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Shadow Lodge RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 8

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This is thread #2 for an ongoing campaign of Dead Suns I’m running. It serves as a record of our game and of the various decisions and modifications that have been made during it. Hopefully you’ll find it interesting and useful!

You can find Part 1 here.

Book 2 – Temple of the Twelve

First of all, I love the flavor of this book. We’ve got our first longer non-Absalom station adventure, and the setting is great. Its Jurassic Park meets advanced technology, with warp gates and political tension. And we get to explore the lost world part of Castrovel that’s ancient ruins and modern bunkers both overgrown by alien jungle fauna. Pretty dope, all in all.

For the cityscapes (like Qabarat) I pictured your standard Coruscant-esque future city, but with special care taken to preserve sections of the natural jungle terrain—like Central Park but with alien trees. The meshing of technology and nature feels a lot like the art of Simon Stalenhag or Jakub Rozalski, for anyone familiar with Tales from the Loop or the board game Scythe.

Character Data Dump
PCs are now level 5

  • Gnome Operative… Scholar… Hacker
  • Halfling Mystic… Ace Pilot… Star Shaman
  • Kasatha Solarian… Xenoseeker… Solar focused
  • Android Technomancer… Icon… rebuilt from envoy
  • Ysoki Mechanic… Outlaw… Exocortex

Changes Made to Temple of the Twelve
Because my players are already level 5, I have to scale up book 2. Fortunately, Alien Archive makes this super easy. I simply take the existing creature, figure out what array and grafts were used, and then increase the CR by 2. To do the entire book took less than 30 minutes. I then blanket increased the DCs of skill checks by 2, the DCs of required saves by 1-2, and the damage from hazards by 50%. Credit rewards were doubled, although this might prove to be too much of an increase. Looted items were boiled down into their iLvl, and then increased by 2. So now my players loot a random iLvl 6 longarm, instead of a specific iLvl 4 longarm. Story wise, the only change I had to make was when the Iron Rictus attacks the PCs, so rather than attacking at the Drift Rock it attacked when they returned from their side quest.

Part 1 - Questions in Qabarat
Transmission Begins… Session 8, 11/27/17

Upon arriving outside Absalom Station space, the PCs find themselves immediately set upon by an unknown vessel. The markings identify it as a Corpse Fleet Cairncarver, and its weapons are hot. After a few rounds of combat, the enemy ship is wounded and resorts to overloading it’s engines in an attempt to self destruct and take the Sunrise Maiden with it! Fortunately, Captain Serissi and the Dust Runner of the Hardscrabble Collective arrives in time to fire up their laz drills and shred the detonating vessel before it can go off. The PCs open coms with their old friend, who brings them up to speed. Turns out Gevalarsk Nor shared the footage of the PCs exploration aboard the Drift Rock across Absalom Station, and then found on behalf of the Hardscrabble Collective in their case against Astral Extractions. Apparently the media is eager to question the PCs about their investigation, so Serissi offers his ship’s docking bay as a back door into the station, past all the reporters.

So a couple of changes here, the first just being the timing of things. The second is the provincial arrival of Serissi. I did this for a few reasons. The first is that I needed some Deus Ex to let my players know what happened regarding the Drift Rock. I also wanted to spice up an otherwise placid space combat. My PCs easily handled the Iron Rictus, and adding the “threat” of it self destructing brought some players out of their space-combat coma. The last reason was because aside from Book 1, the player’s decisions regarding the Hardscrabble Collective and Astral Extractions never come up again. I didn’t really like that, so by presenting Serissi here it gives meaning to their earlier choices.

Landing on Serissi’s low-key docking bay the PCs are easily able to return to the Lorespire Complex and turn in their last side quest. They also get the low down from Chiskisk, who tells them that since the Drift Rock’s details have been spoiled to the whole Station, there’s no telling who might be moving to investigate it now—which means the Starfinders are going to begin their investigation a lot sooner than planned. He’s sent the strange writings from the alien artifact out to all his contacts, in the hopes that someone will know something. In the meantime, the players spend credits and gear up.

Once they finish shopping, Chiskisk gives them the mission briefing (pg. 5) and the PCs are bound for Castrovel. However, as they begin to board their ship, a flock of reporters begins to hound them—getting in their face and asking sensational questions while hover cams film it all. Weaving through the reporters, the PCs are finally free to leave Absalom Station and begin the adventure in earnest.

Oddly my players never thought of speaking with Nor about the Corpse Fleet ship, probably because he had already paid them for their work in Book 1. I included the mob of reporters to foreshadow the same thing that happens later at the university, but as you’ll see that didn’t really matter.

Arriving on Castrovel, the players meet up with Whaloss and head to Qabarat University. He leaves them at Karei hall, where the players have a meeting scheduled with the head of the linguistic anthropology department—Professor Muhali. Elevator doors open and the PCs see a mob of reporters scrambling to get in to see the professor. A lone assistant is overwhelmed as he tries to hold them off. Wasting no time, the android sees conflict and heads to a different floor. The operative enters stealth, and the remaining three players approach. After a few feeble attempts and quelling the reporters, the solarion looses her patience and lays one out. The distraction is enough that the three are able to get inside and see Muhali. She gives them the low down about Aliabiens 21:2 (as his name comes up this first time I allow my players Culture check to learn of his names significance) and gives them the deal—help me settle this and I’ll track down the professor on leave who can possibly translate those writings. As the player’s agree, the door opens and campus security arrives to escort the solarion off the premises.

I had no idea how to expect this scene to break out, I had some thoughts, but combat wasn’t one of them. Fortunately the bit about campus police is in the book, which made it easy to deal with the situation. For all of the descriptive bits about Qabarat University, I just pulled from my time in college and having two parents as professors. The players and I joked about the QU’s rival, University of Qabarat (or UQ), and we came up with school colors (neon green and safety orange, like a PFS HQ shirt). Most of Muhali’s personality I took from the chair of a department I know, who’s mantra seems to be “I got into this to be a scientist, not an administrator” – which jives with how Muhali is presented anyway.

The operative, mystic, and mechanic go to speak with Aliabiens 21:2 while the technomancer tries to hack into the university computer system and get the absent professor’s home address. He whiffs the Computers check, and a moment later campus security arrives to escort yet another member of the team off the grounds. In speaking with Aliabiens 21:2, the PCs are a mix of disgusted (mystic), enamored (mechanic), and indifferent (operative), which makes for some great table talk.

The mystic and the mechanic head back to Muhali with Aliabiens 21:2’s demands, while the operative stays behind. Muhali agrees to 2 of the 3 concessions, but refuses to wipe Aliabiens 21:2’s tenure review file. The mystic and mechanic decide to lie, and text the operative that Muhali agreed to all three points—and the operative (not knowing he’s been lied to) shows Aliabiens 21:2 the text. Futhermore, while Muhali is distracted, the mechanic remote hacks her system and wipes the tenure file anyway—he did like the guy, after all.

So in the end, Aliabiens 21:2 believes the tenure file has been wiped. The operative, mystic, and Muhali know it hasn’t, and the mechanic knows that it has. Shenanigans!

Roleplaying the uber-logical floating brain was easy, as I basically made him act like the brains from Futurama. He refused to admit fault, as he couldn’t possibly be wrong. And if debating a point for more than a moment with a PC, he brought up their lack of qualifications and dismissed them. There was some good roleplay to be had, as the player of the mechanic is highly logical thinker and enjoyed some verbal sparring.

As Muhali learns that professor Solstarni is missing, she contacts the fuzz and gives the PCs (well the 3 that are still there) access to Solstarni’s office. They search and find the breadcrumbs that Solstarni was researching what they’re looking to research, and that she was probably kidnapped by this mysterious figure Eryub Paqual. The cops arrive and they lay out their findings, and the cop suggests they go undercover and see what they can learn about Paqual by heading to the Five Arches—where Paqual was slated to meet Solstarni a few days ago. The second thing to investigate is the Port Authority, where the goons that took Solstarni appeared to work. Fortunately, half the party is already back at the ship by the Port Authority, having being kicked off campus.

