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Shadow Lodge

Hi all -

Former super-subscriber coming back after several years away. I am hoping to get some clear answers regarding AP VTT maps. I realize there are a few posts about this, but they are old enough or not quite on-topic enough that I don't want to necro/hijack those threads and since I am on the cusp of making a very important, multi-year, expensive decision, I wanted to get the latest summarized information regarding VTT AP digital map availability.

Here is a summary of my needs:

* Full VTT-agnostic digital map packs (will accept Foundry modules if I must since I know I can pull the images from there, but raw images are best)
* Player-facing, gridless, lossless images that enable properly rendered grid alignment across the full image in the VTT
* Reasonable resolution
* Original artist (that is, not looking for fan-made content)

Does this exist for any of the PF2e APs? If so, which ones? I am willing to pay for these maps, so if there is any outside-of-Paizo access to this (e.g. a license direct from the cartographer), then let me know that as well if you can.

I saw in another thread that Fantasy Grounds or Roll20 may offer this kind of content for certain APs, but I am unsure if I purchased the content there that I could extract the maps in a format suitable for my purposes in my VTT (Foundry? Owlbear? Something Else? For various reasons, the chosen VTT will not be Roll20 or FG). Is this kind of image extraction available on those platforms?

My desired AP is Quest for the Frozen Flame, but if no such map pack is available, is there another PF2e AP that does have this level of support?

I know from my searches that this gets asked periodically, but the situation seems fluid / things are changing, and I could really use some clear, up-to-date information on this topic.

Thanks very much for your help!

Interlude 1
Sarenith 17 4710 (Wealday)
Somewhere Northeast of Sandpoint
About 4pm

Guidemaster Keever suddenly slumped over to his right and tumbled off his big, bay horse. The wagons in the caravan ground to halt.

Gods! Not again!” Jeren jumped from the bench of the first wagon and landed awkwardly on his stiff legs. He hobbled over to the crumpled Guidemaster and looked down disgustedly. The driver of your wagon, the second in the train of three, took advantage of the stop to stretch his legs. Keever's horse wandered away to munch on grass.

Ok, that's it. He's out cold again. We camp here!” shouted Jeren. “Hobak, get over here and let's get him off the trail before someone runs over him.” Your driver spit out his wad of chew and clambered out of your wagon. “Might run over him myself.” he muttered a bit too loudly under his breath. “Comin' boss!”. Hobak wiped a stream of brown spittle from his bushy, black beard and ambled off to help Jeren, who seemed to be cussing steadily as he began to drag the highly inebriated Guidemaster from the trail.

Farchet, the driver of the wagon behind yours, slowly worked his wagon off the rutted trail to a wide, level piece of ground. The fine Sandpoint glass in the wagon hardly rattled at all as he deftly maneuvered his team into position and set the handbrake on the wagon. The thick wooden crates creaked one last time under the graying tarp and then went silent. Farchet slipped gracefully from his seat and immediately began tending to his team. Whenever he worked like this, he moved his lips like he was talking to someone, but he never made a sound. The others seemed to accept this strange quirk, perhaps because he was an expert at ensuring his delicate cargo arrived unbroken. At least, that is what Jeren told you when you signed on back in Sandpoint.

Oi! Guards! Don't just sit there! You know what to do. Someone get an eye out and the rest of ye get my wagon and get the camp set up. Hobak can't cook if ye don't get the fire going!” Jeren wasn't a bad guy, but he always seemed to be in a hurry even if there was no real reason to hurry. He liked his campsites as well-maintained and orderly as he was himself. After five days on the road, he was the only one that didn't look like he needed a bath, a shave or even a change of clothes.

You and your wagon-mates had signed on to serve as guards for a caravan carrying a wagonload of colored glass disks from the foundry at Sandpoint to a new temple being built in Galduria. This sudden stop was the third time Keever failed to make it to the end of the day and the second time he became drunk enough to fall from his horse. While the journey was certainly slow, even with the perfect summer weather, it was also entertaining. Jeren, Hobak, Farchet and Keever were decent enough folk and they made an efficient team even if they seemed to do a lot of yelling and complaining at one another. Perversely, Farchet was the only quiet one of the bunch, and he talked silently to gods-know-who anytime he wasn't in the seat.

Each wagon has a team of 2 horses except for the last wagon that hauls the glass, which uses 4. Jeren steers the lead wagon, which contains food, fodder for the horses, tents, firewood, water, tools and other supplies. The guard wagon – the one you have been riding in, is the only open-topped wagon. The back has benches built in and places to store your personal gear. It's functional but hardly comfortable, Still it is a decent place to rest when walking gets tedious. It also has a tarp to shield you from summer storms, but so far, it hasn't been needed. Keever rides along side the wagons, when he can stay in the saddle. Farchet's wagon brings up the rear and is loaded with delicate glass disks bound for Galduria, the Varisian city along the northeastern shore of Ember Lake. You figure you have at least another 5 if not 7 days on the road before you get there.

You have had 5 uneventful days to get to know one another, so feel free to chat some to catch up with the action. On the other hand, it Looks like Jeren's pissed – again. Best get to work :)

Please post your OOC chat and and game questions here.

I am looking to DM an PbP Pathfinder game derived from one or more Dungeon adventures. The action will center in and around various locations in Varisia while the actual adventures will be the best of those I can cobble together from my extensive collection (114-150 inclusive, many older ones) of Dungeon magazines. I might also be able to squeeze in a bit of sandbox-style play if everyone is interested. I will convert the modules on the fly to bring them up to the Pathfinder ruleset.

My current commitment is to run one such adventure and if interest remains high, continue with other adventures using the same characters. If things work out, the characters will grow over time and share additional adventures together.

I have 1 player already (fighter), and am looking for 4 more. If I get a sufficient number of responses, I will post character creation guidelines and other information. So, is there any interest in this sort of thing?

Shadow Lodge

On Thursday, Aug 9, I will be kicking off this AP with my group of (very) experienced players. I have read almost every post here and know about the big issues, but as I have not yet read beyond Shadow in the Sky, I would really like to know what if anything I can do in the way of foreshadowing or laying additional groundwork for the problems found in Book 5. I know one big thing I could have done is have the party all be elves working for one of the elvish factions, but elves are not favored by my players and there is no way that would fly. I do plan on making the elves less callous toward the PCs, but that is some way off. My players already know they will ultimately be facing drow and are looking forward to an Darklands focused game, but that is about all they know.

So, if you had the chance to run all of SD again, what would you do differently early on so that the AP hung together better? Is there something I can do now that would make the rescue of book 5 more easily doable? Is there some events, side quests, exposition or the like I could add in during the first 3 books that make the fixing of book 5 more easily accomplished?

For reference, I believe the party will consist of:

Dwarf Wizard(specialization: tbd)
Oread Oracle (mystery: stone)
Tiefling Magus
Aasimar Cleric (diety: tbd)
Dwarf Barbarian

Everyone has dumped Cha, of course, which means most things will be resolved in the group's typical play style - at sword point. The group tends to be mercenary in outlook and I am certain they will chafe at the "do it for the good of all" expectations laid upon them later in the AP, so I know I will have to sweeten the pot somehow.

I really really appreciate all suggestions!



Shadow Lodge

I read through this module and I guess I just don't get why the author expects the characters to spend any time exposed to the dragons. With 9th level magic, I see them using etherealness extensively to scout the entire area and retreating to a magnificent mansion between trips. Why would the characters venture out to any of the places by paths upon which the dragons or giants could reach them? They could also wind walk and easily outmaneuver and out-fly any dragon that approached them. I know they cannot access the vault until they have dropped its wards, but really, how hard is it going to be to discover the place where they can't get into ethereally?

This problem of apparently not understanding the character's abilities also occurred in LoLR with the Doomshroud tree and the nightmare beast. My group defeated the tree in 5 rounds without taking a point of damage or suffering any ill effect and the nightmare beast was hemmed in by a single wall of force that was open a few feet at the top; the party just hovered up there and killed the creature with no risk. They used exactly the same tactic to kill the huge aspect of the overgod in the Prince of Redhand and only one member was threatened because he was ahead scouting and took a bit of a beating before escaping.

It seems like the authors are making systemic mistakes by missing these basic uses of the core spells. Maybe I am just missing something?

Shadow Lodge

When a wizard gains a level, his familiar's effective hit dice change:

d20pfsrd wrote:
Hit Dice: For the purpose of effects related to number of Hit Dice, use the master's character level or the familiar's normal HD total, whichever is higher.

Are the familiar's feats an "effect related to number of Hit Dice" or does this statement apply only to the effect of certain spells that affect a certain HD range? For example, assume a wizard just reached 7th level and has a small air elemental as a familiar (nominally a 2HD familiar). The familiar is treated as having 7HD for "effects related to number of Hit Dice", so would the familiar get feats at 3 and 6 HD as if it were an advanced air elemental?

Shadow Lodge

My group loved playing the Prince of Redhand almost as much as I enjoyed DMing it. My players are currently just finishing up Zeech's Feast and cannot wait to talk to Lashonna. Who is she really? What is her relationship to Prince Zeech? Why fight the Ebon Triad and still allow the injustices in Alhaster? Is she Mother Maggot? How long has she been in the city? What about her thoughts on the ziggurat? What happened to Balakarde? These are just some of the things my players want to know. They do not yet know her true nature, but if they discover that, they will want to know where she stands as well. And you know what, so do I. The Prince of Redhand certainly went out of its way to paint a very bleak picture and this entire module as well as the end of the last one seems to have been leading up to this point - the party's meeting with Lashonna. Finally, some questions are going to get answered - or so I thought.

Imagine my disappointment in preparing to run LoLR when I read the all-important interview with Lashonna. It boils down to: "Ah yeah, so Balakarde was crazy and left some notes here, which despite my 16-year interest in them, I only managed to salvage this one page, so as you can see you have little choice but to go to this island and get some information on Dragotha, who, I know you have never heard of but trust me he's tough so this is important. Oh and, I let the secret out so now its a race for time. Right, off you go." Couple with this with the given answer for those that learn of her true nature: "Yeah so I am evil and undead. Trust me and if you don't, oh well, you can come back and kill me." Sheesh.

Now I am a huge Nicolas Logue fan so I am going to guess that he couldn't do Lashonna's story justice because of page count issues. He has a lot of module ahead of him, and there is only so much he can spend on hooking the party. However, this is just not going to cut it for my group and rather than parry a thousand questions after reading Lashonna's cut scene, I decided to do some tale-telling and give the party some meat to tear into and (just maybe) keep them from questioning Lashonna's role in the events by providing a red herring or two. Also, I wanted to do some foreshadowing so the group felt like things were finally beginning to make sense. The AoW has had enough mystery and railroading; with only 4 modules to go, it is time the party start seeing some cohesiveness.

With this in mind, I wrote the following. This replaces Lashonna's original speech, up to the point where she tells the group about Darl Quethos. You can run this part as written or play upon something Lashonna says in her story below ("...I am afraid more now know of this lore than ever before..."). Should the party learn she is a dragon, well she can handle that issue with ease ("Aren't silver dragons supposed to oppose evil?") and if they learn she is undead/evil, she can handle that as well ("I never said my encounters that day left me unchanged. That which I most loved - life itself - was lost to me that day, I exist now only for revenge, to see Dragotha fall and to stop his part in the Age of Worms". Note that this is no less than the absolute truth - this is exactly what Lashonna desires, though her ultimate goal remains hidden.)

