Undead Painting

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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber. Organized Play Member. 921 posts. 9 reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 1 Organized Play character.


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I find myself rewriting the whole module. It just does not work for me as written. I have three goals:

(1) Give Arazni a plan a bit more gratifying than "I will get myself killed, leaving you in the lurch."

(2) Get rid of module 5. It just does not work for me in terms of pacing and emphasis--it is too much of a break from "We are desperately fighting to save Lastwall from the Tyrant."

(3) Make the graveknights actually matter. As it stands they are just random monsters--they have these great backstories but the PCs will never know! Very likely they'll just beat all of them without having any idea who they are.

The graveknights are a huge problem for Arazni. If they are ever in earshot, they can tell her to surrender and come home and I think she has to do it; and she can't fight them. Therefore, it's entirely logical for her to ask the PCs to get rid of them.

To make this more interesting, let's have them actually looking for her! (Rather than randomly spread around Gallowspire. For people who repeatedly claim to be able to smell Arazni, they sure are clueless about her not being there.) I think a couple will patrol the teleport traps, in case she mistakenly teleports within Virlych, and a couple will lay an ambush at Gallowspire because they figure she will come there eventually.
I can repurpose the teleport blocker scenarios in Carrion Crown 6 for this purpose.

I think Arazni's purpose in this section, besides getting rid of annoying graveknights, is to search Gallowspire for clues as to how to get rid of the Tyrant. So she needs the teleport blocks down; when they are, and graveknights are gone, she'll teleport in and do her research.

I haven't worked out her exact conclusions yet. My player says, the PCs end up *inside the Tyrant's phylactery* fighting to keep him from coming back. If I can figure that out, I'll definitely go with it.

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How this went down in our game:

I should note that our PCs are soldiers of Vigil, part of the Rangers under Keyron Seiville. This changed the dynamic in two ways: on the one hand they had to take orders, but on the other hand the leadership had more reason to believe them.

The PCs worked out what it implied that one shard was real, and told key NPCs their reasoning. The NPCs did not fully trust the PCs, but the threat was pretty darned convincing: so, without telling the PCs their plans, they sent the real shard out of town with some unhappy volunteers. They then started a general evacuation, most vulnerable first.

The PCs were assigned to help protect groups of evacuees; I put in some fights against orcs (particularly, the mortic's tribe, which the player was finding to be an annoying loose end) and a vampire ex-knight.

The Tyrant blew up the real shard. Now the NPCs *knew* the Radiant Fire is real, so they stepped up the evacuation; and a good thing, because no one had found Gildais, so he went in and placed a new shard, and 18 hours later Vigil blew up. (The player had seen this coming, but there was nothing to be done: keeping a palm-sized shard out of a city seems infeasible. This did a nice job establishing how much of a threat the Radiant Fire really is.)

The surviving leadership called the PCs back to town to lift an undead seige and let them get survivors out. But much of the city had already been evacuated, so the PCs saved thousands of lives. I found this a nice middle ground: the PCs' actions really mattered, but Vigil is still gone. Also the Vigil government is not depicted as useless. My player *really* does not like fighting to save people who are too feckless to cooperate (Second Darkness, anyone?)

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Yakman wrote:

I had Valthazar throw save or die spells at PCs in the nave before retreating on the first level; on the second level i put them in an ambush of cascading waves of zombies, and everything else, which isn't over...

the bodak put 1 negative level on 2 PCs before they ran from him... and they are really at the end of their ropes, but still haven't found Balthazar and had to let the pukwudgie escape after their jujus appeared.

Sounds like you redid the entire keep, which is what I would have recommended: putting Valthazar on the first level and then retreating, having enough zombies for "cascading waves of zombies", having creatures from one encounter respond to others. I think these are great ideas, but at several points the module specifically says not to do them--I don't know why.

Yakman wrote:

how did your party have access to a level 7 spell [control undead]?

I am sorry, I meant "command undead" not "control undead." Second level spell. No-save control over a mindless undead.

I still don't know why this was the last thing my PCs did rather than the first! Maybe they were afraid an enemy necromancer would regain control.

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Squiggit wrote:

The sahuagin thing actually looks the other way around and that the AP is correct. Their lore writeups describes them as engaging in activity on land and as far as I can tell most incarnations of the species across various editions do have an amphibious quality (including in PF2 version).

It looks like when they were written into the PF bestiary someone took away their water dependent trait but never gave them the amphibious subtype and that just got carried through the whole edition.

Good to know, thanks. If I had realized the problem earlier this would have been a much better solution. It's still a pain when the Bestiary and the AP disagree on something significant like this. (We had a lot more sahuagin in Azlant than the written AP, because I always have to add a ton of fleshing-out material: the PCs investigated where the sahuagin who attack in #4 were coming from and eventually I had three conflicting sahuagin kingdoms....)

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I tried to run Fort Rannick as having fallen more than 10 days ago, but the material pushes back at every turn. It's really clear that the person who wrote it thought it had happened within the last day or so. The guys trapped on the bridge--for ten days--are particularly tough to explain.

My player also had a really bad time with the control chambers for the dam, which are Thassilonian--it's a cool image, but requires no one to have monkeyed around in there for *ten thousand years* which he found completely implausible.

In general, time scales are a problem. I can buy that some things were magically preserved, but when you get a description of "the room is full of rotting fabric and sodden paper" it doesn't sound like magical preservation, it sounds like something that happened within the last year or so. (Happens over and over in both RotRL and Azlant.)

I've seen what happens if I don't carefully correct the logic problems. My player stops caring, stops paying attention, stops trying to solve mysteries, and the game becomes a dull exercise in tactics. It's just not optional for us. (I am the exact same way as a player, so we're a good fit.)

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CorvusMask wrote:
I'm confused about "making sense" part though? Like it kinda does come across that your table might have narrower standards for that part because I haven't felt like "most aps don't make sense" (plus usually in my case tables are willing to have leniency and follow breadcrumbs for what ap provides because they want to play the ap)

My groups are really into investigation and puzzle-solving. This requires that puzzles have solutions and that the solutions make sense, and that's where we get in trouble.


small parts of multiple APs:

In Rise of the Runelords, you are in Magnimar when you hear that Fort Rannick has fallen. It's 10 days minimum for you to get there; but when you get there, you find the fort apparently fell no more than a few hours ago, a day at most. This caused my players to (reasonably) conclude that the initial message was a trap meant to get them out there...but it wasn't.

In Second Darkness, a whole episode is devoted to you infiltrating a drow House. But it is the wrong House, and there is little to no answer to "why would we do that and not tackle the one we actually want to know about?"

In Tyrant's Grasp, the PCs are alive and apparently in their bodies, but their bodies have also been animated as juju zombies. Which would be a cool mystery--if only it had a solution! But there's no hint of one.

Also in Tyrant's Grasp, there's a group whose backstory is that they are so sneaky and subtle, they were able to infiltrate a heavily guarded city. These guys wear spiky black armor with skulls all over it *and a design that makes it clear they want to break the Seal.* (Not just an art problem: the text agrees. At least this one is easy to fix.)

In Ironfang Invasion there are some really serious problems with travel times--people show up to respond to problems long before news could even have reached them, let alone give them time to arrive. You have to assume all the response forces are accidents.

Episode 6 of Ironfang also seems to assume that the PCs won't have invisibility or fly, let alone anything higher level. Besides making it too easy, this was really bad for my player's suspension of disbelief. *This* is the tactical genius who conquered half a nation? Someone who's apparently unaware of simple, common 2nd level spells? (Also, good luck with the map for this one.)

Ruins of Azlant tends to forget that sahuagin don't breathe air. I had to hand out amulets of air breathing like candy, and it ended up being a lot more treasure than the module was prepared for.

If your table doesn't sweat this kind of thing, great! A lot more of the published material will work, and it will be a lot easier to run. But this is where our fun is, so we have to pay attention to logic and consistency or it stops being fun for us. I therefore, selfish as it may be, would like to see APs that avoid stuff like the above as much as possible.

