I love this discussion! Thanks to every person who has contributed thus far.
While I have read that the system of Good/Evil and Law/Chaos is objective in this system, it seems that there is actually a very large amount of ambiguity regarding what counts as one of these things in a given situation. Not that I would really expect it to be anything different; we can't figure this stuff out in real life!
There have been a number of legitimate arguments made for the killing of the ape being regarded as any of the things under the alignment system. The ambiguity regarding these things when they are applied leads to a number of different opinions, and this leads to the well-known controversy over the subject. It's clear that this is a GM fiat matter to be reckoned by herself and her players, but the discussion is enriching to me.
There are some factors that I have not clarified: no loss of treasure was risked, for one. They were in a city, and they were being chased by the "local authorities", of which one was the aforementioned Hunter+Ape. While the Ape could maybe be a danger to others, with other people chasing after them, they would likely find the Ape very quickly, long before it could do anything really bad.
Like I said, there is a lot of really good stuff here, and I appreciate all of it!
E: It's "Evil", not "Bad"
While I would love to see a response by the devs on this, I found something that may bring some clarity to this troublesome kind of magic.
The spell description of Major Image states: "The image disappears when struck by an opponent unless you cause the illusion to react appropriately."
Directly interacting, even attacking, a wall may not give you a saving throw against the illusion by RAW. Since this spell is based on concentration, it seems like you can actively alter what happens to the illusory wall when it is attacked, but sometimes you can't.
If I shoot an arrow at the wall and see it go through, the image should disappear. If I launch a big rock to blow out a top portion of the wall, I may, by RAW, cause that top part to blow into pieces appropriately, thus allowing the illusion to persist.
Illusions don't rely on a person's senses to persist. I see nowhere in the rules that allows a spell of the figment subschool to make a person who was blind since birth see a stone wall. I can still, however, create the fake stone wall, and the blind person can walk through it with no need to save. Illusions seem to exist in a magicky sort of way that causes people who can sense them to to misinterpret them. Those who successfully make the saving throw see the illusion for what it is: a magicky thing meant to imitate something real. The issue with these spells comes from the difficulty of comprehending a "false sensation", since it seems like you either smell, hear, see, taste, or feel something, or you do not. What is a "false" smell? A "false" touch? Something that feels like or smells like one thing, but is actually another.
Here is a ruin that I used at the beginning of my current campaign. It's in a desert.
Architecturally, the ruins emphasize curves, with half-ovals of stone overlaying other half-ovals in a circling pattern being seen as a general motif. Structures bend above the ground and down into it; entrances look like waves forming from the sand. Long, thin pillars support rooms and taller structures, with thick, smooth masonry along the sides of tunnels, chiseled into hexagonal patterns. Most of the temple is not visible above ground, although a large dome surrounded by broken walls and fragments lies at the center of the temple. To get inside the dome, one must travel through a curving network of tunnels and above-ground hallways. These tunnels are very difficult to navigate, with pathways crisscrossing constantly. Some have degraded exceedingly, letting all manner of creatures in…
I used giant desert scorpions. They tried to hide in a room with a broken ceiling. Another room had seven humanoid statues in various states of dilapidation along a back wall, and a throne lay in the center of the room. Four raised, large hexagonal tiles were lined up about 5 feet apart in front of it, and a crypt guardian defended the room. Some holes in the domed ceiling let light in, but if a person stepped on a raised tile out of tandem with the others an acid arrow trap would activate.
The center of the temple was a massive dome with broken pillars and piles of rubble strewn about. An at least 30 x 30 raised area of sorts contained a semicircle of pillars of varying heights.
I am not sure if this level of detail is what you wanted, but I digress. I like your ideas, they may just show up in my campaign soon.
E: This "temple" was actually a cover up for a massive arcane research facility for drow thousands of years ago. Well, the god they were researching was arcane energy incarnate, so maybe they weren't lying?
This very much depends on the nature of the government. Even well developed governments could have drastically different reactions. An autocratic government would likely deal with this in a heavy-handed way (think USSR, etc). A government that upholds due process would likely, as has been suggested, investigate the matter, collect facts, build a case. A theocracy, especially a good-aligned one, could react any number of ways depending on the zealotry of the populace and/or leaders and their approach to due process. I would not automatically assume that governments are rational entities. The list goes on.
Key factors in my eyes:
- Due process (yes, no, maybe?)
Others are probably applicable as well. I would also keep in mind the closeness of the connection between a given religious group and the government, since they may be able to heavily influence the actions of each other if they share power, or may even be enemies. What happens if a church of Iomadae finds out about this? Can they comfortably report this, or do they send in their own gals and guys?
This kind of stuff seems right up the inquisitor's dark, brooding alley.
I have a theory as to how potions, scrolls, and other item-based magic stuff operates. In my setting, I am surprisingly fairly close to Cuup's interpretation of magic in its different forms. There is, however, some important distinctions.
This raw sort of energy that Cuup defines as arcane magic is also the foundation for all things in every plane as expressed by a deity or deities during the formation of that plane (note that this is homebrew). The Material Plane is the most "confused" of the bunch in that it was molded by an either exceedingly brilliant and diverse deity or an amalgamation of multiple deities, and this has resulted in a large amount of latent "essence".
Essence is what arcane spellcasters tap into/manipulate to form, destroy, alter, etc. Magic items came about when certain individuals discovered that, with proper preparation and execution, the latent Essence of materials can be extracted, manipulated, and embedded into other objects. This is why I heavily prefer the talismanic crafting system variant rules. Alchemists derive their abilities from their ability to concentrate and alter these passive essences in both living and nonliving materials.
Speech/writing also has a way of affecting Essence in that it is a manifest application of the mindscape, a semi-plane of thought and consciousness that can serve, in basic terms, as a manipulator of Essence. This is most apparent among deities, who's power largely originates from their massive consciousness and the intensity of their thoughts, and thus they can speak and write things into existence.
EDIT: A point that I forgot to include that is critical to any of the users mentioned above; precision is the key factor whenever you hope to manipulate Essence. This is why spells and such can fail so easily at times. The web of reality is very good in most cases at maintaining balance.
A wild animal, seeking to feed itself, won't try to kill the same prey that almost killed it unless it is desperate. In fact, it may intentionally avoid interacting with future campsites out of fear. This is how animals learn to fear humans IRL.