I hope this helps at least one DM out there.


“Thank you for meeting with me tonight. I know why it is you are here, you wish to learn more about Balakarde. My sources in Alhaster have told me as much, and though you mentioned his name but a few times, you have very nearly wrecked centuries of planning for old lore does not die in Alhaster as it does in other places. However, I think for now we are safe and the tale may be told in its entirety. In truth I have little to say about Balakarde himself, but perhaps what I have to say will serve instead.” Lashonna pauses for a moment and searches your eyes before continuing. “What I am about to tell you is known to very few living things, though there are those things which do not live that also know this tale.” As she speaks these words, a shadow of pain crosses her flawless features but she swiftly regains her composure and continues.

“Two millennium ago, my father Tellanar was one of the leaders of the army that dared to approach the befouled city of Kaluth-Mar in the aftermath of Kyuss' failed apotheosis. It was his righteous army and the drudaic Order of the Storm that constructed the ring about the center of that accursed place that forever would bind the servants of Kyuss within its obsidian walls. Through Tylanthros, leader of the Order of the Storm, we learned that the ring was raised too late, for while it most assuredly bound the remaining servants of Kyuss in that benighted city, the great monolith that rested atop the ziggaraut was taken by the red dragon Dragotha years before. Even in that distant time, the name Dragotha was a name of death and fear. The heroes of the army quailed at the thought of seeking him out to reclaim the stone that held the essence of the failed god of writhing undeath.”

“Despite the risk, my father, the leaders of the Order of the Storm and others began to search for Dragotha. He was never found. Mighty spells were cast, the past and future were plumbed, the gods themselves were consulted to no avail. All that could be gleaned was that Kyuss remained trapped between worlds and that at some point in the future, his agents would move to bring him forth, to cover the world in darkness, to bring about the Age of Worms. So the Order established a network of Watchers in those places their divinations told them yet had a role to play in the coming darkness and they waited. Decades passed without a sign, and then a century and another and another. And then finally word came that Dragotha was dead, slain on another plane by the b%!*@-queen of dragons, Tiamat. But the elation was short lived, for the Watchers soon learned that Dragotha was remade by the will of Kyuss as a dracolich and it was this abomination that would serve as Kyuss' general when his armies blighted the land. But there was a glimmer of hope, for the Watchers were vigilant and they noted Dragotha's return to our plane; they watched him bore like a maggot into the heart of the Wormcrawl Fissure, a putrid offshoot of the great Rift Canyon that lies less than 200 miles north of this very spot. Plans long laid were put into motion. The Order gathered the Watchers and once again assembled an army. Little did they know what awaited them.” Lashonna pauses for a moment to sip her wine. She closes her eyes and collects herself for a moment and then resumes her tale.

“I had come of age by then and served in the vanguard of this army. My father and Tylanthros led our forces to the edge of the Rift Canyon and beyond. At my father's insistence, I remained above with our reinforcements. I know not what happened in that battle, only that Dragotha had built a vast undead army and our surprise attack became a pitched battle. Our forces were overcome and my father...” at this Lashonna cannot hide a catch in her throat, “fell, only to rise as a servant of Kyuss. As the undead swarmed toward our position, Tylanthros and other leaders of the Order of the Storm arrived, caked with blood and filth. They bore a chest or stone upon which were carved leering demonic and draconic faces. This, they claimed ,was Dragotha's phylactery. Their arrival could not have been more opportune, for just then Dragotha climbed into the sky above the battle and made straight for our position. His advance filled our foes with a madness and filled the hearts of our bravest with fear. But as his undead gaze took in those that stood against him, he saw that his phylactery was taken. What passes for wisdom in his mind gave him doubt or perhaps fear and he fled the field. This turn of events restored our hope and our forces were able to buy Tylanthros and the other leaders of the Order of Storms time to flee with the phylactery.”

“The next 50 years were ones of constant fear. One by one, the servants of Kyuss that survived the battle hunted down the Watchers and members of the Order that managed to escape. They searched too for the hiding place of Dragotha's phylactery but their search was in vain. For my part, I came here to this land at the instruction of Tylanthros himself. I was to assume the role of a Watcher and inform the Order should anything stir within the Wormcrawl Fissure. Over time, the city of Alhaster rose and my own divinations told me that this place has some part yet to play in the Age of Worms. I waited, always vigilant for the signs of Kyuss. I had a hand in destroying the Cult of the Ebon Triad and it was I that told the few Watchers that remained that the cult was but a front for the cult of Kyuss himself. I have remained here, acting quietly as an advisor to rulers great and small all the while maintaining a watchful eye on the events in Redhand.”

“This was the state of affairs when Balakarde found me twenty years ago. A new leader conquered Redhand, Prince Zeech, and I was busy ensuring I was a trusted advisor. Perhaps this distraction was why Balakarde was able to so readily convince me that he could aid me in my task. I met with him and heard how his research led him step by step to me. It seemed he knew much of the tale I already told you, though not as completely and not as accurately as I. I shared what I knew, glad to have found a compatriot that could help free the town of the last of the Ebon Triad. For his part, he was a good man, but I believe now he suffered some deep hurt at the hands of Kyuss that left him obsessed with the Age of Worms. As I worked with him, it became clear he trusted no one; he was feral and prone to bouts of melancholy or mania. One night he announced that he had learned enough, that there was nothing left for him to do here. I tried to get him to stay but it was no use. He left magically that evening, leaving only a scrap of his notes behind."

<Lashonna hands the party Balakarde's notes>

“He mentioned trying to learn more about Dragotha by traveling to the Wormcrawl Fissure. I advised against this reckless act but my words went unheeded. He never returned.”

“This brings us to tonight, and our meeting. I no longer can ignore the portents. Look at it this way: Balakarde learned much of this tale before he met me, which indicates things long held secret are coming into the light and I am afraid more now know of this lore than ever before. Prince Zeech is building that damnable ziggarut that reminds one far too much of the blasphemous architecture found in Kaluth-Mar. You heroes have risen, battle-weary from fighting the servants of Kyuss. Even the raving predictions of the cultists have come to pass. Something has changed, the writhing dead grow restless, the Age of Worms is at hand.”

“If things but were as they once had been, I would fulfill my duty as a Watcher and report all I know to the Order. However, this is no longer possible. The Order fled to their island-fortress of Tilagos almost 1500 years ago to avoid destruction at the hand of Kyuss' minions. There they are strongest and it is there they kept the greatest bulk of their lore. It is said that they built a library of sorts there that houses hundreds of years of history, memories, dreams and secrets as a last bastion of knowledge against the Age of Worms. Of course, merely fleeing to an ocean fortress would not ensure their safety. It is said that the Order drove a lasting bargain with primal elemental forces. They sacrificed their lives to whisk the island's interior off the Material Plane. In its place is a barren rock surrounded by an ever raging storm of such intensity that that any ships that approach within ten miles are invariably lost. The island appears on no maps, but lore maintained by the Watchers hints that the druids left a way for those in need to reach their secrets while at the same time warding the place away from the eyes of Kyuss' undead fanatics.”

“Fate has left us to deal with the rising of the Wormgod. But it is fate as well that seems to have placed heroes capable of the task here with me, in the very hour of our need. It seems obvious that Dragotha intends to release Kyuss from his prison and in so doing usher in the Age of Worms. The solution is also obvious. A king without his general is powerless. It has taken Dragotha 1500 years to reach this point. If he can be removed now, it will certainly be centuries before anyone or anything has a chance to release the Wormgod again. Of course, you cannot follow Balakarde into the Wormcrawl Fissure, one does not simply attack a dracolich without forethought. Dragotha may not know where the Order of the Storm hid his phylactery but that does not mean it is not useful to him. If he is destroyed before his phylactery is found, it is as good as turning it over to him. "

“The first order of business must be to find his phylactery and destroy it. I have no idea where it may be hidden but then again neither does Dragotha. Certainly his doubt to its location is the main reason he has not tried to simply destroy himself as a desperate way to discover it. It has undoubtedly been secreted away by the Order of the Storm for this very need, either on the isle of Tilagos or elsewhere. Furthermore, if a written account of what Tylanthros did with the phylactery exists, it must be somewhere within the library. It is my fervent hope that you will take up this task, travel to Tigalos, and uncover the lore that the Order of the Storm gave their lives to hide from the world.”

<Lashonna ends her tale and pauses for another drink to allow the party to ask questions>

Shadow Lodge

My 6 players are just finishing the Champion's Belt. Next up is a return to Diamond Lake to deal with the events in A Gathering of Winds.

The more I read the module, the less I understand its purpose to the overall story. I sort of see how the Whispering Cairn was designed to bring the group together and all, but a return to the Cairn and the Wind Dukes - why? We are approaching the half-way point in the arc and the players know next to nothing about the Age of Worms other than what little they gleaned from the cults in TFoE. All of the other adventures have only been obliquely related to the Age of Worms. Sadly, it appears that GoW is destined to repeat this, especially because the players will know far more about the Wind Dukes than Kyuss by the end of this module. Talk about the mother of all red herrings.

My group is pretty confused at this point already, struggling to understand what the Wind Dukes have to do with the Age of Worms. A return to the Cairn, especially one loaded with Wind Duke references, is only going to confuse them further. Is there any reason (from a story arc perspective, I can see the crawl is a good one) to even play through A Gathering of Winds beyond the dragon encounter (which relates to the AoW of course) and getting the lead to Magepoint? Is there something critical beyond the conversation with Allustan the party needs from the Cairn?

Shadow Lodge

Please cancel my Pathfinder subscription AFTER mailing issue #24; I would like to complete the Legacy of Fire series.

Thank you!


Shadow Lodge

My party just finished the Temple of Hextor in TFoE. They have quite a bit of loot and are tired of the small town opportunities in Diamond Lake. Has anyone had any issue with the group going to the Free City in order to stock up on supplies not available in Diamond Lake?

What kinds of things should happen in their absence with the two remaining cults?

Shadow Lodge

I will point you all at a very interesting link, especially to those Euro-lovers out there:

World Economic Stats - Debt as a % of GDP

This chart shows the following countries debt as a percentage of GDP (what the country "makes"). It basically describes how much "credit card debt" the country has because it is spending more than it makes (all figures 2007):

Canada: 25.1%
UK: 38.35%
USA: 43.98%
France: 54.27%
Germany: 57.68%
Japan: 90.78%
Italy: 100.35% (nearing economic collapse, btw - their income cannot pay their debts)

This means that the US, with all of its military spending and being the last superpower left in the world, is still not as broke, on a normalized basis (% of GDP basis), as France, Germany, Japan and Italy. It also does not have the punitive taxation rates and VAT seen in these countries. Where does the debt come from for the big European countries since they have no military budget to speak of? Yep, social programs, which cannot pay for themselves even with the punitive taxation.

As it stands, the US's Social Security and Medicare will fail (be unable to be funded by taxes) in 2017 or so. The US government has done a terrible job of managing these entitlements, and will do a terrible job of managing national health care should that tragedy come to pass. Furthermore, the porous US border allows millions of illegals to enter the country (something not seen in Europe) to further soak up benefits (public education, emergency care at the very least right now).

There is simply no way we can continue as a country spending what we do, whether it be on "guns" or on "butter" (as the classic economic question is sometimes phrased). Trying to do both is economic suicide. What needs to happen is that taxes should be raised, social benefits cut, military spending tightly controlled to allow 2 regional simultaneous conflicts and money saved be put to reducing the debt. Deficit spending (the amount above revenue spent by the US government on a yearly basis is approaching 1 trillion dollars a year!!!) must be eliminated.

