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What are your favorite/most memorable/most iconic monster and location combinations? I might run a one- or two- session medium level 5E game soon, and I'm trying to think of the most iconic combinations. Here's a few I thought of:

Red Dragon in a volcano lair
Mind Flayer or Beholder in an underground lair
Orcs guarding a treasure chest in a dungeon
Dinosaurs on a tropical island

What are some other favorites?

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Thanks for the feedback Lorathorn and Set! I've figured out how to make it a sacred site for all dragons- the temple with no walls has spells inscribed on the ceiling, and dragons can switch out spells known with a long ceremony. The drakes that clean dragon scales are attracted to flowers that must be tended, and adventurers are occasionally given access to the mesa to tend to the flowers. And occasionally adventurers are hired to prepare the temple with no walls for the spell switchout ceremony (I'll have to think of a catchy name for the ceremony).

Set wrote:
ParagonDireRaccoon wrote:
I'm thinking of a dragon mesa with ceremonies tied to the site as a sacred site for dragons. The mesa will be large enough for a couple dozen dragons to stretch out and sun themselves on. There will be birds who groom the dragons' scale native to the mesa, somewhat like the birds the clean hippo teech. The dragons treat the mesa as neutral ground, and have powerful magic to keep non-dragons (except for the birds and vegetation) away from the mesa, and have religious ceremonies on the mesa.

I like the idea, particularly if it's similar to the tepui of Venezuela.

Perhaps instead of birds, the dragons would use drakes to clean their scales, and an adventure might involve the drakes getting out of hand and attacking nearby communities, or, alternately, the dragons might arrive to find that the drakes have vanished, and task local adventurers to find out where they've gone (because the task is beneath them, or the drakes have been taken underground, where they cannot reach, for some sort of experimentation, or use as weapons of war (perhaps the drake-thief has charmed them away, with some sort of lesser orb of dragonkind, or just charm monster spells?).

The same pair of adventure seeds could work just as well with birds, obviously. If the birds have gone missing, the dragons would want them returned. If the birds are attacking local communities, retreating to the safety of the mesa, adventurers could be hired to drive them off (or slay them, which might incur a draconic response...).

I like all your ideas Set. I'm thinking something easier, for low to mid level PCs- the drakes have have introduced a plant the dragons think is aesthetically displeasing, but don't want to directly remove the plant so they task the PCs with removing the unwanted plants.

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Lorathorn wrote:

Will there be certain kinds of dragons? Might they have enchanted the area to connect it to another plane or make it inhospitable (thin air, high winds) to weaker creatures? There is a lot that can be done with this idea, and it is a good one.

Consider too that you could have a temple that has a roof but no walls, and can play with the wind moving through it, perhaps for harmonics or even as a deterrent from people entering it.

I like your ideas Lorathorn. Maybe the top of the mesa is a kind of extradimensional space/otherplanar space that partly exists in the Prime Material Plane. The roof with no walls has potential, a fantasy trope is the building that has more space on the inside than appears from the outside. The top of the mesa has a temple with no walls, that has more space than should be possible.

I'm thinking of a dragon mesa with ceremonies tied to the site as a sacred site for dragons. The mesa will be large enough for a couple dozen dragons to stretch out and sun themselves on. There will be birds who groom the dragons' scale native to the mesa, somewhat like the birds the clean hippo teech. The dragons treat the mesa as neutral ground, and have powerful magic to keep non-dragons (except for the birds and vegetation) away from the mesa, and have religious ceremonies on the mesa.

Dragons will prohibit dragon use of the mesa during parts of the year, and hire PCs to visit the mesa and tend to the plants the birds feed on. There will be totems/amulets that allow non-dragons to go on the mesa.

The idea seems promising to me, I'm wondering if anyone has suggestions for adventure ideas or improvements on the idea.

SmiloDan wrote:

In 5th Edition, all spells are bard spells! :-D

Also, in 5th Edition, there really isn't a big division between Arcane spells and Divine spells, at least as far as I can tell. There's definitely different spell lists, of course, but I don't think they really care about different types of spells.

I would look for fun combinations of spells, especially combos that only require one use of Concentration. And fun doesn't necessarily mean powerful. It might be tempting to cast hex or hunter's mark on a dragon with half a dozen melee attacks per round, but that might not be as interesting as some other options.

I hadn't noticed how much the difference between arcane and divine spells has been reduced. A few of the old differences are still there, healing and speak with dead are still mostly the province of clerics.

I'm thinking of spells that players can use to annoying effect, being used by dragons. I once had a player with a cleric who regularly visited the city graveyard to use speak with dead, expecting backstories and different voices from different dead. It made me better as a DM, up to a point. But a dragon who speaks with a recently deceased town gossip could make for an interesting backdrop to a campaign, a young adult chromatic dragon perhaps. I've seen players get very creative with illusions, a low cr dragon with a few illusions spells could make an encounter seem challenging without threatening serious harm to the PCs.