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First and foremost, I need a main storyline that makes sense and is interesting to me and my players. Paizo has done this with some of its APs, but often things stop making sense around episodes 4-5 and take a lot of fixing. This is frustrating and really dims my enthusiasm for the products--and APs are *all* I personally buy, so this is a big deal for me.

The ones that have come closest to end-to-end success for us, though in all but the first one modules #5 and #6 had some serious issues:

Iron Gods (I was surprised how well this ran)
Rise of the Runelords
Ruins of Azlant

Several APs fell apart for us due to a bad mismatch between what the players and PCs would want to do, and what the modules insisted they should do: Reign of Winter, Second Darkness, Tyrant's Grasp, Hell's Rebels, Curse of the Crimson Throne. (I am currently running Tyrant's Grasp, which by my count does this *three times*. Ouch.)

We got a great game out of Council of Thieves, but I found out afterwards that maybe 25% of it was actually in the AP, and the GM did drastic things like reversing the order of #4 and #5. (The fact that this *worked*, without mechanics changes, tells you something.)

In many of the APs, the high levels are written with little or no attention to what high-level play is actually like, and they don't work logically or mechanically as a result: Ironfang Invasion and Carrion Crown were both big problems this way. The modules seem to assume a 15th level party won't have invisibility or flight or other very basic capabilities. This involves the GM in brutal amounts of fixing or the game is completely unchallenging.

If the PCs are facing the same kinds of foes throughout, even a party that isn't trying particularly hard will end up too strong against that kind of foe: Giantslayer turned into a complete pushover, despite my desperate attempts to beef it up, and I think Tyrant's Grasp likely will too. I like the idea of a focused AP but going up 15+ levels against the same foes just leads to massive over-optimization.

So, the wish list:
(1) Make sense
(2) Work for the stated levels
(3) Have a through-line that is interesting and satisfying

It's hard, I realize, because you're basically firing the AP on a ballistic trajectory--you can't make course corrections based on what happens--and hoping it will hit the target. For this reason I would favor shorter APs which do not all start at 1st level. I like long games but I don't actually enjoy 1-15+ and I can probably patch two short APs into a long one, if they are around the same levels.

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I am currently about to run the sewers and the Redoubt. We missed about 25% of the adventure due to a short-circuit, and I am not comfortable about setting off the Radiant Fire quite yet. I have a rough plan:

(1) Move the Killibrandt/thugs group to the sewers; she found her Crows dead and went after their killers. She might ally with the PCs or attack them, depending on how things go. I put her just before the three Seal-breakers in the sewers.

(2) Don't set off the Radiant Fire when the PCs defeat Yosiduin. Give them their chance to actually stop it (by stealing the shard or persuading the leadership)--but they will have to be quick about it. If not, it just goes off and kills them: I will write another Boneyard segment where Barzakh points out that this thing with body and soul being nailed together by the obols is not going to end well. I'll work out some subtle but worrying consequences. I think the tomb, this time, will be Arazni's tomb in Lastwall. Then they come back, either to a city under seige from the undead created where the blast actually went off, or a destroyed city if they didn't get the shard away in time.

My player made it clear that "survival horror" does not work for him for this plot, so I don't care that this destroys the survival horror aspect.

(3) Work out a bigger role for Gildais. He just sort of vanishes from the narrative. If they somehow stop the first blast he will have to try again; I will look for some way the PCs could become aware of this.

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I am finding this one hard to run.

There is either too much or too little interaction with the Vigil hierarchy: too much, for how little we are told about it; too little, for the gravity of the situation. (If someone convinces me that my city is about to be destroyed, I think a bigger response than "Okay, I'll give you a present and ask you to work on it" is required.)

Yosiduin's group have succeeded where no previous Seal-breakers have, by successfully infiltrating Vigil. They are there to covertly figure out how their enemies are hiding and protecting the final Seal. So, um, perhaps they should NOT be wearing blatant Seal-breaker insignia all over their armor?

It is assumed that Killibrandt can find the PCs. This turned out not to be the case in my game, and I think it often won't be. (The PCs have hats of disguise, and never used the same faces twice for any two steps of their investigation. None of the people Killibrandt could have heard of or seen actually exist, so good luck locating them.)

It is really easy for the PCs to hear about the Erstwhile Dyeworks early--the old soldier tells them Killibrandt's name and lots of people can connect her with the Dyeworks. Then they go straight there, find that apparent bad guys went into the sewer, and chase them. You've now lost the fort, Killibrandt's ambush, and the burning smithy, and short-circuited about 25% of the adventure. (This is what happened in my game.)

The GM should be aware that a sufficiently smart and aggressive PC group may be able to save Vigil--once they know that the shards are mostly counterfeit but one is real, and reason out what that implies, they can emulate Killibrandt and steal them and run! They may well die when the Radiant Fire goes off, but it's an honorable death, saving tens of thousands of lives.

I'll give a possible revision in my next post.

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_Tyrant's Grasp_ says there's a faction among the Knights of Orem that wants to defeat him, and thinks letting him out is a necessary first step to glorious victory.

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The Bastion of Light was very easy for my group. Everything is penny-packet and nothing comes to help anything else; and they are very easy to hit. Four PCs and Jando took out most of the serious bosses in the surprise round (the party is built for surprise) but even when they didn't, it didn't matter.

Difficulty in this one is all over the place. I had to suppress the rot grubs and I changed the bodak (I'm not a fan of save-or-die for PCs who cannot be recovered) but I also added a whole lot of extra undead to try to make the place more lived-in and plausible. (Seriously, pukwudgies are "almost never found without a bodyguard of undead" and this one had a whole town of corpses--where are her undead?) Still too easy. Needed more fighter muscle to protect the casters: it's caster-heavy and one or two casters by themselves does not make a good encounter. If I had to run it again, instead of adding book juju zombies and skeletal champions I'd have added something with more melee punch, so the strategy of ignoring the bodyguards to take out the leader would have been more risky.

If your party has <i>control undead</i>, the mindless Gray Reaver is a nice addition to their lineup. (Mine did this, but oddly, they snuck around the Reaver, did the entire rest of the keep, *then* took control of it. So it wasn't overly useful.)

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A suggestion for the final meeting with Arazni:

Arazni wants a lot of info from the PCs and offers rather little in return, as written. Instead, have her recommend that she and the PCs go to the epicenter where she will cast a divination to replay the events of the blast. This shows the terror of the blast, and then she backs up events to show an agent of the Whispering Tyrant setting a shard into the epicenter (I used the big tree in the center-west part of town). In my game this would be Gildais; in one that follows the modules straight you'd have to figure out who it was.

She then asks the PCs where they were when the blast hit, and takes them there for another divination. You get to graphically describe the impact of the shards, the interplay of positive and negative energy, and the shard driving the living souls from their bodies into "a direction that cannot be seen."

It is a chance to talk more to Arazni, to re-experience a horrific event together, and hopefully to make more of a connection. And I like the idea that it's in seeing the events that she realizes what the basis of the weapon is. It makes it more believable since the PCs can see the evidence too, even if they can't fully interpret it without her background knowledge.

I will add that, in the plotline as written, Arazni asking the PCs to look for Gildais is really unhelpful. He doesn't appear until #6, and this is not so much foreshadowing as a frustrating red herring where nothing they try can possibly work. (We're not even told where he is at this time; not where he is in #6, I think that isn't set up yet.) The whole plotline with Gildais feels like it should have been earlier and much more significant than it was. If you're going to postpone Gildais to #6, I think it's better not to have Arazni ask the PCs to look for him until #4.

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The problem the player had with the decomposing esobok (it's in the tooth fairy castle) was not that it was horrific but that it didn't seem to make sense: he felt strongly that outsiders, as spirit beings, shouldn't decompose, but should turn to dust or bone or something when slain. He felt it was one of several points where the sense of being in the Boneyard was lost. (That was my reaction to the kitchens and so forth; I wasn't as bothered by the esobok myself. Also to the masses of live birds at multiple points--why is the Boneyard full of live birds?)

