Karzoug the Claimer

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Society Subscriber. ****** Pathfinder Society GM. Starfinder Society GM. 131 posts (530 including aliases). No reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 25 Organized Play characters. 4 aliases.

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Society Subscriber

--- SUMMARY ---
Quick explanation about timing - this post was written on 8/19, but due to intermittent site issues could not be posted until 8/24. There may be lingering references to the surveys "being completed shortly" - I did 'em during the week, but there's a wall of text to edit so I may have missed a few references.

This report will be filed in addition to the GM survey for Doomsday Dawn I. It summarizes each encounter by room number, and then provides closing thoughts from the GM. I'll be adding additional posts each time we complete a chapter of Doomsday Dawn. Currently, we play in a PFS venue during a five hour time slot, so this session was broken up over two games on 8/12 and 8/19, with roughly 3.5 hours of each session being spent butts-in-seats playing and another ~hour spent reviewing rules after encounters ended to make sure we ran the encounters as close to rules as written as possible in a game with such wide latitude for variation; I expect most future sessions will take roughly the same amount of time.

During the second session, we did have several players not able to rejoin the table due to scheduling conflicts. The table was composed of six players for the first session (A1 - A7), and four for the second (A8-A12).

--- THE PARTY ---
-> Dwarf barbarian (fury totem)
-> Halfling cleric
-> Halfling barbarian (animal totem)
-> Dwarf paladin
-> Elf cleric
-> Elf sorcerer

--- PREGAME ---
Before the game, we discussed character build choices and the character creation rules. The players had built their characters over the preceding week, so the party didn't have quite the same party balance as previous parties of Playtest I've GMed for. Because we were playing in a public venue as part of a weekly Pathfinder Society game day, for reaching the $50 Retail Incentive Program threshold each player was awarded a second Hero Point, in addition to the one they start the session with.

This event took place over two sessions, on 8/12 and 8/19, and hero points reset on 8/19 (with the same result of each PC starting the session with two Hero Points after the table hit $50 of food purchases within 1/2 an hour).

--- A1 ---
This combat was straightforward - the party entered the room from the bottom of the map, and immediately triggers a Perception check[1], where the dwarves and the elves stomped my pitiful Stealth check[2]. With the game up, the party immediately transitioned into Perception vs. Perception initiative[3]. They won, and quickly encircled the offending ooze via two Sudden Charges and an Electric Jolt. The ooze managed to give the paladin a love tap, but otherwise ended up quickly transitioning from alive to a puddle of goo.

A long pause ensued while we reviewed the rules of Exploration Mode with the players.[4] The party, having no rogues (the elf cleric was our high Perception modifier and had Thievery), elected to all Search down the hallway.

--- A2 ---
The party rumbles down the hall, and the goblins definitely know the Paladin is coming (*clank* *clank*). They hide in the shadows, but with the dwarf's Darkvision and the elves' Low Light plus the continued effects of Note 2 they were quickly discovered and didn't get a chance to rush out of the shadows and into the PCs' grills. Instead, we went straight to Per/Stealth opposed Initiative once the paladin (on point) entered the Ossuary proper.

This fight was nasty, brutal, and short; the goblins fired off a bunch of longbow misses at a raised shield, and were one-hit wonders for the two Sudden Charges that took away their distance cushion. The DC5 flat checks did not cause a miss in the darkness, and four goblin warriors quickly met their assorted gods. No non-cantrips were cast during this combat.

With the goblins deceased, the party elected to search the side rooms and secure the passage out before searching (so in chronological order, the events were Combat A2, Combat A3, Search A4, Trap A5, Search A2). When they did search the room, they discovered the loot but did not critically succeed to find the owlbear claw (the elves both rolled poorly).

--- A3 ---
The party dwarf was nominated to stick his head in each of the holes. He entered the first hole, and successfully Perceived the centipedes (triggering initiative). The centipedes used their climb speeds to reach the back line of the party, forcing some actual spell slot use out of the Cleric (one Heal) and the Sorcerer (MAGIC MISSILE!). The lack of Attack of Opportunity was a huge problem, and because the centipedes rolled well on initiative, they were able to separate and swarm the dwarf. Despite this, I couldn't hit the broad side of the barn and the party survived. No PCs were poisoned during the murder of these centipedes; all of the saving throws were successful.

--- A4 ---
The party successfully identified the injuries on the goblins. They're grossed out, and immediately default to, "Vampire," having not critically succeeded.

--- A5 ---
Only the dwarf pokes his head in the room. The trap triggers. He passes the save, and immediately leaves. No search checks take place in this room, and the fungus is not identified.

--- A6 ---
The party fixated on the statue for a good long while, probably preventing us from finishing in a single session. The paladin and the cleric both observe the idol, and the cleric identifies it as being associated with Lamashtu. The sorcerer uses Mage Hand[5] to fetch the thing out of the water, but the paladin (being a paladin) immediately attempts to smash it with his hammer and triggers the encounter.

The quasits attempt Invisibility (and because there are no fighters, they succeed!). However, their offense is less than stellar - they fire off a Fear spell at the two closest threats, the paladin and the halfling barbarian. The halfling fails, the paladin succeeds and whacks a quasit. The dwarf barbarian uses Sudden Charge to base and crit the same quasit, and kills it on the crit damage. The other quasit tries to engage the back line, targeting the cleric, and soaks another Magic Missile. A Heal fixes up the damage and the halfling returns from their Fear 2 just in time to see his two allied hitters put down the quasit.

With the quasits dead, the party checks out both doors. With one door locked, one door not, and no rogue they barrel through the trapped door, setting off the trap without even trying to find it (it was a Barbarian heavy party), and immediately turn towards A7. While the searching is taking place, the dwarf paladin takes a drink from the fountain, but he passes his save and declares that it tastes like, "Fish waste," (he used a different word for "waste" at the table), prompting the rest of the party to steer clear.

--- A7 ---
Darkness was, I think, the best bait for this trap. The dwarf, running fist and with darkvision, immediately perceives the goblins and triggers a Per/Per initiative roll without trying to search for the falling rocks.

During the first round of combat, one goblin stood by the falling rock trigger while the other two (plus the commando) were bait to pull the party into the falling rocks. On the first round, all three melee characters decided to gather up in the rocks to engage the bulk of the party, so the goblins obliged and rocks fell. Nobody died this time, but it was a significant chunk of damage the party would've probably preferred to avoid. After the rock fall, the Goblin Pyro moved forward and greased, using the four contiguous squares configuration to lay out two party members and make some unhospitable terrain for the party.

With two party members (paladin and halfling) prone, the goblins started doing real damage. The commando stuck two crits into the dwarf barbarian, who was living because of Rage temporaries. The party, meanwhile, had caught a bad case of my earlier dice rolls and were flailing with wet noodles at relatively paltry goblin AC. The back line of casters took out a goblin via cantrips, but the two melees and the commando were winning in the trenches when the halfling went unconscious and we had to pause to teach the dying rules.[6]

With the halfling down, the goblins hit a snag - they needed to move through their own grease. One of the remaining warriors tried, failed, fell prone, and was promptly smashed to bits by a dwarf barbarian crit. The elf cleric used his domain power to move the commando into the same square, which caused the commando to also fall prone and to be killed by a dwarf paladin crit. The remaining warrior fired a bow at the cleric, but ate a cantrip in return and the pyro was finally swarmed by the remaining party members. At the end of this fight, everyone in the party was badly damaged and all three melee types were in single digit hit points. We were also out of real world time for this week's session, so they retreated to the surface and rested, dragging their halfling companion out of the Ossuary.

Post-fight, the party spent a good ten minutes trying to climb the cliff face (in real world time). The string of failures was initially funny, but by about minute five we really, really missed the 3.x Take-10 rules, which would have solved this problem.[7] The party also lacked any PCs trained in Thievery. Fortunately, they had a dwarven lockpick (that's a hammer). The stone proved no match for an angry dwarf, and was eventually smashed down. The party proceeded to A12.

--- A8 ---
Skeletons versus a cleric? This was the last room the party entered, and thanks to the cleric spending much of the Drakus fight unconscious there were still three heals left. One shortbow critical hit badly injured the halfling barbarian, but the skeletons were quickly dispatched. Only moment of danger was the opening salvo of the back four skellies.

--- A9 ---
The party discovered this trap via Detect Magic from the spellcasters - the sorcerer successfully dispelled the identified trap via the DC 14 spell roll, and the event did not fire.

I will add here that the dispelling of magic traps, and the mechanism to do so, worked well mechanically even though it was weird that you didn't need, you know, Dispel Magic. While it was a bit jarring, being able to dispel magic traps went over well generally.

--- A10 ---
I expected this to be a nasty encounter based on previous reviews, but the Drakus fight was quite underwhelming. Drakus won initiative on a nat-20 Stealth, closed to melee, and whiffed twice on a 2 and a 1 against the barbarian (AC 14 on the 2 versus the barbarian's non-raging AC 15). The sorcerer whiffed back with a Ray of Enfeeblement, then popped her Dragon Claws with her remaining action. The halfling barbarian swung back and missed twice. Then the dwarf dropped a Magic Weapon Greataxe crit. 33 damage later, Drakus is in a bad way.