What US citizens fail to realize is that they are the government; the government is us. It is not some distant entity that has a pile of money. It is no different than your household. It gets money in, it sends money out. The only difference between your household and the government is that their numbers have more zeros. How long would your household last if 50% of what you made went to servicing your debt and you continued to spend money you didn't have?

Both the Republicans and Democrats are to blame for this, they just spend the money differently though the Cold War victory and the conflicts in the Middle East have certainly not helped matters. Shifting our spending will only give everyone health care up to the point where our government collapses, it will do nothing to actually fix the problem until the government starts spending less than it gets in. And for those anti-military people out there, I direct you to the Federal Budget Summary wherein you will see the 2007 budget:

$586.1 billion (+7.0%) - Social Security
$548.8 billion (+9.0%) - Defense[2]
$394.5 billion (+12.4%) - Medicare
$294.0 billion (+2.0%) - Unemployment and welfare
$276.4 billion (+2.9%) - Medicaid and other health related

Yep, that is right. We spend 1.255 trillion dollars on entitlements (social security, welfare, unemployment and medicaid/medicare) to 548.6 billion in military spending (less than half the entitlements spending). The total budget is 2.8 trillion, which means that entitlements already consume 44% of our total federal spending. And you want to add more entitlement programs!?

Shadow Lodge

Cosmo -

If you can, I would like to have this order ship UPS ground. Somehow the order went through as USPS shipping. You are authorized to bill the difference to the same card on which the order is placed. If this is not possible, I understand; just let me know.



Shadow Lodge

Ok so here is a puzzling conundrum:

In the Whispering Cairn, I had a cleric cast sanctuary as a defense against a certain swarm that can be found therein. I ruled that the spell could not force the swarm to make a save to avoid the character because the swarm does not make an attack, acts like an AOE effect, and the swarm is immune to spells that target individual creatures with in.

After the game, the player protested this ruling since sanctuary does not specifically target a single creature and I now have my doubts. What are your thoughts on this situation?

The situation is actually broader than just this. For example, can a swarm of undead rats be bolstered? Can they be blessed or fall under the effects of prayer (assuming they are allies of or summoned by the caster)? Spells like these also do not name a particular number of affected creatures, so I expect they would fall into the same category.

Shadow Lodge

Does anyone use both of these systems together? What has been your experience in incorporating the BoXM with PFRPG? How much conversion is required (or better yet, how hard are they to convert, since I am familiar with the broad changes proposed in BoXM relative to magic)?

Shadow Lodge

Going to bump this once. Maybe it got missed over the weekend.

Shadow Lodge

This thread proposes to refute the following assertion:

”Frank Trollman” wrote:

The game assumptions are that a party of 4 against will use up just 20% of their "disposable resources" against an enemy with a CR equal to the APL. It says that a Party of Four going up against a monster with a CR of APL + 4 is considered so deadly that it has a 50% chance of killing the party (that is: it is of roughly equal power to the entire party).

It also says that a party which is twice the size counts as a party of four of APL + 2 for purposes of encounter design, and a party which is half the size counts as a party of four of APL - 2 for purposes of encounter design. So a "party" of one level 8 character is considered to be a party of APL 4, and a monster of CR 8 is therefore an encounter of APL + 4 which has a 50% chance of killing the party.

Relevance to Pathfinder RPG

This assertion has been used to pit a CR8 fighter against a CR8 monster, and since the fighter dies more than half the time, the fighter is declared “broken” and in need of revision in PRPG. This assertion is also used to point out why other classes are ineffectual (monk and paladin for example) and also need revision under PRPG. Since PRPG design resources are limited, mistaken assessments are detrimental to the design process. This is especially true if these mistaken assessments are used to stifle debate about the effectiveness of the classes. This refutation does not attempt to indicate that the classes are balanced or not in need of improvement. It addresses only the fallacious argument that a Level 8 character should defeat a CR8 monster 50% of the time.

Before I get into the meat of my response however, I would like to state my qualifications. I hold a BS in Electrical Engineering (with qualifications for a minor in mathematics). I utilize multivariate complex vector calculus (calculus involving multiple complex variables where variable "direction" is important), topology (the mathematical kind), spacial mapping, polar stability charts, Z and Fourier transforms and systems of partial differential equations daily in my business. I mention this because the following discussion will likely be somewhat mathematical and I want to assure readers that I have the background to carry out these discussions confidently. OK, with that out of the way...

D&D game versions prior to 3.0 did not have a sound challenge rating guide for the DM. It was a design goal of 3.0 D&D to provide more guidance to DMs on what kind and count of monsters were appropriate challenges. The word “appropriate” can mean a number of things, so the designers had to quantify this in some fashion. Eventually the designers decided that “monsters of the appropriate challenge" would yield a 20% reduction in the party's expendable resources. This begged the question though, of what is the appropriate challenge? How does “appropriate” get quantified in a way DMs can use it?
Looking at encounters in general, we see that the following variables all impact the challenge of the encounter:

  • Level of each member in the party
  • Number characters in the party
  • Classes of each party member
  • Number of foes present
  • Condition of the characters prior to the encounter (health, spells, resources remaining, quality of resources remaining etc.]
  • Special abilities of the monsters (they are incorporeal or incapacitate foes quickly for example)
  • Terrain and encounter distances

    I am certain there are other variables that contribute to encounter “appropriateness”, but these 7 will do for purposes of discussion. One can imagine how radically changing (and I say radical so the effect will be pronounced) any one of these let alone a number of them will have on the level of difficulty an encounter. Furthermore these variables are all independent variables(definition: an independent variable is “is a variable which can be assigned any permissible value without any restriction imposed by any other variable.”). Each of these variables is independent of the other 6. That is, the number of foes present is independent of the classes of each party member, for example. Each of these independent variables combine in various ways to form the overall difficulty of the encounter. The types of interaction between these variables are numerous upon inspection (e.g. the special abilities of characters eases the encounter by a factor that is partially determined by the ability of the foes to negate this advantage) and exceedingly difficult if not impossible to quantify (e.g. to what degree does terrain and encounter distance affect the challenge of an encounter – and how much does this effect depend on the current resource level of the party?).

    Given this, the designers were faced with a difficult task. I admit I am speculating at this point, but I believe given all of this, they decided they would try to break the “appropriateness” of an encounter (and thus its independent variables) into two quantifiable parts: Challenge Rating (CR) and Encounter Level (EL). They somewhat met this goal for a set of specific circumstances, but utterly failed to derive a system that truly captured “appropriateness” in general. Additionally, the way they used these terms further confused the issue.

    CR was apparently designated as the “fixed” parameter for an encounter and would be assigned to the monster to describe it's general capability at full strength (special abilities, hit dice/level). EL was used to capture all of the other independent variables (number of foes appearing, terrain and distance factors). It was a reasonable idea, but it had its problems. The core problem comes about because even if they assign independent variables associated with the foe to CR and the other independent variables associated with other things to EL, they still had no way to quantify these numbers.

    They apparently decided to determine CR empirically – that is through test and measurement. Page 302 of the MM suggests they created a fighter, cleric, rogue and wizard of the guessed-at CR+2. (So if they guessed the CR should be 5, they created the sample party with each character at level 7) and then had the party apply any buff spell with a duration of 10 minutes/level or more. They then ran the encounter a number of times using 2 foes in a setting appropriate for that monster (ambushers ambushed, ranged attackers attacked from range etc). If the party used about 20% of their “consumable resources” (hit points, spells, consumable magic items) then the CR was about right for the monsters. I understand, based upon various playtest posts that came out after 3.0 was released, that this process wasn't followed rigorously, making CR a bit less meaningful than it otherwise should have been and further muddying the waters. Nevertheless, this is the general approach taken to assign CR. Were they accurate? Not in all cases, even by their own admission.

    Now at this point I am going to stop and ask – what have the designers done by calculating CR? They have used the independent variables for party size, level, and class to create CR - a dependent variable (a variable who's value depends on the values of independent variables). Mathematically, they have said:

    CR(l,n,c) = f(l,n,c)

    Where l = average party level, n= number of party members present, c = classes of party members, and CR is the Challenge Rating of the foe relative to the party. To put this in plain words, they said “ CR is a function of the party's level, class and number in the case where the classes were the core 4, the levels were an estimate based upon the desired outcome and the number was 4”.

    As with many complex relationships, it is not possible to describe f(l,n,c) mathematically. If we could do this, we could calculate the CR function for every monster in the MM. But this wasn't done. What also wasn't done was trying to calculate the dependent variable CR using other values for the independent variables l (level), c(class), or n (number in PC party). Thus not only can't we see the full function f(l,n,c), we don't even have a few points to reference for its output value; we have exactly one point, the point where l = estimated CR+2, n = 4, and c = core 4. To put this another way, what would be the CR of an ogre if the designers had decided CR was to be based upon pitting the ogre against a single 1st level aristocrat? Would it still be 3? No. The CR would be much higher because the level of aristocrat needed to defeat an ogre with a 20% use of resources would have to be higher. As much as we would like to think of CR as an fixed value (read this as independent variable) and despite that that is how it is portrayed in the MM , it is expressly a dependent variable that has been calculated given a relatively strict set of input parameters. I further postulate that the CR map expressed by CR(l,n,c) = f(l,n,c) is highly non-linear with significant difference in its derivatives and possibly some places of discontinuity – effective “holes” in the map where no CR exists for a given set of input parameters, which makes speculation about the shape of the CR map specious at best.

    Now let's focus on EL. This is the grab bag of independent factors like number of foes appearing and terrain and situational modifiers. The tables on pg 49 of the DMG, especially table 3-1 and the text associated with it, discuss changing the number of creatures present to adjust encounter level. This text and table indicate you can change the number of foes to adjust EL (terrain and other factors that might effect EL are discussed in non-quantitative terms on pg 50 of the DMG). This is all well and good, but this table makes the underlying assumption that we are using the CR system defined previously in the MM, that the CR of the monster is fixed. As I have shown above, the CR value provided in the MM is only that value for the specific case of inputs l, n, and c set as expected. If this assumption is changed (like n = 1 character instead of 4), Table 3-1 loses its meaning and the kind of scaling discussed in the table and the text above no longer holds true because the CR for an encounter where n = 1 has not been determined. However, if one assumes CR to be calculated as described in the MM, this table is more or less acceptable.

    This “logarithmic effect” - doubling the number of foes present for an increase in EL of CR to CR+2, is reiterated on pg 37 of the DMG where an 8th level NPC foe is a CR8 encounter, 2 8th level NPC foes are an EL 10 encounter and 4 8th level NPC foes are an EL 12 encounter. Again, the term CR is blithely used here, but the only CR the designers can be talking about is the CR derived as described in the MM, the one based upon the function of 4 core characters.