Nothing much to say here—there was just a lot of plot exposition that needed to get out in this section. I did replace the no-name Qabarat detective with the same hardboiled detective from Absalom Station—transferred to Castrovel for some peace and quiet. Needless to say he was unsurprised with the PCs arrived to interrupt his zen.

At the Port Authority the solarion and the technomancer spend an hour in bureaucratic hell tracking down a gate controller. They get the info they are after though, and learn that Solstarni has gone through one of the aiudara as part of a 15 man team headed to Ukulam. The remaining PCs head to the Five Arches.

I envisioned the TSA mixed with the police from Half Life 2 for the Port Authority. High tech scanners, slow moving lines, and lots of red tape. For the passage through the aiudara I thought of any border crossing, but with alien technology and some automated turrets.

After spinning their wheels a bit, they notice a lashunta looking in their direction. After making contact, the operative and the lashunta, Twonas En, go sit privately to discuss some transportation. The operative does a great job acting the part of a criminal, and before long has bought five illegal visas and a hassle-free baggage check through customs. Twonas thanks the operative for his business and heads out.

As fun as roleplaying a shady transaction is, nothing was more fun that describing Five Arches in great detail and playing the PCs waiter—an energetic man with well over 15 pieces of flair named Bobby. We decided that Fiver Arches is the equivalent of space Applebees, with all these stereotypical pact worlds’ memorabilia hanging off the walls in various sections. The PCs opted to sit in the Akiton section, where faded black and white photographs of Akitonian miners hung between rusted sections of mining equipment bolted to the wall. At the center of the restaurant was a slow moving collection of tables that made up Diaspora, complete with a traveling bar and bartender. The various food dishes we came up with were also extraordinary, my personal favorite was probably the Pact Worlds Sushi Platter – a massive dish of over 50 unique space sushi, one for each planet, moon, or other landmark in the Pact Worlds.

The PCs reconvened and shared their intel with the cops. Tracer Bullet tells the PCs that he’s going to move on their intel and seize the smugglers, and Muhali agrees to give the PCs visas to travel to Ukalam if they agree to try and recover Solstarni. Not being heartless monsters, the players accept. The smugglers are captured offscreen and the operative’s credits are returned in block text. The next day they head through TSA Gate Security and find themselves on another continent.

Some more plot movement here. The descriptive text nearly everything about an aiudara is lacking, aside from what it does, so I had to make some things up. Our aiudaras are a couple hundred feet tall or so and are crawling with security staff. Massive scanners mirror the curved arch, scanning the ships that pass through the top half of the arch as well as any people traveling on foot through the bottom. Security on the other side of the gate is much lighter—as the goal is to limit traffic into Ukalam, not out. The gate itself doesn’t have a perceptive field, but you just see another location through the middle—like the doors in Doctor Strange

We finished up the session with the players meeting Dr. Khair at Turhalu Point, who told them Solstarni’s expedition headed into the jungle a couple days ago—so she was at least alive then. The PCs are free to rest and resupply at the Qabarat University base camp before heading out into the Ukalam wilds after Dr. Solstarni and the mysterious Paqual.

I imagined Turhalu Point like any actual base camp at the foot of a mountain. So you’ve got annual support staff, some physical structures, and a bit of a tent city going on. Given Qabarat Universities influence and annual visas, they have a standing structure, which is where the PCs are free to gear up before heading into the jungle. Dr. Khair played the role of explainer—telling the PCs all this information as he showed them around the camp.

Transmission End

Notes from Session 8

  • First session with no combat! I’m excited because this is the first time, both in running this AP and in any game of Starfinder I’ve participated in thusfar, that there was no combat. And it ran beautifully. We had only a handful of d20s rolled at all, really, just on a couple Culture, Perception, and Computers checks—none of which were vastly important. Glad to see first hand that RP is alive and well in this new system.
  • As I said before, I really like this setting. I’m excited that we’re out of the city and about to enter the jungle. I could have used more descriptive text with the aiudara, but was able to make do.
  • Proper names. A running joke of mine is that at the start of some games of PFS, you get hit with a wall of proper names—locations, factions, names, objects, etc—that you are expected to know in order to understand the plot of the game. I was worried when I saw so many characters so quickly at the start of this AP, but the more we played the easier it was to keep things straight. That said, you still have: Halkueem Zan, Castrovel, Qabarat, Whaloss, Ikimsi, Muhali, Aliabiens 21:2, Ukalam, Solstarni, Eryub Paqual, Uilee, Five Arches, Twonas En, aiudara, Raiyiri, Turhalu Point, and Dr. Khair al-Nuaf. That’s a lot for one session.

Shadow Lodge RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 8

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Something I've long wanted to do is write a blow by blow of my time GMing a good adventure path. Both for my addled mind, so that I can look back upon my words and see what cool stuff happened during those games, but also to perhaps help new GMs and add to the ever expanding amount of excellent prep material available out there for would-be game masters. And with Starfinder freshly released, and their first AP - Dead Suns - also newly minted, I decided to start here. So, without further ado:

Book 1 - Incident on Absalom Station
Just in reading the adventure background, I'm in love with the plot of this book. It's simple, decently full of tropes I can draw on, and unique enough that my players shouldn't guess all the twists when I'm running it. We (the GM that is) also have a great hook for the rest of Dead Suns and a well needed primer on Absalom Station. Between the shiny newness of Starfinder and the extra spice we can now deliver to our players with that primer, running the first chapter of this AP should be a snap.

A fun fact to note about Absalom Station is that it was originally founded by gangs. Post Gap, the Station had little need for a government and "Anarchy reigned." (pg. 40). It was only when a near catastrophe vented the residents into space, did the gang leaders get together to form the first form of government, and elected the first Prime Executive. After reading this, I need to get that info to my players as quickly as possible. I'd like to give a kind of Shadowrun vibe to Absalom Station, which should be helped by their future encounters with Astral Excavations.

Part 1 - Absalom Gang War
Transmission Begins... Session 1, 8/28/17
I give them the platform of travelling on a shuttle together for the past few weeks, making stops at major locations across the Pact Worlds with the Station as their final destination, and the players intro themselves in the usual fashion. There are four: a gnome operative, an android envoy, a halfling mystic, and a kasatha solarian After the last drop at Akiton, the PCs are the only passengers remaining on the shuttle, and naturally get to talking. They discover they share a further similarity: a meeting with a Starfinder contact named Kreel.

The shuttle lands, and before most can get their wits about them, combat ensues. It's surprising brutal, with a couple of lucky 20's from my side (I imagine this will become a reoccuring theme, if my previous tables are of any indication), I almost kill their solarian with a laz pistol. Before I end combat prematurely with a security claxon sounding off, scattering the gangs, the operative has words with a member of the Level 21 Crew, and learns that the PCs and that gang aren't necessarily foes. As the dust settles, the party discovers the real purpose of the gang shootout--Kreel has been killed, a classic block text fatality.

Reminders for future combats: criticals are very deadly in this game compared to Pathfinder. Basically the way it works now is that a 20 = an auto hit, but if that 20 + attack modifiers would hit anyway, it's a crit. Which means, at lower levels at least, that a natural 20 is an auto confirming crit. Add to that the burn effect of laz weapons, and players can drop out of nowhere. Had I continued the combat until the AP suggested morale points, I would have certainly killed a player.

The cops arrive late, as they often do in these parts my players learn, and question everyone. I rip a page from the Automata series from Penny Arcade and make the lead detective a brooding hard-boiled 1930's noir type with a sterile, android sidekick and the pair liven up an other rather bland plot transition.

This is the first addition of something relevant to this AP, and it seems to have worked really well. My players later spent actions to investigate the brooding detective, so now I have to develop the character past his 2 dimensional personality

The players follow the (hidden) rails to the Starfinder Society and meet up with Chiskisk. I do my best telepathic bug man impersonation and give them their first quest: find out if Kreel's death was an accident and if it wasn't, find out who killed him and why! They get lodgings and begin research. After a series of skill checks and some info dumps, they head off to locate the level 21 crew.

Brilliant addition to allow the PCs to use "space Google" to research topics in Starfinder. It makes all the "who has this check, roll it up!" more or less a thing of the past, and helps everyone get involved at the table researching. And whenever someone whiffs it Google searching, I just end up describing them lost in space Reddit, looking at pictures of space cats.