The MM allows spells from any spell list it appears, at the DM's discretion. In a previous edition red, blue, gold, silver, and bronze dragons could cast both arcane and divine spells while other colors could only cast arcane spells. The 5th edition rules for dragon spellcasting allow for some interesting combinations, like a green dragon with druid spells or a copper dragon with paladin spells.

3E modules usually had a spell suite that a dragon or BBEG would cast before an encounter, a crafty dragon with access to multiple kinds of spells could have a formidabble combination of spells. Next time I run I'll probably have fun with non-formidable combinations, such as bard spells and low-level illusion spells.

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Brokenlookinglass wrote:
I'll be honest, I'm fairly new to roleplaying, I've only been playing for less than 5 yrs now. But every group I join and play with has had an amazing distaste for the new Star Wars d20 game. Is it something that I'm missing for are they just upset because they feel Wizards nerfed the Jedi classes that much? I'll be honest, I never got a chance to play in a d6 game of Star Wars, so am I missing something from not having played that? Let me know please!

I enjoy Star Wars d20, and my old group played a campaign that ran about two and half years. There are several reasons I've seen why players may not like Star Wars d20:

1. The feat system penalizes you for not optimizing. I played a Jedi Ace in a group with two others playing Jedi, and mine was mechanically weak. I took the spacer feat because it made sense from a roleplaying perspective, but the mechanical benefits of a force user feat are significant. The feat requirements for Jedi Ace are not optimal compared to other Jedi prestige classes.

2. Jedi are mechanically much stronger than other classes. You could build Han Solo as a jedi consular and he could have similar skill points along with a lot of powerful force abilities.

3. The d6 mechanic of the original Star Wars rpg had flaws at times, but was generally more cinematic and had faster paced combat. The 3rd ed. D&D action economy lends itself to optimizing for combat, which in turn favors jedi characters.

There were upsides to the combat mechanics, a soldier can generally deal more damage per round than other classes and is strong in combat, the scoundrel is a lot of fun to play and 'better lucky than good' is a great mechanic, the noble can be fun to play. The combinations of species and class can be fun. But Star Wars d20 needs a group that is on the same page, more than most systems. Our group played a six month story arc as Firefly-style smugglers when we got our first light transport, the GM had to wing it a bit. But there's a lot of room for the mechanics to cause issues, and a lot of room for the mechanics to not work for the kind of Star Wars game players would like.

I suspect we'll get a new Rifts thread when the SW Rifts gets released soon.

There are a few things I really like about Rifts-
(still discussing the version that was released 25 or so years ago)

It has an AD&D feel to travel, in that travelling long distances is dangerous and can be full of wonder. With creatures from rifts, magic, aliens, etc. as possible encounters it's a bit like travelling to a new region in 1E D&D, with a chance of getting in over your heads.

The setting has a ton of potential for magic, technology, psychic characters, and a lot of genres of material to add together. In high school we ran a campaign with characters ported in from TMNT, Heroes Unlimited, Ninjas and Superspies, Robotech, and characters from various sourcebooks for Rifts.

The sourcebooks can occasionally be great. The write up for Sedna in Rifts: Canada is very good (I'm an Inuit from Alaska so it's nice to see a good write up of some Inuit mythology).

There are several downsides to old school Rifts-

The percentile mechanics for skills is a big mechanical drawback for me. With different skills having different starting values, different advance rates, and different starting percentile bonuses depending on whether it's taken as on OCC related skill or an elective skill it takes awhile to gen characters and can take awhile to level up. And percentile skill rolls mean you are trying to not fail when you roll instead of rolling to succeed.

Some material that was innovative 25 years ago could use updating. Vampire Kingdoms was innovative in the early '90s (Brian Lumley style vampires instead of Stoker style vampires). But looking at Vampire Kingdoms in the last few years, it seems a lot less innovative after 20 plus years of White Wolf vampire material.

The MDC system needs a good GM and a group who refrains from abusing its potential for abuse- a friend had an MDC hand gun he called the 'handgun of urban renewal' since it could level entire neighborhoods.

I had a gaming group that gamed together for about fifteen years when I lived in Seattle, and we sometimes played a three or four session Rifts game as a break between long campaigns with other games. Rifts can be a lot of fun, and after a year long Call of Cthulhu or 1st edition Warhammer Fantasy campaign it was a nice change of pace.

A few things I like about Shadowrun, not necessarily unique to Shadowrun:

Hackers (whether using magic or tech) and combat characters can have a lot to do in the same encounter. My favorite Shadowrun encounters involve breaking into a corporation and a hacker hacks the matrix while the combat team keeps security busy.

The Native Americans are handled really well, in my opinion. Very few games portray Native Americans as adapting to the times, and Shadowrun does this better than any other game I've seen.

Similarly, the Shadowrun handling of dragons is similarly well done. Dragons use tech and magic and run corporations. The backstory to Dunkelzahn is the best dragon write up I can think of off the top of my head.