Round two, Drakus turned his attention to the dwarf barbarian. A critical, grab, and life drain later the dwarf barbarian is down. The cleric heals the barbarian to bring her back to Unconscious. Lots of whiffs from the party this round against Drakus as they catch the disease of sub-5 dice rolls. Action economy is swiftly turning into a problem for Drakus despite fighting them at a choke point where they can only move by provoking. Smartly, the party stood their ground after supposing (correctly) that he could AoO.

Round three, the barbarian passes her Stability check (DC 18 with a -2 for drained - gets it on the roll) and wakes up. She provokes by standing, and goes back to unconsciousness. Drakus steps and puts two swings into the cleric, knocking him out as well. However, the halfling and the sorcerer flail with melee attacks to no avail.

Round four, lots of bad dice, lots of fanning each other. Everyone missing a lot makes for fights taking too long and not being very fun, and has been a recurring theme through The Lost Star. The halfling seems committed to trying to land an Intimidate/Grab combo on Drakus with only a +1 on Intimidate. Good marks for roleplaying, but it wastes precious Strike/Step actions that could've been used to set up a flank and force him off his choke point. Drakus did tag a longsword hit, though I'm blanking on who (I think I got the sorcerer for some damage). Everyone else did the slap-fight maneuver.

Round five, my dice luck from earlier returns and Drakus whiffs twice on a raging halfling (snake eyes on the dice - he hits on a 3), before tagging a consolation claw that he can't follow up with the drain because he's out of actions. The sorcerer finally lands a claw, leaving him with 39 damage before the halfling lands a d10 bite hit and ends the battle; 2/6 dying, no dead but the faceless stalker. Due to the choke point, there were only Step, Strike, and a couple of ranged spells that go off in this fight. A lot of wet noodle slapping between the monster (afflicted by horrific dice luck on my part) and the party (who were also afflicted with a couple rounds of awful dice, but only needed ~12 to hit the AC thanks to Bless).

The critical hit on the dwarf barbarian's opening salvo really defined this fight. It was the bulk of the damage, and it put Drakus in a situation where he didn't have enough time before the action advantage eventually whittled him down. Also, keeping the martials staggered throughout the marching order (and acting under the assumption that as a "boss" monster he could AoO) really helped the party avoid taking unnecessary bonus damage. The Drakus fight was hard, but I'm baffled at how so many parties are TPKing here; I could probably have dropped one more had the dice been all 11s (or the DPR Olympics 5/15 alternating sequence) but the party's action advantage would have, I feel, inevitably won the day.

--- A11 ---
The party searched the altar. Not much excitement here. They found the dagger and the book, and took both. They checked out the bowl, and enjoyed the preview of future chapter(s). After shameless looting, they moved back through the hallway to leave with their spoils. We had discussed, OOC, that they should take the un-cleared path on the way back even though that makes no sense in character because they have the Star and the Notes, in the name of actually playtesting the entire complex.

--- A12 ---
The party entered after bashing down the secret door (and thus alerting Drakus in A10).[7] They tossed the equipment, and were stymied by the locked chest. The chest did stick the barbarian for a single iteration of the poison (rendering her Drained 1 walking into A10) before moving on to trigger the next encounter.

After the A10 combat resolved, the party was able to open and loot the stuff. Despite some hints during the conclusion from Keleri, the party decided to hang on to the loot. No 3rd level items for them in Part IV.

--- NOTES ---
[1] - Secret rolls are annoying. Very few of them add anything to the campaign or the quality of the play experience. They do add additional time and cognitive burden on the GM, which is not ideal. A very, very few of them actually need to be secret; players are better at not metagaming than most GMs give them credit for, and the best way to stop them from metagaming is to 1) trust them and 2) call them out if they aren't honest. Throughout the adventure, I think only one of the knowledge checks (and none of the other checks) was truly worth rolling secretly. I would suggest that many places in the rules that call for a Secret Check should just call for a check, and let the GM make the determination about secrecy.

[2] - Throughout the first session, I rolled horrifically badly. I strung together nine consecutive d20 rolls with a die result under five at one point in room A7. The modifiers and the ACs of the non-Paladin party members indicated that I should've been hitting far more frequently than my dice were willing to cooperate with. This may have tainted some encounters' results in the playtest. That said, the Paladin was very good at putting himself in the danger zone and keeping the squishies protected with terrain, so some of my flailing was probably as it should have been, just a little more farcical because I was "critically" failing.

[3] - At this point, I felt we were in Per/Per rather than Per/Stealth; the party had made the hiding ooze, so the ooze needed to realize it was seen, rather than needed to hide (because, ugh, see Note 2).

[4] - Exploration mode is a colossal pain in dungeon crawl situations, for limited return. The areas of the map are so small that the party takes only a few minutes to move from encounter to encounter, and with the exception of the trap the party wanted to move in a tactical manner because they perceived the complex to be full of threatening things, and were in no particular hurry to search it while active threats remained. I asked for the purpose of the playtest that we attempt to use Exploration mode when moving between rooms on the map, with a defined marching order and using the lead figure to indicate party position unless we were in initiative, but this failed us at A6 and A7, where the party

[5] - We looked at Mage Hand, and I could find neither a bulk limit nor an exclusion for magic items, so this seems to Just Work. Not sure if that's intended or not, but it's worth considering that when items appear in scenarios/modules/Adventure Paths should define their Bulk for the purpose of this spell.

[6] - The dying rules are frustrating and quite rough. If someone goes down, they're probably staying down. The DC on the goblins isn't terribly high, but needing two successes to wake up means you're probably down for the remainder of a combat and that usually begins cascade failure among the rest of the party (unless the hit that dropped you was just a lucky crit during what should've been cleanup mode).

[7] - The Thievery DCs for opening locks were silly high relative to what the PCs could possibly achieve. A rogue will have, at best, +6 to Thievery (needing a 14 or better on the doors in this complex). If you're actively trying to force the party to smash the doors (a clever villain setting up a mundane alarm for a group of known PCs?) this is fine, but for standard dungeon doors it's annoying at low levels. Finding a way to get those DCs down closer to the high teens (somewhere in the DC 17-18 range?) would make it more challenging without being farcical lessons in failure.

Basically every task in the adventure was an exercise in failure; the combats were spent making slap-fight motions at each other, initially while laughing but later as a way to express frustration without being too overt in the public store venue where we run weekly PFS and want to look like we're fun relative to the Wednesday Adventurer's League games that are now drawing significantly more attendance than PFS. However, the failure rate on pretty much every task was really high. The Climb in A7, especially, was really frustrating.

I think we missed the old Take 10 rules for this very thing. Failing while you're in danger is one thing, but the constant out of combat failure for what should've been mundane tasks was really, really unpleasant as a play experience. The game loses a lot of fun when the PCs are stuck failing at every rudimentary navigation task because the dice decide the players can suck it, and none of the DCs were low enough that the Assurance feat was worth taking (15-20). Even if Assurance just allowed you to take 10 (plus modifier) navigating the dungeon, a task that shouldn't take up more than a few minutes of time, wouldn't become more time consuming than flailing (and failing) at the enemies.

I also noticed that the Paladin specifically really never fired off his "flagship ability", Retributive Strike. This ability fired not a single time throughout the adventure. The paladin did a good job of making himself a target, but even with two melee allies (and with two allies who spent most of A7 prone and adjacent to him in a Grease) he never managed to meet the condition for Retributive Strike. Some of that was that the goblin commando had a reach weapon (but Large enemies are common at higher levels) and part of it was the little goblins struggling to figure out which end of the dogslicer goes in a good guy (read: I couldn't roll a d20 and get a double digit), I reiterate my feeling that this ability is uninspiring and really should be moved from the defining feature of the class to a class feat (probably at 6th level, in place of AoO). It's good for a paladin built around it, but it's really hard to make work for someone with a 5' reach even in a combat that should lend itself to it.

Finally, Exploration Mode. Exploration Mode just does not work well in dungeon settings. In the Ossuary complex, most of the distances encompassed 1-2 move actions; essentially a round or two. Using Exploration Mode tactics between encounters to search rooms also created more cognitive overhead than was required to say, "We want to canvass the room for clues." While it may make more sense when doing In Pale Mountain's Shadow, at least for crawling through the dungeon the Exploration Mode rules don't really add anything to the game that was missing - they just add a bunch of unnecessary paragraphs that, once we're no longer in playtest, our group will completely ignore (assuming we continue playing Pathfinder 2nd Edition). In short, throughout The Lost Star Exploration Mode seemed like a solution in search of a problem, and the search was making new problems besides.

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Society Subscriber

I also found Exploration mode really jarring, and was further thrown into the, "These tasks are exclusive tasks," stance by Rose Street Revenge:

Rose Street Revenge, pg. 14 wrote:
In less strenuous situations (exploration mode), a PC needs to use the searching tactic or detecting magic tactic to uncover hazards.(“When I’m walking like this, I’m always looking. It takes effort unless you get really good at it. Some dragonbloods can sense magic and magic traps, but that also takes effort. You want to focus on sneaking? Hiding behind shields? Life’s full of choices, and my choice is to look for traps and stay alive.”)

The bolding (added by me) implied to me that the tactics were at least mutually exclusive, if not exhaustive. That had a distinctly deleterious effect on later tables of Rose Street, as well as my table of Doomsday Dawn*. If they're not meant to be, the section is at best confusing and the language needs to be revisited to make clear that tactics are not mutually exclusive. If they are, it creates a very strange situation where the abstracted rules either ruin scouting attempts or make positioning within the dungeon when Encounter Mode begins utterly divorced from the positioning that would be required to achieve what's being modeled in Exploration Mode. This feels like a section that doesn't need to exist in order for the game to function, and its word count could be reallocated to explaining how to move from exploration to encounters.

