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The collective thrust here is interesting. None of it strays terribly far from my own thoughts (including those comments that question my overall approach). To a few of those thoughts...

Pregens & Redesign - In retrospect Pregens, which never even occurred to me, probably would have been a boon. They were eager to make their own characters, but had negligible interest in creating a cohesive (or even functional) party. I am always open to even sweeping redesign, but it isn't a viable option until they stop trying to make characters that render one or more (often all) of the other players irrelevant.

Player Selection - Of the seven players, I only even invited five. Those five apparently had enough fun that they asked two more to join. I permitted this because the ultimate goal is to get them playing with their friends. But it has since become apparent that the latecomers are after an entirely different experience than the others.

The Rails - Moving off the rails is my general preference, but they aren't ready for it. None of them wants to lead, nor to follow the lead of anyone that isn't an NPC. In the absence of player requests, the module moves forward.

Wealth - I rarely hinge the party's wealth on their combat performance. I rarely hang too much importance on monetary wealth at all simply because most of character wealth will be spent on ways to improve combat performance.

Murderhoboing - Been there already, Just A Mort. One of the PC's assaulted a journalist, earning the party's employer exceptionally bad press and earning the PC an earful. In the very next scene he attempted to murder another PC, was subdued and locked up to await trial. He then died in an escape attempt because the player didn't think I was serious about consequences. He still doesn't. He's having his fun by trolling the rest of the party.

Removing Players - With this particular group, this isn't an option for me. If the majority are unanimous about it, fine. But they aren't unified. Heck, one of them got incredibly bent out of shape that I would kill the previously mentioned murderhobo because it didn't fit with his own personal story. Note that... he was pissed because he wanted to basically have the fellow owe him his life and be his slave.

Anyhow... thank you all for the input. I believe I'll tone down the teaching and let them slit their own throats if they can't get it together. I only agreed to run something a bit more substantial than a single-night module. Some measure of responsibility for coming together as a group has to fall on them. If they continue going out of their way to do the opposite, there's only so much I can do.

To your last, Scott, if one takes something different from a clue than I intended, that's one thing... and frankly more power to them for reaching any kind of conclusion and acting in a self-directed fashion.

Here I was actually referring to a failure of basic listening skills. They asked me what creature types would be featuring prominently. I told them oozes and aberrations. They asked what knowledges they would need for that. I told them Knowledge: Dungeoneering. No one bothered to put even a rank into that skill (it was in class for several) and then they got pissy because I wouldn't tell them the weaknesses of their enemies.

To Blackbloodtroll... tried that. I provided them a common origin and hooks to connect during chargen. Even offered perks for doing so in the form of custom traits for creative backstories. They responded by going out of their way to create barriers to communication and interaction because they all wanted to be the mysterious and misunderstood special snowflake. They've also responded to story-based leveling by trying to kill one another over out of character slights. After all, someone else will do the thing that needs doing, right?

If that is your takeaway, Dave, then I have failed to properly convey what's going on here. I chose that particular module primarily because success in its story is dependent on cleverness and observation on the player's part. Adapted encounters were initially designed just to be interesting and engaging. And sometimes that's enough. If the evening goes well, hoorah and huzzah.

Where we have gotten into trouble is when the players have demonstrated a lack of (mostly) social skills around the table. This group has a great deal of trouble with basic things like separating IC and OOC knowledge, keeping OOC personal issues out of the game, marginalizing one another to steal the spotlight or intransigence. We've only had five sessions so far and basic bad behavior would have ended the campaign then and there had I not intervened and rebuked various parties.

Now, I could just walk away. I'm only running the campaign as a favor after all. But instead I've been looking for teachable moments buried inside unfolding events, though I do not raise the topics then. At the end of the night I pull the curtain back, generally discussing how things went in a fashion that depersonalizes events and diffuses the ridiculous amount of testosterone at the table.

So I suppose what I'm really asking for is thoughts on common problems you might expect to see coming from inexperienced and poorly socialized players. This is not the pool from which I usually draw my players, and it would be nice to have a short list to draw from when I'm trying to define their antics as something other than "Frank, you're being an ***. Cut it out or don't come back."

You might be wondering where the dragon lesson plays into this. It doesn't really. I just dislike it when people assume they're such hot s!!! they can tangle with anything they want. That's an entirely separate issue and I should have left it out of the opening.

I am presently running a campaign of an unusual stripe, trying to drag a number of mostly high-school age, inexperienced players, outside the narrow confines of PFS. They would like to begin exploring a broader roleplay experience and more open-ended play, and eventually want to build the toolkit to run games on their own. The point of this campaign is to facilitate this, in large part by breaking them of bad habits, especially those which seem okay in PFS but become acute problems outside of that box.

I've opted to achieve this by adapting a Call of Cthulu module, "Beyond The Mountains of Madness". Its length rivals an Adventure Path, but the horror/survival theme will be new to these players and because C.O.C. modules are driven more by flavor than rules, it provides an ample stub on which to hang focused lesson plans... err... encounters. I can then explain plotting and encounter design as I go to provide some insight to the would-be GM's.

So far I've been attempting to drive home some basic lessons of etiquette, teamwork and planning...

* If the GM is giving out pointed tips, don't ignore them.
* No man is an island. Make sure the PARTY covers its bases.
* Share information and assist one another.
* Actions have consequences:
Do not do anything IC that you can't at least try to justify.
Swordplay isn't always the answer.
* Do not assume the encounter is weak just because you are.

This week will be a personal favorite, "Leave dragons alone." After that though, I'm open to additional input. It's been a long time since I counseled true newbies. What non-constructive behaviors have you seen (especially in PFS) that, given the chance, you'd like to see players broken of before they move into static groups?

Unseen Servant is much like the Prestidigitation cantrip in that you are limited chiefly by your imagination. It is in many ways the same spell with longer range, longer duration and a bit more strength. It loses some versatility, being mostly a workhorse, but gains utility because you aren't constantly occupied controlling it. It also has the limitation of never being allowed to make an attack roll, which was pretty clearly included to limit the ability to do... well, exactly what you want to do. That said, beyond the suggestions in the spell description, it is entirely capable of carrying an unfurled sheet (cover/concealment), probing suspicious cobwebs with a torch, rattling cans to attract attention or retrieve your fallen weapon. (All of those are probably listed in Ravingdork's links somewhere.) And if by chance the Spurious Adjective McGuffin of Plot Devicedom happens to be sitting unattended on a shelf, it can probably retrieve that too. You would of course be otherwise occupied fighting the Boss Monster.

Because it is technically a force effect, it might give you some ability to interact with Ethereal/Incorporeal obstacles, though I'd be shocked if it ever comes up.

Cintra's analysis looks pretty solid. You're looking at an island economy (isolated by altitude rather than seawater) based on the extraction of natural resources. Prices across the board are going to be inflated. Domestic goods will be no exception unless you are regulating trade in a rather draconian fashion... perhaps not as inflated as imports, but still inflated by anyone wanting to get rich. The mere presence of a platinum mine will exaggerate that inflation, because outsiders will believe the town has money.

Were I in charge of the town, I'd be really tempted to set up a mint. If you can prepare coin for a nearby crown, they're going to be sending armed caravans to retrieve it. Merchants may well shelter in their wings, potentially reducing some of your costs. Establishing the trust of the crown will also guarantee that people will hear about your town and it's a first move away from the inevitable boom and bust cycle associated with extractive economies. Even if the mint isn't viable, I'd put my level best into attracting engravers and jewelers. Why sell platinum after all, when you can sell works of art wrought from platinum for far more with less bulk? Once you wade into the world of art, you'll be doing business with the kind of folk for whom it is worth the trouble to teleport around the globe instead of hoofing it, and at that point you'll have more options.