They enter the Spike, and again I am glad to have the primer in the back of the book. I draw inspiration from dystopian space-fiction and paint a grim, hodge-podge existence of survivors crushed under a system designed to oppress them. Mama Fats is their contact for the L21 Crew and I play her as the halfling version of Annie from Cowboy Bebop--supporting of the Crew for the good they do, but not willing to get involved in any turf business. They leave word and before long have a sit down with Jabaxa.

I got some good roleplay from my table by talking up the drop off with Mama Fats. "You should buy a post card if you want to send a message to any old friends; I can make sure it gets delivered, of course." It fit well with the bodega theme of her shop and again gave life to the few lines allotted this NPC in the book.

For the scene with Jabaxa, I gave the ysoki an Italian accent and drew on the classic mafioso tropes associated with meetings in back rooms of restaurants. As the PCs learn that the Downside Kings are responsible for Kreels death, I add some spice by indicating that it was their vesk soldier, Hatchbuster, that also took Jabaxa's eye. My players latch on to this, and as good players often do, and are able to wrangle it into a bounty to personally ensure Hatchbuster was taken out. What could I do but accept, and promise them 200 credits for the job.

The party heads to the Fusion Queen for the first major battle of the AP. They spend a great deal hemming and hawing about how to enter the back room, where they know guards to be, and ultimately just go in, guns blazing. Another series of unlucky crits has the players looking at the shortest AP run in history, but their envoy thinks quickly and cuts some enemies out of the combat by closing and barricading a door. I'm glad because it means the difficult is just right for my players--they being forced to think creatively and are rewarded for doing so. Combat ends in their favor and their quite the richer for it.

Good golly Ms. Molly, the crits in this game are unreal. Hatchbuster opened with a crit from his gun that 2d10+2 and set the solarion on fire (again!) for 1d6. Thank god my players are working as a team or I might have to start rolling these combats back.
Transmission End

Changes made during Session 1

  • Adding an intro period while the players are on the shuttle before they land proved to work well. We probably spent 10 minutes of table time just talking about their shuttle journey.
  • I played up the fact that the two gangs were enemies, and that one was only firing into the other. It helped the PCs not get overwhelmed by fighting six enemies.
  • Addition of the detective and android partner NPCs went over well; would recommend having some named NPC present with the Station Security for potential future interactions.
  • I interspersed their research onto the two gangs, the Collective, and Astral Extractions with rumors about Absalom Station in general, pulled right out of the primer in the back. Provided me a great platform for giving them any info I wanted--like about the gangland origins of the government there.
  • The characterization given to Mama Fats and Jabaxa was well received, so I'm glad those tropes were well placed.
  • Overall the second combat was made too difficult when the two guards outside joined the three guards inside. I don't know if the dice weren't in my players favor or not, but I'd consider holding off on adding more to the melee next time. Hatchbuster alone proved a decent challenge for my party of four, not to mention his envoy support and gangbanger trash mobs.

  • Shadow Lodge 4/5 5/5 RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 8

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    In prepping this adventure, I found there wasn't much to do. No handouts, no mini-rules systems to learn. Nothing really except the option to add some spicy flavor for my players.

    Anyone that's read the first page of this scenario has probably thought about that episode of Firefly called Jaynestown, where the population of a small town is convinced that a visiting criminal was actually their savior. In the show, they play a rather infamous folk song called "The Ballad of Jayne Cobb," also known as the "Hero of Canton" or "The Man they call Jayne." You can find that scene and specifically the song on Youtube.

    Anyway, I had entirely too much time on my hands and decided that having a song in the same vein, but with Talbot, thasteron, and Tasch, as the focus would be a perfect addition to this scenario. What follows is my finalish draft of the "The Ballad of Reynald Talbot." The plan is to sing this to my players when they enter Digger's Dive. Feel free to embellish, include, or whatever with this at your tables!

    A man sits in the corner, tuning an archaic stringed instrument of some sort. After a moment, the ysoki at the bar gives him a nod, to which he strums a chord. The patrons notice, and as he continues strumming, most begin to stomp their feet or clap in rhythm--obviously following the local tune. He begins to sing:

    The Man they call Talbot:

    (Sung to the tune of 'Man they call Jayne')

    Talbot.. The man they call Talbot.

    He turned dust into diamonds and soil into gold,
    He saw what we had so he gave us some more.
    If devils are real, Asmodeous is to blame,
    but we have an angel and Talbot is his name.

    The mega corps came and started mining,
    looking for thasteron.
    It was that mineral they used,
    to make their fuel,
    found right here on Akiton.
    It was the blood of our world that made them rich,
    and the hands of our men that dug the land,
    But when Drift ships sailed, the mines failed,
    and they left us to die in the sands.

    He turned dust into diamonds and soil into gold,
    He saw what we had so he gave us some more.
    If devils are real, Asmodeous is to blame,
    but we have an angel and Talbot is his name.

    Now our town of Tasch ain't much,
    it's humble, like you and I,
    So we prayed and we prayed,
    and one day were saved,
    when Talbot came from the sky.
    He heard the people lamenting,
    And he offered his hand as a friend,
    Then he entered the mines, and there he did find,
    A way to make our ore good again.

    He turned dust into diamonds and soil into gold,
    He saw what we had so he gave us some more.
    If devils are real, Asmodeous is to blame,
    but we have an angel and Talbot is his name!

    Shadow Lodge RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 8

    In my usual perusing of these forums, I found them disappointingly devoid of bacon related subject matter.

    Let this thread serve as a platform for any discussion regarding bacon, salted pork, and furthermore.

    Unsure how to get started? Follow this useful flowchart.

    Shadow Lodge RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 8 , Star Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8 aka WalterGM

    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    The Petrified Plain
    Flip-Mat: Battlefield
    When Geb turned an attacking army of warrior women to stone in 4329 AR his spell also blighted the land in the area. The expanse of petrified statues and dead earth is now known as the Field of Maidens. Located just south of Geb on the Mwangi border, it serves as a constant reminder to any who would dare invade his kingdom.

    The leader of this failed invasion force was the former pirate queen Mastrien Slash. As a final punishment from Geb, Mastrien alone retained her identity and with it the knowledge of her failure. When the Field of Maidens was vandalized by a shipwrecked crew five years ago, her head was taken as a trophy—broken at the neck from her body. Still capable of speech, her head was smuggled across Geb across the Mwangi Expanse to Bloodcove. She was traded from pirate to pirate and ship to ship as an exotic curio, circuitously making her way north, past the Shackles and through the Arcadian Ocean before arriving in the PCs possession.

    The PCs are the first people the pirate queen has encountered that agreed to help solve her plight. In exchange for finding a way to free her and her army from Geb’s curse, Mastrien has promised them the location of her treasure from her time as a pirate. She has led the PCs through the Mwangi to the Field of Maidens in the hopes of finding the rest of her body. If she can be reattached to it, and turned back into flesh, she’ll be one step closer to freeing her sisters.

    To this end, before arriving at the Field of Maidens, Mastrien guided the PCs to her long-abandoned army encampment a few miles south of Geb. There the PCs uncovered a cache of scrolls including: a scroll of break enchantment, a scroll of remove curse, and two scrolls of stone to flesh.

    The most direct route to the Field of Maidens from the Obari Ocean passes through this petrified river crossing. Even here, a mile south of the Field, plants refuse to grow in the crystalline earth left in the spell’s wake, and visitors to the site find themselves haunted by disquiet visions of the dead, or even the dead themselves.

    Anyone passing through the petrified terrain is visited by phantom sights and sounds of battle. They might hear the occasional whispers of women murmuring or brief clash of steel on steel followed by an immediate silence after. A spectral warrior woman rushing up the hill could appear, only to vanish a moment later; curious plumes of dust hanging in the air above fossilized tracks.

    Echoes of the Silenced CR 9
    A single stone bridge overlooks a dried riverbed and is the only structure standing in this no man’s land. Veins of salt deposits spider the earth where once water flowed, shimmering when rare beams of sunlight find them. Fractured and brittle soil extends in all directions, and breaks into thin flakes underfoot. Any vegetation that once grew here has been replaced by crystalline imitators. Petrified trees flank the bridge, while rigid grass, reminiscent of animal quills, carpets the ground. Dozens of small mounds of rubble litters the bridge and the slope of the northern hill. The ruin of an ancient battle stretches to the north where hundreds of statues are silhouetted along the crest of the hill.

