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The trouble with Ravengro is that the town is written to be super unfriendly and suspicious, and yet the players are still expected to care about the town and its people.

Not to mention that I have a couple off-race characters (a full-blood Orc and a tiefling), and I felt narratively compelled to make the town overwhelmingly racist towards them.

So it's a bit of a balancing act as a GM. I've gone out of my way to work in scenes that will show at least some of the characters as sympathetic towards the players. It's something your GM should be trying to do as well, but can be entirely forgiven if (s)he hasn't found a good way to do it yet.

That said, there's only so much you can do. As a player you could really improve the adventure (and help out your GM) by trying to find some reasons for your character to want to stay and help the town. Perhaps he could fall for a local girl (Kendra, even), or make friends with the bartender (Zokar at the Laughing Demon is super friendly, if you haven't chatted him up yet). There are a couple of other people who were friendly with the professor and at his funeral that you might also make friends with.

And yeah, the priest is totally creepy looking. Welcome to Ustalav ;)


There's a decent number of suggestions throughout these boards for ways to change up Harrowstone. Vesorianna as the main BBEG in the prison, for instance. That might throw your players for a loop. Or coming up with new and interesting ways for the 5 prisoners to haunt your players while in town. You could also re-design the prison layout to throw your player off.


Wow, lot's of great feedback! Thanks everybody.

Rather than reply one-by-one I'm just going to try and group all my replies together by theme.

1) My general narrative direction. Once again, ****IF YOU'RE IN MY GROUP, DO NOT READ.****

Spoiler:
So the boyfriend of the orc player specifically requested that his girlfriend's character, since she will not be coming back, be "brutally murdered by the undead." I think this is to differentiate his character's backstory from that of the Paladin, who both previously had the "family murdered by the undead" backstory.

So what I've decided to do is this. Harrowstone has lain dormant, but due to the influence of the Whispering Way is slowly reawakening. I've already lain the groundwork for this when the Paladin detected evil while they were examining the site from the outskirts:

"You reach out with your mind and your faith, looking for traces of evil. You detect nothing...and yet...at the very edges of your senses, it is almost as if there is something flickering there. Like a shadow flitting at the very edges of your vision, that disappears as soon as you turn your head to see."

The Paladin's player is smart, and I think he picked up on pretty close to what that meant: there is something evil there, but it lies dormant...for now.

This is the first part of my plan to draw the players away from Harrowstone. By downplaying the evil there I've perhaps knocked down exploring the prison a priority peg or two. They're still pretty obsessed with investigating the Professor's murder, but have at least decided to explore the cache first, as they know it's not a pressing or imminent concern.

The second part of my part of my master plan will come the first night of next session, as the spirits of Harrowstone awaken and reach out for the first time. Many are still too weak to cause direct effect, but I think at least one player will hear eerie fiddle music drifting through the night (I've re-skinned the Piper as the Fiddler, to make use of some creepy violin music I found online). Another player will be awoken by strange dreams, and come down the stairs to find Kendra shuffling items oddly around the house. If interrupted, she'll look at them confused before asking.

"I...I was wondering...how do you spell your name?"

They'll also notice that the orc barbarianess' sleeping cot is empty, with the ranger snoring peacefully on the cot beside. A foreshadow for what is to come, as a loud rapping breaks the PC and Kendra out of their haze.

Whomever opens the door will find Sheriff Benjen standing there.

"I... Y'all...y'all should come with me. It's...I'm so sorry."

The party will stir from bed and follow after the Sherriff, who will talk awkwardly but circularly, not really sure how best to describe what has happened. Unfortunately for them they'll see soon enough. It's the barbarianess, of course. Butchered and violated by TSM and his unwilling accomplice (who was hopefully "cleared" of wrongdoing by the Archivist last session). Her broken body is impaled on the statue's bronze spear. Beneath, written in her blood, is emblazoned the letter 'E'.

Sheriff Benjen will explain to the party that this is not the first time such a thing has happened. A blood-written 'V' appeared only a couple days after the Professor's body was found. This gave credence to what many townsfolk had suspected all along - that the professor was a necromancer or witch, engrossed in the study of the dark arts. Benjen's deputies found a goat slaughtered a half mile or so away and suspected it was some cruel trickster, but the rumour was already out and the poor Sheriff had little power to stop it.

Hopefully that will be enough to occupy the players, and draw them away from Harrowstone...at least for the time being. I'll give them a day or so to investigate (the rain will pick up shortly after the body is found, and the tracks will lead nowhere this time) before I start throwing the optional events at them, hopefully twigging them on the need to investigate the five prisoners. I'll try to introduce the town dog Old River as well, likely in a sympathy-inducing moment with Gibs-the-animal-lover. I can see the two old mongrels having some common ground on which to bond, right? Just because TSM isn't a fan of animals doesn't mean that Gibs isn't...

2) The "Jerks of Ravengro"

So yeah, I definitely see how people have problems here. I probably went a little overboard on the "jerk" aspect, seeing as how the party did so poorly with their first impressions. Even the cleric was around for the casket opening, so I figured he didn't make a very good impression on the Priest (with whom he already had some interaction).

Zokar I did play as friendly to the PCs, even if his brother wasn't. I was going to play the Alchemist as friendly too, but...you know...opening the coffin and all that. Not quite sure what to do there.

I think I'll go through the NPC list and find some other people with reason to be friendly.

3) "Early Entry to Harrowstone."

Spoiler:
Originally I'd thrown some heavy steel chains over the gate (to replace those the Professor had broken with acid, like he had with the locks to the cache). However my PCs just climbed the wall when they failed to break them, so hopefully my gambit pays off, and the PCs are too preoccupied in town to venture into the prison again.

However, in case they do this was my plan:

Rather than "railroad" the PCs with artificial entry points, my plan was to have Harrowstone be much older and more decrepit than is explained in the AP. There will be more collapse, fewer open rooms, and more apparent decay. However, as the power of the haunting begins to awaken the prison will slowly return to its original state, to evidence the growing power of the prison.