A productive platinum mine is going to attract various specialists and undesirables, each of which may bring a source of revenue or a maintenance issue (or both) of their own. Attracting a trustworthy assayer might reduce graft and improve profits for instance. Selling prospecting rights to would be treasure hunters might be immediately lucrative, but would attract unsavory elements and might create either expansion opportunities or competition down the road. Buying the silence of the ecologist that knows about the infestation of X in the mine would be an annoying one time expense.

Speaking of the ecologist, there's a lot that could go wrong in this town if they aren't careful with upkeep. A mine means pollution. Proximity to water calls for flood protection. Then there's the basic infrastructure. Roads and bridges of course. By the time those businesses are properly staffed and your population begins to rise, you'll want to have addressed sewage, fire control, food storage and so on and so forth. The colleges might lead to magical waste, hazardous gasses and explosions. At some point you'll want to begin improving fields, or perhaps you'll find a conflict between the fisherfolk and the mine barges over use of the waters... etc.

Let's talk about the threat from below a bit more. At the level you're indicating, most of the longer lasting and more useful wards simply aren't available.

Alarm just isn't going to cut it. By your own indication the average ship of the fleet will be able to mount a meager defense at best and by the time a real threat is close enough to trip the Alarm, it's too late to do much more than pray. MAYBE you have enough time to launch a distress flare and MAYBE there will be some survivors in the water by the time a warship can investigate.

Glyph of Warding on the other hand... There's no particular reason you couldn't have a glyph on the keel of each vessel, possibly more than one depending on your interpretation of "One object or 5 sq. ft/lvl" in relation to ships. A single glyph, even several, may not be enough to deter a major predator, but it might give them pause and it turns each vessel into a modest element of the fleet's perimeter defense for the negligible cost (compared to the value of a ship) of 200 gp.

That's the light version. You could go with a full on minefield. Naval mines are a thing, even in some fantasy settings, but if you want to do it magically, there's nothing in particular preventing you from placing a ward on 500' coils of rope and dangling them beneath the fleet like the tentacles of an enormous jellyfish. Nor is there any particular reason you couldn't have your alchemists rig depth charges to drop off the keel at the pull of a line.

Beyond these defenses it wouldn't be all that hard to muster a combat sea patrol. Warriors trained to do battle on the backs of dolphins or small whales could ride escort and respond quickly to threats. Water breathing is a long lasting spell, more than adequate to deploy patrols every few hours.

Building on that idea, beyond the CSP you have your deep scouts, elites (go with Rangers) with shark mounts that run long patrols well ahead or below the fleet. Of course you'd need to keep tabs on them, but that's well within the purvue of Scrying, or I'm sure the alchemists can rig a signal flare that is basically a subsurface-to-air rocket to signal imminent danger.

Though the distinction is largely academic, I'd like to offer that I don't see anything in the rules Claxon quoted that would strictly prevent this from happening. Some effects still have a partial effect on save and acid in general is probably the most likely energy type to be ruled as damaging to an inanimate object. If the immersion was prolonged (she had to wait while someone threw her a rope), this kind of result seems well within RAW. It wouldn't surprise me at all to hear that the Paladin was in up to her neck, kept head and hands mostly dry and lost only her least durable gear.

It could have course have been effect by fiat, but even then we don't know that it was intended to be punitive. It could just as easily be a contrivance orchestrated to provide Twoswords with the chance to respec.

Back to the original question. Pick up some Tree tokens to provide yourself with impromptu battlefield cover (and to climb out of pits).

How does she go about soaking up that damage? Is she taunting and provoking enemies to keep their attention? If so, build on the headband and maybe acquire a widget that gives a boost to Intimidate. is she positioning herself to be the human shield? If so, perhaps its time to pick up a reach weapon and stop a few of those attacks from actually getting to her. Is she literally soaking it up with damage reduction? I don't see any gear catering to that role, so it would obviously want to be a high priority replacement. Is she reliant on a high AC to turn blows aside while the action economy of the party turns the tide? If so, I'd guess you previously had magical armor and should be looking to get back into some. In the short term you might consider going sword and shield for a while.

Either way, were I in that situation, avoiding similar eventualities would be high on my list and I'd be snagging a Cloak of Resistance right quick. Maybe something with acid resistance would be warranted, especially if I expected to return to the lair with the trap. And just in general, I'd be dabbling in utility scrolls at this point to add versatility.

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Murdock Mudeater wrote:


-Does not require animal companions to ever make any checks via handle animal.
-Does not allow companion/familars to have their own intiative step.
-just gives us listed value for items, not allowed to even attempt appraise to increase value in trade.
-Impossible to use stealth skills as DM doesn't use terrain from the pre-generated adventures, just uses blank rooms...
-Effectively gives casters the eschew materials feat for free, also permits gold exchange for material costs.
-Considers role playing characters to be derailing the group sessions. This isn't just the DM, many of the players have this attitude.
-no random encounters, no attempt to increase CR (or loot) if number of players exceeds the recommended number for a pregenerated adventure.

These examples suggest a harried DM with a history of disorganized and easily distracted groups. Waiving minor book-keeping (handling companions, appraising loot, separate initiatives, eschew) all suggest he's trying to keep the players attention focused on their actions. Prefabs do the same. They seldom feature truly complex tactical scenarios (and yes that diminishes the role of stealth) and have a conveniently laid out progression (which extended roleplay threatens) complete with any key loot you'll need (hence the lack of recalculation or random encounters).

Really only two aspects of this would bother me. It would be annoying if I could not reallocate my build choices after finding out about these style differences. And I would rapidly become bored with unadjusted prefabs and no roleplay. Best response? Lead by example. Quietly track the details for your animal companion/spells yourself and engage in quick, light, focused roleplay. Show that these things can be done without negative impact.

Seems like the best option for keeping your soul safe is a contingency plan. That could be literal... use the Contingency to teleport your body away or create a magic circle around it. Or it could be part of the pact. How hard would it be, really, to get the Cacodemon to agree to a bargain that let it eat your other servants as soon as you were dead?

Or you could play the higher pucker factor game. Have your actual pact be with one or more far more substantial entities that have dispatched these lessor servitors to act in their stead. That might be the easiest way to get competent servants, since it also gives the GM carte blanche to /eventually/ do unspeakable things to you that aren't as direct as taking your soul.

Or you could bluff. It seems to me that an imp would tread lightly if you even insinuated that your contract had been referred to an Inevitable.

Heck, you could have other contracts with angelic entities stating that upon your death, they retrieve your body themselves and/or smash these heinous forces of evil. Lots of options.

The real killer here is what it will mean for the rest of the party. You can defend yourself all you like, but if you take a dirt nap, the number of ways your servants can become a problem for the party are beyond counting.

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LuxuriantOak wrote:

I love your campaign.

it sounds awesome.
(Pleaseohpleaseohpleasetell us more!)

Since you asked, here's the short version. The game is set in a post-apocalyptic, high-magic Africa. This particular apocalypse was the emergence of the Great Old Ones from the Far Realm, which essentially ended humanity's supremacy on the planet. Subsequent grand feats of celestial engineering resculpted the solar system, fashioning it into first a beachhead for interstellar war, then a weapons proving ground and ultimately a doomsday device that drifts in and out of alignment with the Prime Material Plane. Glimpses of other worlds bleed through from time to time and whatever horrid things you might think that means for the inhabitants... you're probably right. But life has soldiered on for some millions of years, long after the Great Old Ones departed.