What about killing a creature that is no longer an enemy? Are you saying revenge is automatically evil?
Creatures with an Int of 2 don't have 'enemies', just things that are threatening them at the time, things that they are told to kill at the time, etc. They don't plot and scheme to get revenge. Once that ape leaves, he won't be coming back as a threat. Saying that you could run into it later and that it would attack you as a justification for killing an almost dead, retreating animal seems disingenuous. That cougar will leave you alone if you almost kill it unless it is desperate.
Even with this, I think there is a case to be made for this being neutral. Neutral characters can be spiteful without being evil, and if people they cared about were attacked by this thing, their emotions may drive them to slaughter it. I would expect a paladin to give the beast a reprieve unless there was some huge reason for it not being allowed to live, i.e. revealing their location on a top secret mission of great importance.
I totally agree with the idea that no alignment shift should occur, but like My Self suggested, doesn't this get put in the 'evil' category?
There is a point to killing creatures: they are not just things to hit when they are being inconvenient. In a situation where this creature, who cannot really be 'evil', just dangerous, is clearly no longer dangerous, that should eliminate the reason for even fighting it in the first place in my opinion.
'AC Gone Wild' is a theory that a PC could use to justify killing the fleeing creature. This was not an idea brought up at the table.
At that point I would not have called that animal "dangerous". Sure, it was combat-trained, but it was in no condition to fight, and it did not even want to fight.
An interesting situation popped up last week: while fighting an NPC with Hunter class levels, the NPC dies, leaving his large ape AC behind against five angry PCs. The ape is gravely wounded, and he gets Grease cast on him. Bewildered by the sudden magic and almost falling over, it grabs the headless (the PC said he decapitated him) body of his master and retreats in a very agitated state.
This was a surprisingly emotional moment at the table. I was trying to act according to the instincts of the ape, but it was pretty upsetting to some of the players. Would this be an issue to you if you were playing? Was it too dramatic?
Also, one of the PCs (the same that killed the hunter btw) tried to finish off the ape when it was obviously retreating. While I have noted the.. tenacity of some people in discussions regarding alignment, I would still like to know: would you consider this an evil act?
There are a lot of good ideas here that I will start implementing next session. I like the idea of incorporating the usage of skills during combat, but should that figure in any way in the XP calculations, especially if they are particularly challenging?
I also have some difficulty with evaluating the intelligence of monsters and whatnot from their Int/WIs scores. There doesn't seem to be a definitive source for how those two scores interact, although they both heavily affect their performance on the battlefield. Are there any handy sources that I am missing, and how do you judge whether a certain level of tactics is appropriate/possible for a creature?
This, and the other posts, are very helpful to me. The idea of waves sounds great. My biggest issue with this is the XP it grants, but maybe, like My Self mentioned, the XP could instead be based on number of encounters, plot "points", etc.
Also, the group tends to trail off into boredom when the encounter gets beyond roughly 5 rounds. I have used dangerous map elements, "timers", and other things to make combat less of a straight-up hack-n'-slash, and while it has helped I think, can you suggest other ideas to make combat more interesting? To give an idea I used, I had one combat based on river rafts, with Acrobatics checks to jump across, Swim checks if you fell off, and NPC townspeople who, if enough died, would cause the rafts to spin off in the current.
The group of 5 players in my homebrew campaign seem to be wading through the "hard" (APL + 2) encounters I set before them. They are constituted of the following characters at 4th level:
Human White Mage Arcanist trying to fulfill that trait that doubles healing (forgot what it was called). He sat out last combat, i.e. didn't do anything. Reason for this forthcoming.
Dhampir Bloodrager with the Undead bloodline, has a glaive-gusarme and is not optimized. He has not raged in a real combat encounter thus far, because there has been no need.
Human CRB Bard. Buffs party attack rolls and shoots with crossbow. Uses Grease occasionally, but again, not really necessary.
Kitsune Swashbuckler with WF and Dervish Dance. Her MW scimitar has a +12 to hit and deals +11 damage when Bard-buffed with song. With high AC and Parry, she is hard to hit, much less kill.
The fifth character was an Elf Paladin of Iomadae with longsword and griffon as bonded mount. The griffon has been complete overkill, has not even been involved with the last couple of fights. Smite evil, also had a Str +3 or 4 bow. His AC against was high 20s last fight thanks to a spell. Changing characters now, but he always plays mostly optimized melee characters, maybe a cleric/warpriest of Asmodeus.
Ability scores were done with 4d6 drop lowest, which was my mistake. They rolled well, to say the least, and it was legit. Most have primary stats at +4 or 5, with at least a +1 in most of the others. This makes their saves at least decent, if not terrific. AC's are pretty high too despite all of them being quite a bit below WBL. Last combat was against 2 ghouls, 4 skeletons, and a ghast cleric 4, and they never damaged them except for 4 or 2 points with some negative energy, which is why the White Mage didn't do anything. Favorable terrain too, with negative energy pools that would lash out at living things.
CR seems to be junk when making encounters for my group. Since I am on a limited schedule, I really do rely on premade material, but these encounters are not close to challenging. Since I am going by fast XP, CR is pretty important to keep track of leveling progress.
I honestly don't know what to do. Should I trash the CR and trust my intuition? If you have experienced the same issue or have any ideas, please share your wisdom.
All of these ideas are great. In particular, I really want to start getting the party involved in political intrigue within the religious and arcane communities, along with the government of course. However, I have no experience in pulling this off, and there is a paladin in the party who liberally uses detect lies/evil to uncover facades. The party is very fit for these kinds of situations: two are former members of nobility, another is a graduate of the arcane collegium, and the kitsune has high charisma.
It seems like it would be really hard to make disguises and bluffs that would conceal adequately without just making it impossible, especially if they are evil.
Ghouls seem like a great idea, especially if they are something like secret necromancy experiments with beggars or a result of the church of Iomadae (or even all of the good/neutral religious groups in the city) being infiltrated/overrun.
Love those ideas, especially #6.
The city won't be the focus of the campaign, but it is the first city that I have presented in this country. They started the campaign in a remote region, and only now have they found real civilization. They will probably move on to the capitol before too long, but I am trying to encourage more exploration from the group. The campaign has been quite linear so far.