    Given this, it doesn't make a great deal of sense to pit a a fighter 8 against a CR 8 foe and expect a win 50% of the time since we really don't know the CR – the appropriateness if you will – of this monster versus a single character. One can assume that such a competition is unbalanced though simply based on the current definition of CR. The very definition of CR assumes that value was defined with the presence of 4 party members and is implicitly undefined elsewhere. The fact that some other classes may fair well against a CR8 challenge some of the time in single combat is no way indicative of the map of the function CR(l,n,c) = f(l,n,c). This key issue, that the map for CR is undefined except in the special case of 4 party members, makes using the logarithmic scaling rules on pgs 37 and 49 of the DMG useful only if the CR remains constant. This may not have been what the designers intended, it may not be what the designers wrote at various times (perhaps they forgot CR was a dependent variable and treated it like a constant - a special form of independent variable - as well) but nevertheless, it is true. What makes matters more confusing for the general reader is that table 3-1 (well specifically the example on how to use the table at the end of pg 48 involving ogres against a 6th level party) treats CR as an independent variable. “Find the party level and look across until you see CR2 in the table, then look up to find you need 4 ogres for a CR6 encounter”. This statement implies that CR is an independent variable and pays no heed to how CR was derived in the first place. It further implies that EL is now a dependent variable – not based only on number of creatures present but upon CR, which functions as an independent variable in Table 3-1 and is implied to be an independent variable on pg 37 but is not an independent variable itself.

    I really don't think the designers worried overmuch about these issues. Perhaps they did; I really do not know. I doubt they considered that their logarithmic addition of monsters vs increase in EL would be or could be reversed to pit single characters against single foes in the name of game balance and if they did foresee and intend this, then they forgot that CR itself was a dependent variable that could not be “reversed” in this fashion.

    Reversing the information in Table 3-1 or page 37 of the DMG to compare a Level 8 character against a CR 8 monster is a mathematical error. The table and text only apply when CR is determined using the empirical methods discussed on pg 302 of the MM. The fact that CR is used as an independent variable in Table 3-1 and in the discussions on pg 37 does not disqualify the fact that CR itself remains a dependent variable. This is especially true since CR depends upon the independent variable of “character's in the party” - the very parameter that is being reversed from the information presented in the tables.

  • Shadow Lodge

    After reading a number of these posts regarding balance and brokenness and the examples provided therein I have developed something I am (modestly) calling the Lich-Loved Argument against these sorts of examples:

    Lich-Loved Argument
    (1)Assume that the example provided is acceptable and doable in the mythical world
    (2)Assume that players wish to maintain versimlitude and thus expect cause and effect to be a consistent operating mechanism in the world (eg you do something and it produces repeatable results each time it is tried)
    (3)Apply the approach presented in (1) across the whole of the mythical world/multiverse where (2) applies, iterating over the passage of years/decades/whatever is appropriate for the mythical world
    (4)Draw a broad conclusion about the state of the world after (3).
    (5)If the result of (4) is one in which the world ceases to exist or no longer has the same social, political or power structures as it did when (1) was proposed/created then (1) must not be possible to do. If no game rule exists to prohibit (1) from occurring, then the rule prohibiting (1) must exist, even in an unstated fashion, within the universe assumed in (2) or otherwise the result would be (4)

    Here are a few examples:

    The “Halfling Hurler” rogue build (see below for more on optimized builds)

    Ok, so a clever halfling has found out that maintaining a magical bag of alchemical cold, fire and acid and maximizing his stealth, initiative and throwing capabilities leads to a person that destroys everything he meets in mere moments. Think through the implications of this, applying (3) above. Fighters become rogues upon seeing the awesome power of the technique and give up their blades to start throwing things at practice targets (what good is a sword against such power when the other approach is so much better?) and/or everyone demands that alchemical fire/cold/acid production be stopped because of the great atrocities committed with its use and/or everyone fears halflings to the point where they are hunted to extinction and/or the cost of alchemical items of this sort and the formula and control of their making becomes a central point of the world's politics (we see this with nuclear weapons today) and/or the approach to warfare discovered by this clever halfling has an exploitable flaw that is so well known so as keep the use of the approach marginal or non-existent. There are other likely outcomes as well, but all of them involve a substantial change to the world as assumed before the class was built. Thus the build fails the Lich-Loved Argument; the world ends up being a different place because of the proposed build. Thus it isn't possible. Either the build violates a 3.5 rule (unlikely) or it violates a “world rule”. The DM, as caretaker of the world, decides which.

    The “Wish for a Ring of Wishes”

    The DMG allows the wish spell to “create a magic item” with no limitations on the type of item created. Thus it is possible to wish for a ring of three wishes. This situation also arises when a player tries to get a summoned Dao or Djinn to grant wishes. I do not need to belabor the point on this one. It has so many flaws and implications on the game world that the outcome would be a place far different that the world in which the example started. Thus it is not possible. Perhaps the rule is badly written (I think it is but must we change the wording when it fails such a basic test) or there is some other mechanism at work in the world (eg the first person to discover this wished that no one else could discover it, thus providing an "in world" answer).

    The “Shadow over the Sun” Fallacy

    This example discusses undead spawn capabilities like those of the shadow or wight. Since a shadow can be harmed only by magic weapons, kills quickly and creates shadow spawn, a single shadow that finds its way into a peasant's village would create a great number of shadows overnight which would go out to create even more shadows and so forth until the world was wreathed in shadow. Again, the Lich Loved Argument prevents this scenario from occurring. If it could occur, then it certainly would have occurred given the number of shadows thought to exist in a typical D&D multiverse. The fact that is hasn't occurred points to an unexplained phenomenon in the rules of the mythical universe, leaving it up to the DM to decide what that reason may be.

    The “Optimized Build” Fallacy

    This is just an extrapolation of the “Halfing Hurler” build I mention above and is useful when deciding what spells/PrC's, classes and whatnot to allow into your mythical worlds. In short, it is not possible for any one playable race/class/feat combination to radically eclipse the others in terms of power. If such a thing were possible, then that race/class would grow quickly to dominance as the defining class and all sub-optimal builds would be trimmed by either aggressive members of the dominant race/class or by monsters that themselves are tough enough to deal with the dominant race/class or by persons chosing the obviously superior skillset over the more mundane one. For example, if Eldritch Knights (a PrC) were heads and shoulders better than either fighters or mages, then you would not have either fighters or mages in your world to start with, except for those in training to be Eldritch Knights. Chances are, this group would be highly desirous to maintain their power base and would be certain that up and coming students of wizardy or knighthood were brought into their fold or labeled as heretics and hunted down. Even if this didn't happen, it would be seen as a failure to develop/mature properly if an aspirant was “merely” a fighter or wizard and the eventual confrontation against foes capable of dealing with Eldritch Knights would pit the “mere wizard” against superior forces and the wizard would perish. This approach can be applied to spells, core classes, PrCs or “jigsaw builds” proposed by players. Think through the logical outcome of allowing such choices and apply the Lich Loved Argument to see what would reasonably happen if everyone did as the player proposed.

    As you read these boards, think about some of the things people are proposing and the examples they provide. In many cases, their examples fail this basic test of reasoning and thus should be dismissed so as not to lead the discussion about how to improve the rules astray. Not every rule needs a dozen caveats, not every class or spell or situation needs to be addressed in the rulebook for a "rule" to exist to deal with the situation.

    Shadow Lodge

    WoW 'Fury of the Sunwell' Notes wrote:

    In Memoriam: Gary Gygax

    Blizzard Entertainment would like to dedicate the patch in memory of Gary Gygax. His work on D&D was an inspiration to us in many ways and helped spark our passion for creating games of our own. As avid D&D players and fellow game developers, we are all saddened by the news of his passing; we feel we have lost a true adventuring companion. Thanks for everything and farewell Gary, you will be missed.

    Regardless of your stance on WoW, this is yet another example of how Gary spawned a revolution that extended far beyond the hobby he created. I am certain that Gary's profound influence will come to light more and more often as other artists and designers find the opportunity to express their admiration for and describe the influence Gary had on their work.

    Shadow Lodge

    I decided to run a Harrow reading on Paizo's decision to keep 3.5, specifically asking the question; "Are Paizo's plans for sticking with 3.5 going to be beneficial ones for them?"

    Here is how things shook out:

    I chose Intelligence for the base stat since this was a money matter and drew The Rakshasa (LE) as the The Choosing card. Hmm mental or physical enslavement. Not sure how to handle that yet. Let's see what the spread turned up:

    LG: The Liar (ce) NG: The Paladin (lg) CG: The Fiend (le)

    LN: Tangled Briar (le) N: The Owl (n) CN: Rabbit Prince (cn)

    LE: The Unicorn (cg) NE:Mountain Man (cn) CE: The Dance (lg)

    WOW! And I do mean WOW! All extreme alignments were opposed and the Neutral was a true match! Let's see what this may mean...

    Past: I chose The Liar (opposed) and the Unicorn (opposed). I did not read the Tangled Briar because it was only a partial match.

    So on the positive side, Paizo once was part of something new, a new beginning though it might not have seemed that way at first. However, the opposed Unicorn indicates there was a bad relationship of some kind associated with this, a betrayal associated with this otherwise positive relationship.

    Present: I chose the Owl (true match) to interpret. I didn't use the other cards because they were just partial matches.

    Without strong bias good or bad, then, Paizo currently faces a choice of survival where the weak will falter and the successful will grow stronger.

    Future: I has to intepret all the cards in this column. The Fiend and the Dance were opposed while the Rabbit Prince was a true match.

    I have to give greatest weight to the Rabbit Prince, the card that represents the vagarities in outcome of difficult decisions. It is a card of power and vigor but does not indicate in what direction this power or vigor will lean. On the positive side, it means that some great great calamity will be averted, that some great problem avoided. On the downside, this outcome will not be perfect and will not suit everyone nor bring complete success.

    The Harrowing
    Based on these cards I will answer the question "Are Paizo's plans for sticking with 3.5 going to be beneficial ones for them?" thusly:

    Paizo was a new, innovative company. It may not have been immediately apparent but something truely new was born. However all was not perfect. There was a betrayal of trust or understanding between Paizo and others and the relationship failed. Now Paizo finds itself at a crossroads where it must either succeed or fail on its own against all competitors. Success means the gaining of strength as a company and failure means the company fades away. There is no solid indication now which way things will turn out, but looking to the future, this upstart young company will avoid outright failure though this success will come at a price because not all will be pleased with the final result. I also forsee that this question overall has been something of a great turmoil (indicated by all four opposed extremes) within the company and the chaos is not yet over, for this final outcome is balanced on, well The Owl shows it best, the tip of a needle.

    Pretty damned freaky, eh wot?

    Shadow Lodge

    One of things I find funny about 4e is how the 4e product would have sounded as an RPG Superstar submission and what Messrs. Baur, Mona and Peterson would have thought about:

    • Plane-swapping as the basis for odd terrain (per Aber-Toril changes)
    • All the dreadful names of creatures, powers and items
    • The wonky and un-original reuse of existing gods and NPCs
    • The very close approximation to White Wolf's planar layout
    • Changes in other fluff that would confuse long-term players
    • "Points of light" contrasted with a robust economic model

    Note that I am not discussing mechanics here, just fluff. I am sure there are other examples.

    After re-reading some of the judges' comments concerning the excellent work we saw in that contest, I wonder if any aspect of the 4e fluff would have made it into the second round (Figuratively speaking. I know the first round was items only). Thoughts?

    Shadow Lodge

    I have heard that at least one post was deleted here, with no information given as to why. Are the moderators now deleting posts that are considered off-topic or otherwise not acceptable?

    Shadow Lodge

    Please cancel the following orders:

    885626, 885639, 885644

    Thank you.