    On the map, the top edge is cardinal north. If travelling from the coast, the PCs approach along the eastern road, between the dry riverbed and the southern hill. Upon inspection, the various piles of rubble are easily identifiable as shattered statues. Of peerless craftsmanship, they all resemble ancient Garundi warrior women.

    Creatures: This desolate battleground recently spawned a hungry fog. Appearing as a low cloud of green mist, it listlessly wanders the empty field north of the bridge and the large petrified tree. Upon sensing any activity it drifts south to investigate.

    A pair of wights also inhabits the wasteland. Formerly Mwangi hunters, they rose as undead after their horrific deaths here—a combination of triggering the haunts and succumbing to the hungry fog.

    Wights (2) CR 5
    XP 800 each
    hp 26 (Pathfinder Bestiary 276)
    Before Combat The wights remain motionless below the bridge, only coming to unlife when anyone draws near.
    During Combat Having learned that the hungry fog empowers their tired flesh, the wights move inside it should they become severely damaged.
    Morale The wights fight until destroyed.

    Young Hungry Fog CR 5
    XP 1,600
    hp 45 (Pathfinder Bestiary 3 152, 291)

    Hazard: Two haunts have manifested here as a result of Geb’s petrifying magic. The first manifests as the PCs pass by the southern hill, where the pirate queen Mastrien Slash once rallied her warrior women to battle. The second manifests as the PCs reach the middle of the bridge, as they see a spectral vision of Geb’s terrible power as he turned her army to stone. Anyone in possession of Mastrien’s head is immune to the ill effects of any haunts they witness here.

    Broken Promises CR 4
    XP 1,200
    CE haunt (30-ft.-radius)
    Caster Level 7th
    Notice Perception DC 16 (to hear a group of women whispering)
    hp 8; Trigger proximity; Reset 1 day
    Effect The barren wasteland vanishes as the vision of a lush tropical jungle appears in all directions. Dozens of armed women ready for battle stand attentively before a red-haired woman wearing a tricorne that addresses them from atop the nearby hill. “My sisters,” the manifestation shouts, “now is not the time for us to waver! Now is not the time for us to quit! Our new home lies but over that hill, we need only take it and be done!” The apparition draws her sword and raises it up, and unifying cheer crescendos from the assembled crowd before fading. This apparition fills witnesses with a sense of self-doubt brought on by broken promises and failed goals. As the manifestation ends, any who fail DC 14 Will save are affected by a crushing despair spell.
    Destruction This manifestation is the result of Geb’s ancient curse, and cannot be destroyed until his curse is lifted.

    Calcifying Wind CR 5
    XP 1,600
    CE haunt (15-ft.-by-50-ft. bridge)
    Caster Level 5th
    Notice Perception DC 20 (to see the sky shimmer with a green aurora)
    hp 10; Trigger proximity; Reset 1 day
    Effect Along the northern slope, spectral images of hundreds of warrior women blink into existence, charging up the hill in battle. As they reach the top, the sky turns a blackish green, and a wave of sickly green light roils down the hillside and out across the bridge. The women shriek in horror as granules of stone begin to cover them, spreading across their bodies and silencing them as their flesh is replaced by stone. Those who witness this event feel their own skin begin to grow ashen and harden as the manifestation fades, and are affected by a calcific touch spell (melee touch attack +5; DC 16 Fortitude save for partial). Until it is neutralized or destroyed, the haunt continues to affect everyone present on the bridge with calcific touch once per round for four rounds.
    Destruction This manifestation is the result of Geb’s ancient curse, and cannot be destroyed until his curse is lifted.

    Development: Once the PCs have survived the dangers here, they are free to approach the Field of Maidens without further interruption. Once the PCs reach the crest of the hill, the enormity of the Field becomes apparent. Hundreds of statues of strong Garundi women litter the arid swath before them. Mastrien warns that other maidens will not hesitate to attack if the PCs draw too close, and advises them to keep their distance until they find her headless statue. Once they do, it’ll be a not-so-simple matter of navigating the petrified army and reuniting Mastrien with her body. Then, they’ll need to contend with Geb’s curse as they attempt to undo his spell.

    Shadow Lodge RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 16 , Star Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8 aka WalterGM

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    This slender biped appears constructed from polished animal bone and intricately carved wood. Its head is crowned with dozens of antlers, and a totemic mask is lashed to its face with strips of sinew. Its wicked claws carry a blood-stained sack.

    Hollow One CR 9
    XP 6,400
    CE Large outsider (chaotic, evil, native)
    Init +7; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +19
    Aura fear aura (5 ft., DC 20, 1d6 rounds)

    ----- Defense -----
    AC 24, touch 12, flat-footed 21 (+3 Dex, +12 natural, -1 size)
    hp 114 (12d10+48)
    Fort +12 Ref +7, Will +12
    DR 10/cold iron; Immune fire, poison; Resist acid 10, cold 10; SR 20

    ----- Offense -----
    Speed 40 ft., climb 20 ft.
    Melee 2 claws +17 (2d6+6/19-20 plus grab)
    Space 10 ft.; Reach 10 ft.
    Special Attacks disemboweling critical (DC 22), remove heart, rend (2 claws, 2d6+9)
    Spell-Like Abilities (CL 12th; concentration +17)
    Constant—pass without trace, speak with animals
    At will—atavism (DC 19), call animal, dominate animal (DC 18), transport via plants (self plus 50 lbs. of objects only)
    3/day—quickened dominate animal (DC 18), snare, spike stones
    1/day—summon (level 4, 1 quickwood, 35%)

    ----- Statistics -----
    Str 23, Dex 16, Con 19, Int 17, Wis 18, Cha 20
    Base Atk +12; CMB +19 (+23 grapple); CMD 32
    Feats Blind-Fight, Improved Critical (claw), Improved Initiative, Power Attack, Quicken Spell-Like Ability (dominate animal), Vital Strike
    Skills Bluff +20, Craft (trapmaking) +18, Handle Animal +20, Knowledge (nature) +18, Perception +19, Sense Motive +19, Spellcraft +18, Stealth +14, Survival +19; Racial Modifiers +8 Stealth in forests
    Languages Common, Druidic, Sylvan
    SQ woodland stride

    ----- Ecology -----
    Environment any forest
    Organization solitary or haunt (2-5)
    Treasure standard

    ----- Special Abilities -----
    Disemboweling Critical (Ex) Whenever a hollow one confirms a critical hit against an opponent with its claw attack, the target must succeed at a Fortitude save (DC 22) or take 1d4 points of Constitution damage as one of its vital organs is ripped from its body. The save is Strength-based.
    Remove Heart (Ex) Once a hollow one has pinned a foe it can attempt to rip the creature’s still-beating heart from its chest. This attempt is made as part of the grapple check to maintain an existing pin, and if successful, deals 4d6+12 points of damage to the target. If this damage is enough to bring the creature to fewer than 0 hit points, it must succeed at a DC 22 Fortitude save or have its heart removed; this instantly kills most creatures. The save is Strength-based.
    Woodland Stride (Ex) As the druid ability of the same name.

    Originally created by Curchanus as both shepherds and stewards for his many animals, hollow ones were quickly corrupted by Lamashtu—their true name and purpose long abandoned. Once capable of placating animals and ensuring harmony between man and nature, hollow ones now exist as a twisted irony, tormenting and slaughtering any who dare wander their woods.

    Hollow ones stalk their prey from afar, harassing their targets for days or even weeks at a time. Only once their quarries are exhausted from unprovoked animal attacks and waylaid by snares and traps will a hollow one make itself known, attacking with a company of feral beasts.

    Those that flee are the fortunate ones, as those that remain are subjected to the hollow one’s curious and horrific practice of harvesting organs from sentient creatures. What hollow ones do with these macabre collections remains a mystery, but it is agreed that they are not used for consumption, for the most prolific hollow ones carry multiple sacks, each stuffed with rotting flesh.