* - unrelated note, thanks to the OP for the exhaustive feedback in your Doomsday Dawn campaign journal. It's providing me a good template for when my group gets through with each chapter of Doomsday Dawn, and reminded me to note additional details that I typically ignore while GMing.

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Rysky wrote:

Reading the blogs I was really keen on making a dual wielding Barbarian cause Double Slice made it look really cool, only to be saddened to find out they don't have access to the Double Slice feat. And lots of the classes were in that predicament.

As someone not fond of equipment and weapon styles being restricted to certain classes, I got to thinking, have Classes have actual Class Feats, and tie the Weapon related Feats to their own thing. And with the Proficiency system we already have the structure in place. It would also give the tiers of Weapon Proficiency a purpose other than just attack and damage bonuses.

Tie things like Power Attack and Double Slice to being Trained/Expert in those Weapons, that way a Fighter still has a leg up while keeping a structure and pacing to when the Feats are accessible (or even better have some of those things be options unlocked at those Tiers, similar to skills, rather than Combat/General Feats you have to spend).

I also support the idea of making feats about what you stab things to death with/in General feats, and having them scale up with Proficiency in the weapon. I've tossed the idea around in another thread, but the idea I had after chewing on this for a week was that a weapon style feat (like two-weapon fighting or dueling) should be one General feat that scales up at each new Proficiency. So for a Two-Weapon Fighting General feat you might get Double Slice at feat selection, Two-Weapon Parry at Expert, Two-Weapon Riposte at Master, and something better (Double Slice as only one action?) at Legendary. You could also bump each of those down a proficiency, and make another thing happen at Legendary. It would clean out a bunch of redundant class feats from the classes, leaving more room for cool class stuff like Sudden Charge or Positioning Assault and, because it's only eating a single General feat, shouldn't put too much of a squeeze on the feats you get at each level.

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magnuskn wrote:
Huh, that's decidedly different than the reactions the devs related that they got a GenCon. Did you do tables which were not visited by the devs?

Possibly? I was in the "Red" section in the Sagamore Ballroom; I know I saw a few people in Paizo shirts walk by, but they were mostly Organized Play folks. Nobody stopped to chat with us.

@Fumarole - sorry for the chunk quoting, I'm trying to each of your points as well as your larger argument. If you feel I misquote/quote out of context, I apologize; that is not my intent.

Fumarole wrote:
I play it as searching is not only being done with one's eyes. The PC is looking under bits of rubble, feeling the wall for cracks that might indicate a secret door, peeking behind tapestries, listening intently while remaining still for a moment, etc.

While searching for a physical thing, i.e. tossing a room, would definitely be done with at least three senses, searching for a trap (the primary point of contention for the playtest tables I've run, which now includes another table of Doomsday Dawn from Sunday August 12) wouldn't be done in the same way; you'd need to identify the danger before you reached the trigger point by sight, sound, or smell, though you might validate that by touch ("I think I see a tripwire," clears away dirt "Yep, look here guys; this is probably attached to that branch up ahead."). Ditto for upcoming monsters - I'm not going to turn over a rock to discover the kobold, but I'll probably hear his jangling staff ornaments before I come around the corner unless he's Stealthy enough to remember to hold them still.

Fumarole wrote:

If they're sneaking they're moving slowly, looking before carefully placing each foot down to ensure they don't step on something that might reveal their presence. A sneaking character would also likely put their weapon away lest any light source reflects off their naked steel (obviously this is situational).

Anything that requires a skill check means the character is focusing on that task. Despite many people's feelings to the contrary, humans really do not multitask well and the exploration mode is a reflection of that. I like the system as it feels very intuitive.

While it's true that humans do not multitask well, this isn't really a function of multitasking - it's sequential tasks, undertaken in a repetitive order. I move from Point A to Point B. I survey for hazards. I survey again for the next cover point, Point C. I move to Point C. The current system abstracts this away as either Searching or Sneaking, while what the characters are supposed to be doing actually encompasses both activities.

I made some adjustments for the Doomsday Dawn table on 8/12. I tried explaining the movement speed reduction differently for this table by framing it as, "You move, you stop, you look for danger, you move again - you're not literally walking slower, but you're moving less frequently and pausing to do something else in between." I also let people have weapons in hand without needing to use the tactic to, "Ready weapons," under the logic that carrying a thing != gaining the Raise a Shield benefit. The response was considerably less snarky than it was the prior session.

I wonder if some of this isn't just a function of me applying Exploration Mode when the PFP rules should still be in Encounter Mode - the party is sweeping a dungeon complex then searching for valuables, so they move tactically through the complex in the tactical mode of play. I don't know if the rules should change to account for that or not - it was common practice in Organized Play locally to sweep the dungeon for threats then come back and study it once the area was secured. Exploration Mode seems to assume the party is moving through the complex more like archaeologists than a tactical team, and perhaps this is a clash between playstyle and assumption where both sides (the rules and the players) need to adjust to each other?

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After GMing several tables (six of PFS, one of Doomsday Dawn pt. 1) of Pathfinder Playtest over the course of the last ~10 days, I'm summarizing some free-form responses to things that were good/bad in addition to filling out the event surveys. This is a combination of player reactions as I observed them and my own opinions.

So, to start with the good things. Encounter Mode is very, very good. The action economy system is fun, it's easy to teach on the fly, and players really don't need to read the chapter to figure it out, just the list of actions and their class feats. The three actions per turn/one reaction/everything is an action system is a very good choice. I even like the spellcasting component = action balance, and our spellcasters in all six runs of Rose Street Revenge (five at Gen Con, one locally) were smooth while we were in initiative.

I also want to give special props to the initiative system. I initially was leery of it, and it does feel like Perception is too powerful in the new edition (I mentioned it in the Skills comments). However, in practice it's very easy to figure out after one or two tries, and the players who weren't being willfully intransigent were quick to run with the system since it rewards doing things in the dungeon your PC would do anyway, like tracking or sneaking. It's a little, well, weird that the cleric is now the fastest character in the initiative order in many combats, but that's just cognitive dissonance from the legacy concept of, "Cleric initiative," sticking in the group's brain.

Traps were also pretty good. Traps acting like PF haunts took a while to get used to, but the ability to have them disabled by appropriate skills (Occultism for haunts, Survival or Nature for deadfalls and natural obstacles, Thievery for mechanical traps) is a good change. While there will be a learning curve to this system, I consider the traps to be a marked improvement over the 3.x chassis that PF1 ran on, and I think players will gravitate to that as well.

With all those good things covered, though... Exploration Mode is not pleasant. Across all our tables, I had to tell every player that they were trying to perform multiple "tactics", even though these were things that the characters should've been doing. The party's rogue, either the Merisiel pregen or the homemade ones, always tried to scout ahead and clear the hallway of traps. "Sorry, Merisiel," replied the GM dejectedly, "That's two tactics and you can only perform one or the other down this hallway." This despite the fact that the right way to clear a building is to move to cover, check, move to cover, check, move to cover again. Want your weapon drawn? Nope, clearly can't use your eyes with that sword in your hand.

Exploration Mode's Tactics made the game feel like a series of toggle buttons a la Neverwinter Nights, Pillars of Eternity, or other top-down isometric RPGs. I list those games (and not a not-to-be-named whipping post genre) because I loved all of them - they were great video games. However, part of what differentiates tabletop RPGs from those kinds of games is that you have the freedom to define your actions based on realism and implement good, tactical thinking without requiring sacrifices to the limitations of a game engine. Those kinds of toggles are (somewhat) necessary in video games, to manage and balance the party's ability to overcome encounters. Those things aren't necessary in a tabletop RPG, and indeed the ability to move, think, and act in a way similar to real life is part of the appeal of tabletop play when competing for a consumer's limited free time. Exploration Mode adds a level of cognitive dissonance and player/GM friction without providing a material gain in return.

I think I understand some of the problem that Exploration Mode and it's codification of your actions during a dungeon crawl is trying to solve for. I've run a lot of Organized Play (both PFS and Adventurer's Guild), and I'm all to familiar with the player who responds to initiative by announcing, "I was sneaking with my weapons out already while spamming Detect Magic while buffing with Heroism!" or to the springing of a trap with, "But I would've been searching for traps with my weapons out while sneaking down the hallway while reading this spellbook!" The answer to these players isn't to codify how you walk down a dungeon hallway. It's for the GM to turn to that player and say, "No, you can't."

More than anything else that showed up in the playtest, this prompted multiple players to verbalize negative reactions to the actual gameplay. I heard lots of negativity about the classes and character creation in four days of Gen Con, and more over the week of building characters for Doomsday Dawn and our Friday night PFS night. This, though, was the only spot where gameplay was hammered on by the players, and it was hammered harder than just about anything in character generation. Please, please please, revisit this concept. I genuinely believe that you could achieve the same result by adding a paragraph about how to use the skill while exploring to each of a few skills (Stealth, Survival, Thievery) and Perception.

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After GMing several tables (six of PFS, one of Doomsday Dawn pt. 1) of Pathfinder Playtest over the course of the last ~10 days, I'm summarizing some free-form responses to things that were good/bad in addition to filling out the event surveys. This is a combination of player reactions as I observed them and my own opinions.