By "slowly" I mean over the course of a visit or two, depending on how often they choose to venture in there. I don't want to pull my punches too much, but I also want very much to set up TSM as the BBEG of this module, and that is undermined if they encounter and defeat him too early.

My plan was for the first entry to be largely devoid of any blatant haunting. However, if they delve far enough in they'll awaken, and I'll activate all the haunts for their trip back out.

4) Trust

So I haven't actually told my players about the trust mechanic, per se. I've described how the villagers are slow to trust them, and described how what they did was...bad. But they don't know the numbers, nor that there are any.

I'm not above giving them trust rewards for all sorts of things, and indeed rewarded the Archivist with one for successfully disarming the confrontation with the barbarian. Hopefully some of the "optional events" will help out here.

I'm also considering throwing in a festival in the next couple of days, or at least having Kendra drop hints that one is coming up and that the PCs would do well to pitch in and earn the villagers' trust that way. My party has plenty of strong bodies who are getting themselves into trouble whilst they wait for the intellectual-types to sort things out for them. Might be a good way to keep them occupied? :P

5) Roleplaying

Just to be clear, I am absolutely pleased with my players' roleplaying, and have zero complaints in that department. Even the new players have been jumping in and exploring their characters, and I'm super proud of all of them.

It's just that the way they're roleplaying their characters is entirely not what I expected, and has shot my carefully lain plans all to s!*~. If I could only herd them back in the right direction everything would be golden.

Anyways, thanks for all the help, folks! I have another week and a half to get ready for my next game, so I'm determined to be better prepared for next time. I know now what I need better notes on (the NPCs and locations), and what I need to prepare ahead of time (a bit of exposition here and there, and some dialogue). The highlights were definitely the parts where I had prepared the most, so I'm going to try and slot more of that in.

Cheers!


This is largely a venting post, as I haven't DM'ed in a while and am not yet inured to the frustrations of the party demolishing my carefully lain plans. There are also some...interesting corners they've backed me into that I would love the community's help with.

The Players:
Reginald Howbatten - human bard(archivist) - A haughty and condescending intellectual, who also works at the University of Lepistat and viewed the Professor as his principle rival (though this feeling was not mutual)

Brother Attaway - human cleric of pharasma - A travelling priest, who makes a living scribing and healing for locals at the many towns on his long circuit. As a priest of Pharasma he is also heavily invested in the battle against the Undead, and indeed picks his route to investigate recent uprisings of undead or rumours of necromancy. He and the Professor were allies in this endeavour, and Brother Attaway is deeply saddened by his friend's sudden passing.

Urzog - orcish ranger, favoured enemy undead - Urzog is a bounty hunter, though with a particular loathing for the undead. He once saved the professor's life, and the professor helped him out in return. Though he was never close with the Professor, he felt it his duty to see the man put to rest.

Golthoa - an orcish barbarian, played by the girlfriend of Urzog's player for just this session.

Sir Artius Aerulian - human paladin of iomedae (Undead Scourge) - Born to a family of minor nobility, he was still very young when an uprising of undead slew his entire family. Professor Lorimer was among those who responded to the threat, and after interviewing the child about his experiences made sure to see him put into the guardianship of a local Temple of Iomedae, where he grew up to be a holy warrior sworn to hunting the undead.

Elijah Tibbs - tiefling inquisitor of Iomedae - driven from society by the upsurge of his demon blood at puberty, the tiefling took to a life of vigilanteism in the name of his Goddess, battling against the evil forces that resulted in his accursed form.

The Game

Okay so seriously, *****SPOILERS*******. If you're in my group (and I know you're here reading this), then go no further. Seriously. Stop right now.

For everybody else....

I started the game with a bit of exposition, describing as Brother Attaway made his way down the familiar roads of Ravegro towards the home of his old friend. Kendra met him at the door and they exchanged pleasantries. The rest of the PCs had already arrived and gone to sleep, and Kendra found him dry clothes before showing him to a room.

In the morning he awoke to the sounds of conversation and clattering dishes. He came downstairs to find Kendra in the midst of serving a breakfast of eggs and ham to a motley collection of characters. Everybody introduced themselves then. The Archivist makes some snide remarks about the "uncivilized folks" in their midst, and already sparks are starting to fly. At this point I'm just glad I convinced the cleric not to go Undead Lord.

The other mourners arrive, and I let the players know that a number of them would be expected to serve as pallbearers. Four volunteer, including the two orcs. The procession makes its way to the Restlands, and Gibs and his compatriots confront the party as to be expected.

As the dialogue plays out, the bard attempts to dissuade them with (condescending) reason. To back it up he rolls a one on diplomacy. Gibs is having none of it. "Get 'em, boys!" Initiative is rolled and the Archivist goes first, backing him and his STR 8 CON 10 ass right back up. Kendra stands her ground, while the two orcs abandon their positions as Pallbearers to advance on the thugs with weapons drawn.

Now a spindly cleric and Paladin shouldn't be able to hold the casket (obviously), and I'm about to have them drop it as per the rules. But...the orc barbarian is looking like she's wanting to smash some s&&&, and I'm getting the distinct feeling that some peasants are about to die, so with a couple surprisingly high strength the checks I allow the Paladin and Cleric to set it gently (though unceremoniously to the ground).

Good thing, too, because the orcs and tiefling immediately resort to deadly force. Acid melts the face off one of the thugs (down to -2). The ranger trips two, but the barbarian boots one of them in the face...twice (down to -7). Seeing their buddies so easily dispatched the rest of the thugs book it.

The thugs dispatched, the party then turns to the matter at hand. For some of the party members decide to administer to the injured thugs (thankfully sparing them from death and thus -12 trust points right off the bat). For the rest...

...well for the rest it's the allegations of necromancy. They decide to check out Lorimer's corpse. At his funeral. Best of all the barbarian, hammer in hand, decides to just sunder the damned thing open. However she swings poorly and it glances off the thick wooden exterior, merely managing to marr the beautifully lacquered wood (rolled a 1 to hit). The Archivist reminds her that she can actually just OPEN the thing. Which they do, discovering the professor's smashed head.