I'm looking for some suggestions to make a homebrew city called Amoch interesting to visit and explore. It's in a heavily agricultural temperate region with a population in the thousands. I have been running this game with a slightly Roman theme when it comes to the national government, the Regency, so I want to keep that theme going to some extent. The party will likely, in part or as a whole, will most likely be visiting at least a church of Iomedae, a magic supplier/shop (with no gold on hand, just items to barter, in a talismanic component crafting system), and, of course, a tavern/inn.
It's not much to go on, but I would love to hear all of your ideas. Any idea that can help to flesh out a city and its inhabitants is welcome. The more detail the better.
Well, I have heard people mention the idea of getting the "more-powerful" person to tone down his character, but how do you do that without getting beyond the scope of player fiat versus GM fiat? In other words, wouldn't you be directly interfering with the creation of a player's character if you said, "No, you can't get that feat because it would make you too powerful compared to the others."? And wouldn't the same hold for the reverse if you went in and changed the other players characters to make them more powerful? I understand that you can outrule things and so on, but I am talking about not letting this one person get feat A because it would make his character much more powerful than the others, but let the others get that feat because they are less powerful and it balances out. Wouldn't that be wrong?
@ Unruly: That looks like a great setup, and a challenging encounter as well. Definitely what I was looking for, so thank you!
@ Sir Thugsalot: The problem is that I know at times he can identify, but it is inconsistent, like a glimmer here or there. The first session he ever did (not while I was DMing) he went looking for a pet to buy and he got a riding dog which gave him fits, but I think he enjoyed that.
@ Taku: You say let them play cool things, but only if you are making the character... Is it ok to make a character for a PC? I really am not sure if it is. One thing that concerned me when I practically made the character for the youngest brother is that he didn't get the ability to think through all the things that went into his character, so he didn't get as much into how to play his character or how the mechanics work.
@ Drachasor: He is very fire-based, with enhancements to them with his racial archetype, and an elemental(fire) bloodline sorcerer. I put fire immune enemies in the first encounter to test what he had prepared in case he encountered a fire-resistant enemy, and he dealt fairly well with them with his Frigid touch spell or something like that.
The idea of adding different enemies for the PCs to fight is a great idea! I will probably go with some anti-construct/item enemies who will try to focus on the clockwork warrior, and he will have to be defended from those, and the PCs will also have to help kill the dragon since it is desperately trying to either defeat them or escape by destroying the sword. Thanks a bunch!
@ HowFortuitous: That is definitely a possibility, but I hope that is not the case. If it is, we may have to go with a 2 player group, which I am not sure how to manage if we ever want to do an AP or anything "official." And getting more people in my group is really not an option for me, unfortunately, since I kinda live out in the country, and for other reasons. It may be possible, though, for me to get with the group that my older brother plays with in the future, or arrange to bring them in by having the session somewhere in town. Anyways, it would be difficult.
EDIT: A question for all; Is there a way to make fire-damage spells still do damage despite resistances/immunities? I doubt that there is a way without going into 3rd-party material, which I would like to avoid, but I may be able to conjure up a homebrew feat or something that could accomplish that. I don't really have to worry about powergaming from B, but I also don't want to establish an unfair standard. Thoughts?
Thanks for all of the replies, they are very helpful. However, let me present something more specific to clarify;
BBEG can bestow the wonderful gift of negative levels at he beginning of combat, but he doesn't have a preference for any one character (no advance intel, no way of knowing their power levels). Would it be wrong to afflict the more-powerful person with the negative levels to bring him down to the levels of the other players, power-wise? Even if I can give some kind of excuse/reason, I know what I am doing and why.
Let's take it further; Would it be wrong to plan on doing that? You could easily do it with some "reason" to back it up.
Or let's look at the designing phase: When making an encounter, I pick an adversary (assuming one for now) that has an immunity to fire when the more-powerful person relies on fire spells to be super effective. The other players are not affected by this immunity. Is it wrong, then, to use this scenario?
EDIT: No specific character in mind really when making this, I am just using these as examples.
Two things in this thread that I find interesting;
1. There has been little talk of the most relevant part of discerning whether or not the killing of the surrendered cronies is justified. The key part of "justified" is the idea of justification, which is derived from the idea of justice. At he very beginning of the description of Lawful Good in the PRD, it says that, to a lawful good person, "Justice is all." So, that, to me, seems pretty important in determining whether an alignment shift should be given.
2. Lawful characters "honor tradition" (PRD again, from CRB). As far as I know, it is the tradition of lawful combatants to accept quarter when it is offered unless they have prohibited it beforehand. Even a lawful evil person would, if other motivations were not in play, give those cronies quarter IMHO. To not do so would not "honor tradition," unless it is the tradition of your deity to give no quarter, but since my knowledge of the various fictional deities in PF is miniscule, I don't know if this applies here.
For clarification, here is the full text from the PRD concerning Lawful Good:
PRD said wrote:
So, lets take a look at the scenario and see whether or not justice is being served. Taking a look at the original scenario, one thing is clear; what they did was a good act even though they did it out of impulse. If you seek to deliver justice by slaying the doers of evil regardless of their present state, then that is a lawful, and also good, act (at least in the context of PF, in real life, ehhh....). You can see support for this idea when, in the PRD, it says that a Neutral Good character "may forgive an evil person if he thinks that person has reformed, and he believes that in everyone there is a little bit of good." So, the killing of these surrendered opponents does not seem to represent that idea of accepting repentance or believing that they have some good in them. It seems to be even less representative of a Chaotic Good mindset, which is very lax compared to Lawful Good in its application of its beliefs towards others. IMO, they are not the ones crusading for good by vanquishing evil, that's the Lawful Good's job.
Basically, this is an act of justice, which is really the domain of Lawful Good characters. Really, if these people are straightforward doers of evil, then their extermination is the very aim and goal of a Lawful Good character. They are opposite of everything they stand for. Even though this sounds pitiless, a quick look at the above description of Lawful Good shows that that is a key characteristic of that alignment. Granted, there is a stipulation that it must be fairly consistent, but it is a factor nonetheless. However, if these people are not clearly doers of evil, then killing them before their guilt has been established by the systems of law and tradition would be a chaotic/neutral act, and possibly an evil one if they were innocent. In this case they are clearly not innocent, so it doesn't apply.