So, um, go read this thread and the response about Signature Skills. Pretty much nailed all my thoughts about them.

If the Signature Skills thing is here to stay (perhaps because of Rituals?) at least have the ones from your class, one from your Background, and one from your Ancestry (maybe as an Ancestry feat?), with some kind of vehicle to get additional ones, like a level-locked Skill feat. There should be a way to expand your list of signature skills beyond just your class; classes in the current document are essentially a straight jacket on how you will play, more reminiscent of the worst parts of 4e or a wide assortment of MMOs* than 3.x editions of D&D. While this isn't a problem for those games, the variety and that class wasn't a straight jacket was part of the reason people stuck with the 3.x framework for two decades despite knowing all the warts.

Takes three deep breaths

Other than the Signature Skills system, which didn't come up during low-level play, the skill reorganization seems like a good one. I like seeing combat maneuvers be Athletics now, I'm a proponent of needing fewer skills, and while the Lore skill's naming is confusing (it's Profession? Lore != profession as terms in common usage), I like that a PC who isn't fluent in Occultism could take Vampire Lore or Demon Lore and be a layperson expert on one specific topic. I will say that Perception feels like it should still be a skill, not its own thing. It fails the duck test to me - it looks like a skill, it acts like a skill, it's used in skill situations. It's a skill, just masquerading as a stat. I would really, strongly encourage that it be moved back into the Skills chapter and be treated like a skill. That's even another reason to hang on to Signature Skills - don't give it to anyone as a Signature Skill, and the class features that progress proficiency remain the only way to progress it past Expert (also, that lets you free up a General Feat).

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Society Subscriber

After GMing several tables (six of PFS, one of Doomsday Dawn pt. 1) of Pathfinder Playtest over the course of the last ~10 days, I'm summarizing some free-form responses to things that were good/bad in addition to filling out the event surveys. This is a combination of player reactions as I observed them and my own opinions.

This was a topic that received mixed to negative feedback for the tables I've GMed for that made characters (only 3/6, and only two of those have been post-Gen Con where I've been involved in the creation process prior to game time). While not as visceral as the classes, several players felt the feats presented, particularly the general feats, were underwhelming in potency and that there were clear, "Best," choices to make.

I think I'm warming up to the idea that we should only get a few General feats, kinda like the pace that PF2 has, but those feats should do a lot more each and should grow as your character does. As an example, both the Fighter and the Ranger get the feats Double Slice, Two-Weapon Parry, and Two-Weapon Riposte. Remove those feats from the class, and make that one "Combat" general feat. When you take the feat, you get the effects of Two-Weapon Parry and the Double Slice action. If you have Expert proficiency in both weapons you're wielding, you can also Riposte as per the effects of Two-Weapon Riposte. Then make class feats improve on general feats, like the fighter's feats to grant extra reactions, or give abilities like the Open and Press maneuvers or enhancements to the ranger's Hunt Target.

Right now, though, the sheer volume of choices has diluted the effects of each individual choice to the point that they're not interesting, and the need to plot out your choices to make sure they add up to a coherent final product means you're still stuck with the same barrier to entry/high degree of difficulty in character generation that made PF1 unfriendly to new players as the system aged and more options from splatbooks became available. I admire Paizo trying to reinvent the character generation process, but going back to what I said about classes - some folks have already nailed that process, and it's not a bad thing to crib an idea that works and build on it as long as you have something else original to differentiate yourself from the product you borrowed from (and you do - see my thoughts on Playing the Game).

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Society Subscriber

After GMing several tables (six of PFS, one of Doomsday Dawn pt. 1) of Pathfinder Playtest over the course of the last ~10 days, I'm summarizing some free-form responses to things that were good/bad in addition to filling out the event surveys. This is a combination of player reactions as I observed them and my own opinions.

The recurring theme I heard from players who actually made their own characters (rather than using PFS pregens) is, "I'm not impressed with any of the feats {insert class name here} gets." The only class I didn't hear that response about was the fighter class; they instead received the response, "Wait, what's this sidebar mean?" in reference to the rules for Open and Press abilities, followed by a series of variations on, "WHAT!?" It seems like in an effort to give the players something to do at every level up, the choices that characters make have been devalued to the point of not being interesting activities. In the case of the one exception, the content has not been received well once the keyword limitations are applied.

I'm all for giving the PCs something at every level, but the class feats seem to have diluted the value of each thing to the point that there's not a lot of interest in making those choices, and that, to me, seems as bad as not giving choices at all (because the players not caring about something is only marginally better than not having it at all). What kinda baffles me about the whole thing is that one of the strengths of Starfinder is the classes. It appeared the Starfinder classes were/are a really good starting point for character creation in PFP/PF2. Everyone, even the soldier (fighter) has lots of interesting things that they receive at every level, even if there wasn't a choice at every level. The soldier ended up being one of the best classes in SF, and I think that framework would've helped balance martials against casters in PF2 as well.

My supposition is that somewhere in the design process, not having dead levels turned into making a choice at every level, and those two things very much aren't the same. Look at the popularity of 5e; you get something at every level, but make remarkably few choices after first level. You still have the reward of building towards a goal at every level up without the choice overload or the dilution of potency for each of those rewards. In addition, the Skill feats and Ancestry feats (those actually had some pretty favorable responses from players I've GMed for, unlike the General and Class feats) mean you're still making some kind of choice with relative frequency, even if those choices aren't about what you'll do when a monster is trying to rip your face off.

I'll also toss out, and this is my personal opinion only, I am not a fan of type-locking certain classes into specific fighting styles, weapon types, or armor types, especially when that class also has other thematic links that may incentivize creating that class with a different weapon style. As currently presented, the PFP Ranger has no support for the iconic ranger of literature, Aragorn; he's not a two-weapon fighter and he doesn't use a crossbow, so he's not supported here? Saying he's a fighter with Survival as a Signature Skill, or that he's using the Ranger Devotion multiclass feat, doesn't feel right to me. PF1 also has a considerable population of archer-paladins of Erastil - those are only barely supported by the Paladin class feats as presented. Meanwhile, all Fighters apparently only use heavy armor (why wouldn't you know how to use the chain shirt, gambeson, and chausses that go under your plate even if you don't have the breastplate on over it?); that seems kinda silly. Whither the Ulfen, with their byrnie and heavy shields?

Overall, this and one portion of non-combat gameplay received the two biggest collections of negative response from the players I've run PFP for. I'm still very much not sure how I'd change it, but I think I'd look at 5e class design and Starfinder class design when I'm thinking about how to fix PF2's classes, because those two rule sets do receive a great deal of positive feedback on their character creation systems among the gamers I interact with.


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Repost from here:

I'll advocate for Option 1. This is a new campaign, and just like with SFS experience in PF1S should not give you a boost in PF2S. I also consider it unfair that someone new could be joining the campaign, "At ground level," when it first launches at Gen Con 2019 and yet already be on unequal footing with another player by virtue of that player's participating in a different campaign. Strikes me as not equitable, and so I'd prefer there be no benefit for PF1S stars in PF2S.


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Douglas Edwards wrote:
I am really not sure why this isn't standard practice to begin with other than there being too many fish to fry.

One plausible reason that pops into mind is the diminished value of PF1 APs because they don't neatly align with the playable levels the way the first Starfinder AP does. If the AP runs from 1st - 18th, but PF2S keeps PF1S' 1-11 level range (or imports Starfinder's 1-12), sanctioning an AP when only 1/3 the content applies to your campaign's target range is a lot of work for only a little gain. On the other hand, all six of Dead Suns' books link up nicely with a subtier of SF1S, so you're getting six playable adventures instead of 3-4.

I don't know that this is the reason, but it's certainly what came to mind when I was making my initial plea for sanctioning; that while it might not make sense to sanction all of the PF2 APs as they hit the street, there's a greater need (and thus greater value) as your campaign first rolls over editions in getting as much content as possible for a hungry player base.


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I wasn't sure whether to post this thought here or in the slow track thread but I feel like it applies to tiers and level gain directly, while only tangentially addressing a concern raised re: slow track, so I'm dropping it here.

In order to alleviate the initial shortage of PF2S content, I'd like to suggest that the first Adventure Path for Pathfinder 2nd Edition receive the same sanctioning treatment as Dead Suns did, with chronicles releasing alongside (or even ahead?) of the actual Adventure Path installments. Dead Suns was a nice boost for SFS, letting me run bi-weekly SFS at my local game store even though there was only one scenario released a month (and out of deference to the local convention, sitting on 1-07 and 1-08 until after the con). The additional content lets players keep going even if they play at a rate faster than what PF2S can produce content.

I know Dead Suns was a unique case compared to PF1S Adventure Paths, because of the slower release schedule for SF content at the time. I'm guessing it probably wouldn't be possible to do this for all PF2 Adventure Paths simply because there's more volume to deal with, and that it won't continue for SFS now that SF content releases at the same pace PF content does. However, for the initial launch of SFS the additional content from a Adventure Path was awesome, and I'd be thrilled to see that again in PF2S.


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Because this is one of the more fun and hopeful threads, I spent the better part of the morning pulling together all the things I'd like to see show up in the remaining time we have with PF1E/PFS1E.

Edit: Yes, I realize that several of these are repeats of other statements; I figured repeating them would serve as a +1 to that suggestion!