I understand that Umble and Thoot can see the obols. I am startled that the witchcrows apparently can too, but okay. But the given dialogue emphasizes the PC's aliveness, not the obols. I wish I had caught this sooner as it led to bad inconsistencies in my GMing.

Yes, there is one line blaming Salighara for the faeries, but that's at almost the end (if you do Salighara last, as we did) and gives a whole module for the PCs to come to the wrong conclusion. And it is still weird that the lawful psychopomps put up with being overrun with faeries, especially in Roslar's Tomb, which is not close to Salighara's Scriptorum at all.

As for the rest of it, okay, Paizo has to depict the whole area as badly messed up, despite having no intention of developing that theme or doing anything with it...because of EXP. For me this is just another nail in the coffin of "The EXP rules are actively harmful." You can't avoid the harm by simply not using them, because they distort adventure design in ways that are hard to fix. It's a shame.

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I will add, I rewrote the early encounters and ran this for 5th level PCs, not 1st level PCs. I strongly recommend this. The lack of resupply is not as bad if the PCs are already equipped in a level appropriate way. Also, some of the encounters (especially the wihsaak) are way too hard for their stated level, and more appropriate for 5ths. This also avoids going up 4 levels in 3-4 days (and 3 sessions), which I really don't like.

Roslar's tomb will need creature substitutions (gremlins are a good replacement for mites) but there's surprisingly little need to change the creature types in the remainder. Remove any power-reduction templates, add a few more critters and clump them up more--that's all it seemed to require. (Okay, I also gave Colulus some levels of witch. Didn't make a big difference in the end.)

If you don't do this, I strongly recommend using GM fiat to make the PCs find the tooth faeries, which they can handle, before they find Nine-eaves or the Scriptorum, which are a lot more iffy (especially Nine-eaves--the wihsaak can fly out of reach, use its drone, and just let the party tear itself apart).

The module has kind of strange difficulty levels: a lot of things seem too easy (Aydie and her giant raven in particular) and several seem way too hard. Too easy is maybe okay, and lets you let encounters clump; too hard is a problem, especially given the lack of equipment. The PCs are going to end up being 4th or 5th level with 1st level equipment; do not expect them to perform as well as usual.

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If you have players who think hard about the situation and background, be prepared for a rocky road with this module. We are just about finished with it (about to do Deathbower) and have had issues with the following:

(1) Everyone seems shocked over the PCs being alive, like it has never happened before. But there is a party of live humans in the random encounter list, and a recently-alive gnome in one of the dungeons, and food for "visitors who need to eat" in another dungeon. So living people *do* come here. Also the numerous faeries and vermin are alive. It needs to be made much more clear that the psychopomps are reacting to the obols, not to the PCs being alive.

(2) The business with Kishokish's staff violates just about every rule about how that item works: if the PCs know much about shoki psychopomps they will be skeptical of the advice to do this as it is obviously wrong. (The staff kills the being drawn into it, and can only be used by its owner, and has a saving throw. Also, one challenger's glove doesn't work.)

(3) If living creatures in the Boneyard do not eat or drink due to its planar traits, the presence of kitchens and food is peculiar. If they are immune to disease and poison, various attacks are ineffectual. The issue of planar traits *really* needed to be addressed at the start.

(4) My player was really bothered by the decomposing dead esobok. If an outsider's body and soul are one, why is there a body left behind when the soul is slaim?

(6) He was also really bothered by the fairies--how did those get in here? Why are they tolerated? Why are there SO MANY of them?--and by the living vermin, ditto. As a result the PCs wanted to decide they were not in the Boneyard at all but in the First World and everyone was lying to them. We basically had to fiat that they didn't conclude this as it would have derailed the adventure pretty badly (starting with, the PCs go back to the Boneyard to rescue the villagers from the delusion that they are dead).

(6) There aren't supposed to be undead, but the specter in the stone is an undead--and what is it doing here? If duplicating tombs duplicated the undead in them, the Boneyard would have big problems! Also, we could not understand how the unfettered phantoms were not undead, even though their creature type says they are not. I mean, it's the soul of your dead ancestor come back because of unfinished business--how is that not an undead?

(7) Both the player and I felt that the module spent a lot of time setting up a theme of "Something is very wrong here in the Boneyard" but with no follow-up or payoff: you can't find out what it is or do anything about it. This is frustrating.

I loved Umble and Thoot. I did not love the constant struggle to get things to make sense.

I also think that if the PCs are going to go from level 1 to 5 with no resupply, it's cruel not to have any arrows or crossbow bolts anywhere.

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Logan Harper She/Her wrote:
Mary Yamato wrote:

Thanks, I've received the package, but my copy of The White Glove Affair is missing all pages after 50. Is this a general problem or just a defect in my copy? If it's just my copy can I get a replacement?



I am so sorry your book arrived damaged! I went ahead a created a replacement order to ship with your next subscription but if you need the item sooner please let me know and I will gladly get that set up :)

Thanks for the prompt attention, the next subscription order will be fine.


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Thanks, I've received the package, but my copy of The White Glove Affair is missing all pages after 50. Is this a general problem or just a defect in my copy? If it's just my copy can I get a replacement?


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My player really wants a Starfinder game that goes to high level, so I am prepping Devastation Ark.

I am struggling with the brainwashing scenario for two reasons:

(1) The module starts with a sivv weapon taking out 100% of the PCs, no save, so that they can be brainwashed. My player is not going to like that--if the sivv have an unstoppable on-ship weapon, why can the PCs later beat them? Why don't they use it again, and this time kill the helpless PCs? (The same problem arises in Threefold Conspiracy, which I'm supposed to run as the lead-in to this.)

I would much prefer if the PCs made the *choice* to expose themselves to sivv brainwashing because it was the only way to accomplish something--the logical choice would be that it's the only way to get at the AI. But I'm not really seeing how to make this work.

(2) The brainwashing sequences don't make narrative sense. The PCs are turned into sivv so that they can become good slaves; they are supposed to notice that the sivv treat their slaves badly. But why would being turned into a sivv make you happy to be a slave? Wouldn't it make you want to be a sivv, and hate being a slave instead?

I guess the intended premise is that you're led to identify with the Sivv Empire even to the point of self-sacrifice. I think I could make that work, if the scenes seemed to be directed towards that. The fight against the piggies might work, and the capture by the kishalee (though it is odd that this was apparently conceived as a torture scene, but the torture has been left out). But the last scene is "The Sivv Empire Screws Up Horribly" which is not exactly a loyalty generator! And the three family scenes are just strange. You throw a rather political baby-shower party; you wait fretfully at a hospital for your spouse to bear your offspring; you talk to a teacher about your offspring's success. I can maybe see the last one--look how enormously superior sivv are, even a child is a superbeing. But what is the brainwashing goal of the other two?

I don't think I can sell this to my player. I suspect that a couple of scenes in, he'll just shake his head and say "This doesn't make any sense to me and I don't know what the characters do." At which point one could technically continue play (the scenario is so railroaded it does not matter what the PCs do) but it's all kind of pointless.

While this is not a problem in the same way, it's sad that the rest of the module never refers back to the brainwashing. It would be super cool if you could exploit those memories to be able to read Sivv, but only at the risk of letting the brainwashing regain control of you.

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When the PCs open the Stone Roads and enter the Vault, how long does the way stay open behind them? Can they go back? Can they re-open it from this side using the shard, and if so, where do they need to be? Can they use plane shift to get back to Golarion? Can they make a tuning fork to use plane shift to get to the Vault, once they've been there?

How does the force at the Onyx Citadel 20 miles away send two groups in response to the PCs' arrival that seem to show up within a couple minutes? Neither group teleports.

What does the Stone Road opening up look like? It must be somewhat showy as the pech immediately notice and send a scout force.

This part didn't run well for me at all: too much key information is missing. I think most PC parties will be reluctant to go up two levels with no resupply (the treasure in the module being therefore almost entirely useless except for potions).