One more thing: In PF, good is against evil, all the time, day in and day out. To eliminate evil, in whatever form it presents itself, is a good act. The fact that these were evil cronies and were slain because of their evilness is good in the world of PF, but it was not lawful. It was vigilante justice, the kind that inquisitors are famous for applying. They acted within their alignment within the context of good, because they destroyed evil, and in the context of neutral/chaotic, because they did not follow the tradition of giving your foes quarter despite their evilness. It sounds wrong, but that is because we are looking at it from a real-life perspective, not from the perspective of the alignments as described.
EDIT: I realized that, looking over this, I may very well be contradicting myself at places. It is really hard to talk about this stuff without going around in circles!
2nd EDIT: To summarize my view; To kill a criminal is not an evil act, but a chaotic and good one in the context of PF. To show that he is guilty of his crimes according to law and tradition, then kill him, is a lawful and good act. Of course, you run the risk of killing innocents when you don't prove it first, then you have REALLY messed up, and may have an alignment shift after that.
Is it right to target a specific player in the creation and execution of a combat encounter? I have run into sort of a wall in trying to figure this out. On one hand, I want to create a challenge for each player when designing my encounters, but when I have run into characters that are disproportionately more powerful than the other characters I end up basically changing the encounter to challenge that specific character. I believe that you are supposed to be somewhat ambivalent as a GM when creating situations so that you don't appear to just be targeting certain players to the possible detriment of others, but I don't see any other proper way around it.
@ Unruly: Thanks for the good advice, I will definitely try to implement it in the future. On a specific note, I would like to ask you something; What would the makeup of an encounter with orcs for an APL of 10 look like to you? I have tried to think up ways of using low CR creatures in specific circumstances to create a challenge for my players without just sending a bajillion of them. Since you can somewhat easily go with classes with orcs that might be the key, but I still can't picture what a whole party might look like.
@ Cap. Darling: I have seriously considered trying to go forward with just the other two, but from what I understand it would be quite difficult to go through a campaign with just two people, especially if we wanted to try an AP at some point. We may have no choice in the matter, though, if we want to play. Thanks for the advice!
@ Unruly: Yes, I wholeheartedly agree with your idea for more varied encounters. I really should have done that in the first place, even though it would have made it more complex and possibly slower. I have to find a way to keep combat dynamic through whatever means, and having different monsters would definitely do that. What is hard about the situation with B is that I feel he really did enjoy it when we went up against an adult brine dragon and all but one of us died, but don't want to always have near TPKs every session. That would get tiresome for everyone, so I just need to find his "sweet spots," so to speak. Thanks for the idea!
@ Taku: Thanks for the clarification! If I have it right, your system focuses one giving a certain level of CR per person versus for the whole party, which should allow for more varied and hopefully interesting encounters. Also, thanks a bunch for the ideas with initiative, that really did slow down the play in the session, so I will definitely try to use at least one of those methods in the future.
Please guys, keep the comments coming, I need all of the advice with this I can get! :)
@Taku: Thank you for the plentiful and wonderful advice! I am having a little trouble in figuring out your CR measures for the different player-to-monster ratios, but I think I get the general idea.
As I said, your advice is very much appreciated, but I am afraid that it primarily applies to a player who is somewhat engaged in their character as, well, a character. My attempts to get him to become engaged in his character have fallen flat, such as when I asked all of the players to pick background traits and all that from Ultimate Campaign, but with B, no luck, not interested. I did require the players to have some kind of backstory for their character before we moved into the real campaign, but all he has so far is that he lived in a society of lava gnomes that was conquered/pillaged/plundered/massacred by the evil human empire that I created for the homebrew, and that he pretty much hates the guts of humans because of it. Simple, and it could work, but again, he almost never RP's his character in a session unless you sort of coerce him to do it. I don't think this is out of shame or anything like that, but mostly disinterest.
Your encounter creation guidelines are very interesting, but one of the biggest drawbacks to that combat encounter that I ran last time was that it took a long time to run through all of the actions of the players and the monsters. This seems to really kill any enthusiasm the group has during combat, and turns it into a fairly ho-hum sequence of events. Is there any recommendations for keeping the encounter fairly short despite having many monsters?
EDIT: Haha, yeah, the biting the eidolon thing I may very well never repeat, but I read that Magma Dragons were prone to "violent outbursts," so I thought "Hey, this really old dragon may not have ever seen an eidolon like this before, and maybe he has this thing about eating his enemies/intimidating them into service, so I'll have him..." You know how it ends. XD
Thank you for the comment! Having immersion in a RPG seems to be very important to really get people engaged, so I am hoping that an encounter to draw B in will maybe open him up a little to the idea of being more immersed in his character. While I would also prefer to shy away from much silliness in the sessions, especially over multiple sessions, I can't really think of another way to get him engaged. I have looked for advice on that topic on these boards, and what most seem to recommend is to make a session or two a bit lax and adjusted to the problem player's preferences. I can't say from experience that it works, but I will try it.
There was confusion with all the options when we first started earlier this year in a different, short, and doomed-to-fail homebrew where we made 11th level characters. I have almost completely created the character for the younger brother, but I really tried to make sure he understood everything that was going into his character. He likes working on backstory for characters, not so much the technical side. The fact that he hasn't worked into the technical side of his character very much may explain his deficiency when it comes to mechanics, but if I let him make even a level 1 from scratch I would probably have to rework it just to get him roughly up to par with the other two.
As for "B," he is fairly busy with other things that are probably more interesting to him (mostly talking and working with his friends on debate prep) than PF is up front, so he doesn't come at it with the best attitude. The other players are disappointed/frustrated with that because they want to play, and without him I don't know if we could.
@Sarcasmancer: You are correct in that, for the most part, silliness breaks immersion, but I do not think that B wants to immerse in this. The other two do somewhat, but they also would enjoy some funniness just as much as B would. As I stated before, I don't know if ever will take the game seriously, regardless of what I try to put across in the short term. In the long term it could be a different story, but that is just too far from now to estimate.
As for your other comments, we started at this level since we tried to do lower level characters, but it was not entertaining enough, so we moved to upper levels for now. I can't imagine that B would ever want to trudge through many levels to get where he is now with his character, again, he is not that engaged. The ages are 24 for druid, B is 16, and the youngest is 14.