    Shadow Lodge

    OK all you "other" gamers out there, I have been a faithful D&D player for going on 30 years, but as the 4e apocalypse approaches, I am looking at doing something differently. My concern is that the 3.5 market will dry up and no 3.75 will arise to replace it. I still have some 3.5 adventure paths to run, but I am now looking for a new rule set that better meets my needs. Specifically, I am looking for:

    • Medium fantasy (think Grayhawk not FR)
    • Gritty combat that supports tactical choices (my players enjoy tactical battles and use minis all the time)
    • Controlled magic (no magic marts/reliance on magic items as 3.5 requires) where players can find and use magic and perhaps even barter for it, but it does not permeate the air.
    • A supported setting would be nice with lots of fluff and some crunch. I am a very busy person and want at least some of the work done for me if possible. If not I can homebrew but I am very busy atm.
    • A strong character creation system (I know it will be classed based if it is d20 but classless is fine too) that allows for a variety of tropes and archtypes as well as plenty of customization.
    • Settings-appropriate challenges (monsters, environmental whatever)
    • Published adventures (would be a real help but I can homebrew if needed)
    • The system must scale well; I have 7 players (sometimes 8) at my weekly games and we enjoy all levels of play.
    • Straightforward conversion from 3.5 source material to the new system would be a plus since I could move the game from 3.5 sooner.
    • A good to strong resolution system for crafting, social skills, and other roleplaying support mechanics.
    • If going to a generic system (eg Fudge or Tristat), I would like to rely upon work already available rather than building my system from scratch.
    • I am hesitant about GURPS, it seems a bit cumbersome to me though I have admittedly not played it. I was hoping for something less convoluted, no more complex than 3.5 with a few splatbooks added in.

    My problems with 3.5 include the magic items/wealth by level system vs monster CR and the endless supply of splatbooks (most of which I do not allow at my table except on a case by case basis). My goal is to get away from this rut and move on to something else or at the very least have an alternate system ready if 3.5 support falters in the marketplace. However, systems that move toward what 4e is doing are not interesting at all to me.

    Thus far I have considered Castles and Crusades, Fudge, and Iron Heroes. By considered, I mean I have heard a bit about them and think they may qualify. What I really would like though is to have people playing these or other systems make some recommendations or suggest game systems they like. I like D&D, Shadowrun and Tri-Stat dX and have played many other systems, so I am pretty open minded.

    What are your suggestions?

    Edit: My many typos *sigh*

    Shadow Lodge

    I posted the following in one of the post DDX threads a couple of days ago. It was a bit off-topic and never got a response from anyone, but I think it is a meaningful question. My belief is reinforced by Jason Bulmahn's comments regarding 4e play.

    Here is my original post:

    Lich-Loved wrote:

    First off, thanks for showing up here for rules clarifications Rodney. And now on to my own question:

    This rest thing is something that has been in the back of my mind for some time. It is suggested that the party stop to "rest" (as in the old 3.5 manner) when everyone is out of daily powers and/or down to one healing surge. My concern is that given:

    (1)It is harder for PCs to die in 4e (lethality reduced compared to 3e by design)
    (2)DMs still want to "press" their parties on most encounters (admittedly a preference thing, but at least in my group, an encounter the party just blows through is more of a time waster than a meaningful story element, thus encounters for us are times when the characters are quite pressed to survive)

    Isn't it likely that the party will just blow their once per day powers and healing surges in these preliminary encounters, or after a few of them, and we are right back to the 15 minute adventuring day?

    And here is an excerpt of the Jason Bulmahn interview:

    EN World's 'The Universe' interviewed Jason Bulmahn and wrote:

    [...interview excerpted by me, all emphasis in this quote mine...]

    Jason contended that the new edition's apparent focus on adding variety to player options and keeping people engaged at the table at all times had seemed to him, after 2 preview sessions, to be a "partial success." While the "Encounter" and "Daily" powers on the sheet were interesting, it seemed like PCs were once more reduced to "doing the same thing over and over again" after they had burned through them, something that the 4e designers had at least ostensibly attempted to avoid. He confirmed that, in one of the previews he played, a final combat had lasted for nearly 40 rounds(!) (apparently against the 280 hit point Black Dragon mentioned elsewhere).

    Jason asserted that it often seemed as if PCs were either "coasting" through adventuring challenges in the new edition, or "completely terrified" by foes that wildly overmatched them. He claimed that, in his admittedly limited experience, he hadn't felt particularly threatened until forced to face a "Solo" monster 3 levels higher than the party (apparently the same Black Dragon). He acknowledged that the death and dying mechanic ensured that most PC's would have at least 3 rounds to live after they lost consciousness, but wondered if it would put DMs in a position where "the only to kill you is to attack you while you're down."

    I am concerned that despite all these new powers and even the "13 healing surges a day" for the dwarf (as discussed in yet another thread here on Paizo), we are looking at short adventuring days to recharge cool powers used to take down tough foes.

    What do the rest of you think about this?

    Shadow Lodge

    In the "Kobold" thread here on Paizo, I read this:

    Lazaro wrote:

    Once again, the following is from Xath, one of EN World's moderators, and one of EN World's press representatives at D&D Experience:

    Liz (Queen Dopplepoppolis) and I had a fantastic interview with Chris Perkins and Sara Girard today at D&D XP. In it, they let a few tantalizing spoilers out about the three core books. I'll start with the Monster Manual, and Liz should have the PHB and DMG up shortly.

    [... other text omitted by me...]

    But now for the big news! One of the monster appendecies in the Monster Manual will be devoted to adapting monsters to become player races. The MM will include 12-20 monsters that will be pre-written for use by PCs. Chris Perkins was kind enough to let us know nine of those races!

    Doppleganger/Changeling (They are one and the same in 4e)

    The inclusion of "core" Eberron races in the MM? How very interesting. What does this bode for the Eberron game world? I think they may want to put the lumber on their windows and flee from the coast; methinks there is a storm a brewin'.

    Shadow Lodge

    This article is from almost exactly 8 years ago and breaks down D&D and other game players a number of ways. I found it fascinating and eerily useful in helping wade through the morass of the 4E announcement and changes.

    Some notable quotes:

    WotC Marketing Report wrote:
    This data seems to validate the theory that young gamers, while very active,don't spend a lot of money. (The following data is reported by for RPG expenditures) The big dollars come from adults...
    WotC Marketing Report wrote:

    Getting back to the people still playing the games, when asked what games
    TRPG players play monthly, the answers (multiple choices allowed) were:

    D&D: 66%
    Vampire: The Masquerade: 25%
    Star Wars: 21%
    Palladium: 16%
    Werewolf: The Apocalypse: 15%
    Shadowrun: 15%
    Star Trek: 12%
    Call of Cthulu: 8%
    Legend of the Five Rings: 8%
    Deadlands: 5%
    Alternity: 4%
    GURPS: 3%

    WotC Marketing Report wrote:
    (*) For my own purposes, I choose to use the term "Tabletop RPGs" in this document; the term "paper RPGs" was used in the study. The terms are synonyms; my choice is simply personal. I believe that in the fairly near future "paper" RPGs will hybridize with computer assistance, not becoming "computer RPGs" as that term is commonly understood, but not being games played simply with paper anymore either. Consider this a "forward looking" terminology.

    Now what I would --desperately-- like to see is an update to this report for 2007.

    Shadow Lodge

    When poking around on Monte's site, I came across this stunning article concerning the OGL and Monte's predictions for 4th Edition. From the information (almost) included in the article, this was written in 2006. This is a great article no matter your personal views on 4th edition, written by one of the industry's biggest insiders.

    Linkified here to save the lives of defenseless electrons everywhere.

    A few quotes to whet your appetite:

    Monte Cook wrote:

    Why aren't companies producing OGL material still selling great numbers? [....]Most people will tell you that the problem was just the sheer number of companies producing material, and the sheer number of products. But I don't think it was quite that simple. To be blunt, the problem was that so many of the products being published were crap.
    Regardless of when it comes, however, the issue at hand is: Will 4th Edition continue to be an open game? This is a complex question. I suspect that as the Wizards revolving door continues to toss out more and more of the so-called "old guard" (willingly or unwillingly), fewer people remain who believe in or even really understand the Open Game License.
    Will a new edition be good for the game? In my opinion, if Wizards is truly interested in what's good for the game, they'll wait until people really want a 4th Edition, which I imagine would come no sooner than 2008.

    Edit: I have left a great many compelling statements out of this post because (a) what Monte says should be read in context and (b) he says a few things that will likely rub people the wrong way concerning 4e/WotC/Hasboro and that is something I did not want to focus on in my initial post. Read the article for yourself and see what you get from it.

    Shadow Lodge

    I have been watching my group of 6 11th level PC's carefully with regard to their use of the metamagic rods, specifically the lesser Empower rod. I am starting to have serious misgivings about this item being overpowered for its list price.

    An 11th level wizard can cast 2 (3 with a 20 INT) 5th level spells a day. If he chooses to take the empower feat and make maximum use of it, he must give up his 5th level slots for 3rd level empowered spells. This means that he looses those great 5th level spells (and there are a lot of them) just to do extra damage in a fight. However,for a mere 9000gp (about 15% of his average wealth at 11th), the Wizard can cast 3 empowered 3rd level spells without losing any 5th level spell slots. This gives him access to fireball and lightning bolt that average 52 points of damage each casting (peaking at a nasty 90 damage each). While this is not a big deal, the fact that he can throw an empowered ray of enfeeblement for an average of 12 strength loss and still have access to those nice 5th level spells, things start to seem a bit tilted.

    What are your thoughts on this?

    Shadow Lodge

    I am running a Dungeon-based campaign in FR for a group of 6 10th level PC's. I just learned last week that the player of our wizard (Diviner 5, War Weaver 5) has been reassigned at work and will no longer be able to make our weekly gaming sessions. This leaves the party with no arcane support. The question I have is this: can a party of 5 10th level PC's survive Dungeon-style adventures without an arcane caster and if not, what changes would you suggest to the game to make this a viable choice? The other players are happy with their characters and do not want to make a new character to assume the wizard's role.

    The party consists of the following PC's: human druid (10), aasimar cleric of Tymora (9+1LA), half-orc barbarian, elan psion (10th level shaper), human thief (10).

    Shadow Lodge

    Ok so I have to admit I really like the Points of Light concept put forth by the 4e team. It speaks to some 1e gene within me, recalling those early days where danger seemed to be on all sides of the beleaguered characters. I have often tried to recreate that feeling in my homebrew games with varying degrees of success. When I have done so successfully, my worlds were invariably low-magic and low treasure. I had long taken Gary Gygax's words of wisdom regarding the scarcity of magic items and I did my best to apply those thoughts in conjunction with what could be called a pseudo-realistic economic model. When I moved to 3e, I found that my gritty and economically realistic campaigns struggled because of the core rules assumption that characters were being rewarded per the RAW with magic and gold in a manner commensurate with their level. In my homebrew versions of the Points of Light game, trade was difficult and hazardous, gold, goods and services did not move well between economic centers and communities (except the largest ones) had access only to the resources immediately within their reach. Magic items could be found, artifacts of a different, more organized time or a lost civilization, but raw materials to craft items, highly skilled labor, and availability of NPC magic crafters were very highly restricted. It just didn't make sense to me that one of these isolated towns would reliably have the resources or market to make even "mundane" magic items readily available. Eventually, I moved away from this concept; it became too much effort to continue to run a 3e low-magic, low-treasure game in the face of so many assumptions about character power level and gear. I moved my games to the Realms and started running rewards per RAW and things have been much easier for me as a DM and for my players.