I try to spin vivid stories, full of exotic geography, flora and fauna. You'll rarely see me throw a band of ill equipped kobolds at a party unless the PC's have chosen to go vermin-stomping. You will however see the Guecubu, the Inkanyamba, and the Deathknell Scarab. That's assuming you don't decide to get involved in the affairs of the various immortal beings (I am particularly fond of Aboleth, Rakshasa and Djinn). You needn't dwell too much on those though; immortality breeds complacency and if you don't poke it with a stick you... should... be... fine.

In this particular campaign the party began in a hidden city located in what was once the Central African Republic. While carrying out a milkrun they chanced upon the scene of a train derailment seemingly brought about by a spider-eater swarm. (insert heroic rescues here). After, they learned of missing children and went off to play the heroic rescuers. This led them into a harpy infested canyon and ultimately to the den of a Fungus Queen that had plans to sell the larva-infested children to Drow slavers and stage a biological attack on the nearby Drow metropolis using the kids as time bombs. Decisions, decisions. The party cut a deal with the Fungus Queen, capturing and delivering a Succubus in exchange for the kids, returned to the village where they organized an effort to recover the fortune in silver that had gone into the river when the train derailed, and returned home to much acclaim. It wasn't that tidy of course... the Succubus had assumed the identity of the Mayor's mistress and exposing her sent public confidence spiraling downward. And the Fungus Queen ate several of the children and sold several more before the party made it back. And the gnome took a side job from a Ghul somewhere along the way that "accidentally" woke up a walking tower that had been buried in the canyon wall.

Then... it got a bit strange. No one especially wanted to deal with the tower, but they kind of felt bad. I mean, it was the Gnome's fault, it was tromping all over the home territory of the witch and it might prove a tad problematic that it was spewing out an ocean in the middle of the Sahara... and then there was the revelation that the tower was somehow linked to the Div that had (in an adventure the character literally couldn't remember) removed portions of the Gnome's brain to make little sorceress homonculi out of....

In the absence of someone with common sense, when a deranged old Aboleth offered the party a contract to assassinate the Div, they bit. Of course, first they'd need to find out what a Div was (cue 2nd creepy meeting with the Ghul), find the alchemical macguffin they'd need to kill her and hunt her down on the elemental planes. Piece of cake! So in the company of a traveling merchant that wanted to leverage their growing name recognition to build a brand, they traveled to a city known for its intrigue and shady deals (Cairo), to steal the macguffin from a hijacker. What could be simpler? Just foment a gang war between the cops and a band of Sahuagin and under cover of that noise, break into the hijacker's lair (a drydock), overcome her Caryatid Columns in a lightless vault, try not to get squished by falling naval vessels and sneak away, hopefully without getting shot by the sentries.

This... they pulled off. Now, the train, heading west into the desert where the party (but not the crew) know it will eventually run into a sea. Should that go well they'll have to swim through a lesser sea infested with elemental beasties with bad attitudes to reach the tower, then navigate it's crumbling stones as if they were playing Shadow of Colossus, trick an inevitable into giving them a second macguffin, vanquish an ally turned enemy and saunter through a gate to the elemental plane of water. Should they pull that off, the next stage of the plan involves willfully trapping themselves on the other side by shutting the gate. Then they're off to find the craftsman that will forge their macguffin. That should be easy. While holding their breath they'll take advantage of subjective gravity and orient such that their destination will be down. Then its merely a matter of slaloming through the whirling props of the naval blockade and hoping they don't hit the shipyard at terminal velocity. No big deal. Then its time for the showdown with the boss in her floating fortress of flotsam and ineffable evil. Should all of that go according to plan, the Gnome will have her revenge and a chance to regain her stolen memories by chowing down on the brains of the homonculi. Yummy.

For fairly obvious reasons I haven't sketched out much beyond that. I'm not out to kill them by any means, but their plan is not good.

All wonderful. For some reason I had overlooked falling baggage as an issue. And I can definitely see the gnome trying to play bridge, with much complaint as the significantly heavier party trods over her back. Sadly, I think the cabbages will be lost on this particular crew. Cars are destined to be destroyed around them if they take no action, but what they choose to do can change such events.

Puns aside railroading won't be a problem here. It's a sandbox campaign and they're welcome to abandon or alter their goals at any time. Presented with a variety of plothooks and given the freedom to ignore them all and define their own agenda, they felt that several personal goals could best be accomplished by embarking on a task so ludicrously difficult that they themselves have described it as a suicide mission (assassinating a powerful Div on its home turf in the Plane of Water). The train itself is simply an expedient means of getting out of town one step ahead of the consequences of their last escapade (a heist) and advancing quickly towards their next chosen objective (raiding a walking castle to make use of its portal to the elemental planes). The worm's attack is only meant to be a grand challenge in keeping with the by-the-skin-of-your-teeth nature of their quest.

I am seeking suggestions for specific obstacles (per the chase rules) to put in the path of my players in an upcoming planned encounter. We quite enjoy the cinematic feel of these rules, but in practice I find that most of the obstacles I quickly envision boil down to an Acrobatics check. I would prefer to move away from just Acrobatics and instead showcase both the strengths of the party and their weaknesses.

The premise - The party will be aboard a doomed train when it comes under assault by a Purple Worm in deep desert. It's a poorly optimized 6th level party, so a straight up fight against a Purple Worm would be a TPK and they know it. So this won't be a strict combat encounter. Instead, as they move forward through the cars, the worm's actions will generate obstacles and create opportunities to strike at vital points. The more of these points which they reach and exploit, the better the outcome. Hence the chase rules, which are specifically structured around quick decision making and multiple paths to success.

The party - A cannibalistic urban barbarian that tries (and fails) diplomacy whenever given the chance. A stretchy limbed aberrant gnome sorceress (the party's tank, don't ask) that invariably tries to solve problems with necromancy, whether that's a good idea or not. A lizardfolk alchemist that's an adept climber and capable of gliding, but is easily distracted by shiny things. A drow ranger and trick shot artist that will be constrained by the availability of shadows during this encounter. A witch that has so far filled the roll of healer and knowledge monkey, though she's not actually good at either of those things and would like to get more use out of hexes. They also have a couple of hangers on, a Falcon companion and an immature Fire Elemental kept as a pet.

With that background, do any interesting or at least amusing obstacles present themselves? Feel free to make whatever assumptions you like about the actual capabilities of the characters. These are not the sorts of players that will limit their actions to the sensible.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest you simply dig up a copy of Castle Ravenloft. At least I think that was the name of the module (published all the way back when TSR existed) that came bundled with an audio CD. As I recall, the tracks were a mix of effects, music and narration, so probably not of any direct use, but why not leverage off of what the designers thought was suitable music?

Dang it. Now I'm going to have to see if I still have it and listen to the bloody thing again.

I'm a bit surprised that this issue is anywhere near the top of your list of concerns in prepping for a high level campaign. Conditions are meant to add spice and variety to conflict but ultimately to be overcome. This really happens one of two ways. Either the players are suitably prepared by dint of research or planning, in which case they have devoted resources that could have been used elsewhere to negating/overcoming the threat and get to feel smart. Or they are taken more or less unawares and the healer gets a rare moment in the actual spotlight as they race to address the issue while even moderately intelligent bad guys try to hamper/isolate/delay him/her and divide his/her attention between multiple friends in need. That latter can be a wonderful race against the clock when you throw anti-magic, counterspelling, various combat maneuvers and even the simple silence spell into the mix.