Hanging Plot Threads

  • Factional Plot Threads I'm rolling these up into one, but it seems like we have three major faction plots that are moving forward as we progress towards PF2; Liberty's Edge's leadership imbroglio, Sovereign Court's involvement with Taldor's interregnum, and Zarta's infernal inheritance. The first two seem like they'll be wrapped up by season's end, but I'd like to see the bulk of S9 and S10 devoted to wrapping up these and any other faction plot lines for the current factions so we can have a "clean slate" re: factions in PFS2E.
  • Koth'Vaul Feels like an appropriate high level (Seeker level? 20th level?) capstone for PF1E; he and Thurl could be a good set of Society-wide villains in S9 and S10 that wouldn't need a ton of screen time for explanation, allowing more scenario bandwidth to go to transitioning the faction plots to PF2.
  • The Onyx Alliance Maybe they belong on the second list (of callbacks) but the Alliance seemed to have their fingers in a lot of Aspis/Pathfinder/Blakros business circa Season 6-7, and they seem like a good low-level opponent who could link up with a higher level one, like Koth'Vaul, to go after the Society in the last year and a quarter of PFS1E.
  • Aslynn and 322 Though her "plot involvement" was ostensibly resolved in Abducted in Aether, Aslynn seems to have either a direct tie to or information about Koth'Vaul (S5-07 The Traitor's Lodge) and the Blakros family/Onyx Alliance (S7-09 The Blakros Connection). She's also a really interesting NPC, sort of a done-correctly version of Grandmaster Torch; her questionable ethics make working with her uncomfortable, but she's the only person who has what the Pathfinders need and her price for information isn't comically, overtly Evil even though you have strong reason to suspect she's going to do something that hurts others with it.

    Also, I have two characters who are interested (for different reasons) in 322, and would appreciate if she made another appearance or two before the end of their adventuring careers.

Other Callbacks to Earlier Stuff

  • The Rest of the Serpents Rise/Ire NPCs We've seen a few of these NPCs (Zurnzal, 322, Joliryn, Marnarius) given either resolutions or long-running plot points; I think the remainder, particularly Rataji and Eramay, would be a good insight into how the actions of Serpents Fall and the Society's rapprochement with the Aspis plays out on the other side. This might also be a fun window into the state of the Consortium as PF2 kicks off. Some of this may be happening in the recent Bloodcove series of adventures, which I haven't had the chance to play.
  • King Xeros of Old Azlant This one might already be spoken for, but I want to +1 it because this should totally happen in PFS if it isn't already slated for SFS or an AP somewhere.
  • Lyrics of Extinction What happened to these? Could they show up as a mcguffin in a future scenario?
  • No Plunder, No Pay I'd like to see that boon for Jirandiel Waverider come back to haunt those who didn't finish the job. My own PC is long-since retired to Seeker play, but you could do something for that boon if any of the player's characters have the boon?
  • Shades of Ice II The sealed door in the dragon room - what's back there? Can we find out? Most of my Pathfinders are down for, "The most dangerous of monsters or artifacts," and the ones that aren't are interested in being paid by people who are!


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Jack Brown wrote:

I am going to have to see what that silly goblin boon gave us from We B4 Goblins, since Saturday will be my last chance to us it. Good thing my character will have it on him.

Have to remember to wear black on that day. Should I tear my shirt as well?

Shirt tearing is optional but encouraged.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Society Subscriber

On October 30, 2016 Your Mom's Basement will end it's four and a half year run in White Bear Lake, Minnesota. Since November of 2012, the Minnesota Pathfinder Society Lodge has hosted events on Saturday nights at YMB, peaking at seven tables of Pathfinder Society scenarios per session and averaging four tables each week for 2016. We've watched the store go through a remodel and a couple of redesigns to create more gaming space for tabletop RPGs, and it is with a heavy heart that we'll watch it close its doors at the end of the month.

When we first started running events at Your Mom's Basement (I'm going to miss that name so much), games were little more than a table and three players. Shoved into a tiny corner behind a bookshelf, we ran a single table, then two, then - when we could find GMs - three. After I stopped organizing and stepped down as Venture-Captain, Erica Loppanow (panpear) took over organizing duties, to be succeeded by Jason Westphal (jwes55), Jolene Danner, and Tom Otremba (Tindalen). During their stewardship, the community at the store grew from two tables per week to four, the store expanded our gaming area twice, and brought in additional material to cater to our group.

Your Mom's Basement presented a unique gaming model. Operating out of what used to be an Erbert's and Gerbert's location, Dan and Doug built a game shop/restaurant combination that was uniquely able to leverage Pathfinder Society's captive audience. With a combination of good comfort food (the tater tots were a flagship item, and the breakfast burrito was a house favorite), as well as the house-baked cookies and renowned Cookie Sundae (one usually led to a floodgate opening), the store was uniquely positioned to benefit from tabletop gamers even without sales of physical product.

Your Mom's Basement was a unique store with an amazing mission. The sign on the building read, "Food, Gaming, Community," and the community that sprung up around The Basement was amazing. They went out of their way to welcome us, help us, set us up to succeed. They expanded the gaming space twice, enabling us to coexist with Magic: the Gathering even on prerelease nights. The community celebrated birthdays, holidays, and game days alike; I count at least four members of the staff (and I'm probably forgetting someone) as friends after four years of gaming at The Basement. They even ran a, "Pathfinder Appreciation Night," for us where Pathfinder Society filled the store and organized seven tables of Siege of the Diamond City. This store built a special atmosphere of welcome and inclusion, something I've not encountered at any other gaming venue.

Sadly, the amazing community and the food-centric model were not enough. So please join me in remembering this awesome venue. They had one hell of a run, and I'd like this thread to serve as a place to record stories of the experiences we shared there; a place to remember what they built, and hopefully to inspire someone else to build upon what Your Mom's Basement started.


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So, stuff not related to the original topic has been concealed in off-topic spoilers.

Falsetto Kreighton Shaine and Crazy Drandle Dreng:
I think I'm the progenitor of the Kreighton Shaine voice in Serisan's area. Kreighton reminded me of a character in an audiobook of T. A. Barron's The Lost Years of Merlin from when I was like 12, and so he picked up the voice the reader gave that character. In terms of his actual personality, I've always seen him as a brilliant but unfocused researcher; he's extremely smart, but has trouble concentrating on the topic at hand, will occasionally talk past his audience, and may not always have the best judgment. Essentially, high Intelligence, low Wisdom.

Drandle Dreng, for his part, reminded me of a campy Deckard Cain - past the days of being a brave and wily adventurer, but still smart and useful enough to do other things. So he ended up with a Deckard Cain voice. I think that's crept into a few other GMs' toolboxes locally too.

All The VCs I Like and Dislike:

Eliza Petulengro: She was one of my favorites. While she sometimes came off as snobby in boxed text, both when I present her to players and when I've seen her presented by other GMs she always cared about the well-being of her agents in a way that many other Venture Captains didn't in early seasons.

Osprey: I have always liked Secret Agent Druid, and maybe it's my soft spot for him that taints my opinion, but I try to GM him as a hard-ass with a heart of gold type character, I think because the one time I encountered him back in Season 0 (in To Scale a Dragon) that's how my GM ran him. We had a very different experience from Flying Deuce Jacks McGuffin, Leaves Party to Die in Snow that I saw described by others, and that may well have been the GM going off script - I have never read or run To Scale a Dragon.

Drandle Dreng: Already discussed a bit in my first off-topic spoiler, Drandle Dreng reminds me of the Diablo franchise's Deckard Cain. Past his prime, but still smart and a font of knowledge. I always assumed he woke agents up in the middle of the night as an object lesson in, "Always be ready!"

Sheila Heidmarch: Never got over the taint of Race for the Runecarved Key, where she asked the agents to do some pretty amoral and underhanded things, not to mention showing a callous disregard for the lives of her agents in general. There's a great character development arc here, and as a GM she's one of my favorites to see, but my non-Seekers almost universally despise her.

Ambrus Valsin: I try to map Ambrus' personality to my college track coach. He seems harsh, and I do try to depict him that way when I GM, but also like he's invested in seeing the people he's pushing succeed. He's pushing the PCs to be the best field agents they can be.

Jorsal of Lauterbury: Quite possibly my least favorite VC. He's just Generic Paladin Guy being shoved down the players' throats. The characters who encounter him probably respect him, but his mere presence triggers this player's gag reflex for being such a flat, predictable waste of page space. A missed development opportunity whose role (universally popular white knight NPC) was usurped by VCs who didn't seem like the author was obviously trying to make someone with universal popularity.

Aram Zey: Until a certain recent 4-star special I really wasn't that interested in him one way or another. Just a boring haughty wizard stereotype. I warmed up to him after aforementioned special, though, and there are hints that he's just distance as an emotional defense against the field agents he invested his time and training in. I'd like to see his personality explored more.

An interesting theme - my opinion on the VCs differs pretty dramatically from my characters' opinions on them. I wonder if there isn't a gap between what is said about the VCs by characters and what players actually feel that creates an illusion that there is more dislike for the in-game Venture-Captains than actually exists?

OK... Back on topic. I have heard bad things about our in-game bosses from players, both locally and at some of the large conventions (Gen Con, PaizoCon, Origins). Sheila Heidmarch seems to be the most common whipping post for her outright awfulness in Race for the Runecarved Key, both parts, but Drandle Dreng, Aram Zey, Osprey, and Eliza Petrulengo have all been the targets of b#!#&ing about the competence of leadership. In every case I can recall, the issue boils down to sending a Society team in uninformed/unprepared, or asking the Society agents to do something horrifically amoral/wrong.