There are some things I think Cyberpunk does better, especially the social interaction aspect. But I own a copy of Shadowrun fifth ed even though I don't have time to play it.

Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

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I'm really impressed with the quality, especially the last few days. I think I have upvoted every kind of weapon, armor, shield, and wondrous item at some point. There are quality items of every kind.

I have also had to break some of my tiebreakers- if two items are fairly equal generally I'll lean towards more interesting name, more original concept or execution, or simply more concise or better formatted. But sometimes re-reading items makes me upvote an overly wordy or not perfectly formatted item if the abilities work together nicely. Those items may not make the top 32 (ideally nice ability synergy is made clear on the first read through) but some are nicely done.

I was just discussing with a friend getting a Rifts game going. Last time I ran a player played an Atlantean with the class Demon Queller from Rifts Japan and one played a Mutant Bulldog from After the Bomb with the class Gunslinger. That ran for about two months before time commitments kept us from continuing. Before that I ran for a player playing a Robotech Alpha pilot stranded on Rifts Earth teamed up with a Quebec Glitter Boy when Quebec was at war with the coalition.

Rifts has all sorts of balance issues and clunky mechanics, but it can be a lot of fun.

A few thoughts on sacred cows:

Vancian casting is an important part of the game to me, but I like have an alternative. Pathfinder Unchained provides alternate rules for casting, full attack, alignment, and some of the big sacred cows. But part of the nostalgia I have for vancian casting comes from playing 1E in junior high- a first level magic user rolled to see what spells you knew, and if you got Tenser's Floating Disk as one of your beginning spells you found creative uses for it (usually involving flammable objects on the disk and groups of enemies). The resource management aspect of Vancian casting and the creativity it inspired was fun, now that players can pick which spells they start with and what they learn when they level up Vancian casting loses part of what made it fun.

Paladins are something I appreciate more from 1E, it was rare someone rolled the stats to play a paladin and 1E alignment was brutal. It was even more brutal for paladins, who were held to the highest standards of lawful and good. Changing alignment for any character made it difficult to level up for a level as you re-learn how to function with a new alignment, but paladins lost most of their abilities. Paladins work better for me in a tabletop setting, translating them to MMOs to appeal to tabletop players created a type of paladin without the brutal alignment restriction. The forgiving-alignment-requirement paladin is easier to play than the any-action-in-this-situation-might-cause-a-fall- paladin. Inner Sea Gods has nice write ups on paladins of specific gods, but the core paladin needs some fleshing out to have ISG detail and playability.

Saves could use some work. I think there needs to be a medium save and not just good and bad saves.

The standards of realism got worse in 3E and PF carries some of that. There are long and heated threads on crossbows, but it's a good example. Comparing a 6th level wizard, 6th level longbow fighter, and a 6th level crossbow fighter illustrates the standards of realism to me. The wizard can have Haste, Fly, Summon Monster III, and Fireball. All can affect combat, some can avoid encounters, and they are not held to a restrictive standard of realism. The fighter with a longbow can have three attacks (rapid shot and two from BAB). There are restrictions of realism but the fighter is pretty solid in combat. The crossbow fighter can only get one attack, with no Str to damage. There have been many threads on this, but the crossbow fighter has more restrictions due to 'realism' than the longbow fighter, who in turn has more realism restrictions than the wizard. My fix is to make a martial weapon proficiency for crossbow that allows reloading as a free action, so martial classes and anyone who spends a feat can reload as a free action. But like saves, the realism restrictions become more pronounced at higher levels.

Skills are a 3E and on sacred cow. Here fighters and clerics get the worst of it, and sorcerers to a certain extent. Skills can affect combat and roleplaying and character wealth. I think physical skills should be based off BAB, so martial classes would automatically be good at swim and climb and acrobatics. I like that rogues have a lot of skill points, but when a wizard has enough skill points for vital skills with plenty left over for fluff (craft-scrimshaw, for example) and a fighter or cleric has to pick which vital skills get points this level I think it's time to re-examine the skill points.

I would like to see an AP making heavy use of templates. Let players play half-dragons, half-celestials, half-fiends, etc. It could involve travel to distant worlds or other planes or faraway lands in search of an answer to where the half-templates came from. 3e had rules for adding a half-template over several levels, so at 1st level players would be standard races and parts of the template get added over five or six levels.

Here is the first attempt, subject to suggestions:

Cernian N male Aasimar Cleric of Nethys 6/ Envoy of Balance 4
HD 6d8 + 4d6
Domains: Destruction and Knowledge

Str 8
Dex 10
Con 12
Int 10
Wis 20
Cha 22

Envoy of Balance endowments- Spiritual Equilibrium (adds Envoy of Balance levels to cleric levels for channeling energy), Twinned Channel (can channel both positive and negative energy in a channel)

Feats- Imp. Initiative, Selective Channeling, Versatile Channeler, Quick Channel, Craft Wondrous Items

Gear- Headband of Mental Superiority (Wis and Cha) +2, Cloak of Resistance +2, Mithral Shirt +2

Cernian believes death and destruction lead to perfect order. The rebirth and recreation that follows death and destruction is the natural progression of existence.