There is a third option for using conditions of course. If you really want the team to have to deal with the effects, just use a continually reapplying source of the condition, whether it be a symbol, a trap or some creature (aberrations are often good here) that reapplies it as an aura. At that point it's basically an environmental effect and doesn't even need particular explanation. The party may just be in the Halls of Insanity, cursed ground on which that condition cannot be removed.

I'd like to suggest a couple pieces of additional reading from which you might benefit.

First, the explorer/adventurer Thor Heyderdahl (most famous for the Kon-Tiki expedition), at one time ventured to Easter Island. In his attempts to unearth the mysteries of the island, he went from rapelling down sheer cliffs (in his case sea cliffs) to belly crawling through soot and smoke-stained tunnels so confining it wasn't possible to turn around. By failing to notice that he'd crawled into one passage by the uppermost of two forks and backing up into the lower fork, he even wound up in a position where he thought the ceiling had caved in when it hadn't. This seems like something you could recreate as a non-combat encounter, especially if someone gets separated.

Second, the Mountains of Madness (by HP Lovecraft, also Beyond the Mountains of Madness by Chaosium Games) mentions a vast underground ocean, a black sea, inhabited by blind penguins and shambling ooze-like monsters that would crawl up the cliffs towards anyone making the slightest sound. In those writings it amounted to certain death. But whatever your underground race is, they might have some equivalent forbidden zone clearly marked in that language the party can't read.

Then of course there's Verne. The notion of a hollow earth, lava tubes and volcanic chimneys that provide a link to the surface, quicksand like salts, it all feels pretty surreal in his portrayal.

Lastly, if memory serves there are some real world examples in recent years of massive crystal formations found deep underground by explorers in (I think) South America. Quartz veins large enough to walk on, whole chambers that refract a single lamp's light into a brilliant display. You could probably find pictures online and use them as visual aids for amazing discoveries.

I think all you need is already in the environmental rules (Aquatic Terrain, Underwater Combat, Swimming). The best a single Mummy of the Deep could manage would be a 32' displacement of water over an area 80'x40', impressive but hardly a water cannon. A 32' displacement in a single round is comparable to a fast river as described under Flowing Water so use those rules. If two collaborate, you could arguably treat it as a Swept Away condition. Either way, any PC that didn't ready an action to dive and swim against the current (if you even permit that), is going for a ride. The direction of that ride would be mostly vertical unless the victim is already on the periphery, since the spell doesn't create a river per se. Once they're in the water, underwater combat and drowning rules probably come into play.

I'd like to offer a word of caution though. Mummies of the Deep have a mere 6 Int and probably won't be getting overly fancy with the spell.

Incidentally, if you do just want death... I think you're fixating a bit too much on the exotic. You noted that you have enough shadows to statistically guarantee attribute attrition. Fine. But you also have 500 skeletons and no reason at all they shouldn't be filling the skies with arrows each turn (the shadows won't mind). 500 bows should land 25 hits a turn no matter how good their defenses are. Unless everyone in the party also has lots of damage reduction or vast wells of healing (which I kind of figured they might have tapped if they're retreating to this location), that will add up fast with minimal effort on the part of the BBEG.

Teleport Trap and Clone could make this ambush a whole lot messier and more interesting at the same time, though it requires the bad guys to have previous experience with the heroes. The short version... separate the party effortlessly by making some of them exempt from the Teleport Trap (most of the rest will be left behind when they make their presumably easy Will Saves). Kill the fraction of the party that arrives in any of the ways described above. Have Clone spells prepared to get around a wide array of contingency plans. The slain are shunted into bodies that are already in restraints or worse (being reanimated in a body lacking hands or a tongue would be quite the hardship for spellcasters). The fraction that made their initial save? Well, now they know there's a trap waiting for them, but they have little choice but to go in at reduced strength to rescue their friends.

I suggest this route because your goal still seems to be to make things challenging and interesting, not simply to slaughter them. This approach forces a revision in tactics, steals momentum from the party, uses their own strengths against them and is very specifically not a TPK.

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Since you appear open to the notion of supernatural fallout for the nuke, might I suggest you unleash a Kaiju? One could easily have lain in torpor beneath Pitax long enough to be buried by the surrounding hills and been roused by the seismic shock of the impact. Once roused to ire, they have a preternatural tendency to hone in on the source of their anger, and if it advances directly upon the PC's city, they won't have any choice but to respond. Your particular pair might well defeat it, a mythic beast whose weaknesses are lost to myth and legend should very much be in the wheelhouse of your Oracle... but not without a substantial expenditure of resources and the close and lasting attention of neighboring kingdoms. I would be very curious if the Wizard could manage that situation without revealing his true character.

First off, I suspect you're overthinking it. By your questions you appear to be conflating the separate methodologies for designing NPC's and Monsters. That's always going to be confusing. The guidelines for adding class levels to monsters (and indeed the guidelines for designing your own monsters as well) are vague and loose to allow more freedom in tailoring your game. That said, here's how I would answer your questions...

1) What do you really get from this race, mechanically? Ghoul Fever and Paralysis (DC's of both based on Charisma) for unarmed attacks, Darkvision and Undead traits. Before you do anything else, consider the synergy between these abilities and your class features.

2) The standard Ghoul is a CR 1. I would categorize its role in combat as that of a martial. Without recapping whole sections of books, that means that if you add non-martial class levels, being a ghoul is going to have no impact on CR. If you're adding martial class levels, increase the CR by 1. In my opinion, if there is unusual synergy between class and race, I'd kick it up by 1 more.

3) The standard Ghoul described in the Bestiary does not have a standard stat array because it has no Constitution, but is roughly comparable to a 15 point array. There's little evidence of any racial stat modifications and in your case, I'd simply go with a 15 pt array and the mods of the NPC's previous race. Go with Heroic if these are meant to be impressive NPC's. Unless you max out Charisma the impact will be minimal.

4) Gear will be of limited importance in your final calculation. The difference between suggested NPC wealth and suggested PC wealth is simply huge. If you choose to give full PC wealth for its character level or even a level more or less, it doesn't make much difference... the NPC's CR will still be equal to it's class level (+1 if Martial). NPC wealth would reduce the overall CR by just 1.

So what does all that mean in practice? The overall package of heroic stats, high wealth and ghoulishness is worth CR +1, perhaps +2 if being a ghoul is especially complementary (like a Monk).

Might I offer the following. Rust monsters (or something similar) are indeed an apex predator, drawn to the area by the tangy aroma of Inevitable metals. Areas of the lab were secured against these pests by impregnating the metal of the gates with a pervasive bug repellent. It would be especially entertaining (to me) if players seeking to get past those gates should try to force an uncooperative rust monster to eat the extremely unappetizing door.

As for the "How"... I would posit that the disease is actually a curse delivered by one or more Inevitables. I mean, these creatures consider themselves the law and order for an unruly universe... surely they hold themselves to be inviolable and they aren't really known for mercy.

If I understand correctly, you're wondering how the economy of perfectly run-of-the-mill people would function in a place where life is completely dependent on the availability of external resources. That begs a few other questions regarding social constructs. What value is placed on human life? What is the form of government?