The best things a Venture-Captain can do in-game to foster the PCs respect is to treat the PCs respectfully and provide useful briefing information. You don't need to bribe them with stuff - look at the number of positive responses in this thread alone to Holgarin Smine, Eliza Petulengro, and Calisro Benarry. I can't remember any scenarios where they gave us gear (though, to be fair, I can only remember one scenario with Calisro in it), but they are positive, supportive, and their blurbs/briefings provide information that pays off in the adventure. They're putting the agents in harm's way, but they're 1) up front about that and 2) providing as much useful information as they can without being dicks about it. The biggest no-no, I think, is belittling the PCs or making them play 20 questions to get obvious information.

I think an interesting way to try to rehab the image of some of the Venture Captains mentioned here (Dennel Hamshanks as a test case?) would be to do a short arc where that VC gives the party their missions. In the beginning of the arc, the PCs fail because that VC did {activity that VC is frequently blamed for}. Through the remaining two parts of the arc, the VC has an opportunity to explicitly change that practice to the benefit of the party, and at the conclusion of the third scenario in the arc the players actually see the VC having demonstrated learning and growing as a character from the experience. Until Abducted in Aether, Aram Zey looked like he was going this route (unfortunately, then Abducted in Aether happened). Not sure if that's feasible without being obvious and forced, but it would be interesting to try.


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OK, so I'm going to try to do my best not to repeat others' suggestions. Most of the suggestions above are really cool items, and very good at what they do. Rather than rehashing or seconding items already mentioned (with one exception) I'll do my best to keep it in 7-11, without wandering too far into Seeker territory by separating those out. I've avoided the building block items like lesser extend rods and wands that tend to show up in the 3-7 game, except for a couple spots where I mentioned them alongside a big brother. After the list became too ridiculously long, I spoilered them for organizational purposes.

Seeker Bait:
These particular items are too pricey or don't provide enough benefit for my taste in the 7-11 game, but are perfect for Seekers who are focused in that particular specialty. Like all items at this price point, they're much more build specific than things I'll list further down.

-Metamagic Rod of Dazing Spell (54,000 gp; Ultimate Equipment, Advanced Player's Guide): While the aforementioned Staff of the Master is a great item, there are a few metamagic effects that are crucial at high levels and that I don't think are worth putting a feat into to use the Staff with. Dazing is one. Its one of the big three metamagic feats, but you're only getting three uses out of it whether you buy the rod or the staff. Meanwhile, there aren't that many hot options at spell level 7-9 for this feat; the two most powerful choices, icy prison and chain lightning, are covered by the regular rod. Since this guy is cheaper than Quicken, a single Staff is worth five Persistent spells for less than the cost of a full Persistent rod, and they don't make Heighten rods, Dazing Spell is the Big Three metamagic feat that I consider rod bait. Others will feel differently.

-Strand of Prayer Beads (45,800 gp; Core Rulebook): This item is one that's almost worth saving for at the 7-11 level; my oracle has been hoarding for this since 9th. +4 caster level at high levels is amazing, especially for Magic Vestment (which, unlike Greater Magic Weapon, has no downside over traditional enhancement bonuses). The extra beads are gravy, you're paying for the big caster level bump. Not to shabby as a combat trick on dictum (or holy word if that do-goodering is more your thing), either.

-Robe of Runes (44,000 gp; Rise of the Runelords Anniversary Edition): This robe has four charges, which renew each day at dawn. As a free action, the wearer can recall a spell he or she has already cast that day by spending charges equal to the spell's level. For the remainder of the round after remembering your spell, you get +2 to caster level and save DC for every spell you cast. You are dinged on price for the robe's worthless +4 enhancement bonus to Intelligence (if you cast save or dies, you will have a +6 stat item; if not this is the wrong robe for you). It won't work for spontaneous casters, but for prep-based save or suck builds (like witches and wizards with the Void elemental specialist school) its stellar.

-Ring of Freedom of Movement (40,000 gp; Core Rulebook): I wanted to give this one special mention, because I disagree with the assessment that its a must-have for casters. I feel like this one belongs on fighters more than spellcasters, because of the nature of freedom of movement. The majority of effects freedom of movement trumps are reactive; the exceptions are paralysis and stun, both of which high level casters have answers for but high level fighters don't (because spell turning is personal). For many high level casters, the much less expensive Unfettered Shirt will do the job just as well for one fourth of the cost and let you save you 30k for...

The Staples:
These items are as close to automatic as any high level item can get; there's no such thing as an "automatic" item at high levels because unlike in the early levels by 12th two fighters are wildly different based on their feats, archetypes, and so on, but these items are good for almost (almost) every build.

-Ring of Evasion (25,000 gp; Core Rulebook): The king of the ring slot, the Ring of Evasion! In my opinion this is, straight up, the best ring out there. Invisibility is nice, but nothing beats Evasione. It works for everyone, all the time, and works on some really nasty effects. We're not just talking about fireball either; don't forget the nasty breath weapons like this one that the Evasion effect gets you out of. Damage prevention is the second best defense in Pathfinder RPG (dealing damage is the best one), and the Ring of Evasion is awesome damage prevention.

-Stone of Good Luck (Luckstone) (20,000 gp; Core Rulebook): Another CRB gem, the stone of good luck a +1 luck bonus to saves, skill checks, and ability checks. The bump to saves alone is sweet. The bump to everything else is gravy, and your cleric will thank you when they can stop spending rounds on prayer and start doing useful things with those high level actions. Oh, the best part? +1 to initiative. You can't go wrong with bumps to initiative.

-Dueling weapon enhancement (14,000 gp; Pathfinder Society Field Guide): There are two versions of this upgrade, but the more broadly applicable one is from the Pathfinder Society Field Guide. Most characters will be buying this for the +4 enhancement bonus to initiative. There's some other stuff too, if you're a feint build, but that +4 to initiative for a flat bonus is really, really nice. If nothing else, put it on your spiked gauntlet.

Versatile Suggestions:
Not as automatic as the above, these useful items are good starting points when picking late career gear. They're versatile and useful, but not necessarily the best option for a specific class or build. They're for if you don't have some kind of class-specific must have like the Boots of Speed or Gloves of Dueling.

-Flawed Pale Green Prism Ioun Stone (28,000 gp; Seekers of Secrets): At first blush, the 28k for a +1 morale bonus to attacks, saves, skills, and ability checks doesn't look so hot; heroism and good hope are just better options. However, you'll notice this hits ability checks, which includes initiative. As the ubiquitous Courageous weapon enhancement applies here, this little fellow can make a gross initiative modifier even better at higher levels, especially for a barbarian doing Courageous/Furious enhancement tricks. The rest of the bumps aren't anything to sneer at either, but its the initiative that pushes this one from the scrap heap to the shopping cart.

-Staff of Journeys (27,200 gp; Ultimate Equipment): I want to give this honorable mention because its just so awesome. Most staves are caster-specific, but this and the (grossly overpriced) Staff of Bolstering are items that I'd totally consider buying on a non-caster to hand out to my caster party member on the condition they recharge it at the end. The buffs it grants, especially freedom of movement, are just so handy. A solid item.

-Minor Cloak of Displacement (24,000 gp; Core Rulebook): 20% miss chance, that, unlike its grossly overpriced "major" cousin, is always on. Shut off sneak attack, and as an added kicker sometimes things will miss you. Not automatic, but solid. 'Nuff said.

-Glove of Storing (10,000 gp; Core Rulebook): A handy way to smuggle items, juggle handheld stuff for those who need a hand free (like, to cast spells or lay on hands) or avoid the pesky drawing as a move action rules. Versatile and useful; right up my alley.

-Boots of Escape (8,000 gp; Ultimate Equipment, Advanced Race Guide): I'm not a fan of boots that aren't Boots of Speed, but if you're not the haste type or you have some other way to get haste as a free action (magus?) then these aren't half bad. They let non-gnomes get out of jail free 1/day, a handy function in itself, and if you're a gnome (or have sufficient UMD), you can use them to full-on escape up to 400 feet away. Not half bad.

-Fog-Cutting Lenses (8,000 gp; Rise of the Runelords Anniversary Edition): These apply a penalty to Perception in exchange for letting you see through magical fog and mists. Its pricey and from a pricey (in real money terms) book, but man are they handy when you want to go a-murder-hoboin' in fog cloud or sleet storm. Not a bad item for a high level controller to hand off to the party hitter, and something my own high level wizard carries around as a loaner item.

-Hand of Glory (8,000 gp; Core Rulebook): Back to old faithful. See invisibility and daylight each 1/day, plus an extra ring slot. Its handy for a non-caster, though I'll admit its hard to give up an Amulet of Natural Armor due to the relative scarcity of barkskin.

-Jaunt Boots (7,200 gp; Ultimate Equipment): I know I just said that I am not a fan of boots that don't give you haste as a free action, but these are as close as I've come to setting the Boots of Speed aside. Moving 15' with your 5' step is awesome, especially for casters, and if you're a pure casting type who never swings a weapon I could see going this route over the Boots of Speed.

Build-Specific Toys:
These are a few build-specific ideas I've taken from my own characters. I've noted what the general purpose or role of the character in addition to price and source.