    Getting back to the Points of Light concept espoused for 4e, what are the designers doing about the economic model behind this sort of approach? Are they still planning a Realms-like economy where there is trade (and a demand for trade), where hundreds or thousands of adventurers in a region drive a market for otherwise exotic goods and if so, how are they explaining this? Or will it be a low-magic, low-spending sort of environment, something closer to medieval Europe? I know that no one can tell me for certain because accurate, solid information is not available from WotC, but I am wondering if there have been any hints in any of the presentations thus far.

    Shadow Lodge

    One (and only one) shameless bump for this topic before it sinks to the bottom of the swamp...

    Shadow Lodge

    In the weekly game I run, a player of mine has a Wizard (Diviner) 5/ War Weaver 4 (ref War Weaver, Heroes of Battle). This is the first time I have seen a war weaver played and my initial thoughts are that this class packs a tremendous punch as a utility caster, quite likely too much punch.

    The player has a 20 Int, allowing him to apply a single spell of 4th level or lower on all 6 members of the party. Thus a single casting of displacement, darkvision, invisibility, spider climb, fly, gaseous form and so forth effects everyone in the group. In addition, he can place up to 3 spells in the weave (each of 4th level or lower) for casting later. These “quiescent spells” remain suspended in his weave for 24 hours and can be released all at once with a move action from the wizard. Again, these spells affect everyone in the group.

    On the positive side, the player has not done anything to break the game nor have these spells turned challenging encounters into trivial ones though admittedly I have upped the number of foes or their difficulty if I felt it warranted.

    Has anyone else had experience with this class? Have you found it overpowered? If so, what have you done to tone it down while still letting the player feel like he has invested well in a PrC?

    Shadow Lodge

    I feel like one of those latecomers that heard about the loss of the Dungeon and Dragon magazines days after it happened. I have been gone from the boards for a few weeks and I come back to this!

    Ok, now that I guess what I always knew had to happen has come to pass, suffered through the painful video and read a bit on the WotC boards, is there any place to learn more about the crunchy game mechanics? All I could find was pretty generic stuff though some of what I heard intrigues me. If more about the mechnics aren't online yet, can someone that went to GenCon please try to summarize what is known about the new rules mechanically?

    Must I really pay WotC to get to be an "insider" and watch this all unfold through what passes for Dragon these days? Gah!

    Shadow Lodge

    I am in the market to buy 4 to 6 small (about 1 inch no more than 2 inches in length) sailing ship miniatures for a pirate game I recently purchased. Ideally these ships will be easy on the eyes, require little to no painting/assembly and be relatively rugged.

    Does anyone know where I might find something like this? I have searched online but really can't find anything that I feel fits the bill. All comments welcome!

    Shadow Lodge

    The Company Sets Out

    A street urchin wearing the uniform of the Message Dispatch met the party as they returned to Archenbridge after inspecting the site where construction would soon begin on their permanent residence. The young boy handed Brundun a sealed envelope and indicated that he was to wait for a reply. The letter inside was written on quality vellum with a neat and exacting hand. Apparently one Viktor Thornflower, valet to Orlamm Starbottom requested their presence in the Guildhouse, booth #14 at midday tomorrow to discuss a proposition. Neither Thornflower nor Starbottom were familiar names but the quality paper on which the note was written spoke of wealth and the party’s concern over their dwindling gold supply left no doubt that they would agree to the meeting. Having received his answer, the lad dashed off toward the city center, unaware that Urgoth was carefully shadowing him in hopes of learning more about the mysterious origins of the letter.

    The dwarf rejoined his companions at their temporary residence in the city a bit later in the day, saying only that the youngster went back to the Message Dispatch house, probably to transmit their response to an older, more experienced and better dressed messenger capable of passing into the wealthier sections of the city without raising the ire of the guards that see to it that common riffraff like beggars and adventurers do not trouble the homes of the wealthy. The party’s spirits were high that evening with the thoughts of returning to life on the road and the wealth their new patron might bring. Especially encouraging to them was that the meeting was to be held at the Guildhouse, a curious and quite costly tavern with no common room. The place instead consisted of small “booths” that were in reality small private meeting rooms in which those that wanted to discuss matters privately could do so as long as desired, receiving victuals and other services provided by the discreet staff of the place.

    The next day, the party met at the Guidlhouse slightly before the appointed time. They were directed to their booth by the pleasent staff, and waited only a few minutes before Viktor Thornflower arrived. His appearance did nothing but reinforce the belief that there was money to be made in whatever he proposed, for his tailored, fashionable clothing, well-groomed pencil thin mustache and general demeanor spoke of refinement and even formal training. Viktor thanked the party for meeting him and got immediately to his point.

    Orlamm Starbottom, his employer, is an aging gnome wizard of some reputation in Archendale. His beloved daughter, Abby Starbottom, has for several years lived in the city of Exag, a remote and backward place at the edge of the Anauroch. During their last communication, Abby indicated to her father that her adopted city was in crisis; fell things stalked the shadowed streets at night and the population, driven to desperation by the conditions there, had turned to drugs to help them forget their troubles. She fears that the people of Exag, especially the children she loves so dearly, will only suffer further if the situation continues to deteriorate. To that end, she has requested that her father locate a band of adventurers willing to travel to the remote location and put things aright, restoring hope to the beleaguered city. Orlamm had heard about the group’s recent successes from a friend of his and requested that the Company of the Silver Wolf take this commission on his behalf.

    The party of course wanted to negotiate payment for their services, and apparently Orlamm sources had explained that this group of adventurers would only act if sufficiently enticed for Viktor was prepared to offer a magical ring that enhanced the power of healing (Ring of Mystic Healing, MIC) and a choker-style necklace that aided in one’s defense (a Torc of Displacement, MIC). Viktor displayed the items to the group in a finely carved box he produced from within his robes, and the warlock was able to clandestinely determine that the items radiated the appropriate magical auras.

    When Viktor had finished, everyone exchanged looks but their acceptance of the offer was a forgone conclusion; they would travel to Exag and do what they could to resolve the problems there. Viktor seemed very pleased at their acceptance of the offer and provided them a reasonably detailed map of the western Dalelands that included details on how to reach Exag once they were in the vicinity of the Stonelands. He then bade them good day and left the party to their planning. As he closed the booth door, he could hear Feydryn, a student of both history and architecture, explaining the many mysteries surrounding the ancient city of Exag. Her information only piqued their desire to see the city and the rest of the afternoon was spent planning and obtaining the things they would need for a journey of some 400 miles.

    The Company of the Silver Wolf set out soon after daybreak the next morning. The cold, clear spring day drew clouds of breath from their mounts as they rode northward through Archendale. The Thunder Peaks were still deep with snow and thus the Thunder Gap was almost certainly still too difficult to pass, forcing the group to take a northern and then western route through Archendale, Deepingdale and then to the Moonsea Ride which would guide them into the Stonelands at the base of the Stormhorns. For two full days and most of the third, they rode through the relatively tame Dalelands, encountering few travelers in this rather out of the way portion of the Dales.

    This changed however, as they dismounted at the end of their third day. The party planned to camp in the shadow of the Blood Horn, the tall red colored mountain at the northern edge of the Thunder Peaks. Perhaps it was the rapidly fading light as the sun sank behind the mountain, setting its peak afire and drawing the eye upward or perhaps it was complacency brought on by days of riding through peaceful Deepingdale, but the party did not see a small group of ogres sitting quietly among the rocks on the low hillside nearby.

    As a unit they stood up, great two-handed swords in their hands. Their leader stepped forward and shouted in broken Common to the group. These lands were under the sway of mighty Thraxata and all those passing through must pay a toll in gold or blood. Urgoth had heard tales of Thraxata, a dragon of considerable power that made the Blood Horn his lair and whispered as much to the group. The ogres’ calm demeanors and disciplined approach gave the party pause and Feydryn chose to negotiate with them rather than risk the wrath of a dragon.

    Sadly for her, her bluff that she bore a message for Thraxata and thus must pass unhindered through his lands met with disbelief, even from the dimwitted ogres. In an attempt to prove the veracity of the tale, she produced a scroll and waved it about energetically, indicating it contained the message for the dragon. Intrigued, the ogre leader moved his group along the face of the hillside and closer to the group, insisting that he be told the message. Feydryn feigned disappointment and then agreed, and begun to unfurl the scroll. Something in her approach or perhaps a painful lesson in the ogre chieftain’s past told him that that action was anything but benign. With a roar, he ordered his group to attack, and the ogres bounded down the hill and into the party. Miraculously, the ogre chieftan resisted Feydryn’s subsequent Charm Monster spell. Enraged beyond all reason, he too raced down the hillside and into the party.

    Morgan mounted Rosebud, her sturdy warhorse, and charged off into the ogres, slashing one with her scythe and drawing two ogres away from the rest of the group. The ogre chieftain displayed all of his barbarian might, charging the unprepared Fuget, dealing an astounding 55 hit points of damage in a single critical blow of his large greatsword. The melee then broke down into several individual battles with Feydryn blasting the ogre chieftain twice with lightning bolts and the flying warlock pounding him with bursts of crackling dark energy. Urgoth was able to hold the attention of two ogres as he tumbled and dodged between them, harrying them with his rapier and Morgan, despite her apparent danger, smote both ogres that tried to pull her from her horse, killing them with relative ease and little injury to herself. Meanwhile, Brundun protected the grievously wounded Fuget and allowed him to get behind the lines of battle to heal himself. The ogre chieftain was not finished yet however, and willingly turned his back on Brundun to reach Feydryn and put an end to her continual strokes of lightning that were decimating his followers. The hulking brute shrugged off the otherwise severe wound he received from Brundun as he broke off from combat, and smote Feydryn to the ground in a single blow. She lay unconscious, bleeding gouts of red blood from a jagged tear that led from her collarbone to her naval.

    Looking about, the chieftain saw the last of his followers fall and knew that his only hope lay in reaching the safety of the forest some distance away. He took another blast from the flying warlock, who mocked him from above, certain he was safe from reprisal. The great ogre had other plans, and took advantage of the disarray caused by Feydryn’s terrible wounds to hurl his blade 40 feet into the air at the luckless warlock. The blow, despite all of its disadvantages, was true, and the spinning greatsword tore a ragged gash through the warlock’s torso and his pride, nearly claiming his life. The Chieftain then began to lumber toward the forest, hoping to escape in the deep trees that lay some distance away. The desperately injured warlock proved the swifter however and slew the fleeing ogre with a bolt of energy. His great form crashed through saplings as he fell, snapping them like twigs and then skidded to a halt.

    Morgan brought Feydryn back from the edge of death while the others searched through the bodies to see if the ogres carried anything of use. What they found deeply disturbed them, for the ogres wore well-stitched armor, quality belts, pouches and other accessories and carried well-maintained greatswords of reputable make. Each also had a fair amount of coins on their person, bright, shiny gold coins that looked far more like wages paid than dingy bent coins taken from some weaker foe. With more than a few glances up at the Blood Horn, the party moved off again in the failing light, hoping to put as much distance between themselves and the mountain as possible. Realizing they could not travel in the dark, they set up a camp just inside the forest and did not light fire, hoping to maintain as low a profile and pass the night in peace.

    DM’s Notes:
    The adventure hooks were helpful and guided me in setting the story up for my players. Exag was very well described in the backdrop article and there was plenty of information for me to seamlessly glue the city into FR. So far, great work!

    Next week, the party reaches Exag and the adventure really begins!