He casts buff and support spells, and focuses on channeling energy in combat.

JJ Jordan wrote:
ParagonDireRaccoon wrote:
What god and domains would you recommend? It's an NPC opponent, part of a group. The concept is N or LN cleric of order and death, who sees death as a way of bringing order to the universe.

If you're in Golarion, Nethys is a sort of insane god of both creation and destruction which I think captures what you're going for a bit.

Nehtys is actually the god of magic in general.

Thanks JJ Jordan! I was debating between the always useful travel and liberation domains and something that fits the concept.

What god and domains would you recommend? It's an NPC opponent, part of a group. The concept is N or LN cleric of order and death, who sees death as a way of bringing order to the universe.

Thanks Pounce and Shadowborn!

Are there any feats or archetypes that let a neutral cleric channel both positive and negative energy?

Thanks Drogos!

I'm making a group of bad guy NPC adventurers for the players to fight. One of them will either be a (halfling) unchained rogue 3/antipaladin 2/shadowdancer 5 or an unchained rogue 3/antipaladin 7.

The setup is a one-shot I'll be running for my old gaming group on a trip to Seattle. It will be half-reverse dungeon, the players will run the monsters trying to stop a group of NPC adventurers for half the encounters and playing PCs for half the encounters. The rival group is taking a different route to the same BBEG. The antipaladin 7 route makes for a much stronger combatant but the shadow dancer route makes it possible for the halfling to sneak to the final room if the players kill most of the NPC group.

So I'm asking for advice on both builds. The shadowdancer route has a few fun options but the antipaladin would be much stronger in combat. Thoughts?

A dangerous encounter at higher levels is a red dragon with an 20'x20' x20' deep trapdoor pit beneath a layer of gold in his lair, with an spell trigger item of widened antimagic field. The dragon casts antimagic field so it centers just below the PCs in the middle of the pit, then activates the trapdoor. The PCs will fall into the pit and be waist deep in gold coins. The dragon breaths fire and melts the coins, leaving the PCs waist-deep in molten gold. I combine quicksand rules with fire damage and the rules for extreme heat conditions.

The feats for both Typhoeus and Vasuki are Improved Initiative, Combat Reflexes, Improved Natural Attack, and and Lunge (Typhoeus) and Ability Focus- Breath Weapon (Vasuki).

The merged eidolon has 12 HD and the base stats for the eidolon of an 16th level summoner but extra evolution points and a few unique evolutions. The adventure is a one-shot I'm running for my old gaming group (we gamed together for over 15 years before I left to get a PhD). The adventure is a half-reverse dungeon, so the players run PCs taking one route to fight a red dragon BBEG to recover an artifact while a group of bad guy NPC adventurers take a different route. The players will run the monsters trying to stop the NPC group. The final monster the players run a five-headed chromatic dragon, with each player controlling a head. So for this encounter the bad guys will have retrieved a magic item that lets Arianna and Rhanox merge eidolons.

Apsumiat Huge CN Outsider Quadriped base
HD 12d8 + 84
F +15, R +8, W +4
BAB +12
Str 30, Dex 10, Con 24, Int 7, Wis 10, Cha 11
Evolutions: Large, Huge, Spell Resistance (27), Fast Healing, Breath Weapon (any usable by chromatic dragons), Extra Limbs (arms) x10, Slam, Reach, Hecatoncheires Attack (can make one attack at full BAB with slam against all targets within reach), Pounce
Feats: Improved Initiative, Combat Reflexes, Improved Natural Attack, and and Lunge, Ability Focus- Breath Weapon, Weapon Focus- Slam.

I've decided two of the antagonist NPCs will be summoners, and they will recover a magic item that lets them merge eidolons. The merged eidolon can take either base form.

Arianna CN Female (Dual-Minded) Half-Elf Synthesist Summoner 10
Rhanox NE Male (Dual-Minded) Half-Elf Master Summoner
Both have used the extra 1/4 evolution alternate racial trait at each level
HD 10d8+20 79 hp

Str 10
Dex 14
Con 14
Int 10
Wis 10
Cha 22 (16 +2 racial +2 levels +2 headband)

Feats- Imp. Initiative, Spell Focus- Conjuration, Augment Summoning, Craft Wondrous Items, Extra Evolution (Arianna) or Resilient Eidolon (Rhanox)

Gear- Headband of Cha +2, Mithral Shirt +1, Cloak of Res +2, Wand of Lesser Rejuvenate Eidolon, Wand of Cure Light Wounds; Amulet of Mighty Fights +1 (for eidolon)