-Greater Metamagic Rod of Piercing Spell (24,500 gp; Ultimate Equipment, Advanced Player's Guide; non-magi spellcasters): An upgrade to the Dweomer's Essence in that it refreshes every day. Really, really handy when you can afford it, and eventually in every spellcaster's wish list (even if you don't end up with it). Don't go lesser or medium. Go big or go home. ;)

-Ring of Revelation (24,000 gp [superior], 16,000 gp [greater], 10,000 gp [lesser]; Oracle): This thing is stellar for oracles. Absolutely rockin'. Pick up an extra revelation? Sure. Where it really shines is if you have sufficient UMD to emulate a different revelation (DC 21 UMD check), at which point it allows you to add useful revelations from outside your Mystery. A solid choice for an Oracle, but completely class specific.

-Gloves of Dueling (15,000 gp; Ultimate Equipment, Advanced Player's Guide; Fighter, Myrmidarch Magus): +2 to your weapon training bonus. If you have the weapon training class feature, get this. Surprised it wasn't mentioned earlier in the thread.

-Metamagic Rod of Ectoplasmic Spell (11,000 gp; Ultimate Equipment, Advanced Player's Guide; primary arcane spellcasters): Ectoplasmic Spell is one of those metamagic feats that, because its a +1 and really, really handy when you need it, you think about picking it up. Divine spellcasters often have an alternate effect versus incorporeal undead, but for a primary arcane caster this can make your battlefield control magic stick even against higher level incorporeal creatures. The Lesser version is arguably better, because your best incorporeal crowd controls are 3rd level (slow is made of win against ghosts), but I like the medium version because it also gets some useful wall spells, icy prison, chain lightning, and can catch a Persistent slow.

-Ring of Tactical Precision (11,000 gp; Cavalier, Inquisitor, Holy Tactician Paladin): Increases the variable numeric effect of any teamwork feat or the Aid Another action by 1. If you're built around teamwork feats, particularly the Holy Tactician archetype of Paladin, this thing rocks. It also works well with the Bodyguard chain of feats, bumping the AC increase by 1.

-Spellstrike Gloves (8,000 gp; Ultimate Equipment; magus): Treat ranged touch spells as touch spells for Spellstrike 3/day. Not as good as some other glove slot items, but useful at the price point and a solid option for things like Rime Snowball.

-Gloves of Elvenkind (7,500 gp; Advanced Race Guide; elf spellcasters): For any elf, a +5 bonus to concentration checks to cast defensively. If you qualify (and aren't using the Glove of Storing to pull Staff of the Master/Metamagic Rod shenanigans) these are great.

There is a vast selection of great high level items out there; one of the reasons I like 7+ play is because unlike the early levels, where items are fairly predictable and tend to follow a few well-defined paths, high level items are all over the map based on your feats, classes, and tactics. While some items are clearly superior, fewer items are flat-out wrong choices. I'm sure others can add even more to this list, but hopefully unlike low level "must have" lists this thread will serve as a starting point for players to go digging to find the item that is just right for their build.

Edited because I caught a couple of formatting errors.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Hi Mark,

I'm glad to hear you had fun this weekend in spite of standoffish players. I coordinated the Pathfinder Society events at Con of the North, which I gather from your other posts was the convention you attended this weekend. I apologize if you were upset at the behavior of our community members. We strive to be a welcoming and engaging community, not a secret society with cliques and entry requirements. If we presented any other face, then I've let the entire community down, especially you. I deeply regret this and hope you'll give us a second chance at future events either our weekly game nights or at our next major convention, Convergence.

In answer to your original post, Pathfinder Society is not like Fight Club. Its not only acceptable but encouraged to share your character's exploits; its one of the three tenants of the in-world and real world Pathfinder Society, Report. Sharing those experiences inspires new players to try their hands at Society play, reinforces the positive experiences of our veterans, and reminds our volunteers about the positive impact they have on the players they volunteer to run scenarios for. However, as others have mentioned there is a strong aversion to presenting spoilers. Spoilers run the risk of harming a play experience in two ways; they can harm the experience of the player who hears them by giving away the story of the adventure, giving away the big reveal or surprise of the plot. They can also sting someone who is sitting down as a complete blank slate; another player, who had the scenario spoilered for him or her, can sit down at the same table equipped with just the right equipment for the challenges of that adventure, materially changing the experience for everyone at the table. As a result, we try to avoid them locally when talking about our past exploits.

To share your story without spoilers, try to share your character's experience from the adventure but not share which scenario, either name or number, you played. Hearing the story of your character heading out to the Kortos Mounts and bravely charging the horrible pie monster your party was battling to deliver the finishing blow, saving a downed ally from being cooked in the process broadcasts the fun experience Pathfinder Society provides in a spoiler-minimizing way. Being told there's a horrible pie monster in scenario 5-238 Trouble at the Pie Shoppe gives away the big reveal of the adventure's story and might inspire some players to purchase anti-pie monster gear that they would otherwise have ignored in order to gain a mechanical advantage during that adventure.

I look forward to seeing you at one of our events again. If you're interested in any of our store events, they are posted at www.meetup.com/msp-pathfinders. If you're more of a convention goer, our next major local convention will be Convergence in July, though there are rumblings of some convention-style gaming up in Fargo, North Dakota in June. Wherever your gaming needs take you, I apologize again for letting you down at Con of the North. I look forward to the next time you join us and the stories you'll tell of your exploits. Until then, keep telling your tale because that's part of the fun of playing!

Good Gaming,
Ryan B.


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Kolossal Ego wrote:
This is getting out of hand!

Then get Kolossal Hands!


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kinevon wrote:

** spoiler omitted **

One PFS rule I want to change? Bring back the Undead Lord archetype for Clerics.

Aside for Kinevon:
I was aware; I authored two adventures (one ghost-written) and edited half a dozen others for LG. You're kind of misrepresenting the old LG access system, too. By the end stat items were Open access all the way up to +6. Also, LG had crafting prior to that point, with an allowance to craft once you had exceeded the Oren's caster level sufficiently. In LG, for classes who were cripplingly stat dependent like single-stat casters crafting offered a way to get those magic items prior to their blanket opening.

My hypothetical addresses that; you spend accumulated favors (Prestige Points) to gain access to those rare items, but they are still available to all PCs. All that it limits is quantity. The number of PP relative to cost can be adjusted to taste as well, for more or less availability. However, as a former LGer I suspect you remember the crafters who had a silver bullet item for every situation? PFS has turned every PC into that guy, and I wish that it could be undone because that was some of the least enjoyable gaming I've participated in.


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Lou Diamond wrote:

Ryan, are you completely crazy, the price of magic items is all ready out of whack with the WBL expectations by level. I just retired a my magus and was only able to by a staff at 13th level that's just ridiculous. If you want to play a low no magic game thats fine but don't try to ruin the fun for those of us who like a med to high magic game by further limiting

what we can buy with the meager resources the society provides its agents.

I would make NPC's a 20 point buy for creation. I would also give NPC's
greater access to consumables and staffs and wands of higher caster.

I would actually give out good boons not boons that are nerfed like the owlbear boon and ** spoiler omitted ** Mike if you are going to give out a boon like the owl bear boon limit it to a scenario that is 4th level or above so the boon is just not cosmetic and limited further by tying it to an AC that has been hit so hard by the nerf bat that it is not playable. Note Mike it is not your fault that the Bear AC has been hosed that the faults rules guys who listened to a bunch of Whiney players who cry if they think something is to powerful. see above [Ryan's attempting to nerf buying magic items]

Lou, I agree with your sentiments about NPCs needing to be built with a 20 point buy (what's good for the goose, right?) and also about the desire for more things like Gamin the Misforged on chronicles. Also, I do prefer a very low-magic game on both sides, NPC and PC. That said, I think you're taking this way too seriously, and as a result might have missed the end goal of my (never going to be implemented in any form) pipe dream scenario.

First, and this is incredibly important given the word choice in your post, what I suggest could not be implemented short of a complete campaign reset. That's not in the cards. You can rest easy knowing the Fame rules will stick around if only because the nightmare of converting PCs would be campaign-shaking. Alternatively, grandfathered PCs from the old system would create an environment where new players after whatever point the new rules took effect would be inherently disadvantaged; they're essentially punished for not showing up early enough. That was a major complaint against Living Greyhawk and Living Arcanis during 3.5e; PFS should learn from their mistakes and avoid that. Nevermind auditing nightmares, those reasons alone ensure that my wishes remain just wishes, not reality.

With that out of the way, while I appreciate that some folks like more magic in their world than I do PFS-Golarion is somewhere north of ultra-high magic at the moment. My (purely hypothetical, can't stress this enough) idea is not about curbing the number of magic items as a whole but about curbing the number of rare, powerful items PCs are running about with. So, to borrow your example, your magus can still have his staff because most of his gear should be readily available from dead NPCs like rings of protection, amulets of natural armor, and the +2 stat item(s) of his choice. However, now he has to choose if he wants his uber-staff or his boots of speed, or his +6 headband of vast intellect. That's a good choice, because its not an easy one. The goal is to avoid PCs like my bloatmage, who are running around with a +6 headband, a staff of the master, and a small solar system of obscure ioun stones that I've never seen an NPC so much as pick up. As an added side effect, the Treasure entries of scenarios suddenly matter because even if the NPC didn't use gear itself, say because it came out of a Bestiary, it still is allotted treasure for the author to distribute. That should at least have some +4 stat items and boots of speed showing up in 10-11.