Kendra shouts at them for a while, then storms off. The Inquisitor chases after her to try and make amends, while the Paladin goes back to the house to get the weapons he left behind "because these people are crazy." He arrives back just in time for quite likely the most awkward funeral in history.

The encounter earns the PCs 500 xp and -3 trust points.

This follows with a reading of the will. Following, Kendra uses the key left with the will to open her father's strongbox. The PCs find inside the journal and the books. They use a few history checks on the locked book to discern its purpose, but fail to roll well enough and don't even bother trying to open it. However the journal piques their interest, though each for wildly different reasons.

After reading the journal, the orcs leave convinced that Gibs is a member of the Whispering Way and decide to stalk to his house, joined by the inquisitor. The Archivist decides to go to the Unfurling Scroll and see what he can find. The Paladin and Priest go to the temple of Pharasma, the Paladin now convinced that Lorimer was murdered by a conspiracy of the townsfolk. Poor diplomacy checks and hostile RPing starts conflicts at BOTH the locations. The orcs, meanwhile, follow Gibs as he leaves his home while the inquisitor ransacks his house (finding next to nothing).

The orcs follow Gibs as he stumbles down the road towards the Laughing Demon. As they arrive they notice a very large bouncer standing at the door (Zokar's brother). Rather than experience a "we don't serve droids here" moment he sneaks around the side, finding a window he can overhear Gibs' conversation through. The barbarian, however, decides to make a run at the front door instead.

However, as she approaches the bouncer, who is leaning against the doorframe, puts his foot against the other side of the door to block the way.

"If yer lookin' fer food, you can head 'round back. They'll feed ya from the kitchens."

"I'm...meeting a friend here. He told me to meet him."

"That may be, but you can still head 'round back."

"I'm just meeting him for a beer. I have gold. Don't you want my gold."

"This here's a private establishment. We can take money from who'ever we want, an' your money's no good here. I'll say it one more time: you want food, you can get it 'round back."

"But...my friend is meeting me. My friend Gibs."

"Oh yeah? HEY GIBS, COM'ERE." He waits as Gibs stands up and weaves over towards the door. The ranger, sensing trouble, peeks his head up to look through the window.

"You know this banner-topper?"

"Her?! She's onna them outsiders whos attacked us in the Restlands!"

"Is that so? See, you're not welcome here. Best be on yer way then, Orc"

The barbarian won't be dissuaded so easily, though.

"I...just...want...a...beer." She draws her warhammer. Both Gibs and the bouncer change their tune somewhat at the prospect of standing in the way of a 19 STR orcish barbarian, and back off. As she enters the inn the rest of the tavern stands up to glare. The room is silent as a tomb, all eyes on her as she strides across to Gib's table and sits down (waving at the other orc as she sees him in the window. He grimaces and ducks down out of sight).

"Barkeep! Get Gibs here a beer!"

Zokar senses trouble is brewing, but unsure what else to do taps the keg. It seems to take forever for him to pour. He then carries it around to Gibs, and sets it in front of him. Gibs takes one look at the beer, another at the one buying it...and moves to push it off the table. The Orc gets ready to draw her warhammer.

Luckily, before any more innocent peasants are close to losing their lives, the Archivist finishes up at the Unfurling Scroll and starts looking for a drink. He (thankfully!) manages to pick the right establishment and enters just as the room is about to explode. He actually makes a diplomacy check for once, and manages to both diffuse the situation and begin an evening of plying Gibs with liquor to pump him for information.

The rest of the party retreats and meets up. They all decide that the only possible course of action is to go explore Harrowstone. At night. At level 1. Oh joy. Some steel locks on the gates keep them from entering easily, though, and after Benjen Caeller come spook them investigating the strange lights and noises of them banging on the gates then scaling the walls with torches, they decide to come back in the day.

Meanwhile the Archivist spends the entire evening plying Gibs with liquor until he is literally at the point of passing out. A miraculous 20 on a strength check is enough to lift the passed-out drunk through the door and drag him back to his house, where he proceeds to wait until he wakes up to interrogate him about the Whispering Way. A finally semi-conscious Gibs has no idea what he's talking about, and a 25 on sense motive is finally enough to clear Gibs' name of Whispering Way involvement.

The party sleeps then spends the next day studying the books in Professor Lorimer's strongbox, breaking open the locked book but being unable to decipher its meaning.

Post-Thoughts

Holy crap, that didn't go as I expected! From cracking open the Professor's casket AT HIS FUNERAL, to picking fights with (albeit super racist) villagers, to trying to break into Harrowstone the very first night, the party did all sorts of stuff I wasn't super prepared for. I think I did an adequate job of containing the potential fallout, but still...

My biggest difficulty is going to be, I think, finding ways to help the party gain back the town's trust. With their antics and natural trust mechanics they've fallen quickly to 16 and are sinking fast. I think if the village gets too much more unfriendly towars them some heads are going to roll.

My second problem is that there was no room for a nighttime desecration the first night, what with Gibs being babysat all evening. However, I think that with his name cleared I'm well set for the following evening. Not to mention that the orc barbarian, whose player will not be returning, is very well placed to become...art supplies.

My third problem is that the party is VERY likely to attempt another exploration of Harrowstone. If not tomorrow, then the day after. My thoughts are to deactivate the more dangerous haunts on their first attempt at exploration, and have a few areas be blocked off only to "mysteriously" open in later visits. What do you guys think of that?

Luckily for me several of the party members strongly feel that the cache should be the next stop. I think start up next session with them making an attempt on the cache, only to return to find their orcish friend decorating the town monument. Hopefully that will be enough to distract them away from Harrowstone for the time being, though it might cause irreparable rifts with the town. I feel that playing the town sherriff as suitably sympathetic afterwards, and determined to bring the killer to justice, may give them the ally they need to bring them around on the town.

Though they might just as soon start waterboarding random peasants, the way this is going.

Thoughts? Comments? Suggestions?