Arianna's Eidolon Typhoeus
F +10, R +7, W +2
HD 8d8+32 BAB +8 Quadriped Evolution Pool 17
Str 23, Dex 12, Con 18, Int 7, Wis 10, Cha 11
Evolutions: (bite, limbs (legs) (2)) Pounce, Reach, Slam, Large, Fast Healing, Extra Limbs (x3)

Rhanox's Eidolon Vasuki
F +6, R +8, W +8
HD 8d8+16 Serpentine Evolution Pool 16
Str 21, Dex 14, Con 18, Int 7, Wis 10, Cha 11
Evolutions: (bite, climb, reach (bite), tail, tail slap), Large, Breath Weapon, limbs (legs x2), claws, mount, flight

I'm still working on how many HD the joint eidolon will have, but I'm hoping to get feedback and suggestions on the twins and their eidolons.

It might be worth doing a court intrigue setting with buildings from an older civilization in the capital city. The castle that serves as the capitol could have levels beneath that are mostly unknown, with artifacts scattered throughout. There could be rival noble families who seek to explore the hidden levels to gain power and wealth. The king or queen hires your wife's PC and your GMPC to investigate both the lower levels and the families involved.

This allows a lot of interaction and roleplaying with NPCs at court, and allows for Indiana Jones/Tomb Raider style adventures. If a noble family acquires an artifact the two can break into their mansion to retrieve it. And there could be clues to other sites built by the ancient civilization, at higher levels you could travel to ruins of cities.

Rynjin and Berti Blackfoot! I'll look into the Lantern Archon idea, that sounds cool. Good advice Berti. I'm thinking of having rare magic items that block teleport spells and effects, and the magic item that lets eidolons combine like a Voltron needs one of those to power it. So the combined eidolons would be a once per story arc thing. The warding stones that block teleports are rare and knowledge of how to make them has been lost, and are worth more if sold to block teleports than they are for combining eidolons. Combining eidolons burns out the warding stones.

It's for a one-shot I'll be running for my old gaming group when I visit Seattle in August, I hadn't thought through the long-term consequences of a magic item that combines eidolons or the long-term consequences of the warding stones. Blocking teleport spells and effects is something I always make possible for powerful spellcasters, and rulers of nations have magic that blocks scrying and teleport effects. But if the PCs get a warding stone n a campaign it could put them well over WBL. Thanks, everyone!

I think I'll go with a magic item that lets a summoner combine eidolons and evolution point pools. One of the bad guy NPCs will be a half-elf synthesist summoner, and the rest will have a few levels of summoner. The eidolon is inpsired by RavingDork's Baby Hecaton, it will be a quadriped styled after a hecatoncheires.

Thanks for the suggestions Charon's Little Helper, VRMH, and Kharis2000!

Thanks Charon's Little Helper and VRMH!

I'm playing around with ideas for a group of rival NPC adventurers. One idea is gnome synthesist summoners with eidolons that join, like a Voltron. Any suggestions?

I'm thinking there could be magic items or a minor artifact that make it possible. I started by working on a magic item that functions as a bag of holding inside a flying eidolon, letting a summoner transport cargo or people. If I go with cargo holding bag items for the eidolons I could make the NPCs half-elves to get extra evolution points. But I've never played a summoner as a player and I've never run a summoner as a GM, so I'm looking for advice and suggestions.

The memorable ending could be a (not necessarily permanent) sacrifice to save the party. The stasis device could have a setting so leaving a person in stasis gives the party the assistance of a powerful outsider. The party and allies fight waves of attackers, and when things look grim the dwarf enters stasis and the outsider appears. After the battle is over, the outsider is free to travel from its home plane to the prime material when it wants. If the player has time to rejoin the group occasionally, the stasis ends is put on hold and the dwarf is free whenever the outsider returns to its home plane.

Oz Folklore wrote:
Thank you ParagonDireRaccoon that's is very good Stuff i really like the idea of future stuff messing with there minds.

I'm glad it helps. I have a few suggestions for designing NPCs that I hope will be helpful:

I start with a list of roles that I'll need NPCs for. A few store owners/market stall workers who the PCs will buy gear from, clerics at a couple churches in town, a town gossip, a couple government officials, a retired adventurer who the PCs can go to for advice, a few children in town who deliver messages to the PCs from potential employers (kind of like in an MMO or Skyrim when a messenger delivers a letter with a job offer), a few families with farms a ways out of the city that the PCs stop by and visit. The families appreciate news from town and sometimes have rumors of bandits or monsters in the outlying woods.

I like to base NPCs off of characters from books, movies, and tv shows. I don't pick them all from one show, and sometimes I'll pick an actor and then pick one of their less famous roles (Jim Carrey in Man in the Moon is less iconic than him in Ace Ventura or the Mask, for example). If I have to make an NPC on the fly I usually base it off of a PC either I or a friend have played.