    Shadow Lodge RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32 , Star Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8 aka WalterGM

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    Mixing sorcery and science, this Shory prototype of sustainable flight drifts aimlessly over Garund. Long ago, floras in the southern nursery expanded beyond their confines. They now carpet the courtyard and invade the arcane workings that power the laboratory, causing it to descend at a slow but steady rate.

    Shadow Lodge RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 8 , Star Voter Season 6, Dedicated Voter Season 7, Dedicated Voter Season 8 aka WalterGM

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    Aura moderate transmutation; CL 9th
    Slot shield; Price 17,533 gp; Weight 6 lbs.

    This greenwood quickdraw shield is made from a stylized spiral of woven sticks, twigs, and vines. Despite its fragile appearance, thornweave is surprisingly sturdy, and functions as a +2 throwing quickdraw shield.

    In addition, thornweave can be removed and thrown three times per day as a swift action. If the attack hits, thornweave bursts apart upon impact, dealing damage as normal while engulfing the target in a spray of splinters and brambles. The target must succeed at a DC 17 Reflex save to avoid becoming entangled as a mass of briars and vines wrap around the target. These bonds are not anchored and do not prevent the subjected creature from movement. This condition persists for one minute before the animated vines unravel and reform into a functioning shield once more, dropping at the targeted creature’s feet.

    While wearing thornweave, the wearer may cast plant growth into it, as if it possessed the spell storing ability. Rather than the normal effects of spell storing, the wielder can choose to discharge this casting of plant growth as a free action whenever thornweave threatens the entangled condition to increase the DC of that ability by 4.

    Requirements Craft Magic Arms and Armor, creator must be a dryad, entangle, plant growth; Cost 9,033 gp

    Shadow Lodge 4/5 5/5 RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 8

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    It’s with great pleasure that I announce Eastern Washington’s newest 5 star GM: Robert Pepka!

    I first met Bobby outside of PFS, before Pathfinder even existed as a standalone format. We drifted from Shadowrun to 3rd edition before settling on Pathfinder.

    Our original travels through Shadowrun took us from Seattle to the subcontinent by plane, where we tried to make some scratch selling an elephant on the black market. When that plan fell through, and we were forced to release the beast somewhere over Puget Sound, we adventured in Eberron for a time. After a couple of years there and with the timeline irrevocably destroyed, we headed to the world of Dark Sun. It was there we faced our greatest challenges, but earned the greatest rewards, rising up against the god kings and succumbing to our own dark desires.

    Seeking a reprieve from the stress and madness that were our homebrew campaigns, we stumbled upon PFS and the rest, as they say, is history.

    Bobby met the 150+ tables GM’d requirement for his 5th star some time ago, but only recently ran his 10th special. I was fortunate enough to play at his qualifying special table this past GenCon, along with my partner in crime Steven Huffstutler.

    I won’t speak for Steve, but in my mind there’s no one that more embodies what it means to be a 5 star GM than Bobby. He’s ever prepared and prepped for his games, eager to step up and run tables that need to be mustered, excited to educate new players, enthusiastic with his roleplaying, encyclopedic with his knowledge of rules and lore, evenhanded with his dispensing of table rulings, and some other “e” word that means freaking awesome.

    Way to go Bobby, you earned it!

    Shadow Lodge 4/5 5/5 RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 8

    Join me in congratulating Preston Hudson in getting his 5th star! Preston actually qualified for this a while ago, but I wanted to give the people of Spokane the opportunity to gather their experiences about Preston and share them here.

    For me, Preston was the answer to my question two years ago: how do I get PFS rolling in Spokane? For those not familiar with that area of Washington, it's about 500,000 people (including surrounding cities). That is a lot of ground for one guy to cover, but Preston took on the role of VL with a refreshing vigor that made me confident in my decision to appoint him. In addition to all that responsibility, he's now managed to get 150+ games GMd, studiously attends local conventions, run game days, and is a devoted family man to boot.

    The qualifying game Preston ran for me (#6-01) was an enjoyable experience all around, he did a great job of handling new mechanics, difficult encounters, and our shenanigans all at the same time. I wish Spokane was just a little closer so we could game together more often.

    He's done a great job so far, and I can't wait to see what he does for us next. So for those of you that know Preston and want to join me in sharing gratitude, feel free to do so in this thread.

    Thanks again, Preston!

    Shadow Lodge 4/5 5/5 RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 8

    It's strange that I get to announce one of these, it feels like I was getting my 5th star just yesterday, but nevertheless it's still my great pleasure to announce that Steven Huffstutler has earned his 5th star!


    And when I say earned, I mean earned.

    Since he started as my VL in December of 2012, Steven's attended RadCon, MisCon, PaizoCon, PAX, and GenCon, as well as participated in numerous events online. He's organized 2 to 3 tables every game night, for two nights a week for the last two and a half years. That's roughly 250 tables of PFS alone that have been set up because of Steven. He's also run 150+ of those himself. He has GM'd 34 times in the last 6 months, meaning that he GMs PFS at least once a week. This is in addition to running my homebrew game of Rise of the Runelords. Steven has also organized our Toys for Tots annual winter collection for the last two years, which has allowed our community to give back to those in need.

    Aside from all his work as a VO, Steven is also an outstanding GM. He's a master of system mastery and keeps the pace of even the longest fights quick and engaging. He is able to stay in character through posturing, attitude, and accent, and brings that rare quality of awesome to the tables he runs. As a player, I'm consistently impressed by Steven's ability as a GM, and how he's able to draw from a seemingly limitless reservoir of Golarion lore that bring his games to life.

    I thought about asking around and getting other players and GMs to email me what they thought of Steven or any experiences they've had with him. But since a majority of them already post on these forums, I'm instead going to let them chime in with their Steven stories.

    So Steven, let me just say thanks for all you do and all you're going to do, and I hope you don't plan on stopping anytime soon. Thank you!

    Shadow Lodge RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 8

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    Hey everybody! Been a while since I've done anything for the Pathfinder community, so I figured I'd post up a new guide.

    Inner Sea Gods just came out and boy is it exciting! Not only is it gorgeous and full of fine reading material, it also continues the obedience-style feats with a new one called Deific Obedience. With this one feat, three new prestige classes, and twenty major gods to pick from, you wind up with a huge amount of character options.

    This guide tries to synthesize and present all those options in a single, easy to navigate format. As with my last guide, I look forward to reading any feedback and build ideas you might have, so feel free to post them below.

    I hope you enjoy my Guide to Deific Obediences.

    Shadow Lodge 4/5 5/5 RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 8

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    There's an some posts on the boards that's perplexed me lately. Posts structured on the static roles of GM and player, or posts with an "us against them" mentality, or ones that single out a certain style of GMing or playing as "badwrongfun." When I read these, I find myself asking the same questions. "How did we wind up here?" I wonder. "Why is this getting posted?"

    I think the root of these posts is simply a difference in perspective. So here's my take on Pathfinder, and to some degree, about life. As I understand it, it's basically Taoism, but as I'm no expert on the subject I imagine my explanation is just a western bastardization of the original (so to any Taoists reading this, I apologize). I don't know if it works for everyone to think about it like this, but here goes.

    Imagine standing on a long road with no end in sight. Everyone you meet is on this road. Some people are further along than you and some people are behind you. People move down the road as they expand their understanding. Some people move faster than others and some people have stopped. Given this, every time you sit at a table of PFS or post on the messageboards, there is an opportunity to move further down the road of understanding, regardless of what side of the proverbial screen you are on. It doesn't matter if you are a GM or a player, a VL or a VC--you always have the capacity to learn from what others bring to the table. In a broader sense, there isn't even a distinction between GM and player, there's just people that have GM'd and people that haven't. There's just more of the road to be walked. And the road never ends.

    So in keeping with this idea, I wonder if anyone has something cool they've learned about Pathfinder, tabletop gaming in general, or gaming in an organized play environment to share that with the rest of us, so we can continue to expand our understanding.

    I'll start us off!

    Did you know that if you dip two levels of inquisitor and two levels of sensei monk, you get to apply your Wisdom modifier to AC, initiative, and attack rolls. Bet you could do something neat with that!