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Maybe this will help other GMs:

In the Doomsday Stores proper, the area labeled G4 is NOT G4 but a part of G3. G4 is the unlabeled continuation of this walkway (turning into stairs and a ramp) inside the inner sphere.

You will want to decide how high the bridge falsely labeled as G4 is above the water. I recommend putting it at water level with 20' of air above it but none below, to help out the aboleths.

The area inside G5 and outside G6 is drawn to resemble stone flooring, but the text makes it clear that this is open air above water (held out by a water-only force field). G6 itself is a stone platform but the area surrounding it is NOT.

The inexplicable inset on the map of this level is a side view. This makes it clear that G6 is not at the level of, nor attached to, the top of the stair/ramp of (unlabeled) G4 but is far above it. The exact position of the stairs can't be reconciled between the inset map and the main map. I'd go with the main map.

Despite the map being drawn with nothing outside the other 7 doors of G1, there are passages there leading to other doomsday devices, as described in the epilogue. You aren't supposed to be able to get in there during the main action, though. (Good luck with that. My PCs always go where they are not supposed to go.)

Having said many grumpy things, I will say that I do really like this as a setting for a fight, and the idea of the complex "dumping core" and flooding to shut down is nicely flavorful. I just wish it didn't take 20 minutes of re-reading (and, alas, asking for help from my player) to figure out the map....

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One I missed: Rashimos' sword is made of a material that did not exist until after Earthfall, and is specifically noted as having been acquired long after Earthfall. How did she get it? Did she venture out as a human and then come back here to sell her soul? Or did she venture out as a half-fiend and then inexplicably come back here to sit doing nothing?

I mean, I get that her patron is dead, but demons aren't constructs: they like to do things, and Rashimos in life was a person of terrific ambition.

Not having much fun running this. I thought I could use the maps and cherry-pick the encounters; I didn't realize how confusing the maps were.

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I am finally trying to run this module (though it turns out that it won't be the denoument, just a stage on the road to--whoah!--the PCs bringing Acavna back from the dead).

I am having a very tough time with the Compass. I just don't understand the basic physical parameters.

There is a lake under the mountains, with three rivers pouring out. In this lake there is a 100 foot diameter hole with a stone shaft rising up through it. This goes down to the bottom of the lake, 200 feet down, and then an additional 2000 feet. (If you are using the pressure rules, teleporting up from below will probably kill you, and teleporting down from above is no fun. Presumably the Azlanti had life bubble or pressure adaptation?) At the lake floor is a teleport effect that teleports non-water 2d10 miles away.

If you activate a device at the top of the hole, you are beamed to the Compass. Why did they build the Drain? What is it for? It blows the secrecy of the secret base, and seems to have no purpose. Surely a disconnected underground lake would be much more secure than one with a 100 foot wide hole leading into it?

Okay, so there is a huge drain taking water out of the lake, and three rivers taking water out of the lake. Presumably there is a big portal putting water into the lake, somewhere. Big enough for a lusca, I guess. I doubt it swam up the waterfall.

No rules are given for how to overcome the "teleport non-water" effect, nor how far it extends (my PCs tried passwall at an angle into the lake floor).

So, now we're at the Compass. It is in the lake (p. 26) but is 2000 feet below the lake (p. 24). Okay, a second lake deep underground. The wings of the structure rotate randomly around the central shaft. What does randomly mean? Just that you don't know how long until they connect, or are they supposed to randomize their order? (Hard to see how that could work.) It takes 2d4x10 minutes for the doors to align. I would hate to have worked here, and security would be a nightmare....you can't get out if there's a problem, and you can't get in to help either.

There are ways to get into the lower lake, and of course my PCs did. Missing is any information on how tall the wings of the structure are, also whether they are suspended in mid-lake or are at the bottom. There is no description of the outside at all, even though you can get there on a 25% teleport mishap, among other routes.

The maps do not look like wings of a space station-like research structure; they look like dungeons dug out of solid stone. I guess the Azlanti dug out big chunks of stone, then hollowed them, put in interior walls, and somehow made them suspend and rotate? And Rashimos' transformation, while transforming part of one wing into natural caverns, didn't otherwise disrupt this?

At the end of F wing is an opening filled with agitated water, leading to "tight caverns" which lead to the depths of the Arcadian Ocean. This is of course incompatible with the idea that the complex rotates--how would it connect to the caverns? I guess this is another, undescribed teleport effect?

Does the water from this portal end up in the lake? Presumably not as it's salt water and the rivers were not mentioned to be salt water.

Why is wing F only partly flooded? Where are we relative to sea level? How much pressure damage should one be taking?

As others have pointed out, Ochymua supposedly went through here, but there are no clues for this at all. It seems very improbable that he ever saw most parts of the complex.

I am listening to my player try to make sense of things as he goes along and it is excruciating to listen to. Why is the training room with the illusions in the middle of its wing where you have to go through it to get anywhere else? Why is there no weapon testing in "Weapon Testing" and no lab in "Biological Appliances"? Most of all, why is Rashimos, sitting on a passage to the sea, still here? "Because she has no sense of time and no motivation to do anything" is a really unsatisfying answer. Also, she is a half-fiend, thus a native outsider, thus needs to eat and sleep. Are we within range of the ioun tower? (This comes back to "Where are we?" again.)

For that matter, why is Harighal still here? There's nothing in his writeup to explain this. He "knew it could be centuries or millennia before he could escape"--why? Just teleport from area C to anywhere you want. Or use the planar portals. He's just been...sitting...for 10K years doing nothing? (I think the only explanation is that he has totally lost his mind. I earlier had Vallik describe that a mezlan without stimulation turns into a puddle of goo; he worked for Auberon because the social interaction restored him to sentience. That might work here too.)

I haven't seen wings D and E yet, though I have read them, but both the approach to the Compass and wing F were super confusing to run. I also note that there's no information on where the Doomsday Stores *are*. Underground? Underwater?

If you run this for a party that works hard to make sense out of evidence, it is highly problematic.

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HyperMissingno wrote:
I can't believe that killing and the rezing the oracle is being seriously considered as a way to bypass the curse.

Many years ago I was a bystander to a high-level houseruled AD&D game where that was the standard response to long-lasting stun and similar debilitating effects. Can't cure it? Kill and resurrect.

The players were pretty good roleplayers, and the PCs were all more or less insane by that point, which makes sense to me.

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Cydeth wrote:

If the curse goes back to starting at the worst level and slowly getting easier as you level, I can guarantee that I'll never play it, and neither will my wife (who loves spontaneous casters, and divine casters).

It's why neither of us ever played Oracles in PF1.

I feel this way too (though my spouse, who loves Oracles and plays them constantly, does not). I "solved" the problem for my only Oracle character by simply dropping all rules that said the curse got better over time: she could only see 30' at campaign start, and could only see 30' at campaign end. She did get Darkvision and whatnot, but only to 30'. I was not willing to give up the flavor as the character increased in levels.

Speaking only for myself, I think I'd avoid the proposed playtest Oracle, because it has a lot of mechanical complexity (varying curse level over the day) which it would be tempting to avoid by never using the Revelations, but then I'm playing the wrong class and should have gone cleric or sorcerer.

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There are two separate isssues that are getting confounded here:

(1) How do I get players to do what the plot requires?
(2) How do I make the game fun?

There are lots of solutions to #1, including just asking the players to do it. But many of these are counterproductive for #2. Forcing PCs to do things they don't have much reason to do tends to be a drag for everyone. Asking players to make only gung-ho adventurers gets limiting after a while. And you don't just need gung-ho adventurers, you need ones who will stick to the adventure at hand, and not, say, continue to explore beyond the Mwangi gate, which is a really interesting part of the world but not supported in the AP.