@Matthew Trent: That is a good idea! Perhaps they run into a troop of them after exiting the cave. Better yet, make them intelligent (awakened) with distinct personalities!
EDIT: Btw, this is a standalone world so far for this session I am planning, so don't worry about making things inconsistent. Think of it as an intro/training world for people to get excited about the real homebrew campaign I am creating after we are ready.
Well, it seems that I am in a pickle, as Shakespeare quipped once upon a time. I recently GMed my second session as a "test" encounter for my 3 sibling group with a fairly simple dungeon crawl. The results were... unsatisfactory, at least for myself and one of my players, whom I will refer to as "B" from now on. There is much that I could detail about the encounter, but I will try to be concise.
To begin, though, here are the details of the group at that time:
1st player: Dwarf Fighter
So, after entering a cave to find a puppy who led them there (yes, I did that...), investigating a random side path with crevice, and escaping a moving-wall-death-trap-of-doom (or was it?), the party walked into a large cavern that had a strong magical aura (as detected) that was ringed with lava. Soon afterwards, they were jumped by 6 Large Magma Elementals, and then proceeded to slaughter them over the course of an hour to an hour and a half. I expected this, as this was purposefully an APL encounter. After they slayed the last Elemental, they met a lovely Ancient Magma Dragon, who proceeded to belittle them and bite the eidolon on the leg "to see what it tastes like." This was also done to show the experienced player (the summoner/eldest brother) and others that this beast was not to be trifled with in combat (player's face for the summoner physically changed when I said "does a 49 hit your eidolon's AC?") After this he told them to destroy a chest further down the dungeon that he couldn't for unexplained reasons.
However, the encounter abruptly stopped when, after B had taken a 15-minute break to get lunch in the middle of combat earlier in the session, I asked him if he actually wanted to play anymore. He said no, so we stopped right there. He claimed that he was bored, and that he had stuff to do, and when I asked for what he found boring he would not say. He basically stated that he found nothing entertaining. I tried to convince him that we still had more to do, and that it would get better as we went on, but to no avail. It was probably a bad call on my part, and I practically gave up on GMing or doing any PF at all right there. This is the only way I would be able to do any PF, so it really downed me.
However, all was not lost, at least I think so. After discussion with the other two players, who seemed to enjoy the encounter overall but had other issues (detailed later perhaps), I think B can still be brought back around with the proper application of awesome setting/fights and comedic characters. He has always tried to do silly, crazy stuff like cast Scorching Ray on the puppy when it first went up to him, probably because he does not treat the game with even a smidgen of seriousness when RPing. He really doesn't get into his character at all during sessions, and I really don't know if he ever will. On the other hand, he has somewhat enjoyed very challenging encounters in the past (example: 3 person party against adult brine dragon, characters fairly poorly made combat wise plus almost constant use of obscuring mist, took some coercing to make B admit this). Basically, I need to create an encounter that is a home run with B, or I am afraid that he will turn his back on it for good (if he has not already). So, here is my idea thus far (and, for this session, to heck with rules in creating characters for now):
My dungeon setting where we left it, with the Magma Dragon, but with an abrupt and gloriously comedic entrance (busting through a cave wall in a flashing cloud of... butterflies?) of Sir Clocksalot the Mighty Clockworkian of Duremnagarnia and his trusty, albeit whiny, intelligent Greatsword named Amaeus and his buddy, the serene, very monk-ish intelligent Nunchuk named Noni. Immediately upon his arrival he unleashes upon the marauding dragon of ole' a diatribe of stuttering proclamations and threats and promises and so on, with his stuttering moments to be cleared by his ever-sighing sword. After this attempt at chivalrous glory (he says he is doing it for the gnome, and for all other fairness/handsomeness in the world), he charges the dragon, who flies into an insane rage. Backstory here; Dragon is trapped in this cave by the sword perpetually casting a powerful version of planar binding, among other things, and it was his destiny to be slain by the sword, who knows this, and has been in that chest mentioned earlier for a long time at the other side of one of the cave walls. Epic combat hopefully ensues, and this is as far as I have gotten.
So, thoughts, tips, advice, encouragement, support, and all of forms of engagement, including criticism, are encouraged. If you have any questions about any of what I have said, feel free to ask. I look forward to your input, and when giving any ideas for the planning of this next session please keep in mind the feeling I am trying to put across to B, the other players have already been alerted and agree to some possible silliness and such with this session.
If we can, let's try to blow his perception of Pathfinder and how entertaining it can be out of the metaphorical water. If possible, I don't want him to want to leave the table to do anything except maybe some character sheets to start whole new ideas, and a notebook and pencil to start writing his own adventure. In other words, let's get nuts!
EDIT: Forgot to mention that the summoner decided to change to a druid after he severely outclassed the fighter with his eidolon. Like, one-shotting the Elementals versus the fighter's 3-4 hits kind of outclassing. He kinda likes to powergame (played under a crazy hard DM for a while now, don't really blame him) and the fighter is the youngest brother that has to be constantly reminded of how to calculate things like skill checks, attack rolls, damage rolls, etc. even when they are unchanged from his sheet. When the summoner did enlarge person to try to bring him to somewhere near his eidolon's power (still didn't cut it), he got very lost of how much the size increase gave him to attacks, damage, etc. But he is a whole other issue that I am also trying to remedy, and feel free to comment on that as well.
Hmm, this is interesting. If CR is supposed to equal APL for a "base" encounter, then that would mean that two Leukodaemons, each with a CR of 9, should be a base encounter for 4 18th level characters (9x2=18). However, each Leukodaemon only gives 6,400 XP with a total of 12,800 XP, which is the base XP value for a 12th level encounter.
What am I missing here?
Annabel wrote: wrote:
Actually, correlation versus causation plays a part in other forms of logical analysis, not just statistical inference. You clearly try to prove the idea that there is a problem with these tabletop games in that they infer an evil mindset just from the race (and, as you apply it to real-world racism, their skin color), in this case orcs. So, if A equals race/skin color, and B equals "evilness," you are trying to say "in tabletop games, these races are depicted as evil because of their skin color." In other words, A equals B. However, your basis is incorrect in that A does not equal B (skin color is not the reason for evilness), but it is the C, or unknown, variable. See other reasons in my original post.