A few questions I had about things that were not apparent in the book:

1) The rules state that certain terrain improvements can share a hex with other improvements. But does a settlement count as an improvement? i.e. can a farm be built on the same hex as a settlement? What about a mine or quarry?

2) If a hex is half water (a lake) and half plains then chart 4-6 says to treat it as the adjacent terrain type "for all purposes." Does that mean you can build both a farm AND a fishery there, since both can share hexes and fisheries can be built on "coastline" hexes. Likewise with river hexes. Is this why they only reduce consumption by 1 bp?

3) Combining the above two, can a coastal or river hex contain a farm, fishery, AND settlement?

4) Both highway and road have the same stats, +1/4 Economy +1/8 Stability. Are those bonuses cumulative? Meaning, does a highway actually add +1/2 Economy and +1/4 Stability? Or is the only difference in travel time?


A few questions I had about things that were not apparent in the book:

1) The rules state that certain terrain improvements can share a hex with other improvements. But does a settlement count as an improvement? i.e. can a farm be built on the same hex as a settlement? What about a mine or quarry?

2) If a hex is half water (a lake) and half plains then chart 4-6 says to treat it as the adjacent terrain type "for all purposes." Does that mean you can build both a farm AND a fishery there, since both can share hexes and fisheries can be built on "coastline" hexes. Likewise with river hexes. Is this why they only reduce consumption by 1 bp?

3) Combining the above two, can a coastal or river hex contain a farm, fishery, AND settlement?

4) Both highway and road have the same stats, +1/4 Economy +1/8 Stability. Are those bonuses cumulative? Meaning, does a highway actually add +1/2 Economy and +1/4 Stability? Or is the only difference in travel time?


Something I've always tried to keep in my head is that alignment is all about intentions. A "good" aligned character is actively trying to help others, while an evil character is trying to help him or herself.

That doesn't mean that they actually are helping, though. A radical priest with an extremely conservative view of his religion's principles could be good-aligned, while his actions may in actuality be doing harm. He could even be killing innocents in order to "purify" their bodies of sin.

An evil character also need not necessarily be actively attempting to harm innocents either, she is just more concerned with herself than others. A noble could be famous for her acts of philanthropy, but so long as she is concerned only with pursuit of personal wealth and power and is willing to sacrifice her philanthropic missions as soon as they no longer suit his interests, she would be evil aligned.

A character that is concerned mostly with his own interests, but will help the poor when it's convenient or pressing to do so, would be considered neutral in my books (which, to me, is most adventuring characters...and real people for that matter).

Chaotic vs Lawful is more objective, in my mind, but still largely relative. A lawful character adheres rigidly to a code and respects authority, while a chaotic character almost compulsively rebels against it. A character that only respects authority when it is easy, convenient, or suits their interests is again neutral.

So that means you can play a violent sociopath who is lawful good, and a benevolent philanthropist who is neutral evil. There would be a great number of lawful evil priests in good-aligned churches, and a number of chaotic-good wizards dabbling in the dark arts to use their secrets for good. So long as your view of alignments is somewhat flexible, there's really a lot you can do with them that is narratively interesting.


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I decided long ago that HP has nothing to do with "health," and everything to do with stamina. HP exists as an abstraction of a character or monster's ability to dodge, parry, block, or otherwise avoid the stream of potentially-fatal blows that enemies are throwing at them.

A battle between two sword-fighters doesn't end after one fighter has passed out from the bloodloss of his thousand-and-one cuts. He passes out because his opponent tired his arms with a torrent of numbing blows, and wore down his defenses until a single deadly blow slipped past his blocks and cut open his throat.

As for the environmental damage you describe, I think the problem is more with the damage formulas than with the concept of HP itself. Falling damage works well for short falls against low-level characters, but breaks down when characters have too much HP since the damage doesn't scale up.

The solution? A sufficiently strong or dexterous character doesn't simply "fall." They grab at branches or rocky outcrops, attempt to slow their descent by digging their swords or heels into the cliff-face, crashing through canopies, etc. Think of kung-fu or anime characters jumping and falling ridiculous distances: it has nothing to do with their raw ability to absorb damage, but more their super-human ability to avoid it.

The lava damage thing is just stupid, though. Unless you explain it magically, I'd just have lava be a near instant kill. Having lava splashed on you is something you can avoid, but actually falling into the pit is not. Maybe the damage taken isn't actually the result of falling into the pit, but of hanging NEAR the pit?

This is, again, the reason why I don't let players track their own HP. When something is so heavily abstracted it's better to describe it in descriptive rather than numeric terms. The fighter doesn't have 4 HP left: his parries are sluggish and his shield arm droops, and you fear that he will not last long in this fight. The enemy wizard isn't taking damage from swimming in lava: he's hanging onto the cliff by his fingernails, his grip on the rocks slowly slipping away. The party isn't killing the dragon by hacking away at his feet, but by distracting him with a torrent of feints and painful (but non-life threatening) blows while waiting for an opportune moment to strike at his vulnerable points.


Roll up a second character, and leave your first one with the caravan :P


What was the rest of your party looking like again? Do other people have combat reflexes and stuff? If they're into some AoO shenanigans then maybe getting to Greater Trip is worthwhile? Even if it's not useful all the time, on the rare chance you do get a trip off the rest of the party would nuke the guy with a deluge of opportunity attacks.

I will reiterate that something your bard should DEFINITELY invest in is a handy haversack packed with utility items. Wands of CLW, bags full of crushed glass, smokebombs, alchemist fire, +1 nets of ghost-touch, bags full of flour for tagging invisible creatures, flaming/acid bolts for preventing regeneration, tanglefoot bags, etc. Your teammates pretty much have to use their standards to lay on the hurt, but you're free to use yours wherever they'll be most helpful.


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I personally love "non-optimized" characters. Which isn't to say I enjoy specifically gimped characters, but characters who - for legitimate RP reasons - have defined weaknesses in some areas but strengths in others.