A wasteland colony overseen by altruistic oligarchs, perhaps a scholarly society dedicated to the exploration of the wastes, may well choose to retain metals as the basis of the economy, but might forego actual currency and moneylenders for fortress-like assay offices and scrip. Actual monetary transactions would be reserved for foreign merchants and there would be a great many of those... after all, everyone needs to eat.

An exploitative cabal with a monopoly on trade on the other hand, might run their entire economy on credit, essentially enslaving the entire community for life by charging them for every dram of water or crumb of food at exhorbitant prices and issuing draconian punishments for underperformance. Taken to extremes, those who die in debt might be harvested for their flesh and water and necromancers might do a brisk trade in tireless servants.

In either event, it is unlikely that basic foodstuffs would be treated as currency. Too variable and in many cases, too perishable. Salt and other spices on the other hand, would retain great value for their ability to transform bleak and meager fare into satisfying meals. That sort of tradegood also holds value outside the wastes. A futures exchange might also emerge.

Another thought... if the metallic wildlife does actually breed and grow, then it stands to reason that there must also be some natural mechanism to keep the wastes in check. Mining/ranching wouldn't necessarily do it. Perhaps these metals do not endure outside the peculiar environment of the wastes. Or perhaps there are fearsome predators akin to rust monsters against which one must always be alert.

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I'd like to offer a different perspective. If you're trying to nail down the best outsiders to shackle with this discovery, you're really thinking too small. While technically your selection might be immutable and eventually become obsolete, it will always be of value if the character plans to do more with binding than dabble. Knowledge of /any/ True Name is a commodity that can be bartered and sold and per the rules in Ultimate Magic, you need never spend another feat to learn more and make use of them in Planar Binding. You could spend the balance of a campaign leveraging your scraps of knowledge for others and building an ever increasing stable of Outsiders that can hardly resist your summons. That could be as humorous as playing Pokemon in your Pathfinder game or it could completely redefine the scope and reorient the aim of the campaign (often a plus in high level play).

It's a bit hard to advise you without knowing what you think would be boring with the premise. I'll go out on a limb and guess you're worried about the upper levels, where a well prepared party specialized in fighting dragons will make short work of them despite their many tricks. If that's the case, consider...

Xorvintaal - Political chess carried out between draconic grandmasters in which moves can take centuries and consume nations. The description of this game is (I think) in the 3.5 Monstrous Compendium 3 and it includes several intriguing ways to customize your dragons or incorporate that most dangerous of game, antagonistic adventuring parties (in service to one or more dragons).

RPG Superstar's dragon design competition of several years back. From what I recall, most of the high performers were exquisitely crafted and unique pre-made npcs with enough stubs to easily flesh out into adventures that would keep people guessing. The entries would (I think) still be in these forums.

Go all the way with cliches. Many a player/gamemaster forgets that super-intelligent, long-lived, paranoid creatures may well lair in places that heavily tax intruders long before an encounter takes place. This is often somewhat handwaved in the interests of making adventures viable... but there is no real harm in creating an environment so brutal that the adventurers have to retreat once or twice before reaching their ultimate goal.

Make the players the hunted. My favorite version of this was in Knights of the Dinner Table. Dragons have relatives, are vengeful, and have the resources to seek out crunchy bipeds. When your players find themselves ambushed by an ancient blue dragon in the middle of their duel with a red it /will/ be more exciting. And if they have to carry out their hunt in secrecy to avoid predation then you have a game where the tables are constantly turning.

If you have a Druid in the party this would be a wonderful animal to see Awakened. After all, it has an actual background. Perhaps it would remember a few of its masters secrets or perhaps it would pine to have him back. Just imagine the fun when the pooch leads the party to master's secret stash of diamond dust, steals it from them in the dead of night, digs up master's remains and delivers both to the doorstep of the local church.

Glad to help. I had one more thought to contribute. If you would like to have the encounter have a bit of impact even after the party has won, consider the sorts of maladies that might linger on in such an abattoir long after they were otherwise extinct in the outer world. Expose them to some wild disease, preferably one that dovetails nicely with the plot. Perhaps there's no one left that knows how to cure it except in Townsville, perhaps they hear a fireside tale in the tavern about how that same plague ravaged Citysburg, or perhaps a scholar of medicine (who talks about them like specimens) might reward them for live cultures (wouldn't that be an interesting bit of treasure?).

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This is a situation where I think a good backstory pays off. If you haven't already defined it, you can still throw out some lore with an abandoned journal or scrawlings in blood on some enormous and enigmatic bones, etc. The maze itself is actually the skeletal remnant of some immense and ancient beast that refuses to move into the world beyond. Its bones lie mouldering where it fell so long ago, but its spirit refuses to yield its grip on this world and has manifested as the merciless champion. This malevolent force has slain countless brave warriors that desecrated its physical body (by trespassing here) and spitefully bound their bodies and souls into eternal servitude, etc etc.

Functionally this would lead to a scene like this...
The arena is actually the maw of the beast. When the champion sustains damage the walls of the colliseum shudder and move. Boulder-sized chunks of sandstone rain down on parts of the battlefield and clouds of dust arise as enormous teeth spasm in response to the injury. As the battle wages on, the spasms become more pronounced. The terrain shifts rapidly, with portions rising up like walls or dropping away in fissures and sinkholes. All the while, as a dull and alien roar from deep beneath the earth drowns out much of the battlefield, movement can be seen on the perimeter as all the undead not previously slain flock toward their master. And ultimately the players must question whether they should fight or flee before the jaw closes upon them.

Mechanically, you can now include as many environmental effects as you wish, scale them to suit the mood of the encounter and dispel them just as quickly as they appeared. I would most likely execute these effects as follows. Each time the champion is struck a solid blow, more dust falls, most likely creating full concealment within 5' per blow of the arena wall. At the same time, call for a reflex (low DC) for half the party (chosen randomly) to avoid falling rocks (also low damage). Place a sinkhole under anyone that remains completely stationary for 2 rounds (1 if they're engaging in melee) and simply have it make them flat footed. The shifting terrain can be randomized by flipping coins onto the field. Heads up, a coin is an uplifted block (difficult terrain, partial cover). Heads down, it's a small fissure (pit). Flip the coins again when the champion takes more damage. Occasionally move the outer wall in a square as the mouth starts to close. Finally, at some point (maybe the half-way mark), make it loud enough that perception checks are required to communicate.

Mind you... I rather like environmental overkill. Every one of these can still be occurring and mean nothing at all mechanically if the encounter is already sufficiently challenging on both sides. But options are good and the image of fighting inside the mouth as it closes should be sufficiently memorable even if it doesn't actually change the tactics.

I rather like some of the more mundane uses for this spell to which an npc might put it to work. I could see a prosperous nation with more money than sense (not an uncommon sight in a fantasy setting) doing any of these...

1) Rebuild a livestock population with a few illusory additions to the breeding pool. Don't think too hard about this one, but the spell doesn't impose any restrictions that would suggest infertility.

2) Picture perfect landscaping. Wouldn't it be nice if every street corner had a tree just like that one? Well now it can, and as an added bonus, the copies won't even grow if you define that as gaining HD.

3) Ever have lascivious interest in someone that didn't reciprocate? Don't worry about it. That shady fellow down the street knows a place where a perfectly docile copy can be purchased or rented.

4) The petting zoo. Children of all ages will delight in this wholesome venue, where they can pet baby animals that never grow up and thrill to see flawless daredevil performances in which you are never actually in any danger.