The best solution I know to #1 and #2 jointly is to have adventures the PCs would actually want to do. _Hell's Rebels_ worked fairly well for us in that regard: the plot is going to wreck the PCs' city, so all you need is folks who care about that and it's fairly smooth sailing. My lead PC was a bartender and warpriest of Caiden; she would have liked to go back to her bar, but it was very natural for her to keep with the plot instead. (Though there were some hiccups in our game with the Rebellion; it started to look to the PCs that actually building an organization was just going to cost lives and accomplish nothing, and they lost motivation to do it.)

On the other hand, there's _Reign of Winter_, where the PCs (and players) probably will *not* want to do what the plot requires them to do; the modules suggest various strategies including coercive magic, but it's hard to make this work.

It does help if you outline the general thrust of the AP to the players before they make characters, and firmly ask them to make PCs who will be on board. (We rescued _Second Darkness_, a notoriously problematic AP, by kicking around "What party would be fun with this?" until we ended up with agents of the Winter Council--which is perverse, but worked well for us.) But it also helps if you avoid unmotivated segments as much as possible, especially between major arcs.

I'm with the posters that suggest having the Triad come through that gate from the other side; then the reason to go through is a lot more pressing. I also wish there were some reason to suppose that each gate-key is through the previous gate; I think I'd have a LOT of trouble convincing my PC of this, as there's no apparent reason for it. (Or, if this can't be solved, say to the players "This is my one gimme--please let it work." And then try hard not to have another one.)

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In retrospect I'd have made Spindlelock mostly buried in lava, and had the PCs work down from the top rather than up from the bottom. That helps explain why no one has previously noticed it--until fairly recently it was completely buried.

But in anything dealing with the ancient past--Thassilon, Azlant--you have to be prepared for a continual tirade of "How did this survive 10,000 years?" and "Why did no one find this in 10,000 years?" because this is a chronic problem. It's particularly pronounced in the Runelords APs. I don't have a great solution. It may be best to talk with your players and say, the source material has this problem, I can't fix it, can we work together to paper over it?

As for Auberon, there is a thread on dealing with Auberon on the _Tower of the Drowned Dead_ topic which has some great suggestions. I chose the one where he has not actually been active until very recently. I also had him doing a lot more, including marshalling undead for an attack on the colony.

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Continuing misplaced discussion from another thread:

Peachbottom wrote:
Yeah, I don't understand anyone being upset with Gerhard/Erhard. I loved the character as soon as I read him. He's hilarious. And I don't see anything wrong with adding a little comedy into a campaign. I'm really looking forward to running him in my game. My players are going to think he's great too.

It's just a matter of preferred group style.

As a GM, I would be taking a huge risk running this. Worst case, angry players who give up on my game. The identical twin thing is offensive because of its railroady nature (we worked hard to beat this guy, but nothing changes as a result--my players hate that) as well as feeling really cheesy. There are also problems with "Gerhard could carry three barrels of gunpowder, how come I can't carry my alchemist's kit?!" and "Gerhard can destroy a temple with three barrels of gunpowder, are you going to let us do that?" and "Why are his stats so high?" if the players find that out somehow (and I have a math whiz who might well notice). And then there's "Where is his camp? How did he get here?" though I could probably improv my way through that.

Best case, the players groan at the cheesiness and probably break character and indulge in a lot of pop-culture humor. I like my humor to stay in-game.

So a lose-lose for me, and I wouldn't run it, but obviously if you and your group like this sort of thing, enjoy! It is colorful and funny, in a B-movie sort of way.

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James Jacobs wrote:
SO yeah... my suggestion for folks like Mary who are frustrated with the lack of support for how to build NPCs and monsters is to please be patient and check out the Gamemastery Guide when it comes out. I'm hoping we'll have these monster/NPC rules up for free at some point before then, so keep an eye on the blog as well.

Lack of support for NPCs and monsters is a definite problem, but there is also a question of attitude and tone. Neither episode 1 nor episode 2 sold me in any way on the gameworld being a real place. This reaches its nadir in the encounter in #2 where, if the PCs inconveniently kill an NPC, the GM is told to have their identical twin brother show up so that nothing will change. But that's far from the only example. In #1 I find it incredible that the young Hellknight would not react to desecration of his parents' graves; in #2, the PCs are asked to intervene in a very private situation for no apparent reason, just because they are PCs; in #2, the ritual capabilities of the villain are shockingly out of proportion with anything PCs might expect to do at that level; and it goes on.

Maybe this will change over time. I'll check back in after a year and see. But reading the two Age of Ashes modules so far, they do not feel like they are set anywhere real or solid. The tone strongly pushes treating the NPCs as disposable (and interchangable!) props. Maybe this wasn't the intent, but it's what the material, and your commentary here, communicate to me.

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James Jacobs wrote:

That's 1st edition thinking. In 2nd edition, NPCs aren't the same as PCs. In this case, none of the Order figured the portals out—either because that was beyond their skill, not really of interest to them, or the like. One of the biggest attractions to me (and in time, I suspect, to any GM who writes an adventure) is this fact—that PCs can do things NPCs cannot.

I know that being in the dumps about the new edition is not much fun for everyone who's enthusiastic, so I will bow out of the discussion after this, but I just had to say...

Not everyone feels this way. Despite not enjoying the playtest, I had hopes that I would enjoy Second. But this thread plus reading the first two modules has destroyed all of my hopes. It's very heavily slanted to a highly cinematic, world-as-stage-set style in which I have no interest. The lack of coherent rules for what NPCs can do makes the kinds of games I like to run impossible.

My goal is to "have fun" too, but the fun for me is in the sense of the setting as a real thing, opposing the PCs (and sometimes the GM as well, that's part of the bargain). This gives us the joy of figuring stuff out, of finding plans that actually work--not because the GM decides by fiat that they work, but because we understand what's going on well enough to *see* that they work.

I am a GM who writes adventures; not for publication, but I've been writing adventures since the Blue Book (first release of D&D) sometime in the 1970's. It's just not a universal truth that all of us have been yearning to run a gameworld where the NPCs are basically props and their abilities change at whim to support storytelling.

I wish you the best of luck, but this is somewhere I just don't want to go. I'm really, really sad right now.

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James Jacobs wrote:

We use different cartographers for different Adventure Paths, and they all have their own artistic style. This does mean that now and then, a cartographer's style won't be one someone likes. All feedback is welcome, in any event; just keep it civil.

A really good thing: the map on p. 32 middle left column has brown doors and gray windows, so that you can immediately see which is which. Also, every map that is supposed to have doors appears to have them. (A small thing, but so annoying in play if it's missed!)

A not so good thing: There is no key to the map on the inside front cover (the elven city) which leaves it feeling pretty useless. I can't tell what the little boxes are supposed to mean, and anyway they are so tiny I can barely see them. In past modules the city maps have had marked locations, which I would much prefer. Also, the three main trees could be three separate maps--still on one page, but at a much bigger scale. The space between the trees doesn't convey much information and I would lose it in favor of a larger scale on the key areas.

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CorvusMask wrote:

My problem with automatic bonus progression was mostly that it actually broke the APs and bestiary monsters at high levels :p

RotR for example doesn't expect that everyone at level 17 has +5 resistance cloak +5 deflection and +6 to all stats <_<; Enemy dcs were too low for pcs to not automatically succeed and other shenanigans.

I agree, especially for the earlier APs; there has been substantial power creep over the life of the edition (just compare Bestiary 1 with Bestiary 6). But even in the later APs (I am running Azlant now) it is easy to get PCs whose numbers just don't work with the book DCs.

We made a custom automatic bonus progression, loosely based on the one in Iron Heroes, and I have been very happy with it. The one thing we did not include was weapon bonuses. My jury is still out on whether we'd add that in a revision. But we give modest amounts of deflection AC, natural AC, some stat bonuses, and save bonuses, spread out across the levels starting at around level 4. And correspondingly we remove rings of protection, stat backing items, etc. from the game. (I missed stat-backing ioun stones, and I regret it.)