My bard-archivist professor has low WIS, substandard combat skills, but off-the-charts knowledge skills. He's gruff, arrogant, and condescending. Though he is good at winning people to his side through his skills and speechcraft, he also has a tendency to drive them away with his abrasiveness and condescension.

That said, "non-optimized" characters are much less fun in the presence of super optimized ones. If everyone is within a reasonable range of optimization it's hard to notice, but when there's one character in the party who is optimized to the eyeballs they tend to hog a lot of the spotlight. A character whose talents are spread across some areas that others are specialists in (especially combat) are going to feel very mediocre and outclass compared to the min-maxed specialists.


The way my DM runs cohorts is that we're allowed to suggest a concept, but he reserves the right to build them however he feels appropriate. It makes it so we have to really focus on the character of our cohort rather than the crunch of his sheet.

edit: as an example, I was building a cohort for my Order of the Cockatrice cavalier and couldn't figure out the sort of person he'd be thrilled to have following him around everywhere. Then I realized that, of course, he'd want a bard who travelled with him to write epic songs and tales of his glorious exploits. However I also wanted him to act as a squire.

Took that to my GM and he came up with a pretty cool herald/bard cross. He built the entire character though, so all I really have an attachment to is the character I wrote and designed.


Another option that can kick in at lower levels is the Squire feat. It's the same as Leadership except that you can take it much earlier and your cohort must be 3 levels (rather than two levels) lower than you. The squire can also only take levels in a martial class.

The coolest part about the feat is that it automatically "upgrades" to Leadership at level 7, and your Squire "graduates" to a full cohort after you watch it solo a monster of the same or greater HD.

So at level 7 you could take the full Leadership fit, and give your follower a Squire. That gives you two cohorts much earlier.


If you've got lots of melee then definitely go Order of the Dragon. Bonus on attack rolls is probably among the better challenge capabilities, and at level 8 he can give all his allies within 30ft +2 AC, +2 to hit, or movement up to their speed as an immediate action. And better yet, he can give whichever bonus will help that player the most. Pretty awesome. +3 on Aid Another is alright as well.

Not to mention that his 15th level capstone ability is to let all his allies charge on HIS turn, with +2 AC and +4 to hit. And then swing at the enemy again on their turn. Pretty awesome. It also stacks with his banner ability. If he's got a bunch of buddies (or cohorts from leadership!) who are mounted and can take advantage of that, then all the better.


mcv wrote:

Play has already started, and we've played about 3 sessions, so it's too late to move my stats around. I went for Strength 14 partially because Treantmonk recommended it for controller bards, and partially because I figured it would make my limited melee contributions as easy and investment-free as possible. (Until I started looking at trip, that is.)

Of the role bonuses for government positions in Kingmaker (fortunately clearly laid out in the players guide), the vast majority requires Charisma, which I have maxed out. My impression was that you need only one of the two listed stats. (Incidentally, our paladin and rogue also have insanely high charisma, and the rogue seems crippled because of it.)

The only positions that don't have Charisma listed are Marshal, Royal Assassin, Spy Master, Treasurer and Warden. Admittedly Spy Master and Treasurer would sound attractive to my PC, but most likely he'll be aiming for Councilor, Grand Diplomat, or, of course, Ruler. Even Magister is an option. Cha works for 6 positions, whereas Wis is only for 4 positions. Is there anything in particular that makes Wisdom better than its frequency on that list suggests?

I've heard cohorts as item creators idea before, but if Kingmaker has such a large time scale, I think I'll have plenty of time to create stuff myself. And I was just leaning towards a Cavalier as cohort. But I've got plenty of time for that decision.

As for steamrolling the encounters, last session we were perilously close to having some deaths. Camping in the woods, our watch didn't notice wolves approach, and the surprise round started with one of them nibbling on the halfling's toes. Everybody suffered attacks of opportunity getting out of their beds, and I think my use of Grease saved at least two lives there. (But maybe it's because our party is properly unoptimized.)

Extremely Fashionable sounds nice. Where's it from? Too late to take it now, though (unless people start complaining about me having Reactionary in two different campaigns).

It's an equipment feat, found here. For starting level 1 characters it's a little tough to squeeze in 150 gp of clothing and jewelry, but at level 5 it's trivial.

As for kingdom roles, it's actually a little more complicated than that. Your atheist scholar probably won't be able to become the High Priest just because her CHA is high, and your rogue can't be the Magister if he can't cast spells.

More importantly, though, not all roles are created equal. Lose your Magister and you're down 4+their modifier economy. Lose your Councilor and you're down 2 loyalty, you lose benefits from festivals (but they're per-year, so you're still paying for them!), and unrest increases by 1 every turn (so -1 to stats across the board). Depending on how many PCs you have, you probably also have 6 unfilled roles that you'll need to recruit NPCs for. Most of the NPCs are only suitable for certain roles, and they bunch up around certain roles. There are tonnes of good generals, but very few good magisters. Depending on how your DM roleplays them, there might also be none willing to take on certain roles.

That's why I say it's good to concentrate on a couple attributes. High DEX and CHA and you can take on all those charisma roles plus Spymaster, Assassin, and Marshall. It doesn't seem important in the early game, but later game if you lose a couple characters or NPCs you're suddenly short council members, and eating some serious penalties when you can least afford to. That's why I say WIS is the best attribute, because high WIS characters can fill all sorts of slots from Councillor to High Priest to Marshall, all important roles that you take big penalties for not having filled.

Then again, that's just been our experience. Kingmaker is going to be unrecognizable from one campaign to another. Depending on how you interact with the NPCs you might not have the same problem. We...sorta killed a lot of people. And didn't get along with others. It was unfortunate.

Sounds like you're having fun with your character, and that's all that really matters. Once he stops being fun it's really easy to add new characters in kingmaker anyways. Many DMs even let you have 2 or 3 when you get into the serious kingdombuilding phase. We all have 2 right now (though some of them are 6 feet underground right now).


Are you using point buy? If you dropped STR to 10 and pumped the rest into DEX your AC would increase, and you could use weapon finesse and agile weapons to get some more oomph out of your melee attacks. Weapon Finesse also works on trip attacks with a whip.