    Shadow Lodge 4/5 5/5 RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 8

    Hey all!

    This question came up at a game I was just playing!

    If you are playing a game for no credit, can you progress boon sheets you might possess, like Research Specialist.

    Research Specialist: the beginning of a scenario, you may select a fellow party member. Up to once per scenario, if that character tells you of his or her exploits in an earlier adventure that your character has not played, document the name of the scenario, the agent's name, and that player's Pathfinder Societ number. For every three stories collected this way, you gain a permanent +1 bonus to one Knowledge skill of your choice; you may not choose the same Knowledge skill twice. If you successfully get 30 such stories, you gain a +1 inherent bonus to your Intelligence score.

    Guide to Organized Play, pg. 20: ... You are free to replay a scenario in order to meet the minimum legal table size, but you do not earn any additional rewards beyond having a good time.

    There's more text, but that's the most relevant and I'm on my phone, so I'd rather not type it all out.

    Effectively, you are getting a slight mechanical advantage if a player advances their boon while playing for no credit. The question is, can you use the text in the Guide to prevent this? Since it says "you do not earn any additional rewards?"


    Shadow Lodge RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 8

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    After throwing out some hypothetical shaman builds, I'm finding them to be better than clerics. And yes, I'll try to clarify what "better" means.

    Comparison analysis:

    Both have a d8 hit die, 3/4 bab, strong will saves, straight cleric spell casting. Both have the same number of spells per day, but a shaman's domain spells can be chosen from either "spirit list" spontaneously -- which is better. Clerics have slightly better weapon and armor proficiency (shield as well as deity-weapon proficiency). But shaman get 4 skill points per level, dwarfing the cleric's 2. So, before we look at special abilities, I'd argue that the shaman is hedging the cleric out. Brass tacks: spontaneous domain spells and 2 more skill points per level > shield and proficiency in one weapon; unless we're going for a very specific build.

    Let's move on to special abilities next. The cleric get's two: domains and channeling. Let's look at domains first. They grant usually 3 things: 1) domain spells, 2) passive domain ability, 3) active domain abilities. For example, the protection domain grants (1) domain spells, (2) a scaling resistance bonus to saves, and (3) two activated abilities, one at level 1 and and the other at level 8. So at level 8, we could assume a cleric would have two domain lists to choose from, two passive abilities, and four activated abilities.

    By comparison, a shaman at level 8 will have one spirit and one wandering spirit, as well as one hex and one wandering hex. Their first spirit will also grant them a greater ability. They also have a familiar. So level 8, our shaman has (1) two lists of spontaneous "domain" spells, (2) two passive spirit abilities, and (3) two activated hexes. So they're down two activated abilities. However, they also have an advanced passive ability (greater spirit) and a familiar. They can also take the feat extra hex to gain additional activated abilities. At this point, I'd argue that the shaman is better than the cleric, but I could see the discussion going either way. But let's look at the shaman in a few levels and check again.

    At level 14, for example, the Shaman now has 4 passive abilities, 2 of which can change daily. They also have 4 activated abilities, 2 of which can change daily. That's two more than the cleric. They also have a familiar and spontaneous bonus spellcasting. The Shaman is just mechanically better at this point. And they keep getting better, finishing the class with a level 20 capstone ability, as well as 5 hexes (activated abilities) and 6 spirit abilities (passive abilities). That's 11 to the cleric's 6. Almost double the potency.

    In addition, a lot of the shaman hexes and spirit abilities blow domain abilities out of the water. There's one that lets you add sorcerer/wizard spells to your spell list. Guess my shaman has haste, black tentacles and contingency now. You get two fighter-only feats with one hex from the battle spirit. You can even quick channel as a swift action as a life shaman for crying out loud. Not to mention the fact that you can get more of hexes by taking a feat. Which is something that clerics cannot do.

    But what of channeling? Well, a shaman can get channeling, although at 1+CHA/day as opposed to 3, which I'll admit is worse. All they have to do is select the life spirit as their wandering spirit for that day, and they get the ability to channel. And this is the true power of the wandering spirit ability.

    Too much flexibility?:
    Shaman get to effectively "respec" about half of their class abilities every day.

    "Oh, we're going sailing tomorrow? I'll get a wandering waves spirit."
    "Going underground? I'll snag a stone spirit."
    "Doing some research in our downtime? Time for that lore spirit."
    "Heading to the Caverns of Eternal Burning? Guess I better prep that flame spirit."

    This is the equivalent of a cleric getting to select one of their domains each day, or a fighter respecing half their feats each morning. It makes the shaman an amazingly flexible class. And one that I think makes the cleric a second-string pick. The only reason I can think of building a cleric now is if I want to have a very specific build -- negative energy channeler or the like. But as far as a solid divine spellcaster goes? If I want to use the cleric list, I certainly won't be building a cleric.

    To illustrate my argument, here's a proposed build:

    Lore Shaman, wandering spirit: Nature - level 8 snapshot
    Aasimar, 20 point buy -- STR: 7 DEX: 7 CON: 13 INT: 15 WIS: 22 CHA: 16
    +2 WIS from level 4, 8 increase. +2 INT from spirit ability.

    1. Anything
    3. Extra Hex (Benefit of Wisdom)
    5. Anything
    7. Anything

    2. Arcane Enlightenment (Su)
    : The shaman’s native intelligence grants her the ability to tap into arcane lore. The shaman can add to her spell list a number of arcane spells from the sorcerer/wizard spell list equal to her Charisma modifier, using the sorcerer/wizard level of the spell as the shaman level. To add these spells to her spell list and cast these spells, she must have an Intelligence score equal to at least 10 + the spell level, but the saving throw DCs against these spells is the same as her other shaman spells. Each level she gains after taking this hex the shaman can choose to replace one of these spells for a new spell on the wizard/sorcerer list.

    3. Benefit of Wisdom (Ex): The shaman relies on her wisdom rather than her intelligence to gain and retain knowledge. She can use her Wisdom score instead of Intelligence modifier on all Intelligence skill checks.

    6. Friend to Animals (Su): The shaman adds all of the summon nature’s ally spells to her spell list. She must still prepare these spells. All animals within 30 feet of the shaman receive a bonus on all saving throws equal to her Charisma modifier.

    Spirit abilities.
    1. Automatic Writing (Su)
    : Once per day, the shaman can spend a full hour in uninterrupted meditation. During this period, her hands produce mysterious writings that pertain to the future. At 1st level, the prophetic writing manifests as an augury spell with 90% effectiveness. At 5th level, the writing takes the form of a divination with 90% effectiveness. At 8th level, the writing is as a casting of commune with no material component required.

    4. Nature’s Whispers (Su): The shaman is so attuned to the whispers of the world around her that her surroundings constantly bestow a preternatural awareness to danger. She may add her Wisdom modifier instead of her Dexterity modifier to her Armor Class and CMD. Any conditions that would cause her to lose her Dexterity modifier to AC instead cause her to lose her Wisdom modifier to AC.

    8. Mental Acuity (Su): A shaman’s understanding of the underlying secrets of esoteric and occult have grand her a preternatural understanding of all things. The shaman gains a +2 inherent bonus to her Intelligence score, increasing by 1 every four shaman levels thereafter (12th, 16th, and 20th levels for her spirit, 16th and 20th levels for her wandering spirit).

    Summary of the build:

    So we're going for a caster focused build here. But you could realistically do whatever you wanted. We'll have the following spells per level:
    1st - 6x + identify/charm animal
    2nd - 5x + tongues/barkskin
    3rd - 4x + locate object/speak with plants
    4th - 3x + legend lore/grove of respite.

    Our 15 INT gives us up to 5th level sorcerer/wizard spells we can add (but we can only cast up to 4th), and the 16 CHA means we can add up to 3 to our spell list. So we can get spells like black tentacles, create pit, fly, glitterdust, haste, and greater invisibility, just to name a few. We also have all the SNA spells on our spell list as well. Not so good yet, but summoning a cyclops next level isn't a bad idea with his flash of insight. We also get a free commune each day, which is excellent.

