepped into his sanctum. Unfilled spell slots are slots that would never be available to use.

I have no idea what sort of preparation we could have made that would have left us ready to withstand a Maximized Empowered Horrid Wilting.

This and maybe Bonekeep are the scenarios that seem to put players on edge because of the difficulty spikes. Bonekeep had the decency of informing players that it is meant to kill players. This, on the otherhand, only assumes that players know that Krune is the Big Boss Man.

It was Kortos Envoy that did this to me a few weeks ago.

Cao Phen wrote:
Horrid Wilting can only be removed from his spell list if the team disables 6 out of 7 runes that he has. The Artifact Metamagic Rod that he has can combine multiple metamagic feats in a single spell. And yes, Maximized Empowered can be casted with that. I agree that the CR of the final encounter is lame to a team of 7-8, but I believe it is in the Author's intention that a team would be able to sufficiently disable enough spells to bring his encounter difficulty to standard "boss battle" terms.

As I said above, there doesn't seem to have been any way for our party to disable the Life runes. Maybe there was some way to do it that wasn't apparent from the clue and that the GM forgot to tell us about when we wrapped up, but from the knowledge I have, we disabled every rune that it was possible for us to dismantle.

And I recognize that the metamagic feats were put on by Krune's artifact. My question isn't how he was able to cast spells that, with metamagic feats, go above 9th level (although I don't think that anyone should be doing that at subtier 7-8). My implied question was how someone who is caster level 13 can cast Horrid Wilting at all. It's an 8th level spell before you put any metamagic on it. Shouldn't he have to be caster level 15 to be able to cast that?

As for turn 1 kills, I have experienced it early on in Severed Ties. It sucks really bad, but sometimes it is part of the game, like trying to find a way to jump the chasm with heavy armor at low levels, or surviving a slew of Color Spray. Some things do not work out. But then again, you are entering Krune-Territory. Krune does not like it when random people wake him up from his nap-nap time...

Maybe this is just a difference in tastes but as far as I am concerned, Turn 1 kills should only happen either if the party does something really dumb or if there is a silly run of dice luck. An adventure should never be written in such a way that Turn 1 deaths happen automatically. Maybe you disagree. Maybe the general run of PFS player likes an environment in which their characters die without having any ability to alter that outcome.

I don't. To me, that is just a way to kill the enjoyment. If that's the direction PFS wants to go, then it can go there without me.

TetsujinOni wrote:
So, your mood was brought down by a door.

I suggest reading more carefully.

Then it was brought down because you can't avoid fighting the guy you are sent to fight.

See previous suggestion.

I think you were either not playing tier 7-8, only disabled 5 runes, or had some serious GM errors. Were you APL 9 with 6 players?

No, we had 2 7s, 2 8s and 2 9s. We only disabled four runes because, as far as we could tell after a lot of trying, we literally had nothing that could disable the Life runes. Maybe there was something else but, in our party, we had no way to deliver more than 6 points of negative energy damage in one round and no one had any spells with the [Death] descriptor. We burned a couple of significant necromantic spells on them but they couldn't do the job. We only rolled high enough to get the full description of how to deactivate the runes on Alacrity and Defense. We figured out a way to deactivate Armor and Control just from the hint.

There are going to be party mixes that are simply incapable of bringing of bringing down all of the runes. Our table was a 9th level monk who specializes in fighting defensively, a 9th level cleric who is a healbot with almost no offensive capability, an 8th level sorceror that has some nice damage spells and is tricked out with Aqueous Orb, an 8th level fighter who has some nifty abilities but is played by a 12-year old and so has very limited tactical ability, a 7th level evoker, and a summoner6/cleric1 who mostly does buff spells.

So if success at Subtier 7-8 depends upon bringing down all of the runes there are going to be parties that are incapable of succeeding from the word go. That's not good adventure writing.

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I just played this this afternoon and, in the wake of a bunch of other things that have gone on, have me close to deciding that I no longer wish to participate in PFS. My objections to this scenario are twofold:

1) If your table doesn't have anyone who has played one of the four lead-in scenarios with the same PC that is playing Waking Rune and who was willing to commit what was explicitly described as an evil action to get one of the boons this adventure becomes significantly tougher. Our party of six had exactly one PC who had played any of the previous scenarios (two of us had played them with PCs that have since leveled out of Society play): a lawful good monk who, quite properly in my view, refused to take any of the objects. No good character should have.

I've been angry about this ever since I played "Refuge of Time" and my paladin turned down a free feat because of how it was presented. When it was explained to me that I could have taken it and just gotten an <i>atonement</i> and kept the feat struck me as PFS flat out telling its players that they should abuse the alignment rules because proper roleplaying was not going to be rewarded. I kept hearing that there would be some sort of negative consequences for those who took the boons but to date no scenario I have played has provided any.

So when I found out that having one of those items would have made our path easier above and beyond having the boon it put me in a mood to react poorly to,

2) This was the second time in a month where the only way for my character not to have died was to have not played the scenario at all. I've had character deaths before and under normal circumstances I don't have a problem with it. I don't have a problem with scenarios that are hard. I have a huge problem with scenarios that just don't give me a chance.

When Krune popped out of his sarcophagus two of us had readied actions to cast a spell. I cast <i>haste</i> and the cleric cast <i>prayer</i>. The very next thing that happened was Krune casting a maximized, empowered Horrid Wilting. (I'm not sure how he could cast it since we had disabled enough runes such that his caster level was down to 13, which doesn't seem to be high enough to cast an 8th level spell; I'll just assume that there was some sort of rules dodge that allowed this.)

We were playing Tier 7-8. Half of the party would have had to roll a natural 20 to make the Fortitude save on the spell. For a couple of us, even making the save would have left us below negative Con and thus dead. All from an encounter we couldn't avoid, couldn't run from (we couldn't see the refuge tokens because of the sleetstorm) and never had a chance to react to.

This sort of thing seems to be an increasing trend in PFS scenarios and I have no interest in either playing them or running them. So I'm seriously considering just dropping the whole thing and finding other ways to spend my time.