    Shadow Lodge

    I have read and re-read the Find the Path spell and there is something that is confusing me. The spell text is: wrote:

    The recipient of this spell can find the shortest, most direct physical route to a specified destination, be it the way into or out of a locale. The locale can be outdoors, underground, or even inside a maze spell. Find the path works with respect to locations, not objects or creatures at a locale. The location must be on the same plane as you are at the time of casting.

    The spell enables the subject to sense the correct direction that will eventually lead it to its destination, indicating at appropriate times the exact path to follow or physical actions to take. For example, the spell enables the subject to sense trip wires or the proper word to bypass a glyph of warding. The spell ends when the destination is reached or the duration expires, whichever comes first. Find the path can be used to remove the subject and its companions from the effect of a maze spell in a single round.

    This divination is keyed to the recipient, not its companions, and its effect does not predict or allow for the actions of creatures (including guardians).

    My players were discussing buying a scroll or two of this spell and I wanted to be sure I knew how best to handle it if they decided to go ahead with it. What exactly is a "specified destination"? How much must the caster know about the destination before the spell works? How does he specify a location he has never seen?

    For example, in a previous session, my party encountered a white dragon, which they fought outside. Grievously wounded, the dragon escaped and the party had no means to follow it as it flew away. One of the party members has suggested they could buy a scroll of Find the Path, return to the spot where they encountered the dragon and then locate its lair via the spell. Is it acceptable to use the spell to "Find a dragon's lair"? My initial thought it that it is not possible to do this, since the "lair" is not a physical place, it is how a specific place is used. Instead they would have to know that the white dragon lived "in an ice cave on the glacier wall" and then find this place via the spell, with the potential downside (if I wanted to be a pain, which I won't be - probably :> ) of finding the nearest ice cave on the glacier wall which may not house the dragon at all. Is this the proper way to interpret the spell, or am I being too restrictive? If I am not being overly restrictive, then what is the purpose of this spell? Is it to act as an infinite-range Locate Object spell except that it finds only general locations, not objects?

    And as a hypothetical example, suppose the party is fighting Vecna cultists and they believe that there is an evil temple hidden ahead where the cult leader lies in wait. They use Find the Path and try to locate ... what? A "temple"? A "temple to Vecna?" A "room with an alter" (hoping that the temple contains such a thing)? Since the spell does not find objects, is it reasonable to describe a place in terms of the objects it contains? If it cannot find "a dragon's lair" then it probably cannot find a temple, since a temple is a purpose for a place, not a place. Arrrgh!

    I want the group to get use out of the spell, and it is 6th level magic, but I also do not want it to be a carte blanche adventure ending spell either, especially at lower levels. All input is appreciated.

    Shadow Lodge

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    Back in October 2005, James Jacobs was commenting on Warlocks and was asked by Saern why James has a problem with the Wizard class. James replied:

    James Jacobs wrote:

    I do use different rules in my home campaigns for wizards and sorcerers. (I'm one of those DMs who has a home-brew that fills dozens of notebooks).

    My main problem with wizards boils down to the following concerns.

    1: They get too few hit points.
    2: When a wizard (or sorcerer) runs out of spells, he stops being a wizard since he has NO other abilities that set him apart from the rest of the classes. He turns into a commoner. No other class aside from these two has this problem
    3: Among the four spellcasting classes that get spells up to level 9, the wizard gets the stingiest amount of spells per day. A 20th level wizard has only 4 spells per day of each level before his Int bonus, compared to a sorcerer's 6 per day, or a cleric's or druid's, for that matter.
    4: The "benefit" of potentially being able to cast every spell in the game is a hollow, false benefit. Clerics and druids get this already, plus all their other abilites. And see #5 for the hidden kicker of this supposed "benefit."
    5: Finally, the kicker. All of the wizard's abilities require them to spend money, time, and XP. His bonus feats are often item creation feats. Learning new spells can be prohibitively expensive (to say the least of paying to scribe them). Even his familiar costs money to get, and if (WHEN) it's killed, yup. It costs XP. In a campaign that doesn't allow for down-time, the wizard turns into a limited version of the sorcerer.

    Where wizards shine is as NPCs or as PCs for one-shot adventures, since they can sidestep much of these issues and build their spells and abilities from scratch. Still... I think that just brings them close to being viable with other classes.

    In every campaign I've seen a wizard played (which hasn't happened often—they're not popular choices for campaign play), that player has hit all five of the above problems and it's been a MAJOR source of concern.

    My gaming group has ignored wizards in the last several campaigns, choosing sorcerers instead. In two of the last four campaigns, no one could be enticed to play a wizard or sorcerer at all. Eventually one person in each of the last two campaigns ended up multiclassing as a mage to fill the critical role simply because completing Dungeon adventures was nearly impossible without the abilities an arcane caster brings. However such multiclassing was done out of necessity rather than desire and the overall character suffered for it.

    I posted James' comments to my gaming group and asked for their input on the issue. I learned that people pretty much are in agreement with him, especially when the wizard is compared with the cleric (such comparison was done in another thread here but the cleric is clearly superior in many though not all ways). I then went through as many archives here as I could looking for a solution to this problem. I reviewed Spell Point (Unearthed Arcana) threads, house rule threads and general comments on Warlock vs. Wizard vs Sorcerer. I could not find anything that seemed to be "the answer".

    My question to the community is this: has anyone managed to fix the wizard class so that it is comparable to the other classes without breaking the game in some way? Or conversely, are James and those in my group just off base in some way and the wizard is a fine class to play?

    Shadow Lodge

    I know a good many of you out there have been running low-magic (aka no magic Wal-Mart) games and I was wondering how you handled the issue of character death and redistribution of the dead character's items and/or the introduction of replacement characters who may enter the game better equipped than their surviving counterparts.

    When running the last two of my low-magic games, I noticed that character death was almost celebrated as the party became a pack of vultures and claimed everything of value off their dead comrade's corpse. Since resurrection / raise dead was unlikely in my world, the dead characters did not have backstories that would indicate surviving relatives should receive some sort of magical inheritance and the party was mostly of a chaotic bent, I couldn't see a reason why looting the dead guy shouldn't be allowed. However, this ended up putting a good deal of loot back into the party's hands. Of course, a character died but even if the perishing character came in a level lower than everyone else, it had the net effect of one character trading one level of XP for an entire character's much-coveted magic item stash. With the rarity of magic items in the game, a find of even a small collection of useful magic items in one convenient pile was a godsend.

    The problem was further exacerbated when the player of the dead character would create a new character using the wealth-by-level guidelines and come back into the group with much better equipment than anyone else had. I considered toning down the amount of starting gold granted at character creation, but faced a wholesale player revolt when I attempted this so I backed down (my fault I know). Nevertheless, death was now doubly beneficial: a dying character not only generated a treasure trove for the group, but returned (albeit a level lower) with better equipment than his higher level character had when he perished. It got bad enough that my newest game I decided to run with the RAW / Wal Mart approach, which has really limited this sort of thing, but I am seeing the flaws in that system as well and wish there was some happy medium out there.

    Has anyone had similar experiences with character death in low-magic games and if so, what have you done to address them?

    Shadow Lodge

    I know this was mentioned in passing in another thread, but I can't find it now, so I am starting this one to collect ideas.

    What about the planes and the planar layout? I read somewhere on this board where James Jacobs or another offical from Paizo saying that the Great Wheel approach was WotC Material but that Pathfinder's world would use something similar. I for one believe the Planes have been begging for a revamp for years but I know that people have different vision for what this may be.

    Do people want:

    • A "Great Wheel"-like layout, just different enough to keep WotC lawyers at bay (perhaps like FR is "same but different")
    • Something like Eberron's planar layout with the other planes "rising" and "falling", influencing things on the prime as they change relationships with one another (Sorry, I'm not an Ebberon guy, so I may have this a bit wrong)
    • Something new/radical altogether
    • What about their relationship to law/chaos/good/evil? Is this needed anymore?

    We need to keep in mind the spells we have (reference to shadow, elemental, astral, ethereal planes) but these "inner and transitive planes" can be envisioned in many ways and the outer planes can be wholly redone. What are your thoughts on the planes? Is a revamp needed and if so, what direction should it go in? Should a Sigil-like place exist for certain, or should the layout allow such a place if DM's want to add it without specifically placing it in the multiverse?

    While at first it may seem that planes are not much of an initial concern, the basis for at least some of the monsters we plan on creating will be based on planar relationships and any reasonably high level AP could involve the planes at least obliquely if not more directly. Also, things like the gods and their relationship to one another relies on having at least some sort of planar structure.

    My vision would have the outer planes blended far more than they are now. There are too many planes and the planar setup is too fractured. We don't need a Celestia and an Elesium, a Hell and an Abyss. With the planes infinite in size and variety, the distinction is really academic anyway. I really am not fond of the "layer" structure either, feeling that only futher fractures the planes, creating arbitrary distinctions where none are needed. There is no reason why the Deamonweb Pits has to be on a certain layer of the Abyss (yes, yes I know, the Demonweb Pits aren't OGL, but you get the idea). I could even see chaos increasing as one gets "farther/deeper" on any plane until the structure of the multiverse comes completely apart in the Far Realm, which lies at the very edge of all reality. Focusing on the inner planes, I like the idea of elemental planes but i see these blended as well, possibly having para-elemental planes where one planar region contacts its neighbor without there being a distinct boundary between the planes. The transitive planes would be the trickiest to handle since there are numerous spells and items that access these places and while I think they too need work and a "blending", I am not certain how to do this and not break the spells and items that make use of them.

    Oh well, just some mad ramblings of a planar traveller...

    Shadow Lodge

    This question goes out to the lawyer types out there or those with experience in dealing with copyright.

    What are the limitations in using a term owned by someone else? I just responded to another thread and used the words Illithid and mind flayer (grr I just said those words again! Reminds me of the Knights who say 'Nee!'). Did I just violate WotC's intellectual property? Can I say: "I am drinking a Coke as I browse these boards while I listen to Metallica"? Have I just abused the IP of Coke and Metallica? (don't sue me Lars, I haven't downloaded any MP3s). Is it wrong for me to say I own a Monster Manual because the term "Monster Manual" is owned by WotC?

    My point here is why can't we use the term "beholder" in an OGL adventure in the same way beholders are referenced in Dungeon today: Beholder: Monster Manual pgxxx. Why can't we say Beholder (c)WotC 2000BC-present: Monster Manual (c)WotC 2000BC-present page xxxx?

    It seems a tad odd that "Superbowl" has become "The Big Game" and "D&D" has become "Everyone's favorite roleplaying game". I know that on first blush Fair Use may not apply to adventures published for profit, but if the reference was small relative to the body of work copied, did not negatively impact the profitability of the owning entity and increased rather than decreased the potential market for the owning entity's property, it seems like there might be an argument made for Fair Use. Also, there is the scenes à faire to consider. Fantasy will have certain elements in it, and it seems preclusive in the extreme to think that imatative or at least derivative works would not be allowed.

    Is this not even worth considering because the courts have made it abundantly clear this is not allowed, or is it not allowed because WotC/Hasboro may file suit and distract Paizo from their business of publishing OGL content and thus is not worth risking.

    Any thoughts?

    Shadow Lodge

    Ok were-cabbages, a couple of questions:

    (1) Has anyone found a good place for Exag in the Forgotten Realms? (I was thinking on the northern face of the Stormhorns or on the western slopes of the Desertmouth Mountains, but my campaign is Dalelands-centered so I naturally am looking closer to home). I am hoping, without asking anyone to break their NDA, that one of you fine folk can suggest a place where all three parts will play out nicely or if any of you see a reason not to place Exag in one of these two locations or if one is clearly superior to the other.