    In addition, we're adding our WIS instead of DEX to our AC, which is nice. We also use WIS instead of INT for our Knowledge skills, meaning that those 6 skill points per level can actually do some good for our Knowledges. This build doesn't have any magic items factored in to it, but if we assume a +4 wisdom headband, that +8 WIS modifier starts doing a lot for us. With a trait, we can add perception as a class skill, and find that Wisdom is now the best stat in the game for us. We also get alertness as part of the familiar package, and if we take improved familiar at level 7, we now have a potent little NPC following us around.

    Finally, if it turns out our party needs some more supportive roles filled, we can adjust temporarily and snag the life spirit. We can channel 4 times a day, and get to choose a new hex to boot. Or we could grab any other spirit, depending on where the day will take us -- something that commune should help reveal.

    Final Thoughts
    I love the shaman. I love the flexibility and I love the flavor. But I think there might be just too much flexibility in the class.

    A majority of my time spent with Pathfinder is within Society play. This means new locations each week and a constantly shifting player base. Having a shaman would be great for this kind of game, where you don't know where you'll be each week or what your party will look like. I think that in a standard campaign, the flexibility will probably get less time to shine, but at least for PFS, it's a major selling point for me.

    Given this, and my feeling that it overshadows the cleric by just the sheer amount of better abilities alone, I think the shaman needs some sort of overhaul. Either a reduction in the amount of abilities or a reduction in their potency. Maybe slow their spell casting down by a level to line up with the oracle progression more. Or even give them an oracle curse feature. Some hiccup.

    Otherwise, I fear I'll never roll a cleric again.

    Shadow Lodge 4/5 5/5 RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 8

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    From time to time, in any tabletop RPG, players do things unexpected. Attack a non-combatant NPC, fail to arrive at a location on time, enter a room without opening the front door, etc. This causes the GM some difficulty. That's not bad mind you, just difficult in the sense of more work needing to be done on their part to ensure that the game makes sense. This is as true in PFS as it is in any other system. However, PFS has a specific way that it deals with the changes that need to happen "behind the screen." These sorts of changes are mentioned in the Guide as Table Variation.

    Often, GMs changing tactics gets a really bad rap in PFS. "My character died because my GM did X different than the scenario says." Occasionally, these changes are unwarranted and are in fact GM error. Most of the time, however, they fall neatly under the clause of table variation. So, what is table variation?


    As a Pathfinder Society GM, you have the right and responsibility to make whatever judgements, within the rules, that you feel are necessary at your table to ensure everyone has a fair and fun experience. This does not mean you can contradict rules or restrictions outlined in this document, a published Pathfinder Roleplaying Game source, errata document, or official FAQ on What it does mean is that only you can judge what is right for your table during cases not covered in these sources.

    Scenarios are meant to be run as written, with no addition or subtraction to number of monsters (unless indicated in the scenario), or changes to armor, feats, items, skills,
    spells, stats, traits, or weapons. However, if the actions of the PCs before or during an encounter invalidate the provided tactics or starting locations, the GM should consider whether changing these would provide a more enjoyable play experience.

    It goes on to list various changes that aren't allowed, which I have removed to keep this post relatively short. Things listed are things like altering the number, strength, or abilities of enemies, changing trap DCs -- things like that. However, we can and "should consider" changing the tactics if it would "provide a more enjoyable play experience." In a basic sense, this means not having your spellcaster cast SM3 if he's standing between a pair of rogues with readied actions. But in a deeper sense, this can take your game to a whole new level. Permit me to illustrate with an example: The Sarkorian Prophecy


    The overall story of The Sarkorian Prophecy is as follows. The group is inside the Worldwound, chasing after a MacGuffin. Unbeknownst to them, a rival group of Shadow Lodge ex-Pathfinders (this is a Season 2 scenario, mind you) have beaten them to the punch. Their leader, the notorious and corrupt Caggrigar has diverged from the team, and effectively is the final encounter. The remaining NPCs serve as both an encounter and a plot device, intended to direct the PCs toward said final encounter.
    Regarding the Shadow Lodge ex-pathfinders, here is the information provided in the scenario.


    Embla Clefthelm, a tall Ulfen woman with a long, blonde ponytail pulled through a ring in the top of her helmet, is a former Ulfen Guard of Taldor who turned her back on her duty to join the Pathfinder Society. When she was horribly scarred on a Pathfinder mission to retrieve an artifact that was immediately locked away in the Grand Lodge’s vaults, she again turned her back on her organization. Feeling that her sacrifice was for naught, she has dedicated her training to dismembering the Decemvirate one piece at a time.

    The tengu known as Graukur was recruited in distant Tian Xia and made the journey over the Crown of the World to receive training in Absalom. During the course of his time in the Grand Lodge, Graukur continually felt out of place, like an exotic oddity on display. Tired of being more a trophy for the Society’s sense of diversity than an equal member of the organization, he hopes to get in on the ground level of the Shadow Lodge, where he’ll be known for his talents and not for his beak and feathers.

    Rovald Orlovski, an exiled Brevic noble with the power to charm, rounds out the Shadow Lodge Pathfinders assembled by Caggrigar. After using his gods-given gifts of enchantment on one too many serving maids, noble peers, and powerful enemies, Rovald found himself shipped south from Brevoy to Absalom for a “corrective” stint in the Grand Lodge. Frustrated with the tendency of his fellow Pathfinders to ignore even his most convincing arguments, Rovald hopes that he can gain more personal power by allying with the Shadow Lodge.

    So essentially, we have three disillusioned persons that have joined up with the Shadow Lodge for one reason or another. Embla is just your standard unappreciated fighter. She, not unlike GMT, has been "burned once" by the Society, and is too wary to be burned again. Graukur is your token "strange race" party member, and is tired of just being "that tengu" in the Society. And lastly, Rovald is just an alcoholic womanizer, that uses his magical powers in various, "legally ambiguous" ways. Without knowing their alignment or any context of the game, you might believe these three descriptions to be those of PCs with pretty well thought out backstories. Speaking of alignments -- only Rovald is evil. The other two are just neutral. So a majority of them aren't really "bad guys," they're just on the wrong side of the line when the PCs arrive.

    That said, here's what is listed as their tactics.

    If the rivals discover the PCs’ affiliation with the true Pathfinder Society, or if the PCs indicate that they’re on to the Shadow agents’ ploy, they immediately attack.

    Well, that's lame. From what we'd read, this was shaping up to be a pretty cool RP encounter. But don't worry just yet -- luckily, we have Table Variation. The following is what happened at a table I ran of The Sarkorian Prophecy. I changed the written tactics by following the rules for Table Variation, and in doing so, provided a richer game experience for my players.

    Story: The PCs have just defeated a brutal glabrezu, and decided to advance into the next area. Inside they find Embla, Graukur, and Rovald. Various small talk begins. Almost immediately, the barbarian PC begins speaking to Embla. He remarks at her scar, and as she appears uncomfortable he quickly comments that it makes her look bold. He says that surely, she has took part in some heroics to earn such a badge of honor. Now, as a GM, I have to look at what I know about Embla. Here is a woman that is perpetually crapped on by "the system." She's never been acknowledged, and she's got some pretty low self esteem that feeds right into her hatred of the Grand Lodge. Compliments are like pure pesh to her. She's never had it before, and she wants more. So I start talking up her past deeds, and player of the barbarian gets into it. He starts RPing back at me -- more than me! That's pretty cool.

    Meanwhile, Rovald tries to regain attention by striking up conversation with their oracle, who compliments his garb and offers the sorcerer a drink. Some wine, perhaps? Remember that this is Rovald the womanizer. Rovald the selfish, the elite, the one with a "Kolossal Ego." So when a pretty (high CHA) little gnome offers him something to drink and tells him he looks good, what do you think he's going to? Of course he's going to accept! And like that, the he starts flirting with the gnome. While he's at it, he tosses some cheap pickup lines at that other female PC, and, like clockwork, she bites. A few minutes later and the three of them are sitting off to the side around a table as he spins a yarn about his many accomplishments. He doesn't even need to cast any spells to ensorcell these harlots!