In terms of making a city feel alive, I like to throw in a few details you might see in a real world city and add a few unusual events that contrast everyday activity. A sign that reads 'Stonehaven- population 904' with the 904 crossed out and replaced with '905 congratulations Ahira and Lenia' is humorous and makes it feel like there are people living their lives in the town. A city or town might have an unusual event that brings tourists, like a blue dragon and a bronze dragon who race each and fly over the city every three months.

One suggestion I have is to let the players provide some of the plot- player suspicions and paranoia provide great story material. One of the treasure items could be a painting of what looks like the PCs with the title "Dragons of the Ninth Heaven." You could have a bedroom filled with items that seem to linked to the past and/or future of each PC. Notes on a rare element that could be what the Spell Singer is looking for, a spell storing weapon for the rogue knife master, a letter addressed to someone with the same name as a PC that might be from a distant relative, etc. The first session could be going deeper into the caves with the bedroom along the way. The players will speculate on the meaning of the items and the painting, and you can pick what like from their guesses and use that for the next session.

One of the NPCs I sometimes use, especially for low-level parties, is a semi-retired and absentminded ranger. The ranger lost a family heirloom with a lot of sentimental value and is retracing his or her footsteps from the start of their career hoping to find it. The NPC can be used for comedic effect or as deus ex machina, make the ranger several levels higher than the party and the ranger can turn the tide of a battle that is going poorly.

For homebrew loot, you could go the 'let the players fill in the blanks for the story' route. Make items that will increase in power as the PCs level up that are very specialized. Pick an unusual type of opponent- for example, aquatic LE celestial with a vulnerability to a specific energy attack. So the items discovered might start out as +1 weapons with aquatic LE celestial bane and after several levels will increase the bonus and will eventually grant water breathing, freedom of movement, and dimensional anchor. You could have a session where the PCs go to a sage who will figure what the eventual bonuses will be, and the players will speculate why the items were built for such a specific opponent.

Thanks DM_Blake and Queen Moragan!

I'm working on a half-reverse dungeon adventure, so the players may face a five-headed dragon in one half of the adventure and play the five-headed dragon facing a group of evil NPCs in the other half. The BBEG is a red dragon guarding an artifact both groups are after. There are two routes, so the players will play PCs taking one route and also play the monsters defending the other route. Most of the encounters will not be identical and will use different but similar monsters. The five-headed (one of each color) dragon will be the same on both routes, but the water option can be used if a group is at full strength at the second-to-last encounter. The set up is the PCs will level up (and do a videogame style level up with full hp and new spells) assuming the beat the BBEG, then fight the evil NPCs withing a few rounds of their victory over the red dragon.

I won't be running this for about a month, but I've run the players controlling the five-headed dragon encounter before. If the body moves each round and each head gets an attack or breath weapon, the dragon basically kills on NPC per round. I have to set up terrain so it's easy to get cover against breath weapons. And both routes will have corpses with dragon-fighting consumables from previous adventuring groups.

Thanks Bandw2 and DM_Blake! It's a dragon with one head of each color. I think I'll set it up so the red, blue, and white heads need to get air every few rounds, and there will be a pocket of air above the dragon. PCs will be able to get use the pocket of air to breath but will risk opp attacks from the dragon.

The measure of whether it works or not is if the players and GM have fun. I ran a similar concept once, everyone created a character based on themselves with a heroic array as first level experts. This makes for PCs who can function in a fantasy world but have a lot of skills that won't be useful (drive automobile and repair personal computer are good IRL but not in Forgotten Realms). It was inspired by Joel Rosenberg's Guardians of the Flames series, the PCs woke up as if they had been transported from the real world to the Sword Coast. After a few encounters, they ran into a group of adventurers and were allowed to level up to expert 1/PC class 1. It worked well enough for two sessions, the group rotated GMs and the next GM in the rotation was going out of town for a few weeks. We had fun, it had a reasonable amount of balance with arrays of stats but let players decide where the stats went and what skills to take. It was a chance to explore 'what would I do if I were in a fantasy world' but gave PCs a fighting chance.

My real world stats would be below average strength compared to PF/D&D PCs and average Con and Dex. Even if I gave myself above average Int and Wis, the real world me probably would not make it to third level in a fantasy world.

I'm working on an encounter with a five-headed chromatic dragon fighting PCs underwater. It's a large or huge size dragon (young adult or adult) and will trigger a switch that will flood the cavern with water. I'm thinking she can breath by keeping one head above water (providing a big advantage, there will be a pocket of air directly above her). But I wanted to hear others' thoughts on how that would work, and if there's anything I haven't thought of that I should include. I'm thinking only the lightning and cold breath weapons will work underwater, and I'll have the head surface for air the round before breathing the weapon and add a round to the cooldown.