My only beef is that Big Six items are a substantial fraction of all treasure in the AP modules, and coming up with substitutions on the fly makes my brain hurt. I resort to cash pretty often, which doesn't seem quite right, but it's easier. I also use a GMing shortcut where I generally do not give pre-generated NPCs the automatic progresson bonuses, but I do allow them to keep any bonus they got from stat backers, rings of protection, etc. even though I delete the items themselves (substituting something else, or cash). This works okay and saves a ton of effort.

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I have now run all of Tower of the Drowned Dead and have a few comments:

(1) DCs are, as Roysler noted, surprisingly low almost everywhere. The only hard non-combat rolls are the Symbols, where the DC is set by the system.

(2) It felt very sparse in play. Auberon is supposed to be a great necromancer but there are maybe a dozen undead in total. My player says it's an EXP issue. Groups which don't use EXP, like mine, may want to add a lot more critters. It plays very fast and doesn't feel like a full sized dungeon. I'd recommend doubling or tripling the creature count, using the multitude of empty rooms to contain them.

(3) My group walked all over it. They started at the recommended 13th level and did not level up, so they were still 13th at the end; also we play a spellcasting variant so that they only had 6th level spells, not 7th. I had the creatures clump up much more than the module indicates--I put all of the litanus, juju zombies, and the head torturer together, for example. I added more undead and another pelagic child. Didn't matter. The only things that did the PCs any damage were the nautiloids. Most of the enemies had a lot of trouble hitting the PCs (whose ACs ranged from 31 to 36, which I think is normal enough at 13th level) and they evaporated really fast. I had high hopes for Uluuthan, but that was the one place where the PCs got lucky--critical hit disintegrate. Disclaimer: I did not run the fight with Xochitl as I had already established that it was off on a mission when the PCs hit the tower.

This was a stark contrast with City in the Deeps, which was very hard, perhaps too hard for my group, throughout. (The immunity of deep merfolk to sneak attack really hurt our PCs, who rely on sneak attack quite a bit.)

My player chose a novel approach to Auberon, which was to force him to surrender and cart him off in chains--they had planned this in great detail, and for non-module reasons had a good place to stick him. But it says something about how unstressed they were that they could beat Auberon without using any of their big stuff. They simply delegated their wizard (who is some archetype that is good at dispel magic) to counterspell everything Auberon cast. Only failed once, which got the wizard feebleminded, but by then the fight was essentially over.

If I had it to do over again, I would pack stuff in there and try to make it feel like a challenge. More clockworks of all kinds, more undead, and one or two more serious henchmen like the torturer.

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I can't speak for 2nd Edition but I run the 1st Edition APs using just the AP and online resources plus exactly one book (the Monstrous Codex) that d20pfsrd does not cover. It is very, very rare for this to be a problem. The online version is better for errata, too.

My husband has a complete mirror of the SRD (using httrack's website copier) on his laptop, just in case of connection loss. My own approach is more focused on pulling stack blocks into my working notes when I prep the module, then running mainly from the working notes. (But of course I benefit from his SRD copy in a pinch!)

I will say, we do *own* almost all the books we use. But they are heavy and it is slow to find things in them; the SRD is what gets used.

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I pretty much wiped a party with the undead archers in Armag's Tomb. I don't know if it's too hard in general but it was too hard for our particular party--they were melee heavy and could not get at the archers in time.

#5 was, in our hands, both very easy and very boring. I strongly recommend NOT having a huge castle map with nothing in it. If there are only going to be a few fun encounters, just abstract the rest of the map. Also, the final fight of #5 was disappointing, because the King of Pitax wasn't powerful enough, did not have enough guards, and was crammed into a small space with little terrain to work with.

The King's technological mind-control doodad needs a better writeup.

Earlier encounters in #5 were also pretty much too easy across the board: I was doubling numbers for almost every fight.

This isn't a combat issue, but the end of #4 implies that #5 will contain a kingdom rules writeup of Pitax, and, well, it doesn't. (I am not sure it should--the kingdom rules do not work for adding a large kingdom to yours--but be sure not to promise if you can't deliver.)

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Underwater combat with swimming is super confusing. Either simplify it, or read up on it and get comfortable with the rules. You'll also want to think about how you're going to represent 3D combat on a 2D map board, if you use figures or tokens....

Module 1 will run much smoother if you read through it carefully and make notes on what happened, because if your players are like mine, they will treat it like a detective mystery and you'll need to be in command of your clues.

I am currently running #5 and we have had a ton of fun with this AP (though we changed it a lot). My warning for later is that #4 is MUCH harder than the others; look carefully at the encounters before running them!

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I doubt my group will be playing PF2, though of course we don't know what the final product will be like. But in the interests of balancing out my commentary, much of which has been negative (I did not enjoy the playtest) here are three bits of the playtest PF2 that I am likely to incorporate into my home games, which are a heavily houseruled PF1:

(1) Four kinds of magic, each with a governing skill. I *really* like this. It is flavorful, and allows different characters to be expert on their own kinds of magic without stepping on each others' toes. I need to sort out which PF1 classes use which kind of magic, and then I'm good to go with this one.

(2) Weapon runes that can be placed on a weapon. One of my continuing struggles as a PF1 GM is PCs who specialize in a strange weapon. Putting that exact strange weapon into treasure can really strain verisimilitude. Not doing so can be devastating to the PC's effectiveness. There's a huge pressure to just use longswords, it's safer...but this is sad. Being able to seize the Sahuagin King's trident and convert it into something the Tian PC can actually use is very appealing to me, though I haven't settled on the exact mechanics yet.

(3) Reduced skill list. I say I'll swipe it, but actually I pre-swiped it: the shortened skill list we use in the home games is strikingly similar (we even picked some of the same names, notably Culture). The game is more fun when a party can cover a reasonable fraction of the skills, and when skills are general enough that if you take it, you'll have ample chances to use it. Narrow skills, in our hands, frustrate the players--you take a skill because you hope it will flesh out your character, then it never comes up and that feels pointless. Or the GM ties herself in knots making it come up.

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I am definitely feeling dread, because in my opinion the APs are the best adventures on the market by FAR. I don't have time to do homebrew adventures all the time, and I rely heavily on APs. If the new system is something we don't want to play, at the very best I have to convert everything--and hope it *can* be converted with a bearable amount of work.

I am not the conversion guru my spouse is. (He once ran _Masks of Nyarlathotep_ in _Feng Shui_, which worked way better than you'd think.) I struggle to get the difficulty right, especially at the higher levels. I don't think PF1 and PF2 are likely to scale at all similarly and this will make conversion tough.

But that's the best case. It is easy to imagine scenarios in which there just aren't any more APs, or they aren't good anymore. We have picked over most of the published APs already (and run at least half of them) and within two years or so we'd be in a situation where there's just nothing reliably good on the market. Maybe some other company would step forward to fill the niche, but APs are a huge amount of work, and third-party APs have not really been a thing. Modules, yes, but my group likes long adventures, and our success with stringing together unrelated modules has been...mixed, at best.

My spouse isn't interested in playing less than weekly. I'm not able to homebrew an adventure every week. There's a real chance I just wouldn't be running anymore, and I'd miss it a lot.

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Ultrace wrote:

I would instead ask what are your examples of situations where it is highly detrimental that a person can wear only two rings, one pair of boots, a single necklace, and the like.

Speaking only for myself:

Around when my Council of Thieves party hit 12th level, the GM pointed out that the PCs were struggling badly with regard to AC and saves and I should fix things up.

Two hours later I was literally in tears. The characters had a few magic items that were personally meaningful to them, but this conflicted with the slots needed to get things to work out. I was shuffling items around among the six PCs, trying to hit the AC and save levels the GM had indicated were necessary for 12th level PCs, but I just couldn't do it without substantial losses to roleplaying. I needed combo items that were over the buy limit for where the PCs were, or slotless items (double cost, also often out of reach). I kept thinking that if I just gave Rose's belt to Chalico, and Chalico's amulet to Lily, and...and, and, it couldn't be done. I had enough gold for the needed bonuses,in theory, but not given the slot constraints. Or I could do it by abandoning stuff that was genuinely meaningful and replacing it all with boring stat-backers.