    As this happens, the tengu inquisitor PC notices the other tengu across the room: Graukur. He starts talking to him and I have Graukur come off as guarded, but open to discussion. I comment about how feels to be a "talking parrot" to all these Pathfinders. Now, right before this, I mentioned the party fought a glabrezu. Well, that demon just outright killed our inquisitor PC. He didn't have enough on hand for a rez, so the party all chipped in to get him up and running. He brings this recent event up as a counter example, and talks about how, honestly, everyone he's partied with has been pretty nice to him. They appreciate his talents and have remarked on his usefulness on more than one occasion. In fact, he just got back from killing a runelord! Graukur is stunned at this. "And you're a Pathfinder?" he asks. And in fact, they are.

    Now at this point, if I was forced to rigidly follow the written tactics, combat would start. But let's ask some questions. Would Embla stop swapping war stories with her new buddy, and drive her sword through his chest? Rovald would slip away from the pair of women that are pouring wine down his throat and char their fair skin with some fireballs? Would Graukur attack the only tengu he's seen in a while -- someone that was in the exact same situation as him not a few weeks back? It seems pretty silly to do any of these things now. Especially given the 10-15 minutes of real life time that my players have vested in RPing with these NPCs, and they'd likely be upset if combat just abruptly started.

    And this is where table variation comes in. And why it is very important in PFS. It enables GMs to make these sorts of changes. So for this table, since combat would have been pretty absurd at this point, I just had them all keep talking. As discussions continued, everyone at the table got involved. Over the next few minutes at the table, conversation continued, and eventually the group of NPCs had no problem at all with the PCs. They took a moment to the side and discussed their current situation. Should they side with Caggrigar? Who lead them into the middle of a demonic wasteland and has been gone for the last few hours? Or should they work with these Pathfinders, who have been nothing but nice to them since they arrived? Also, is it really that wise to go into a 3v6 match against people that just vanquished a glabrezu? Probably not.

    So they didn't. Their tactics changed from starting combat, to sharing information. Since their mechanical purpose in the scenario was to lead the PCs down the track, by simply giving the PCs that information as a reward for engaging in the story with these NPCs, the scenario as a whole isn't compromised. It also lead to a unique experience for the players, one where the players got to enjoy an aspect of the game that would otherwise have been disregarded (there is an opportunity for RP at the start of the scenario, but it is far shorter, and often leads to combat immediately).

    Because of the options provided in table variation, the players had a much richer experience than they otherwise could have. I also got to mark various things on their sheets afterwards like "Added Embla Clefthelm to tribe" and "bedded Rovald." When I told my players post-game that those NPCs were slated to be a combat encounter, they were surprised. Especially given the level of detail that was included into their various motivations (and in scenarios, word count is paramount). Which lead me to this realization: the reason why there is a high level of detail given in various "non-critical" parts of scenarios is to allow for the railroad train-plot to come off the tracks every now and then. It also allows for GMs to really dig into the "behind the scenes" part of a game, and provide the best possible experience they can for their players.

    Shadow Lodge 4/5 5/5 RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 8

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    Please join me in welcoming Preston Hudson as the new VL in the Spokane area! Preston's region will be Spokane, the Valley, and the surrounding area in the north-eastern part of Washington. Preston has done a great job expanding the area on his own, so I look forward to what he can achieve now that he's official.

    Way to go Preston!

    Shadow Lodge RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 8

    Question time!

    I have a nature oracle. He has a wolf companion. It's pretty neat. It has an int of 6, and I taught it a language. It's my buddy.

    At level 10, I take a level of mammoth rider (because nothing but a bigger wolf is cooler than a regular wolf!). Now, this happens.

    "This steed functions as a druid's animal companion, replacing any animal companion or mount gained from another class."

    Uh oh. So what I'm reading here is that I'm ditching my super cool smart wolf for a bigger, stupider (lurch-style), wolf.

    Is my assumption correct?

    Shadow Lodge 4/5 5/5 RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 8

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    Hey gang, I wrote this up the other day and plan to hand it out at our game night tonight. Figured it might help ease people into the various changes if they had a list with some bullet points and more detailed explanations. It could be more detailed, sure, but the point is to keep it to one page in length so as not to overwhelm your players.

    Also, I left off the retraining rules from Ultimate Campaign. It can be included if you find space or deem it worthy. But more importantly, it would make it "Six major changes in Season 5," and I like my alliteration a lot.

    Pathfinder Society – Five Major Changes in Season 5
    1. Lantern Lodge and Shadow Lodge have been removed
    After their respective faction conclusion scenarios (4-21 and 4-23), both of these factions are no longer legal options for PFS characters. If you had an existing Lantern or Shadow Lodge character, that character gets to transfer to a new faction for free. Already acquired vanities, titles, and traits from that faction remain. New PFS characters cannot select Lantern or Shadow Lodge as their faction.

    2. Faction Handouts have been removed
    Faction handouts and the side quests that go along with them no longer exist. They have been replaced with “overarching seasonal goals.” So each faction has a goal they are trying to achieve in each season. The goals for season 5, Year of the Demon, are detailed below (and on page 18 of the Guide).

    • Andoran: Root out corruption in Andoran and better understand others’ paths to liberty
    • Cheliax: Secure important artifacts and sources of power to establish order in the Inner Sea region and strength the faction’s power base.
    • Grand Lodge: Ensure the success of the Pathfinder Society’s expedition to the Sky Citadel of Jormundun.
    • Osirion: Contact the Jeweled Sages, explore their history, and extend the faction’s protection of history beyond Osirion’s borders.
    • Qadira: Establish a long-term trade deal with one of several possible trading partners.
    • Sczarni: Extend the Sczarni faction’s reach into central Avistan, and neutralize the faction’s rivals.
    • Silver Crusade: Aid the nation of Mendev in its crusade against the Worldwound.
    • Taldor: Assist Lady Gloriana Morilla in gathering forces to march to Mendev.

    By keeping these missions in mind, your characters will be able to make choices throughout Season 5 scenarios that will shape the course of your faction and future scenarios to come.
    These overall goals apply only for Season 5 scenarios and future seasons going forward.

    3. Changes to Awarding Prestige
    With the removal of faction handouts, prestige will be awarded different in Season 5 onward. You will now get 1 prestige for completing a mission successfully. A secondary Prestige Point can be earned for completing a “secondary mission goal.” These goals will involve going above and beyond what was expected of you as Pathfinders during the scenario. Scenarios from Season 4 and earlier will now grant prestige depending on competition of the scenario. Half prestige will be awarded for completing half or more of the scenario (3 encounters), and full prestige will be awarded for completing the scenario. Secondary mission goals for older scenarios will be added later, but until then, prestige will be determined as described above.

    4. Out of Tier Gold
    Players will no longer get higher tier goal when playing up for a scenario. This change is retroactive to pre-Season 5 scenarios. Players will instead get “out of tier” gold, which is detailed on page 35 of the Guide. Out of tier gold is the average of high and low tier. Any character that doesn’t fall within the subtier being played gets out of tier gold. This also applies to GM credit characters that fall between tiers.

    Example: A table plays up into the 4-5 subtier of a 1-5 game. The 1-2 tier wealth was 500 gp, the 4-5 tier was 1,500 gp, so the out of tier gold is 1,000 gp. Level 1, 2, and 3 characters that played up would get the out of tier wealth of 1,000 gp for completing the scenario. Any level 4 or 5 characters would receive 1,500 gp as normal for playing in tier.

    5. The Inventory Tracking Sheet
    As part of an effort to make auditing characters easier for GMs, all players are required to have some sort of Inventory Tracking Sheet (an example sheet is found in the back of the Guide). This is a separate piece of paper that will track all the purchases made for any given character. It should have a running tally of total wealth and fame, and the amount of gold or prestige spent on purchases throughout that character’s life. This sheet should be in addition to regular chronicle sheets.

    Example: I finish playing a game and decide to purchase a +1 short sword. I fill out my chronicle sheet as normal. I then grab my Inventory Tracking Sheet and write down the purchase, making sure to note what chronicle sheet it was from and the date I played the game on. I update my current wealth total and I’m done.

    Shadow Lodge 4/5 5/5 RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 8

    I'd like to be the first to congratulate Steven Huffstutler on joining the illustrious ranks of the Venture-Awesome as the new VL of Eastern WA.

    Give him a hand folks!

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