Also remember that in Kingmaker, the role bonuses for your government positions all key off your ability modifiers. You're better off jacking up a small number of attributes than spreading them across a bunch of them. Also with character deaths and NPC assassinations you're likely to have to jump into a few different roles over your career to prevent vacancies. WIS is the most useful attribute for council positions, with CHA probably being the second. STR is important for a bunch of positions, but since there are so many classes who max strength you rarely need to worry about it.

But yea, item creation might be a better way to go. Though honestly, that's one of those things people like using their Leadership cohort for.

Really though, just do whatever you like. Kingmaker isn't built for an optimized party, and you'll likely be steam-rolling the encounters anyways. Early on you'll spend most of the time wandering around the wilderness making survival and perception checks, with a few random fights here and there. Later on you'll spend most of your time fighting fires in your city, with maybe one combat encounter a session. Or, at least that's how our game's ended up so far.

Knowledge (nature) and knowledge (religion) come in handy a lot in Kingmaker. As does survival. Extremely Fashionable is also a pretty good trait, if you're allowed it. +1 to all your face skills, and all you have to do is wear 150 gp worth of clean clothes. At high levels that's pretty trivial, especially since you probably won't be the one getting dirty very often.


Ask your DM how much open terrain you're going to be seeing in this campaign. That's what it really comes down to. If you'll be fighting in the open a lot then definitely go medium sized on a horse. If you'll be in dungeons a lot then go small.

If you can go Medium then Human is always a good pick. Another cool trick is to go Half-Elf for the double favoured class, and split your levels between Cavalier (Gendarme) and Fighter (Dragoon). Horse Master is a feat that lets you use your class level as your druid level for your mount (instead of your Cavalier leve), which really helps when you're dual classing. It requires 4 levels in cavalier though, and you can't take beast master.

Gendarme is a cool archetype because it gives you some more feats, in exchange for losing the teamwork feat ability with tactician. Thats a tough call, since tactician works unmounted and can be situationally very powerful. If your mount is INT 3 then it can benefit from those feats as well, so both of you can get an extra +d6 damage with precise strike, for instance. Ask your DM about Spring Attack, though, and whether you can ignore its prereqs when taking it as a bonus feat.


Wasum wrote:

I think everyone knows by now that bards can trip some stuff at low levels. But please do not claim roleplaying and out-of-combat stuff make up for in fight viability because those two are not connected in any way ...

You missed my point entirely. A Kingmaker bard is never going to be a one-trick pony, because the encounters are so short that their host of resources go way further. You can cast spells, start your performance, throw alchemist fire and tanglefoot bags, fire your crossbow, or (if you take the feats) trip with a whip. And remember, the AP only goes up to around level 15-17.

mcv wrote:

@Pirate Robot Ninja: You sound like I should simply be casting spells constantly, because I won't run out anyway? Because that would mean that my plans to take Dazzling Display are also unnecessary. I really like the idea of being able to intimidate everybody without using up daily resources (though Dazzling Display does it through weapon prowess, which may not be entirely appropriate for my politician), but if I'm never going to run out of spells anyway, I guess I don't really need a non-magical debuff.

If I also skip the trip tree, that means I can focus on Leadership, item creation (it seems everything needs to be imported, so being able to make your own stuff sounds useful), and whatever else strikes my fancy. Ignore the big combat-related feat trees.

Somehow that prospect does sound attractive.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to go the Dazzling Display route because I chose a halfling, so I suffer a size penalty on intimidate checks. I don't really regret it because I loved my character concept, but it definitely hamstrung me in combat. That said, dazzling display is a pretty cool debuff. Note, though, that an Order of the Cockatrice cavalier gets it for free at second level, can use it as a standard action (instead of a full-round), and doesn't even need a weapon in-hand for it.

The Herald Squire archetype would also fit in well with a multiclassed Cavalier-Bard. Roll twice for the first diplomacy check to influence attitude? With no daily use limits? Yes please! At level two they gain fast movement (+10 speed in medium armour or less), and at level 3 they gain three uses of tongues per day. You lose your second level order power though (Dazzling Display in this case).

For item creation, yeah everything needs to be imported early on, but once your realm is developed enough you can get pretty much everything in your home town. Plus "importing" is a fluid concept, since you have obscene amounts of down time in between encounters. You can literally go six months without fighting anything in Kingmaker, if you want to.

The problem with bards though is that they're super MAD. You need high CHA to keep your DCs up (plus they help your most important skills). You'll also need INT for skill ranks (and those all-important knowledge skills). Plus you rely on DEX for your armour, since you're a light-armour class. That really doesn't leave much for anything else. Weapon Finesse should be your first level feat no matter what, and combined with an agile weapon you'll do alright in combat. It also helps with your whip.

So Weapon Finesse (lvl 1) and Weapon Focus-Whip (Human). With a decent DEX score you'll have some decent trip chances in there, plus you can use your rapier if you want to get closer. From there you can take Dazzling Display, Whip Mastery > Improved Whip Mastery so that you don't threaten (and can do all sorts of cool s&*@ with your whip). Leadership at level 7 if your DM allows you to take it.

Or take some levels of cavalier, as I mentioned before, and get that Dazzling Display for free. It'll hurt your spellcasting and skills, but help your BAB.

TL;DR My point here isn't to convince you that tripping is the be-all-and-end-all of Kingmaker bards. It's just a cool option that gives you something really helpful to contribute.

There are times where I'm fighting creatures I can't trip where I get frustrated that I can't do much, but those are the times where I just rely on all the cool stuff I put into my handy haversack. When you're not burning all your cash on +2 plate you'd be surprised what you can afford.

That said, I did personally replace my tripping bard with a cavalier (who were practically made for Kingmaker). Though we're missing all of my bard's great buffs and utility spells, it is fun to be the one doling out all the damage in combat.


mcv wrote:


My specialization is definitely in social skills.

...