That, for me, was highly detrimental. Of course it is a collision between the Big Six and the slot system, and you could tackle it in many ways. I just want to say that for me the PF1 status quo has a very big downside at the higher levels.

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(1) The PCs picked up the clockwork spy and ended up building a player for its video crystal. They showed the recording to their townsfolk, who were fascinated. Later they found some crystals in various ruins and also showed those. This was so popular that they rebuilt a clockwork spy into a self-driving video camera. Now they film all of their adventures and show the films back in town.

Unfortunately, they got hit with an informational bombshell (the Mayor of Ancorato is someone racially vulnerable to aboleth magic!) and accidentally filmed the resulting Difficult Party Discussion. Now they need to invent film editing, or try to explain why they need to suppress that particular film....

I definitely did not know that one of the buildings needed in the revision of the Kingmaker building rules would be "movie theater."

(2) The AP plunks down the Mutation Engine in module 3 and then never refers to it again. The PCs wanted to take it home, but it's not easy to move and their kingdom budget was tight. Eventually the local sahuagin heard about it and sent a force to collect it, with a really big crab to do the heavy lifting. The PCs found the engine missing and tracked the crab (not too hard). Then, to my shock, they offered to BUY the engine from the sahuagin by researching how to make some of them four-armed. (So many, many bad puns about arming the enemy go in here.) They managed to intimidate the sahuagin into taking the deal.

This has been no end of trouble. The sahuagin they dealt with had to break with the local sahuagin king, who had wanted the engine himself, and that ended up in a three-way sahuagin war. The PCs did indeed research how to make four-armed sahuagin, and made some; now their populace is proposing all sorts of similar projects (cure the ulat-kini children, make people amphibious, cure the stryx child's flightlessness, remove the Mayor's racial vulnerability, etc, etc, etc) which are far beyond the kingdom's research budget. And meanwhile news of the engine is spreading among the sahuagin, who love mutants and would really like to have it for themselves, or failing that under their control.

(3) I was just setting up to have the riled-up sahuagin hit the ships connecting Ancorato with the mainland when the PCs proudly researched a part of the tech tree I had frankly forgotten about: dirigibles! So now they are going to do business by blimp, and sneer at the ghost ship that has been threatening their shipping, not to mention the sahuagin. The only trouble is, I read up on dirigibles and they are really vulnerable to wind, so there will probably be some unplanned side expeditions ahead....

It was a ton of work to get the kingdom rules right, including a Civilization-style tech tree system. But I'm really, really happy with the results. Having a campaign which actually allows the PCs to research and build cool stuff without breaking the game is so much fun. And I would never have guessed what they ended up building! Among other things, the colony town is a Tree City. The stryx love it. Visiters think the place has been taken over by evil plants (some Chelish spies were severely freaked out by this) and frankly I don't blame them.

We are 1.5 game years in, between modules 4 and 5, but I'm barely hinting at 5 at this point--I'd like to go another 6 game months at least. The player wants to see some real kingdom development.

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In our PF1 house rules we have a set of "birthright" spells which each caster class can cast without preparing them, the way PF1 clerics cast Cure spells. The cleric list includes Cure spells, Remove Curse, Dispel Magic, the Restoration line, Remove Disease and Neutralize Poison.

The reasoning behind this is that the cleric list has lots of flavorful situational spells, but if you have to prepare the list above all the time you'll never see them, and it's frustrating and boring. Or you become an item platform rather than a caster, carrying big sets of scrolls so that you can pull those abilities out when needed. I really dislike relying on items this way, plus it can wreck the game if they aren't available. (My GM ran Dragon's Demand as written, meaning you couldn't buy stuff for most of the game. A miserable place to be a cleric.)

Channeling and convert cast help some, enough that I will play a RAW PF1 cleric, but the house rules help a lot more.

I played a cleric in PF2 playtest episodes 2 and 3 and it was, for me personally, really painful. So few spells, so little channeling (he was a dwarf cleric), all the support spells single target.... The character was not entirely ineffective, but he was boring to play, indistinguishable from the other cleric, and in the end he failed at his core mission. Episode 3's TPK could have been averted if I had prepared heightened Restoration in all my top slots, but how to know?

It felt like a gigantic step backwards.

This probably gets better at high level. Everything appears to get better at high level. But I like low-level play and I would like it to work well too.

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In Pale Mountain, the water elemental stood back and used some kind of ranged attack on us. It looked like we'd have to retreat in disarray. But I was, frankly, really fed up with the scenario, and my dwarf cleric had Hold Breath as his general feat. So--

"I walk into the water."

"Make a Swim check."

"You misunderstand. I am a dwarf in medium armor. I sink to the bottom and walk along it."

"How will you get out again?"

"First things first."

So my dwarf went mano-a-mano on the water elemental, which promptly rolled rather poorly--perhaps it was bewildered. We asked the GM whether there were penalties for using a battleaxe underwater, but he couldn't find any, so we went with it. The rest of the PCs took out the earth elemental and Roark managed, barely, to deal with the water elemental. He did not have to use even a small fraction of the 108 rounds he can hold his breath!

It was far and away the best moment of the playtest, until we found out that in fact he should have been at minuses to hit and doing half damage, and of course would have died. But still, it was fun.

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The intersection between the divine spell list and the very limited spells per level per day. If you are going to to your job with regard to removing conditions like disease, poison and paralysis, you aren't going to prepare much of anything else, your spells will be useless most of the time, and you are just a lackluster fighter with some healing abilities. If you are not going to prepare these spells, we are right back to "your items are more important than you are" as you will need to stockpile items to cover the fact that you can't do your job.

And, in fact, you probably still can't do your job, because if you meet something that is dangerously poisonous or disease-causing you will not have enough spells to treat the party even once: you get a max of 3 spells to treat 4 characters, assuming you picked the right condition-treater and took nothing else. Or you can use higher-level slots and pray you don't need any of the higher-level condition-treaters.

I didn't enjoy the spell preparation guessing game for Clerics in PF1. But it has just gotten worse in PF2, to the point where I wouldn't play a Cleric without houserules. I think the divine spell list in both PF1 and PF2 works MUCH better for something other than Vancean magic.

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I agree that for some styles of campaign it is necessary and desirable to trim PF1's spell list down. I do this every campaign. It's not done to keep the PCs from succeeding, but to support the kind of game that everyone wants to play. (When I'm playing, I often nominate spells for the campaign ban-list.)

For example, we did an AP where the PCs were all flying all the time, and after a point, all teleporting all the time. The result was that the landscape and geography became meaningless. It felt really flat. For subsequent campaigns we gutted the movement magic and things were more colorful and fun.

I don't know that Rarity will be much help with this. I'd have to trust that the many, many PF authors all have roughly the same idea about what's dangerous in a campaign than I do. On past experience, this is unlikely. Rarity might be a rough guide to which spells need careful checking--or it might be quite useless. In any case it is unlikely I can use Rarity straight up. To start with, when I ban something I do *not* want to say that it's rare, I want to say that it's nonexistent. If it is rare and the PCs want it, they should eventually (in a high-level game particularly) be able to get it, and then we're back to Flatworld.

As a GM I am torn. Ease of NPC design is important to me. But having NPCs and PCs work on the same rules is critically important. And the player enjoyment of rich customization is important. I actually think these are not fully reconcilable: something will need to be compromised. If PF2 is going for ease of NPC design, I appreciate that, but I think it misses by too much on the other two and my group is unlikely to switch.

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We used the PF1 Settlement rules in Dragon's Demand. It was a miserable experience, because without level-appropriate gear (which could not be gotten in the town, and there was no way to leave the town) the PCs were too weak for the challenges they faced. Everything was one hair away from TPK all the time. Some players enjoy this, but I found it gruelling and fun-destroying. My cleric PC had to be healbot all the time, because with crappy armor and no healing potions or scrolls, that was the only viable role for her. It really drove home the extent to which published adventures assume level-appropriate equipment.