One thing that is interesting is that you say you believe that our culture is deeply imbedded with racism. This, to me, means that you may already be quite biased on the issue of the prevalence of racism, since you already take it for granted in such a wide scope. If that is the case, then a more objective viewer may not interpret the skin color of these evil beings, the orcs, as being any sort of indicator of a negative portrayal of a specific race. They just are not looking for racism in everything, nor do they expect racism in everything.
Second, I never "attempt to delve into the psyche of anyone and examine their 'subconscious.'" In fact, I think I pointed avoid discussing anything remotely close to the psychological or moral make up of Tolkien, or the writers of table-top games. I don't attempt to delve the psyche of others for two reasons. First, it is usually and unproductive venture, as it individualizes the problem. The racism of the 1950s is not simply in the mind of Tolkien, and therefor any attempt to talk about racism of the 1950s would require us to go beyond Tolkien. Second, discussions over whether someone is "really" a racist through psychoanalysis (or whatnot), is such a needless discussion, and distracts from the subject of racism.
I believe that if you attempt to portray a personal creation of a creator in any way that is contrary to their explicit intent, and then claim that is what they really "meant" to do on a conscious/subconscious level, then you are trying to examine them. You do, in fact, say that orcs in Tolkien's world are a "racial allegory," when he explicitly stated that they are not. There was no hidden racial meaning in his orcs. And when referring to Gygax's depiction, you wrote
Whether conscious of it or not, this depiction of orcs depends, as much as Tolkien's orcs, on the articulation of inferiority through racialist discourse. That is to say, orc descriptions are articulated through racism that organizes bodies hierarchically by characteristics such as skin and hair color.
However, there is something deeper to this "lack of offense." These "extra" descriptions go beyond the skin to justify, not describe. They "make up" the reasons to justify racism. The predominantly white roleplay consumer struggles to see the racism inherent to these kinds of descriptions because we never have to struggle against their authoritative powers. We are white, and therefor we easily rebuke the assignment of moral depravity based on skin color.
Here you state that this was at least a subconscious translation on Gygax's part to portray evilness as a result of race(ism), when there really is no justification in doing so. As I said before, A does not equal B, and it is clear to me you are examining them, just not as directly as some others.
To Bombadil: I did not read your post til after I wrote this, but forgive me for my claim. I somehow got the notion that you were trying to make the point that AD's lack of consideration on the part of the individual in the evil army would be portraying the entire army as doing what they did because they were of a certain race, and would thus be undesirable because of its racist portrayal. I got very confused. :(
Bombadil wrote: wrote:
So, then it is okay for him to have an army of bad guys in general, as long as he portrays that not all of the individuals in that army are of the same mindset? Or, as you put it, showcase their "individuality"? That is not only highly unusual to expect that, but unnecessary. If you only wish to consider the color of the skin of the people in his army to real-life people as related to the actions they perform, you can do that, but you will be missing the trees for the forest. He does not need to do that, and I would not diminish his work in any way for not doing that. Isn't it the job of the individual, the reader, to draw conclusions that make sense? To say that the author's work would either be of low-quality or racist for not portraying the ideals/thoughts/motivations of some individuals in a predominantly evil army that happens to have some attribute that is somewhat similar to a real-life race is nonsensical. But, as the Burger King slogan goes, have it your way.
Poink wrote: wrote:
There are also other issues; For one, the attempt to delve into the psyche of anyone and examine their "subconscious" is arrogant in my opinion, unless you have an extensive, personal knowledge of that person.
Vivianne Laflamme wrote: wrote:
The existence of unconscious biases is established fact. Consider that orchestras switching to using blind auditions increased the rate of women being hired (Goldin & Rouse, 1997). Even though those conducting the auditions weren't intentionally excluding women, when they didn't know the gender of the auditioners, women were more likely to be hired. Or consider that having a "white-sounding" name on your resume can make you more likely to receive a callback for an interview (Bertrand & Mullainathan, 2003).
There is a massive difference in those examples and our discussion here: those are tightly controlled experiments with statistical analysis. I hesitate to say even then that that automatically qualifies them as legitimate, but it is certainly more legitimate than just some blind psycho-analysis. Also, you took that sentence out of context, I was referring to studying the subconscious of people in times past, not live psychological studies.
Also, there has been established problems with applying the results of studies for an ethnic group to an individual from that group, i.e. you can't really say that all orchestral employers are individually biased against women with that study. It's known as the ecological fallacy.
EDIT: Added my quote for clarification.
Skeld wrote: wrote:
It doesn't hurt that Tolkein & Gygax are dead and can't defend their work (which doesn't seem to matter anyway because they'd either be called liars or subconscious racists). Nothing stops the armchair quarterbacks from saying whatever they want, with the occasional, out-of-context statement to back up their opinions.
I agree, and what is even worse is that we (as in those who do not agree that they/their works were racist) have to defend them, and that even if they express a direct opinion on the subject, they are then considered to not be "in-tune" with their own subconscious, or just flat liars of the first degree. Really, there should be no room for controversy after a statement like that, unless there is blaring evidence to the contrary somewhere down the line. See Clinton, Bill & Lewinsky, Monica or LBJ, Secret Service agent.
AD: I got irritated as well, but I guess my Craft(Theory) check roll turned out to be better. :)
Your comments really are the basis for my post.
My two cents...
I believe that the primary issue at hand here is the issue of correlation versus causation. In the article, the author states that there is a correlation between the skin colors of the various orc groups, among other things, and racism in the tabletop games and in Tolkien's work. She basically states that, because of the fact that the orc races have dark skin tones, they are representative of real-life races, and thus any of the generalizations, stereotypes, et cetera that is attached to those orc races applies somewhat to real-life races, thus implying racism.
The problem with that claim is a commonly known logical fallacy known as the third-variable problem, which basically means that when someone claims that variable A equals variable B, they do not sufficiently consider the third, unknown variable C, which could equal B. The points brought by AD and mplindustries are pointing out this very issue by offering alternative causes, and stronger causes then the ones presented in the article in my opinion. This is especially true with the Tolkien issue, since the fact that Tolkien himself (who, if I am not mistaken is THE primary authority on his own motivations) denied any sort of correlation between his depictions and real-life races. Other valid points include ones that suggest that orcs are depicted in the way that they are due to mythological influences (especially with Tolkien, who was VERY heavily influenced by various mythologies), and the point concerning the role that darkness has on our perceptions of good and evil. None of these points were considered at all in the article, or any other alternatives for that matter, and thus imply author bias towards their own mostly unsupported conclusion.