My character concept is that of a very Machiavellian politician. He has the Bastard campaign trait, and he's been trained for a life of scheming, backstabbing politics, but he lacks a power base. He's willing to do anything for power and influence, including even being a good guy, if that's what it takes. His words should be his strongest weapon. He should be contributing mostly by influencing people, and Bard fits that better than anything else.

Honestly, if you're playing Kingmaker as a bard you basically don't need to worry about combat. Your non-combat contributions will be so huge that you'll hardly miss it. Not to mention that Kingmaker's single-combat days mean you can, as I said, literally just dump all your spells into a single combat. Suddenly you might as well be a primary-caster class.

I also can't stress enough how awesome the Archivist is. I have skills coming out my ass, and pretty much never fail a skill check. I bought Pathfinder Chronicles at 50gp a pop for +2 on every single one of my knowledge skills. Combine that with Heroism and Loremaster and I rarely even find the need to roll for them. If I'm unhappy with the result I can always gallant inspiration after the fact. For diplomacy checks I have Honeyed Tongue (roll 2d20 and pick the highest) plus Heroism, and Gallant Inspiration after the fact if I fail. Combine that with Skilled as a human and a decent INT score and you're laughing.

Yeah it gets annoying when you're in combat, but if you're really concerned about it then that's what Leadership is for. It's pretty much a must-have feat in Kingmaker, since the party often ends up very starved for allies to fill government roles after a few deaths. Burn that 7th level feat on Leadership and you can get a melee character (I strongly suggest a Cavalier for pathfinder) to lay the hurt on.

More importantly though, ask yourself "what else would I be doing with those feats?" You're probably too squishy to really wade into combat yourself, and how much damage are you *really* doing with that crossbow? When your THF fighter is on the front lines dishing out serious hurt, what's your piddling dNothing+f~++all damage contributing? Pull that mofo down with a whip, though, and suddenly EVERYONE gets an AoO when he stands up. Greater Whip Mastery and they're doing it twice.

Sure you could take feats to boost your other abilities. Skills, for instance, if you really want to forsake combat. The performance feats are a waste though, since you'll very, VERY rarely run out of performance rounds in Kingmaker. Between levels 4 and 6 I literally haven't done it once. I can count on one hand the number of times I've even exhausted all my spell slots.

If you want to round your character out, tripping is honestly a pretty sweet way to do it. And at those later levels when it stops being viable in combat you'll either be so strong at other things you won't care, or you can retire your bard to a permanent role on the council and start playing someone else instead.


Wasum wrote:
Rynjin wrote:

3d8+51 is worse than what a Fighter can do at level 6?

I've never built a Fighter but near as I can figure you'd be doing something like 4d6 + 30 thereabouts as a rough estimate? And you have to stand still to do it, whereas he's using Ride By Attack to keep moving afterwards.

I'm just saying that you could do so much more damage when giving up that little boost to shield AC.

And yes, fighter does less damage when cavalier is charging. Against intelligent creatires thats no possible more than once or twice a fight.

My DM ruled that lances can't be wielded two-handed while mounted. That's why I didn't go two-handed with it. He doesn't like how wide the gap is between one-handed and two-handed weapon damage so this is one of the many houserules to narrow the gap.

If you can two-hand your lance (which, RAW, there is exactly zero reason that you cant), the numbers are:

Standard: d8+7
PA: d8+13
PA charge: 3d8 + 39
PA challenge: d8+21
Charge PA challenge: 3d8 + 62

And just for fun, a critical hit on that last one is 5d8+105. Won't happen often, but it does happen and you feel like a rockstar when it does.

Also for reference, a CR 6 Advanced Troll only has 75 hitpoints. That means a charging cavalier has a pretty decent chance of dropping one in a single hit (especially if you can put fire damage on that lance). Again, since it's kingmaker that means I can just blow my other challenge use against the next toughest character, or charge someone else sans challenge for a "mere" 3d8 + 39 damage.

This is also for a stock Cavalier build. If you don't like the teamwork feats (which I do, because it's a "cool" mechanic that adds some variety to encounters) then you can drop them with Gendarme and take some extra weapon feats. You can also dip into Fighter (dragoon archetype) for some extra feats, and take Horse Master to avoid crippling your mount.

Speaking of mount, the Cavalier also has a full-level druid companion. My horse is currently:
STR 21, DEX 15, CON 17, INT 2, WIS 12, CHA 6
AC 23, 51 HP, BAB +4. I gave her endurance, toughness, and diehard to keep her alive and kicking until the combat's over. With +11 Ride there's also a decent chance of avoiding attacks against her with a ride check.
Her 3 natural attacks are currently +8, d4+5 and 2x +8, d6+5.

Now the benefit of ride-by-attack is that you can chain multiple charge attacks turn after turn. The downside is that your mount doesn't get to attack. However if you wade directly into combat both you and your mount can start full-attacking. Ya you'll still be out-damaged by the fighter, but not by as much as you'd think. With a stat-boost to INT your horse can also benefit from your teamwork feats.

Plus there's order benefits. Order of the Cockatrice gets dazzling display as a bonus feat, and can use it as a standard (rather than a full-round) action. Not to shabby, especially since they have the skillpoints to actually invest in intimidate to make it worthwhile.


Cavalier

Why? Well I'm playing Kingmaker, that's why.

Max 1-2 encounters per day. That means I'm challenging every single combat.

Open terrain...open terrain everywhere. That means medium-sized character on a large-sized mount.

Lots of roleplaying. Good thing I have 5 skills per level as a 10 INT human. Also since I'm wearing heavy armour and carrying a shield I can afford a lower DEX, and can dump some points into CHA. Congratulations, you're now the party face!

Seriously though, the amount of damage this character does on a mounted charge is just obscene. At level 6, with a +1 lance and 18 STR, I'm dealing d8+5 damage with my lance one-handed (DM ruled a lance is a one-handed weapon only while mounted). When power attacking that's d8+9. Charging triples all of that (Lance + Spirited Charge), up to 3d8+27. If you happen to crit that becomes 5d8+45.