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I downloaded my pdf today (I backed the kickstarter but was busy with school until now). I really like Quests of Doom. I'm a big Frog God Games fan, I have Rappan Athuk and Return to the Tomb of Horrors Complete in the Pathfinder versions. I've skimmed all of the adventures and read a few more thoroughly. They have a lot of the best qualities of 1E in my opinion. I recently bought pdfs of a lot of 1E adventures recently, the Quests of Doom have new magic items and artifacts, dangerous traps, and are designed for the classic D&D party configuration (one or two fighters, divine caster, arcane caster, and rogue). They are less lethal than Rappan Athuk but will challenge players. I recommend Quests of Doom if you like 0E, 1E, and 2E style adventures or like Rappan Athuk and Slumbering Tsar.

Shorue, please tell us how it goes (with all the gory details). I picked up the 1E version WotC released with the S series modules but haven't run them. I love 1E multiple TPK dungeons, but don't know how my group will like going through multiple characters in a session (I also have the PF Rappan Athuk and 1E Mordenkainen's Fantastic Voyage and Dungeonland). The old-school meat grinders with no-save-everyone-dies traps were fun 20+ years ago but I'd like to hear how they play nowadays.

Thanks for posting havoc xiii, Unbral Reaver, and Melkiador. I hope the discussion goes on, a Mimic heaven is kind of a fun idea that could be lighthearted or could be scary. I decided a mimic jukebox would be too silly for Rag Na Rock but the image is one I'll add to an encounter at some point.

I've figured out how to tie in the Skyrim Stobokor afterlife. It will be over-the-top lighthearted to offset a somewhat dark reason for visiting. The PCs will get clues written in scars on the chests of prisoners. The bad guys are toying with the PCs, cutting the tongues off of prisoners and leaving notes written in scars on the prisoners. The PCs will have to take the living orc to Orc Stobokor so a deceased relative can translate the orc sign language. They will get information and the living orc will get the option of staying, or accompanying the PCs to get revenge (d6 roll will determine decision). The over-the-top lighthearted (copyright issue) fun- Chocobo parking out front, Harry Potter's parents own the festhall (named Rag Na Rock) and all the dead Disney parents are the wait staff (all Disney title characters have single-parent families). A living Worf will be visiting his father's spirit at a corner table. But the 'world of the living' storyline is kind of dark, it should be a nice break from a grim dungeon crawl with clues on mutiliated prisoners.

Thanks Mikaze, Kobold Cleaver,
Havoc XIII Shadowbinder and Goddity. I'm running a campaign in kind of a Golarion/Greyhawk/Faerun/Krynn hybrid mishmash with elements I like from each. Golarion has a pretty detailed cosmology but I doubt it has a Skyrim festhall. I'm thinking of an Orc afterlife festhall (for NPC Orcs) that is mostly Skyrim/Norse with a bit of Klingon Stobokor mixed in. I'm pretty flexible with the setting, sometimes players suggest something from a book, videogame, or real world mythology and it becomes part of the setting.

(edit: added thanks to Havoc XIII Shadowbinder)

Right now I'm thinking of having a Skyrim/Norse Viking style festival hall for the Orc afterlife. I'm running a dungeon crawl at the moment, maybe there will be a side quest where the PCs can return an Orc family heirloom to an Orc chieftain in the afterlife in exchange for information.

One of my players asked where monsters go when they die (in terms of afterlife). I had never given it much thought, but might write a session around a trip to a monster afterlife. Has anyone written up a monster afterlife or have any ideas?

I picked up some of my favorite 1E adventures, and I'm debating converting them to PF or just hybridizing 1E and PF. Has anyone run a hybrid campaign with PF skills on a 1E chassis?

It's worth examining some of the assumptions that tend to be included in earth-like conditions. Those assumptions to start with current real-world conditions as the normal baseline, and as an extension anything different is fantastical, improbable, or impossible. There were larger versions of current animals less than 20,000 years ago. These larger versions include buffalo and beavers (with sizes up to three or four times current sizes for beavers, of the top of my head). Different levels of carbon and other elements in the environment could lead to different bone structure, which includes the possibility of denser bones able to support greater mass without magic or psionics.

I like all the ways to use magic and psionics to create internally consistent physics for fantasy worlds. Magic, psionics, or favor of the gods are straightforward ways to explain true dragons flying. And I like Sean's blog on disregarding real-world physics to make cool fantasy elements possible. I picture the amount of real-world physics in an rpg as something a little flexible, a lot of groups I've gamed with have included rpg freelance writers and/or physics majors who can brainstorm good explanations for a phenomena using magic, psionics, or real-world physics. But this thread has better options for explaining dragons flying than a lot of what I've seen in my 25 or so years of gaming.

Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8, Star Voter Season 9

I'd like to thank Paizo and the RPG Superstar staff for another great first round and another year's contest. A few things I like in particular:

The weapon, armor, staff, ring or rod choice this year was really cool. A lot of neat items, and a lot of creative and fun designs.

I don't have time to game as much as I'd like, and it's fun to take part in a gaming community event like this.