There are also other issues; For one, the attempt to delve into the psyche of anyone and examine their "subconscious" is arrogant in my opinion, unless you have an extensive, personal knowledge of that person. I don't believe any of us here, regardless of our credentials, can legitimately say that Tolkien, or any other creator of these fictional races, were wrong in saying that they were not racist. We can say that their works may imply otherwise, but if they directly state that those works are not racist, then they are not, unless you would like to prove that they are liars, in which case, good luck with really proving their intent. And if you believe that one can be racist without intent.... well, then you are questioning their ability to control their own mental faculties (that is, they write and proofread endlessly on the very same concept and still are not able to realize what they mean), which in that case, I may make the same argument against you.
One final thing; Is it really right to say that negatively depicting fantastical, fictional beings that are colored in a certain way that is similar (but not identical) to a real-life, flesh and blood, intelligent being has a significant impact on the actual way we treat or think about the real-life person in front of us? In my opinion, intelligence is an extremely effective screen for making such nonsensical assertions, since only a crazy or very unintelligent person would assert the orc in any person. What is funny is that that would also be a a third variable logical fallacy, that is, if you were to think that a real-life person of a certain color was an orc because they looked like the depiction of an orc. Are we not doing the exact same thing, except in reverse?
Hello everyone, I just have a quick question: is it better for a new GM such as myself to plan for shorter, dynamic sessions or longer, possibly less dynamic sessions? I am not saying that the session has to end by X or Y, but I do wonder if I am prepping enough content for my first session. My thinking is that it is better to leave them hungry for more than to have them wishing the session would just end.
If you want to know details about this campaign (the size of my group, etc.), then feel free to take a look at this thread that I created.
249. While the group is moving through a large crowd, a man in flamboyant attire yells from the balcony of the town hall, "Hey, it's Bonkin' Noggin Day! Everyone get out your Bonkers!" This announcement is following by joyous giggles and shouts as the entire crowd pulls out small wooden hammers on 2-foot handles, and begin to "bonk" each other on the head. It is a DC 17 Reflex save to move 5 feet through this crowd without getting "bonked." If you get "bonked," you could go with a DC 10 Will save to not "bonk" them back. Most, if not all, townspeople will be friendly today, as long as you have "bonked" them with an official "bonker."
250. While the group is moving through the crowded town square (DC 10 Perception would see the following: the people are mostly standing, with wooden boxes in their hands, and oversized boots on their feet, with horned helmets on their heads, and there are empty jars titled "MAYO" littering the ground, which is now covered in a whitish substance), a man in flamboyant attire yells from the steps of the square "Hear this! This day has, by official decree, been chosen as a day of celebration! IT'S WEASEL STOMPING DAYYYY!" Upon this shout, the crowd applauds as they open their boxes to release weasels all over the area, and gleefully proceed to chase and stomp on them. DC 10 Reflex to not slip on the greasy substance like many other people. Also, a song has been taken up by the crowd... this is what they are singing.
Also, as a general question for anyone; is there anything I need to know that is "munchkinable" with a Goblin Barbarian with the Feral Gnasher archetype? This player is the one with experience, and when I ran an encounter with him in it before he was also a barbarian, and he kicked all kinds of behind that I could throw at him. It even lead me to believe that the barbarian is even a little too powerful when compared to other martial classes, and the fact that he was utilizing Bag of Tricks to ridiculously enhance his speed through a lion mount (plus the extra attacks, scent, feats like Spring Attack, Spirited Charge with lance, etc) only enhanced that feeling. Am I at fault for thinking that the Barbarian class can be overly power-built?
Wow, thanks for the quick response!
I agree with the exception that items can grant him uses of different kinds of magic, just like a fighter can essentially use magic if he has a magic weapon. If the person is a spellcaster they will have Use Magic Device which allows them to use all kinds of magic through items.
They do, you are not required to follow a God to be a cleric you can be a cleric of an ideal or an oracle, and there are wizards of just about every faith. Regardless of faith you have access to the same power. The power's source is different, but the way that power acts is the same, other then the spells being different.
Then what is the purpose of distinguishing between arcane and divine if the difference is in name only? Also, the spells are different because of the different power sources, and, since it won't affect any of the PCs (it will affect NPCs as part of the story), it could be looked at as more of a plot device. That is its intention.
It may clarify my issue if I explain what exactly I plan for the story, so here we go. The Silvan empire (elves) is a civilization that only uses divine magic, and it looks upon arcane magic as heretical, which is why it banished an entire caste of dark-skinned elves (drow) for insisting on practicing the arcane arts many centuries ago. In the story, the creatures that have mental control over large portions of The Grez (bad guys) turn out to be incredibly resistant/invulnerable to the divine magic of the Silvan, so they will have to come together as allies with the nation of Sortesia (the drow nation), and, in large part, depend on the very magic they scorned for their own survival. This will be a contentious and difficult relationship that will progress for a large part of the campaign, since the two groups have not interacted for centuries.
So this magical distinction is an important plot device as I have it laid out so far. However, I can and am willing to change it if it is not going to work.
Things can happen without the players. The only thing you should keep a handle on is the fact that the players should feel like they can have a hand in those events if they do make the effort and are present for the events. Basically, players should feel like they have agency (some influence over the events that surround them).
Thank you for that advice, it is very helpful.
@ Calybos1: Lolz. Except I don't know what "verisimilitude" means.
@ Kolokotroni: I definitely agree with the following piece of advice;
...it will take practice. I would say that more is usually better then less, I've never had a game go badly because I prepared too much.
and I agree with most of the other things you said. Concerning the vulnerability to different types of magic, though, I would offer the following question: how is it any different than being susceptible to bludgeoning versus slashing damage, et cetera? Even though Pathfinder does not, by default, make this distinction for the purposes of balance, it makes sense to believe that divine magic would be at least somewhat different than arcane, or else you would be implying that secular magic users would have access to the same power that the gods/their followers do, albeit on a much smaller scale (than the gods that is). I am very aware of the balance issues presented by such a change, but it serves as both a unique and challenging obstacle to this party in my opinion. Currently there are no divine spellcasters, only an arcane one, and I plan on making some bosses a long ways down the storyline invulnerable to divine magic for story purposes, but very susceptible to arcane, so it looks like it will work out in that player's favor. Still, I very much appreciate your concern, and it may very well turn out to be a bad idea on my part to do this.