    (2) Back in late March there was a "critque" posted about Vile Addiction and I was wondering if other than the obvious issue with the price of Green Welcome, any of the other issues raised in the thread like the wiki-posting of edited-out encounters (the mobs, the investigations) actually came to pass, and if so, where I might find this information.

    I like the ideas in Seeds of Sehan and can assure you my players will love and loathe it! Its a fine effort that is focused enough to be useful but flexible enough to be modified to fit the character's temperments.

    Shadow Lodge

    ok ok, so I admit this is a lame request, but I am proud to be a Pathfinder subscriber as well as a subscriber for Dungeon and Dragon. Any idea why my subscription info is not appearing with my name in my posts?

    Shadow Lodge

    My group (now 7th level: cleric, cleric/mage, warlock, fighter, rogue) loves the silence spell. In the last couple of adventures, they have really hampered the BBG spellcaster at the climax of the adventure by placing a silence spell on an easily discarded item (which they hurl into the room) or on a room feature as soon as the battle begins. Given that the final rooms tend to be rather small (I am playing mostly from Dungeon magazine where the rooms containing the final boss are less than 40 feet across with ceilings under 20 feet), this completely trashes the final encounter. What might have been an interesting battle turns into a short demonstration of why mages or clerics should not engage buffed fighters in hand to hand battles. Even if the BBG has a few mooks to hold up the party, the silence spell is typically of large enough radius to prevent the BBG from doing much of anything. Typically the bad guy gets his buffs off beforehand, having been forewarned that the group is coming, but all of his offensive power (spells and wands typically) is for naught because the area in which he stands is silenced as soon as the battle begins.

    I have thought about a number of things I could do about offsetting this approach, including giving the BBG the Silent Spell feat (or rod of metamagic with same), but even with that, they still can't use wands and can't bring much of their arsenal to bear because of the high cost of the spell (that extra spell level to memorize a silent spell is costly when the caster is relatively low level). I also considered dispel magic, but since the party has two clerics each with one or two silence spells prepared each day, they can outcast a cleric or mage 2-3 levels higher than them by simply replacing the spell whenever it goes down. Silence as a response would seem to be a good idea, but it even further limits the place where the BBG can cast spells (if any such place exists) and does not hamper the party much because they don't need to cast spells in combat to be effective (the fighter and the rogue are unimpeded by silence and the warlock's blast is spelllike and thus works in areas of silence. Sometimes he takes a silence spell on himself voluntarily and hounds the BBG caster by using spider climb to stay out of reach and keep the bad guy silenced as he blasts away at him).

    I am sure there are other approaches to this issue and would like to know what other DMs do to deal with magical silence.

    Shadow Lodge

    I am planning on running this adventure tonight for my group and have been doing a read through of the module to become familiar with it again. I would like to get some explanation of the Temple Door location (Location 23). I am having some trouble visualizing the mechanism for entering the temple to the south and how to describe all approaches to the temple area. My party likes to get a lay of the land before committing to entering a structure and will likely enter the South Column first, passing through the holes in the wall and into Location 18 rather than entering via the North Column.

    What can the players see when they first approach Location 24 from the north? If they are standing in Location 18, what can they see? Can they see the discharge of the chute? What if they climb up the chute? What about the ramp leading into Location 18 from Location 23? How does this approach work with the door as described?

    I have so many questions regarding this area that posting any more of them would probably obfuscate my request instead of clarifying it, so instead I am requesting that someone that can see the big picture describe Location 23, its operation and its approaches from the north and Location 18.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    Shadow Lodge

    Ok, here is a question:

    Let's say a character is sitting around the fire with her friends when the Evil Wizard she angered in a previous encounter decides to have a look in on her. An hour later his Scrying spell completes and now all that stands between her and him is the strength of her mind; she must make a Will save against the spell. Tabling for the moment the issue of who should make the roll (the player or the DM - to keep things secret a bit), if the Will save fails, is the character aware of the scrying attempt (and by aware, I mean aware of the magic of the spell, not detecting the resultant magical sensor via an Int check)? What if the Will save succeeds? Does she sense magical energy she managed to shirk off?

    Broadening the question, an evil enchanter using Improved Invisibility attempts to use Dominate Person on the fighter as they pass into a room full of his minions. The fighter must make a Will save, and again, does the fighter know that he was assaulted? Does this knowledge depend on the outcome of the save? What if the spell was Charm Person, and he failed his save, would he know that some sort of magic was placed upon him, or that a magical attack of some kind occured and thus be in a position to relate this to his party even if he now considers the caster a close friend of his? Some illusions also fall under this question as well, since the general issue of being subjected to a magical effect without some flashy, overt indication thereof applies in many illusions (typically with figments and glammers of physical things already in place before the party interacts with them - like an Illusionary Wall cast prior to the party's arrival in the vicinity - and phantasms, which are mental only).

    The PHB and DMG are silent on this issue, and I have been running it that on a failed save for scrying and domination-type effects, the character is unaware she is now under a magical effect while on a successful save, the character is aware that she was mentally assaulted but managed to shrug off the control. I also make these saving throws on behalf of the character to keep the players in the dark, but I understand that is a matter of preference depending on types of players the DM has at his table and the tone he is setting with the game. What about the rest of you? How do you handle these issues in game? I'd like to hear your thoughts and see if there is something I am overlooking or should be handling differently for a reason other than personal preference.

    Shadow Lodge

    This situation came up in an online game I am running. I'd like to get your thoughts on it, please.

    A cleric decided to leave a 2nd level slot open when praying for spells. Later in the day, she wanted to spontaniously cast a CMW, but had only her domain spell left and the empty slot. The situation was time critical so she tried to use the empty slot spontaniously to cast the CMW, but I ruled that the empty slot must first be filled with some kind of magical energy; simply leaving it open left it "unpowered/inert" and thus unavailable for spontanious casting.

    Two of the party members disagreed with this call, and since I have time to correct my decision before resuming play, I am hoping to get a consensus from this community on whether or not empty divine slots can be used spontaniously without the need for the minimum 15 minute prep time needed to typically fill empty slots with divine (or arcane) power.

    Thanks for your comments!

    Shadow Lodge

    Spectral Hand
    Level: Sor/Wiz 2
    Components: V, S
    Casting Time: 1 standard action
    Range: Medium (100 ft. + 10 ft./level)
    Effect: One spectral hand
    Duration: 1 min./level (D)
    Saving Throw: None
    Spell Resistance: No

    A ghostly, glowing hand shaped from your life force materializes and moves as you desire, allowing you to deliver low-level, touch range spells at a distance. On casting the spell, you lose 1d4 hit points that return when the spell ends (even if it is dispelled), but not if the hand is destroyed. (The hit points can be healed as normal.) For as long as the spell lasts, any touch range spell of 4th level or lower that you cast can be delivered by the spectral hand. The spell gives you a +2 bonus on your melee touch attack roll, and attacking with the hand counts normally as an attack. The hand always strikes from your direction. The hand cannot flank targets like a creature can. After it delivers a spell, or if the hand goes beyond the spell range, goes out of your sight, the hand returns to you and hovers.

    The hand is incorporeal and thus cannot be harmed by normal weapons. It has improved evasion (half damage on a failed Reflex save and no damage on a successful save), your save bonuses, and an AC of at least 22. Your Intelligence modifier applies to the hand’s AC as if it were the hand’s Dexterity modifier. The hand has 1 to 4 hit points, the same number that you lost in creating it.

    In my gaming group (6 players), we have 2 casters capable of using the spell: a wizard and a Dread Necromancer (Heroes of Horror). During a large battle, the fighters held off the onrushing foes while the casters hammered away from the back. The casters used Spectral Hand to deliver touch spells to the foes. During the battle, there was a discussion regarding the use of Spectral Hand, specifically with the phrase "The hand always strikes from your direction." There was no confusion on the point of the hand being useless for flanking.

    Based upon the spell description, here are a few questions our group would like this community to review:

    What does it mean when it says the "hand always strikes from your direction"? If the caster is facing North, must the hand strike toward the north? Does the phrase even make sense in the directionless world of 3.5?

    If a target is northeast of the caster but party members stand to the northeast between the caster and the target, can the hand float around/over the intervening party members and strike at the target or must it travel "through" the party members to strike the target or is it blocked by the intervening party members altogether?

    Does the hand occupy a square until the spell it holds is discharged?

    Must the hand travel in a straight line (in the direction the caster is facing) to the target it is going to touch? Must it travel in a straight line (again in the direction the caster is facing) to a square that is adjacent to the target it is going to touch?

    Would party members block line of effect for the spell? Would they block the line of effect on the hand's automatic return after the spell was delivered, neccessitating the caster move to a place where he has an unimpeded path to the target so the hand can return properly?

    Is the hand subject to AoO's as it moves?

    The hand remains "on station" until the spell it holds is delivered. If the intended target moves, is moving the hand (or changing targets) a free action, a standard action or a move-equivlent action for the controlling caster? Can it even be moved and if so, can it only attack in the direction the caster is facing?

    Can the hand make an AoO if the target provokes one?

    If a foe is completely surrounded, can the spectral hand still attack it? If so, How?

    I know a number of these questions seem similar, probably because they are :) The concept I am trying to get across seems a bit nebulous to me, so I wanted to provide a wide range of questions we discussed to give you the nature of the conversation we had. Thus, if you feel like commenting, you need not answer these questions directly, only provide your general viewpoint on the use of the hand.

    These questions were brought up because the DM sees the spell as overpowered if loosely interpreted (especially with the Dread Necromancer, which has unlimited touch attack abilities similar to a Warlock's unlimited eldritch blasts) and sought to limit the spell's usefulness by forcing the caster to worry about straight line effects, melee cover and the like similar to rays/ranged touched effects. As a player (though I do not play the Necromancer), I obviously like a loose interpretation of the spell where these issues simply don't exist, but I have agreed to try and seek out other's opinions on the matter in hopes that a compromise could be found.

    Shadow Lodge

    Does anyone know if the Manual of the Planes is going to be updated and revised to reflect a new/improved/different multiverse? And as long as I am on the topic, how many people use the MoP or have games that involve travel to any of the planes? What are your current thoughts regarding the planes? Are they dead/dying as a place for adventure or they the new frontier?

    Shadow Lodge

    Ok all, here's a topic:

    Would someone tell me a bit about Eberron, what they like about it, what they dislike? I haven't even cracked an Eberron book, mainly because WotC turned me down on my idea and picked Eberron instead...oh no..that's not it :)

    Actually, I never investigated it because of some of the things I heard about it before it's release. Primarily, that WotC was afraid that they were losing their audiance, that fantasy had changed and been influenced by animae and the younger crowd, so vital to the hobby's continuence, did not have the same definition of fantasy as the old school players. Thus the Warforged, the Artificers, the land saturated in magic and magic as a replacement for technology were key aspects in reigning in another generation of players with a fantasy setting that matched their expectations. It all seemed a little BESM to me, so I gave it a miss (Aside: Not that I dislike animae or BESM, just that I wanted the genres to remain independent). Now though, I hear a lot about it and must admit I am at least a little intrigued. So, I would like to hear from people on their experiences with the setting and perhaps get a brief overview and a comparison to either the FR or Greyhawk settings.

    Any takers?