5) Entrapment. Okay sure, your plan to replace the king will inevitably be found out in due course. But if you just want to frame the jerk that ran off with your wife, stole your horse and shot your dog? Who's to say that 500 GP isn't money well spent when it lets you see someone you hate convicted of a crime they didn't commit?

6) Reparations. Bob has murdered Joe, depriving Joe's wife Jane of his livelihood. The city fines Bob for the price of a simulacra. Jane has the next best thing to her husband back (some would argue better, since he'll put the toilet seat down).

On the more exploitative side, there's always this one...
The Saboteur -- Simulacra Pugwampi, with or without its spell-like abilities (I'd argue that a 1/2 HD simulacra would still have them), it's also a stealthy, intelligent trap-spotter, snare-builder and of course, bad luck magnet.

This would be an excellent opportunity to make use of the chase scene rules. Perhaps it would look something like this...

Mystic control of the beast is not absolute, is strictly short-range and is only possible because of the BBEG's attunement to several runic seals on Dragon Caesar's hide. The villain and his tactical team will therefore be flanking the beast and the easiest way to do that in a crumbling city would be across the rooftops (and perhaps the beast itself). Design your obstacle cards with general drama, character-tailored opportunities (especially if they're good at something they never get to do) and snapshots of the rampage. Chase scenes are also an excellent opportunity for the party to split up to pursue multiple objectives without it amounting to suicide.

Examples of dramatic obstacles... acrobatic leaps across alleyways, balancing acts on clotheslines, knowledge:engineering checks to know where not to be when structures collapse, animal handling to spook flights of pigeons into the beasts eyes, diplomacy to get the civilian to stop freaking out and get to safety.

Examples of tailored obstacles... the archer's opportunity for an extremely long shot at a seal, the barbarian's chance to sever the claws of a foot if he dodges and sunders just right, the rogue's opportunity to blind the beast or turn its fiery breath, the magus' chance to save the little church by turning the beast with a well-timed shocking grasp to the flank, or the summoner's realization that the seals are so similar to planar binding that he might seize control with a ritual of his own, a ritual that will only be possible if he interrogates a villain the fighter gets the drop on in the middle of the fracas.

Examples of rampage obstacles... reflex saves to avoid falling towers, climb checks to latch onto the beast, escape artist checks to avoid getting squashed, and of course single (probably largely scaled back) attacks with the payoff of a chance to strike back with impunity. If all else fails perhaps the party will win by a thousand cuts.

The actual map would consist solely of the chase scene cards per those rules, and an 8x8 grid would give you lots of flexibility. Maybe even remove a card from time to time to suggest that an opportunity has disappeared.

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The cultists' understanding of divine design is somewhat lacking. The PCs have been caught up in a sweeping wager between Zon-Kuthon and Abadar. Should they be carved up like so much cattle in the (insert place of destiny), Abadar will venture into exile until the sky falls, leaving Zon-Kuthon in command of all the treasures of the First Vault. Should they instead succeed in carrying an icon of the First Shadow to (insert another place of destiny) and destroy it, Zon-Kuthon shall be stripped of his greatest powers and resume his own exile.

Zon-Kuthon has of course cheated, depriving the PCs of their memories even as they stood on the cusp of victory. His minions could not however, relieve them of the icon, for it has been woven into the flesh of the party in an intricate rune sealed by Shelyn (the arbiter of the wager). The runes themselves form a map to (2nd place of destiny), and the journey there will be one of rediscovery, for the party has already gone this way before. Clues to their past (and forgotten allies) litter the road ahead, but as they put the pieces together it will be clear that they are heading into a trap that has bested them once before. And... having seen the runic map, the cultists know where they're going, so this trip will be harder than the last unless they try to find a new path to the goal (thereby exploring more of the Inner Sea region).

Unless you have concerns about her raw combat values not stacking up, the Fungus Queen really doesn't need class levels to serve as a BBEG. She already has many of the advantages of the succubus and the vampire; impersonation, telepathy, teleportation and the creation of loyal spawn. Then of course there's the plant empathy, which is as versatile as your imagination.

I am of the opinion that careful selection of her minions would be enough to make her memorable, especially if you're advancing into her lair. The 24 HD limit of Create Spawn is enough to have a pet succubus (more energy drain and mind control), a dryad (entangle) and a full-fledged druid. Give the druid a companion and an awakened tree. Summon the succubus' babau. Add in a few strands of ivy trained to release dangerously unstable pieces of masonry on command, a flanking shrubbery or two, a lovesick assassin vine, a dominated bard and, just to round out the confusion, a dominated shambling mound.

That said, if you want her own combat prowess to matter, I'd go with Monk (Maneuver Master), probably focusing on bullrush or reposition to drive people into bad spots. The Lunge feat would supplement nicely if you feel she should threaten through the sporepods. You could of course take advantage of her high charisma and go with bard, making her cannon fodder significantly more dangerous and adding fascinate to her repertoire.

If you're really looking for a siege weapon in the classical sense (a weapon which makes it possible to demolish or circumvent defenses that would not be assailable in the conventional sense) I think your overlord wants barrage balloons. A dirigible seems well within the wheelhouse of a competent alchemist. Fit it out like a bomber, with a fearless crew of plague-riddled zombies dropping alchemical oozes, smokesticks, alchemist's fire, etc) and send it on a suicide run with orders to light the gas bag over a cluster of rooftops to recreate the Hindenburg. For added misery, desecrate/unhallow the craft to bolster the crew and put a Hungry Fog in the gas bag.

I equate experience with actual learning and growth so I would never award xp for anonymous incidentally slaughtered crewmen. I would however offer a substantial story award for the clever play (obviously a learning experience). If you're looking for an actual figure... it sounds like a fairly epic achievement, so I would treat it as APL+3.

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I presume you mean bee keepers that specialize in giant bees, but a bee keeper that's a giant could also be fun. Some would consider a Cloud Giant Apiculturist a major menace as he moves across the landscape on his fluffy flying fortress, allowing his hives to devastate the local ecology wherever he goes.

Also, if I remember correctly, the Corpse Flower is an oddity in that it has evolved to attract flies as pollinators. It takes its name from an aroma not unlike that of rotting meat (attractive to carrion eaters). That brings to mind a few questions about the ecology of giant vermin in general...

How much blood does it take to sustain a swarm of Giant Mosquitoes?
What great beast produces enough manure to make a colony of Giant Dung Beetles feasible? Are there entire forests girdled and killed by the movement of growing megainsectae under the bark? And since crabs are also vermin... do crabbing vessels occasionally disappear when a ship-killer crab gives the pot-lines a good tug and sinks the whole craft? So many strange and interesting stories can emerge from fantasy ecology. It's neat.

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I don't feel the traditional lycanthropic package is a good fit for a bee, but there are some interesting concepts it might open up for exploration. Perhaps those stung near to death by an accursed hive burst into a swarm of insects that become a part of the collective, only regaining some semblance of individual identity when solar flare cycles impede the hive mind. Such an individual might return to its loved ones, ultimately dooming them to a similar fate when its bestial nature reasserts, or perhaps during this narrow window of opportunity they can be saved. Perhaps someone that has survived transformation into an Apiatrope and later recovered retains an echo of the hive mind and is never quite... right...

As for the Bee Dancer, Vod is quite right and the visual on that would be priceless. I was of course just drawing from the horse whisperer trope. Perhaps this community picks its new liaison with a season of So You Think You Can (Bee) Dance?