But if you're going to charge, why aren't you charging your challenge opponent? Now that lance is doing d8+15 damage. I'm Order of the Cockatrice, so d8+17 if I'm the only one threatening (which I probably am, since I just charged 100 feet to get there). Now I'm doing 3d8+51 damage, or 5d8+85 damage on a crit.

With Ride-By-Attack and Wheeling Charge it's also possible to set up subsequent charges. Ride-by-attack lets you hit your target with a full charge attack as you move past it, at the cost of not getting any attacks out of your horse (the mounted combat rules are a little sketchy on this, but that's the most reasonable interpretation). If your party members are locking the enemy in combat, that means he has a choice of either eating AoO from all of them or eating another charge attack from you next round. Wheeling charge means allies don't block your charge (so long as you don't attack or end your movement in their square), and can wheel up to 90 degrees as part of the wheel. If you're smart about it this should get you around any tricky terrain features.

The big hurdle here is difficult terrain, but levitating your mount can get around this.

Also knights are awesome, and who wants to play lawful good?


So I (until recently) was playing a tripping bard in our Kingmaker campaign, so I'll share my experiences with how the character actually performs on the tabletop.

The rest of the party is melee-focused so I decided to take my character in another level and build him very RP-heavy, with a focus on skills and non-combat utility. Combat was an afterthought, and with that free whip proficiency I thought "why not?" Here's a quick rundown of the character:

Lord Griffith Theodore Hawkens, Professor of Archaeology and Ancient History.
Halfling Bard 6 (Archivist archetype), STR (8), DEX (16), CON (12), INT (14), WIS (8), CHA (17).
At level 6 he's got 17 rounds of bardic performance, four 2nd and five 1st level daily spell uses, and 10 skill ranks per level (with favoured class bonus going to HP). AC 17 and 38 HP he can survive a hit or two, but much more than that and he's looking in rough shape.

Non-Combat
Out of combat he's a beast. Between bardic knowledge (+1/2 level to knowledge checks) and lore master (can always take 10 on knowledge checks, can take 20 once per day), trait bonuses, and old fashioned skill ranks, my character is an invaluable font of knowledge on every subject. +9 to Knowledge (nobility) with a single rank in it, +12 to Knowledge (geography) for the same. He's the party face with +12 Diplomacy, and with Heroism, Honeyed-Tongue, and Gallant inspiration he's pretty much never failing any of those either. He can also pick locks, use any skill untrained (Jack-of-all-Trades), decipher ancient scripts, use magic devices, and on and on the list goes.

I know this has nothing to do with combat viability, but my point is merely that for a skills and RP-heavy campaign such as Kingmaker he's making huge contributions to the party even without ever stepping a foot into combat. If you are playing a campaign where you will also have such an opportunity your fellow players won't resent your character if you choose to go whip-focused for entirely fluff/RP reasons.

In-Combat
Unfortunately, combat is an area where Hawkens really doesn't shine, but he's still a very useful addition to the party. His archivist performance ability is great, giving +2 to hit/+2 AC/+2 save vs. spell-like abilities against monsters that he's identified at level 6. That right there is nothing to shake a stick at. The entire rest of the party is doing more damage merely by virtue of standing within 30 feet of him, and +2 AC all around is huge for survivability. Combine that with Heroism on your two main melee characters and you're laughing.

Spellcasting...this one really depends. Since we play Kingmaker, Hawkens will very frequently burn every single one of his spells in a single combat encounter. That means he's not actually trying to trip all that often. He's usually glitterdusting enemies, greasing their weapons or his grappled allies, or whatever other spells might work in the circumstances. If you're doing more than 1-2 encounters per day this is likely not a viable strategy for you.

Again, I make this point to show that - depending on the game - your actual combat focus might not be all that important. All of your contributions come from elsewhere, and what you actually do in combat is largely superfluous. No matter what you do you won't be putting out the damage numbers of the fighter or ranger, nor will you have the casting abilities of a wizard or cleric. You're the swiss-army-knife, doing whatever the party needs, and you should view your tripping capabilities in that light. I typically only get one ore two trip attempts into a combat, and spend the rest of my time casting spells or pulling crap out of my handy haversack.

Because when you can get your trip attacks in, it can be hugely effective. We fought a werewolf and the only thing that saved us from a TPK was Hawkens tripping the bastard every round and preventing those nasty full-round attacks. 15' of reach is huge too, and not only does Improved Whip Mastery increase it by 5' but it also lets you use your whip as a grappling hook or to grab small or tiny unattended objects. How f@%!ing cool is that? Plus once you can threaten with your whip you can trip as an opportunity attack. Greater Trip makes opponents provoke AoOs both when they stand up, AND when they fall. Trip a target a couple of your allies are threatening and suddenly he's provoking four AoOs in addition to your own. Not too shabby.

Yeah, you won't always be able to trip. Some enemies are immune, and if you're an idiot like me and choose a small race you won't be able to trip large creatures either (though my DM houseruled that I can by taking a penalty). However, given the other utilities of your class you can always find other ways to contribute. Personally I gave my character a handy haversack and filled it with every useful item I could come up with. Can't attack the plant creature because it's immune to trip? Hit it with an alchemist's fire. Trolls won't stay down? Notch some fire/acid arrows into your crossbow. Can't think of anything else to do? Bust out your wand of CLW and use it on whoever's hurting the most.

TL;DR Trip is far from the optimal bard build, and if you're doing long adventuring days where your per-encounter spellcasting abilities are limited you may want to look elsewhere. However if you're considering trip as merely one tool in your overall arsenal, it's certainly one to consider. I may suck in combat, but nobody begrudges my character's membership in the party and when I do get a trip off I feel like a f&*$ing champion.

((For full disclosure I did recently retire the professor to a quiet life of academia as Magister of our budding realm. We had some party changes that left us short a decent tanking character, so I swapped out the squishy professor for the beefier, full BAB cavalier. With a full-blown support character like that you really need some melee characters dishing out the hurt, otherwise he's a luxury the party is unable to afford.))