The RPG Superstar event re-energizes the fan base each year. This is my second year of submitting an item and voting, but I've noticed that Paizo supports the fan base more than most gaming companies.

The process of voting on items makes me a little better at designing items. Deciding what makes a good item hundreds or thousands of times helps me understand what I consider 'good' and 'bad' design.

Seeing the top 32 helps me see what the fans and customers look for. I think of it as comparing Superman Returns to the Avengers for superhero movies: Superman Returns has a lot of details that only a diehard Superman fan will appreciate, but wasn't commercially successful while Avengers was a very good movie both for comic book fans and moviegoers in general. In terms of game design, Avengers is a better goal than Superman Returns. An rpg example might be Talislanta, one of my favorite all-time rpgs. A great concept and setting but not commercially successful. The first round helps show what the combination of good design and commercial success should look like (at least for items).

A lot of great thoughts in this thread. My first post was about combining magic and physics in a way that is internally consistent. I really like MMCJawa's suggestion that creatures created directly the gods aren't limited by real world physics. If you add the caveat that if you gain the favor or attention of the gods real world physics don't apply in the same way, humans with strength in the high 20s becomes plausible in an internally consistent way.

My understanding is that science has a limited understanding of gravity in the real world, it doesn't take much disbelief for me accept giants and dragons with a lot of mass flying or walking around. Fantasy world physics could have started like a game of Calvinball (from Calvin and Hobbes) played by the gods, the gods make up rules as they go and can grant exceptions to the rules at a whim.

There is a discussion on a facebook group I'm a member of that includes the question of grappling dragons. The consensus is that internally consistent rules for magic and physics are more important than realism. But I got to thinking about judo-throwing a dragon, which can happen in some games. A dragon would be too heavy to fly according to real-world physics, so what if dragons have magic that make them lighter? Not as light as a helium balloon, but maybe closer to the weight of similarly sized nerf football while they're flying. A successful grapple against a dragon could represent catching the dragon at a moment when their magical lightening effect was active.

The issue of real-world physics is important for martial characters. Most games, including PF, detail how magic can break real-world physics within the rules but generally limit martial characters to something much closer to real world limitations. As an undergrad, friends who were physics majors were very adamant about applying real world limitations to martial characters. I think the game is more fun if martial characters can do cool things too, and magic affecting physics could be a part of a system. Any thoughts using magic to affect physics in ways that could add to the game?

Thanks everyone! The NPCs are are for a half-reverse dungeon adventure- the PCs will be taking one route to the dragon guarding an artifact, while the NPCs are taking a different route. The players will play monsters trying to stop the NPCs for half the encounters. The NPCs will have to overcome traps (chosen by the players) and groups of monsters played by the players. If the NPCs survive, the PCs will have to fight them after fighting the dragon. If the NPCs are close to full strength, I'll let the PCs do a videogame style level up so they're at full hp and spells. The NPCs have to be powerful enough to have a chance to overcome the traps and encounters.

That said, Just a Mort's NPCs are an improvement over my builds.

Dahakia is level 12, I forgot to add that. She doesn't worship a god, I was going to make her a cleric of Dahak but wanted to build her around versatile channeling. She has positive channeling and spontaneous cure spells, so does negative channeling at a penalty.

Here is the third:

LE Elf Sageblooded Sorcerer 12

Str 10
Dex 16 (14 +2 levels)
Con 12 (13 -2 racial +1 levels)
Int 26 (16 +2 racial + 6 headband +2 levels)
Wis 12
Cha 10

1st Eschew Materials, Imp. Initiative
3rd Combat Casting
5th Empower Spell
7th Craft Wondrous Item, Spell Focus (transmutation)
9th Dazing Spell
11th Spell Penetration

Appraise 12 ranks +23
Bluff 12 ranks +15
Craft (alchemy) 12 ranks +23
Diplomacy (*) 12 ranks +12
Fly 12 ranks +18
Knowledge (arcana) 12 ranks +25
(the planes) 12 ranks +23
Perception (*) 12 ranks +15
Spellcraft 12 ranks +25
Use Magic Device 12 ranks +15

Equipment- Headband of Vast Intelligence +6 (crafted by Hellstrael), Robe of the Archmagi, Handy Haversack

Spell known-
6th Disintegrate
5th Baleful Polymorph, Wall of Force
4th Dimension Door, Enervation, Summon Monster IV
3rd Haste, Lightning Bolt, Tiny Hut, Fly
2nd Invisibility, Rope Trick, Acid Arrow, Glitterdust, Resist Energy
1st Magic Missile, Prot. from Evil, Grease, Comprehend Languages, Summon Monster I

Even though Hellstrael (I'll probably change the name, would be more fitting for one of the evil outsider bloodlines) is evil, protection from evil is useful for any adventurer. It is the least optimized build that I've posted, but is built around dazing spell. This is why I post asking for suggestions, Mackenzie greatly improved Wozak and all my builds can be improved on.

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