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If you're going to go down that road, consider working a Vermin Druid into your campaign (I can't seem to find the archetype any longer for some reason, but it's out there). In a community that cares about their bees, a Bee Whisperer would be invaluable. One might even reside in a major hive to ensure its safety through the dormant season. Little would shock PC's more in their quest to raid a hive than a highly intelligent bee companion or worse, a spell-casting bee. It's somewhat debatable whether a Giant Bee could be Awakened, since the spell is clearly intended for animals and plants but does not explicitly call for the Animal type. If you were to allow it, an Awakened Queen could be a very interesting NPC.

Elemental Kin Archetype might be interesting... when you take significant energy damage it extends how long you can Rage and therefore how long the Stormshape would remain buffed. But like most of the archetype benefits, you won't see this unless you're significantly multiclassing (Elemental Kin needs to hit level 3 for that perk). There are some interesting racial options however. Orc and half-orc both extend your rage, Elf increases your movement speed, both as favored class bonuses. wavebreaker plus enhanced fast movement suggests a swimming battle cleric that can outmaneuver sea monsters. It might be tempting to prep Control Water if you had that option.

A dip into Fighter doesn't seem to bring a lot to the table with this prestige class. Storm Shape doesn't call for an attack roll and deals unarmed strike damage. Wavebreaker loses its luster if you're burdened by armor. Most of the Master of Storms' other abilities are passives designed to counter some basic weather effects or spellcaster tricks (electrical damage, deafness, fog, wind) and allow the MoS to use his own wind abilities without screwing over allies.

A dip into Barbarian /might/ have some use. Fast Movement and a boost to strength from Rage would benefit the Storm Shape. It also fits the tempestuous nature of the class and of the Separatist concept. I want to give Monk a shout out here as well, but the delayed fast movement and meager early boosts to unarmed damage and AC probably just aren't worth the loss of spell progression.

Featwise, Guided Hand would make you more accurate. It also requires Channel Smite which isn't exactly useless.

The undead might have another possible advantage... if you can make a couple of variant Shadows that drain Dex instead of Strength, your opponents will more regularly go flying. Curses could achieve the same effect on hard targets.

Master of the Dark Triad wrote:
Yeah, so no Druid. And peasant, while I appreciate the help, the thread has changed purpose.

I did actually read the thread. I thought Williamoak might still be interested in an answer to his original query. To remake your cleric as a Master of Storms... I'd go with a Separatist, partly for roleplay purposes and partly for unusual and interesting domain combos. Air (Wind), because you mentioned an elemental lord and perhaps Destruction (Catastrophe) to make him seem quite malevolent. Between the two you now have stormy combat options that do not rely upon just turning into a whirlwind. For your character I'd have to abandon the truename concept, though if you liked it, it could be achieved by taking one of the domains that adds Planar Binding to the spell list. For a creepy alternate I'd probably have him employ Animate Dead on a few large creatures. Aura of Calm would allow large undead minions free reign to battle at his command while others must seek cover from the winds. The divination options for clerics are also strong and I personally would enjoy seeing such a character Commune with powers outside his mother church when simpler prayers didn't get results. Feat-wise I'd still want Enlarge Spell, just to rain down lightning from further away. Even if you're not on a ship, there should be some hint of an approaching storm.

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Since you want to avoid fantastical explanations, let's consider some bee trivia. A typical honeybee regularly ranges across twelve square miles and weighs in at ~100 mg. In a typical journey it will visit 1500 flowers scattered over a 12 sq. mile range and it will repeat this without sleep for its entire 7-week lifespan, along with its 70-100,000 hivemates.

Paizo has kindly provided us the weight and dimensions of a giant bee. There's an incongruity there... if we presume that the giant bee has the same proportions as a honey bee then the weight is on the low side, but my sense of verisimilitude likes a sleaker and more aerodynamic insect. At 60 lbs, if the giant bee's metabolic efficiency is similar to the honeybee (this is probably untrue, given their longer 10 year lifespan), a single insect is the equivalent of 3 normal hives. Possibly foreseeing exactly your question, Paizo has also kindly told us that the largest organizational structure of Giant Bees is a Nest that tops out at 19. This would make the most robust Giant Bee colony in Golarion the equivalent of 60 hives. Now, hives of normal bees can coexist in overlapping territory, but let's presume that isn't the case for the giants. 60 hives have a combined foraging territory of 720 square miles (a 15 mile radius). That's not so hard to believe really.

Then of course we can add a bit of symbiotic ecology to the mix. If giant bees are super pollinators, farmers might well choose to rotate dense clover fields into their crop rotation to attract their attention. Such a bounty would reduce the necessary foraging range of the bees and every little community could sustain a colony of its own. Farmers might go so far as to venerate the bees and hunt the larger raptors and spiders that prey upon them. Or perhaps they sustainably hunt the bees themselves, for meat, fuzz or stingers to make into farm tools and sharp pointy weapons. This latter notion also plays into the visual you probably have of giant bee swarms that cover entire fields. Not everything in a colony needs to have reached full size. One consisting of 2' long 10 lb bees (use the young template for stats) could have 120 insects, a perfectly ample swarm by any account.

One could also venture into the world of the slightly fantastical without having to go whole hog. Evolutionarily speaking, if Giant Bees are in the area, it is to a plant's advantage to produce more pollen. Even a slightly enlarged calyx, carried across an entire landscape, allows the bees to exist in tighter confines. The fantastic landscape of ten foot tulips and daisies is complete overkill.

Wow that was long. I must be bored... I mean I engaged in actual research to answer the question.

I rather like the idea that your master of storms could be a foul-mouthed and hot-tempered blowhard that has thrown in with the pirate queen at least in part because the rest of the world finds him/her insufferable and dry land just doesn't feel right underfoot. The pirate queen is happy enough to have him/her aboard because every bad ship can benefit from a ship's mage and a proper wizard has attributes that better fit the role than any other spellcaster... a spell list that can be tailored before a raid, long range firepower the divine casters cannot match, unlikely to be preachy or prickly about eventualities and unlikely to have the charisma to pose a threat of mutiny.

Apologies in advance for any retread ideas here (I haven't read Treantmonk's guide), but in the actual construction of the character, I would deemphasize the Master of Storms prestige class in lieu of some of the strengths of the wizard. In my opinion the most valuable and exploitable abilities of the Master of Storms are Seasight and Aura of Calm. Their other abilities are also solid, but this sort of a mage is too valuable to risk in close quarters and whirlwind form isn't exactly friendly to the crew.

Wizard 11 (Divination), Master of Storms 5

(Class Features) Forewarned, Diviner's Fortune, Scrying Adept, Oceanic Spirit, Seasight, Storm Shape (30', Medium), Aura of Calm (10'), Wavebreaker, Thunderstruck, Arcane Bond

(Feats) Scribe Scroll, Storm-lashed, Still Spell, Heighten Spell, Disruptive Spell, Enlarge Spell, Extend Spell, Merciful Spell, Preferred Spell, Spell Mastery, Spell Perfection, Arcane Discovery: True Name

There's obviously room to tailor the build around your favorite spell. For a pirate mage I would suggest Pyrotechnics as the Perfected and Preferred Spell. As an opening gambit, an extremely long range (Enlarge) debilitating area of effect that can hamper even moderately talented opposing mages (Disruptive and Heighten) is nothing to scoff at. Control Weather would be a good addition to Spell Mastery. Shipwrecks, marooning and jailbreaks are all part and parcel for a pirate and in any of these situations where a spellbook may have been lost, a convenient Tornado or even a soothing rain could be handy. If you're using Mythic tiers I also quite like the abbreviated casting time of this spell.