Another question that I seek advice on: If I have planned certain significant events in this universe (significant being nation-wide, possibly turn-of-the-tide kind of events), should I always have the PCs be the driving force behind those events? The way I have it thought out now that would be very difficult without major changes to the story, and I have those events happening due to NPCs that may be outside the influence of the PCs. This, to me, is the more realistic approach, being as that PCs can't be everywhere at once, and they are not the only players in town, so to speak. In my mind, if I can create NPCs that have real influence and ability to affect what happens in the world just like the PCs, then that will create a more engaging experience then just waiting for the world to turn when the PCs make it do so. Is that an unprofitable view to have as a GM?
@ Adamantine Dragon: First off, thank you very much for your feedback so far. I really appreciate it.
As for the mass combat statistics (if that was what you were referring to, if it wasn't then disregard), I don't really plan on having big battles for quite a while. It it a little too much for me at this point to try and prepare all that would be necessary for such an encounter. I will have to deal with that at one point though, so I will need to do as you suggested. I definitely agree with the idea of maps, I already have one drawn for the beginning area, and I plan on making more in the future.
I also agree with the idea of starting out small. The beginning scene/area is a poor town in a desert/hill region that relies on the adjacent highway to survive. There they will meet a simple but honest sheriff who is a gunslinger of equal level as them, and he will be not only a crucial character in the story, but the crux of their first adventure. I put him at their power level because the town will be invaded by the Grez (big bunch of evil/necromatic beings), and these will be serious opponents that they will need help with, at least as I have it now. However, after your advice, I may reconsider his power level, and may just increase it incrementally as the story progresses. After your advice I am thinking of instead having him focus on protecting a group of civilians trying to escape, but since the PCs don't know where to flee they could assist him to save their own skin. Could that work?
Concerning backstory, is it my responsibility to detail why they are together as a group? At 11th level you kinda have to assume either that they have been adventuring for a while together or individually. Also, in this storyline, this civilization that they start out in, Termania, is foreign to them, and they to it, so their story will have to be based elsewhere. I am leaning on the side of them being an adventuring group before these events conspire. Is that a good idea?
@ Snow Tiger: As I stated in my original post, I am not looking for that level of conversion. This universe exists with the same technology, races, and so on of the original PF universe, and my conversion is really more of an adaptation than a conversion, and a loose one at that. Lasers and completely different technology would be too much for me right now. XD
@Pan: I agree with all that you said, and thank you for the advice. I hope to sandbox with a long-term storyline, if that makes sense. The last thing I want to do is create this really interesting (to me) story thing and then have it wrecked because the players do something unexpected, so I am trying to keep it loose and focus on the big picture.
Please excuse the length of my replies, I have yet to master brevity. :)
207. A baker struts in front of his store with a loaf calling to a crowded street "Bread for sale!" incessantly. Suddenly, he drops the loaf into the mud, and stiffly walks into the store. Soon afterwards, crashing can be heard inside the store, and smoke begins to pour out the front. The bakery becomes engulfed in flames, and a cloaked figure laughs and runs into a nearby alley.
208. While walking down the crowded street, a PC runs into a cloaked figure. A DC 20 Perception check by any of the party notices the pointed ears of the person. This town has incredible animosity towards elves, and anyone caught aiding or abetting an elf is severely punished, while a (large) reward is given to those who turn them in.
Hello everybody! As the subject states, I am a new GM, but I am not necessarily lacking in Pathfinder knowledge. For the last better part of a year my older brother (he plays in a group outside of this one) has run a couple of campaigns as a GM with myself and the other two siblings as players and, for various reasons, those campaigns never really got anywhere. Recently, a decision was made by the group to forgo the previous campaign and allow myself to GM. This probably sounds strange to many people, being as that I have so little experience with this. I can say, however, that I have a good knowledge of the rules of PF given that I extensively studied the PF books (CRB, APG, Bestiary 1 & 2, ARG, Ultimate Campaign, Ultimate Equipment, Ultimate Combat) and other sources in the previous campaign. You could say I was VERY interested in how to play my character, so it ended up that I had knowledge of the rules that were on par with the GM.
However, despite my knowledge of the rules, I am certainly very new to this venture, and this is why I seek advice. So, let me present my progress thus far, for those who wish to see it...
First off, let me say that if you are not familiar with the Starcraft universe, the following information may not be very comprehensible.
I decided to try and convert what I consider to be an excellent universe, that is, the Starcraft universe (that is where the "ambitious" part comes in). I am not telling them it is based on that universe, since I don't want them to know the story ahead of time. This is not going to be a "straight-line" conversion at all, and my search for ideas on how to convert on this messageboard have shown me that previous attempts to do this have been far, far too transformative for what I was looking for. I am not going to introduce psionics or anything like that. I simply want to create PF "versions" of various races and things that are inspired by that universe. For instance, there are no Protoss in this world. There are, however, the Silvans, which are elves (not called elves in this universe obviously) in the created Silvan empire/society. There are various castes in this society that play different roles (classes), just like they did in the Protoss race. Humans are still called as such in this universe, but they are known as citizens of the Termanian empire, which is modeled after the Confederacy. Overall, I hope this point is clear; I am not seeking to recreate the SC universe, but to create a universe that can exist with the races, abilities, technology, and so on that is already within PF and is inspired by the SC universe.
As for the story, I hope to roughly follow the events in the games thus far, but I doubt it will last past the Brood War portion. This means that powerful NPCs may be part of the group for a large part of this campaign, but I am not sure I will do that just yet. I am dedicated to not hardlining them into that story, but it will be very difficult for them to not be involved with these events in the long term. I could go on about what I have thought of for this campaign, but I will stop here.
The main points of advice that I seek (there is a LOT that I want to ask) are as follows:
Other questions will certainly come up, but I think that is enough for now. Oh, and by the way, all PCs (and the beginning party NPC) is starting at 11th level... with double feats! (This is something that we have enjoyed in our previous campaigns and it has worked out quite well. The balance of PCs to threats seems to work out pretty well.)
Any advice is greatly appreciated, and I am looking forward to your feedback!