It also led to bad feelings among the players, particularly when we rescued an NPC who had the magic weapon we desperately needed, but it was totally contrary to roleplaying to take it from them.

My preferred solution to this would be less reliance on treasure. Alas, that is not exactly where PF2 seems to be going, though Treat Wounds does help.

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One problem with the linear/quadratic is that not all of us play 1-20 campaigns. I personally enjoy the game at lot at around levels 4-7 and then enjoy it less and less above that. If classes are designed so that they are not very fun to play until level 8, that really doesn't work for me. My spouse likes to play at 12-15; classes that are not very fun to play after 8 are not fun for him. The whole idea that you'll rapidly level a character from 1-20 is not really a good match for either of our preferences.

I'd let the martials do more flashy stuff, personally. I agree that if you rein the magicians in too much they no longer feel very magical. But I'd like a legendary feel for high-level martials as well, or there hardly seems much point to having them.

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Lore skills seem fairly useless in many cases. Take my dwarf cleric of Torag. He has Religion, because he's a priest and it's his business to know this stuff. He also has Torag Lore, but when will something ever come up that is Torag Lore but not Religion? So having Torag Lore gets him exactly the same roll Religion would already give him. When he gets to raise a skill and wants more knowledge, he will raise Religion, because it's around 20x more useful, and after that he'll never use Torag Lore again as it will be worse.

Of course the GM could say that the target number for Torag Lore is easier than for Religion, but the GM probably won't. This would be better handled with a bonus, so that the GM doesn't have to remember to do this.

The situation is better for Lore skills that overlap multiple knowledge skills, or that hit knowledge skills the character doesn't have; but the latter is weird, because usually the Lore you're given is squarely in your area of interest so you would naturally know the more general skill. Circus Lore, which is the best one I've seen so far, might be a counterexample; but of course it was still of no use to the PC who had it throughout the entire three adventures we played.

The circumstances that will let you use your Lore skill will generally be rare, so they should be (a) quite beneficial when they do come up, and (b) mechanically easy.

(Idea 1) Lore gives an automatic one proficiency level increase in any skill check involving that specific topic. So if you have Torag Lore and are Trained in Religion, and get to make a Religion check on a matter pertaining to Torag, you make it at Expert. If you are Expert, you make it at Master. This scales, avoiding the issue of having to use rare skill raises to raise something as overly circumstantial as Lore. It does nothing for a character who is Legendary in Religion, but I can live with that. The main problem, which is a general system problem, is that +1 is very small. But if gating is used the proficiency bump would be useful.

(Idea 2) Lore gives a flat +2 to the check. This is very simple, works for all levels of characters, and at least has a prayer of making a difference in play. It does go against the system's hatred of giving bonuses--but how afraid do we really need to be of someone critting his Torag Lore roll?

My group concluded that Lores are generally not even worth writing down, let alone raising. This proposal at least gives them a chance to do something on the (generally rare) occasion that they come into play.

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A problem I have with those treasure tables is that if you just pick interesting-sounding things, assuming that if they are given as choices they should be reasonable, you will be sorry. This is not beginner-friendly, and continues the unpleasant theme in many parts of the rules of having a lot of very poor options and a small number of decent ones.

This could be remedied by more reasonable tables, plus some advice: we had to figure out the hard way that almost every character should go for magic weapon, then magic armor, and only then start thinking about personalization.

As a way of getting rid of the Big Six, well, I would much prefer the one from Iron Heroes or the one from Unchained, where the bonuses are transferred to the character. We have been using a system of that type for several years now and I really like it. The PF2 system strikes me as being headed for "You need a magic weapon, magic armor, and skill-backers on your key skills" which is hardly an improvement.

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Dire Ursus wrote:

Yes you can spend two actions to basically turn one of your actions into a reaction that occurs on a trigger you decide on.

You could Ready in PF1 as well. My group uses it a lot. But we do not use it to simulate AoO, because it doesn't do that. AoO says "I'm going to hit you, and if you try to move past me, I will hit you AGAIN." Ready says "I will give up my normal chance to hit you now, in order to possibly hit you later when --" where the "when" is things like "--you are casting" or "--my buddy flanks you" or "--the mage takes down your Stoneskin."

"I will give up my normal chance to hit you now, in order to possibly hit you later when you are moving by me" doesn't make much sense. Hit him now! He might not move by you at all and then think how silly you'll feel. And there is no advantage to hitting him later in this case--if hitting him would have dropped him and saved your weak friend, hitting him now will do the same.

AoO works for this because it's *free*. Ready is not a substitute because it is far from free.

For me personally, AoO is a large part of the tactical interest in PF1. When is it worth risking AoO to get a better position? When should I deliberately provoke to allow someone else to move safely past? How can I get where I'm going without provoking? How do we get to the mage behind the fighters before he kills us all? In PF2 you need very constricted terrain to accomplish this; even a fighter/paladin heavy party isn't great at it due to the lack of Combat Reflexes.

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Edge93 wrote:

My 2 cents on this.

In PF1 Attacks of Opportunity ALMOST NEVER HAPPENED. Everyone knows what provokes, everyone knows that everyone has them, and barring things like Greater Trip that forced them I borderline NEVER saw someone use AoO.

There must be a lot of table variance here, because this is certainly not the case in our games. My husband in particular, our best tactician, says "I provoke" and "I cast Detect Combat Reflexes" (our standard line for "I provoke from someone who already used AoO and see if he has another one") pretty much every combat.

High-AC characters will deliberately provoke to draw out AoO and protect low-AC characters, spellcasters, and archers. Characters will provoke if they have an effective response (my swashbuckler did this CONSTANTLY). Characters will provoke because the flanking, spell area, or other benefit they can get is worth the risk. Characters will provoke because they need to get out of combat and take another action, and gambling on the AoO missing is their best chance. It happens a lot.

It was also a characterization point with several of my spellcasters: when I play casters they tend to be very non-martial, and would quarrel with the fighters about why they didn't carry a weapon, thus didn't provoke or flank!

I miss AoO terribly. Yes, a few PC types have it, though only once a turn and competing with their other reactions; but they are in the minority, and overall combat just feels so much less tactical. Need to flank? Run around and flank. Need to get on the casters? Run around and get on the casters. Unless you can totally plug a chokepoint you can't do anything about moving enemies.

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The PC/NPC hard distinction is the deal-breaker for me.

I have played with such rules many times and really dislike them. They make it much harder to make a mental model of the game world and how it works, because everything you might know about PCs is useless in reasoning about NPCs. They interfere with fluid PC/NPC transitions. They generally support a style of play I don't care for, where NPCs aren't people in the same way that PCs are.

Furthermore, in my experience while NPC-specific rules are often touted as a way to reduce complexity, having two sets of rules for very fundamental things like "how does a character die?" tends to lead to serious rules issues down the line, because now every darned thing you add to the system has to work with both sets of rules, and sooner or later something won't. We saw this in _Feng Shui_ where the simplified rules for minor opponents made them weirdly and inexplicably immune to certain abilities, because you simply couldn't apply those abilities to their simplified mechanics. I fear we are already seeing this with Enervate on NPCs vs. PCs, because Enervate is written to work on level-gated abilities and NPCs don't have those. There will be more.

And then the playtest rules compound this by demonstrating that PCs are in fact weirdly handicapped members of their races. With a certain amount of combat skill, an NPC simply gets to do multiple dice of damage with his weapon; an equivalent PC needs a magical crutch. An NPC gets combat manuvers that work all the time; an equivalent PC gets ones that often, if not usually, fail to work. NPC dwarves, I am willing to bet, are born dwarvish; PC dwarves need to painstakingly develop their racial abilities. You need only look at a goblin NPC vs. a first-level goblin PC to start thinking that adventuring is the last resort of the incompetent....

I would much rather do without magic weapons COMPLETELY than have ones only PCs need, while NPCs can succeed with their raw skill.

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