The unique strengths of this build however, lay in the school and discovery. What pirate queen wouldn't want a diviner on hand that cannot be surprised and inherently knows when her vessel is being scryed upon by authorities? Add to this that the mage knows the true name of a Shazadha which can be called upon for a great many things, none of which is as valuable as a yearly wish. (The Shazadha would be slightly weaker than normal to fit in the 12 HD limit of the discovery). As to why the mage doesn't use said wish himself... well, he's not stupid... but such things would hold allure for a pirate queen.

Titania, the Summer Queen wrote:
Who they have to pay for inspection.

If the government official is not the one paying, then the courtesan isn't doing it right...

Titania, the Summer Queen wrote:
I was thinking of adding a limit determined by your ranks. Maybe a dm roll of d4 for ranks of 1-5, d6 for 6-10, d8's for ranks of 11 plus.

While I still feel that your figures, tied to the Profession skill, suggest that prostitution is the backbone of the economy, I like this limitation. It suggests that less experienced prostitutes manage their time less efficiently, fail to stand out among competition or simply lack endurance/perseverance.

As an aside, and because Pathfinder logic can be fun... An intimate encounter would most likely be resolved with a single die roll. According to Paizo's NPC Gallery, a typical Drunkard is a CR 1 encounter. That makes a single drunkard worth 135 xp each to a party of 1-3 aspiring prostitutes. On the standard xp track, and continuing to use Paizo's NPC Gallery, after 15 such encounters they would be considered a typical Prostitute (Expert 1/Rogue 1). Since an APL +0 encounter is thought to consume around 25% of resources (in this case probably fatigue), that would take about 4 days. Further intimate encounters would become progressively easier as the tumble dropped to APL-1 and lower and the levels would just fly by. After 778 drunks, which would take a mere seven months even at the unambitious pace of 4/night set in the early days the trio would reach Merchant Prince (Expert 4/Rogue 6) level. Inexplicably, these prostitutes would rarely be murdered by their johns, having more than enough hit points to soak up something as trivial as a sword to the gut and would have adequate character wealth to pay for Remove Disease til the cows come home.

The moral of the story? Calistrian temples must love Spring Break. After a mere two week drunken party, their acolytes could become master courtesans and fill the temple coffers with an unseemly amount of coin.

Without knowing the true value of a gold piece in your homebrew it's difficult to fairly judge these numbers. That said, let us imagine a somewhat comely (Cha 16) and street smart (Wis) individual that knows the ins and outs of the trade (Profession and Diplomacy are trained skills) but is inexperienced. For such a person, entirely average rolls on these tables would be Profession 17-18 & Diplomacy 15-16... two clients and a total of ~1.35 GP... in an hour. A slightly off hour (just one customer) would cut the income by half.

Let's compare that to the Profession skill RAW. The same person would earn ~9 GP per week of "dedicated" work, which probably means something akin to the 40-hour work week, though it might mean much longer hours in a fantasy setting. That works out to something like 2 SP per hour, slightly less than a completely average and untrained person would make for whoring on these tables (results of 10 and 10 produce 3 SP in an hour). Per RAW for the skill, untrained laborers (persons lacking any ranks in Profession) earn 1 SP per day (let's call that 1 CP per hour). These numbers suggest that unless you are trying to portray a den of iniquity, your figures are a bit off. Spreading one's legs increases the income of the common man or woman by 3000% and dwarfs the earning potential of trades that require significant training.

... It is noteworthy at this point in the analysis that Diplomacy has a multiplicative effect, whereas Profession has only an additive effect on your income. In settings where prostitution is legal and moral, Paladins would be among your top performers...

Your figures make a lot more sense to me if we consider the Perform skill, which also outstrips the earning potential of a mere profession. Per the RAW for that skill, the same individual would earn ~6 SP per evening's work but it would take only a small circumstance bonus, a masterwork "instrument" or a bit of luck to reach parity with the income from your tables. Reclassifying prostitution as Perform is probably a better fit, though I would hesitate to try and figure out what skills to associate with Versatile Performance (Prostitution). If you made that change these tables become a way to add detail to the execution of the skill but do not imbalance it any particular fashion.

Escrat, the term you are probably looking for is simply "snow line", the demarcation of an area that accumulates more snow than melts in a year and thus forms a glacier. Alpine zone (meaning above the treeline) is more flavorful. In 3.5 the term Frostfell was coined for areas in which this took place through unnatural means. None of that is particularly relevant to your story however.

Now, as to your situation... frankly, letting the dying dragon die strikes me as an entirely neutral act. If the Ranger lacks the stomach to dispatch it, fine, but if he's taking the time to assume the moral highground here, he deserves to be dressed down for another reason alltogether. Frankly, he's not doing his job! As the tracker, his first priority should be following the blood trail back to its source to try and determine if the party is in any immediate danger from whatever took out the dragon (or the pursuing barbarians for that matters). If he isn't going to fulfill his own responsibilities he doesn't deserve a say in how others conduct theirs.

If there are no points of reference of any kind and the giants truly look human in every proportion, then the giants will be more or less on top of them before anyone has a clue. However, I consider this circumstance extremely unlikely.

If the ships are at a low enough altitude and the day is bright enough, a discrepancy in their shadows over land could be distinguished at a range of several miles. In this case I might actually rule that a conspicuously large shadow automatically draws the eye but call for a Knowledge (Engineering) check to realize it's importance. Perhaps DC 15. At 1000 yards, if you want to be very generous, one of the giant's might toss a bit of trash overboard and a keen observer might notice that it seems to distance itself from the ship unusually slowly.

It is doubtful that every detail of the Giant's ship is in the same proportion. Some components simply don't need to be scaled up, like the thickness of rope or the size of a flag. Some components of a ship that size would be of unusual manufacture (the mast for instance would probably have to be a fairly rare tree). Any live food, like sheep, might also provide a point of reference. These features would probably become distinguishable at a range of say 200 meters. However, since ships vary and animals grow, it might take someone with a bit of expertise to pick up on it. Perception 15, Profession (Shipbuilder) or Knowledge (Nature) 15 respectively.

At one hundred yards it might become possible to discern ethnicity (recognizing hair color, complexion, etc.) and the details of the flag should be fairly visible. A much higher Perception check (20-25) might notice something out of place at this range or you could call on the rarely asked for Knowledge (Geography) at 15 (20 if Giants are unusual in the world).

At closer than 100 yards relative altitude might become important. The moment one ship's shadow crosses the other, it should provide a pretty big clue. Something unusual about the sound of the ship's creaking timbers might stand out and if they're speaking on deck, Gianttongue might be heard. Air currents around a large ship might create turbulence. But really if the giant's are hostile, at this point the PC's are in rock-throwing range...

You might have noticed I emphasize using other skills instead of Perception? Perception is designed more for close range scrutiny than any kind of long range observation. Even with a spyglass, detecting a ship at 200 yards has a -30 penalty. Better to handwave the basic ability to see general features on the horizon and focus on more specific knowledge when clues might become visible.

*edit* And I notice others offered similar ideas while I was slowly writing. Everything they said too. :)

Well... kukris don't have to have anything to do with the actual campaign to merit that kind of response. I know nothing about the campaign but the title alone hints at the presence of dragons. Kukris are an optimal choice for high AC targets but not the stereotypical barbarian weapon. And so, his mind put 2+2 together and came up with Pi. Given that he laughed it off I also rather doubt it was really meant as an accusation.

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