I don't want all the magic ripped out of Golarion; other settings already do no magic fantasy much better than Golarion could and if that's the game I'm itching for I play in those settings. I want to level the playing field between PCs and the NPCs they fight by giving the PCs fewer (not none, but fewer) items per PC that are incredibly rare, unique, and significantly more powerful than could be afforded on NPC wealth. In a traditional campaign PCs would have to live with the loot of their fallen foes and find their ideal, build-specific items either in the loot or through crafting or dealing with friendly merchants, traders, crafters, and so on. PFS (rightly) bans crafting and needs to codify the shopping spree. Right now, the fame system handwaives it by assuming you succeed. I'd rather that the Fame system simply opened doors for the PCs but that PCs still had to bank enough favors to get exactly what they're looking for.

Which, I can't stress this enough, will never happen in any form; the Fame rules are here to stay, even though I don't like it.


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If I could change one PFS rule, I'd rewrite the way item access is handled in PFS. Just as now, the only items that would be always available would be the ones on the Always Available list. However, unlike now you would not be able to purchase any item for which you had sufficient Fame. All items not available through the always available list in the Guide would need to come from Chronicles.

If a PC wanted to purchase an item that was not available to them from either the always available list or on their Chronicles, they'd have to both have sufficient Fame to buy the item and also spend 1 PP for each 1,000 gp in the item's price, minimum of 1 PP for items costing less than 1,000 gp, representing going to their faction and calling in favors to be connected to someone who will craft/provide the magic item that the PC wants. This would also eliminate the 2 PP wand (for which my hate is well documented) and the 1 PP potion/scroll (which annoys me far less, but still shouldn't be), because both of those uses of PP would be subsumed by the new item purchasing rules.

The rule would have two benefits; curbing the absurd power level of PFS PCs relative to the CR system in PFS and increasing the value of Chronicles because suddenly, those boring/uninteresting +2 stat items that *everyone* can buy anyway under the real rules would suddenly become valuable! That should help put to bed the hand-wringing over the value of items on Chronicle sheets. Also, because you're not hoarding for perfectly optimized item purchases (knowing that you can get whatever you want all the time always) players wouldn't feel compelled to skip buying dumb, fluff purchases that are fun but unoptimal in the low to mid tiers of PFS, purchases that are normally reserved only for PCs on the far side of Eyes of the Ten and home game loot. That would be an absolutely awesome side effect, as well.


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I think Hermea is ripe for a Pathfinder expedition. That's got to be on the short list of places the Decemvirate hasn't managed to extend its reach into yet and is one of the few areas of Golarion that feels unique to Golarion. I'd also like to see more of the Mordant Spire after reading what was detailed in Mythic Realms and Elves of Golarion, more of Sovyrian, more Numeria (I think I'm going to get my wish on that front), and more of the Mana Wastes (though I couldn't care less about Alkenstar itself). In about that order.

Dark Archive

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The Twins make their way to the table, holding an eerie conversation with each other en route. ”Is the Angel arguing with the Dark Lady, my love?” the woman asks. ”It appears they are, sister.” her twin replies. His sister giggles, ”She is not so dark, really. I am most jealous, love, of her shapely face,” the woman announces with a wistful look at the back of the Dark Lady’s head. ”It is only a shell, my sister, and like all flesh will wither in time,” her brother answers. ”But you will never wither or fade, will you?” the woman asks, turning to face her brother as they reach the table. He does not respond.

The Twins take their seat at the table, with the man sitting first and his sister perching on his knee, in a pose that might be mistaken for a couple standing for a painting. The man picks up the card before them, while the woman takes the card offered by the master of games. The black eyes of their masks fixate on the card handed to them by the Master of Games.

”Brother, we have been given a great opportunity with this. We must seize the advantage.”

”Sister, we have the first move. Such aggression would be wasted. Draw out our rivals, as one draws the enemy on the battlefield. Feint and gather information.”

”Brother, you speak as a craven! Are you afraid?” the masked woman turns from her card to face her partner.

”Only of you,” he responds gravely.

The two nod in unison, then turn to face the master of games and announce simultaneously, “The Gallium Paladin seeks the favor of the Count. We would see him rejected.” With that announcement, the man lays down the House Guard before the Master of Games while the woman clutches the other card to her breast.

Dark Archive

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Two guests stride through the gate. On the left is a towering man wearing Chelish military parade blacks trimmed in red, and on his right arm is a woman in a flowing gray dress cut in a style that would not be called modest but could not be called indecent. Both of their faces are concealed by thin black fabric that covers the entire face, including the nose and mouth. Over the black fabric each wears half of the same mask; the man on covers the left side of his face, the woman her right. The half-masks are bone-white with a pronounced cheekbone. The expression of the man’s mask is jovial, the woman’s half-mouth is pursed into a grimace. Both have flowing white hair coming from the top of the mask, falling down one side of the wearer’s head to mingle with the wearer’s hair, the man’s a dark brown and the woman’s black.

”Beloved sister, we are the last to arrive,” the male figure announces in disturbing monotone.

”Yes, dear brother, we are,” the woman replies, caressing his arm comfortingly, ”We are fashionably late, so that our entrance is observed by all the attendees.”

”It is rude to be less than punctual, sister. We should greet the hostess.” The man moves down the stairs, his steps stiff and rhythmic, his "sister" nearly draped across his arm until they reach the rest of the attendees. Knowledge (history): 1d20 + 11 ⇒ (14) + 11 = 25. ”That is a very lovely costume.”

Sense Motive DC 20 or Perception DC 30:
The man has a case of the wandering eyes as he converses with the raven-haired woman.

”We must greet the hostess, love,”* the woman steers him towards the Snow Princess. ”Snow Princess, you honor us with your invitation.” At this, both bow in unison before the woman continues, ”Your home is beautifully maintained, and the house’s decorations glorious. You simply must share, who did the decorations?”

"Dearest sister, you have neglected to introduce us," bowing again to the Snow Princess, the man announces in a pleasing baritone, "We are the Twins by Proxy."

* - Sense Motive DC 31:
As soon as the man’s eyes begin to wander, the woman’s attitude shifts from indifferent to unfriendly.


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N N 959 wrote:

"Or a tingle"? If the intent is to allow an NPC to immediately attack the spell caster, why would it be ambiguous as to what happened? You're suggesting that game designers wanted NPC guards to immediately start attacking the spell casting wizard the moment they felt a tingle? That doesn't make any sense.

While I completely agree that logically someone could put 1 & 1 together, the only reason to write the saving throw rules in this manner is to provide some measure of protection for the caster.

Yes, part of my original question is to understand how all these social manipulation spells are suppose to work when cast in a social environment...you know...as intended?

OK, magical compulsions in social exchanges I feel comfortable taking a stab at. We can all only guess how charm person was originally intended to work unless someone knows real-life magic and can reanimate the dead, which is still an Evil act everywhere except in PFS Bizarro World. Within the confines of the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game and by extension in PFS I believe a reasonable response from the other guard who just saw someone casting an unidentified spell while trying to talk his or her way past the guard's post would be to ask, "What was that?" The NPC definitely saw you doing something, he knows that something is "magic" because he's seen the village priest/town constable's cleric on retainer/whoever cast before, but he can't tell what it is because he never picked up any fancy book-learning. He's probably suspicious, though this is suspicion that is not headed for outright hostility. You performed an action in plain view, one the NPC understood on a rudimentary level. He can't see an effect from it. Why would he not wonder what your purpose was when you're trying to get something from him? I'd expect the same response from any adversarial engagement between strangers; you don't know that person, so you are suspicious of actions they take that might directly manipulate the outcome of your interaction but that you can't discern the purpose of.

More generally, magic is a powerful tool in Golarion that almost everyone has encountered at least once but is generally misunderstood by most commoners because they lack Spellcraft as a class skill and don't have the time to learn that skill. An NPC may have seen the village priest cast a cure wounds spell, seen him cast purify food and drink, but has also heard Old Cobb down at the inn after work tell stories to the villagers of Aroden conjuring lightning from the his fingertips to strike Tar-Baphon down on the Isle of Terror and the risen Whispering Tyrant decimating armies with fire while raising the dead before being laid low by the holy fires of Aroden's champion. NPCs know magic, both in practice and from folk tales; they are aware, on some rudimentary level, that magic has more dangerous purposes than cure light wounds and create water even if they don't have firsthand knowledge of it, thanks to oral histories. As a result NPCs react with healthy suspicion to strangers casting spells, often along the lines of, "Hey, what'cha doin' wit' all that finger-wagglin'? Ye tryin' ter ensorcell me?" or the like. There may be no mechanical impact on the exchange, but you've done something, and the person across the table/counter/palisade/gatehouse has recognized those things as some form of "magic".

Simply because a community is magic-saturated doesn't mean they don't have a healthy suspicion of it. On the contrary, the more magic-literate a community is, the more likely they are to understand the dangers of magic they haven't seen before, because they understand more of the full breadth of what magic can do. They're not reacting with torches and pitchforks, they're reacting with a healthy instinct for self-preservation by following up with a, "WTF, bro?" If a PC has a rational explanation for it, honest or not, then that is probably the end of it in most situations. The only exceptions to that I could see are events like those in Immortal Longings or the Blakros Matrimony, where guests, including the PCs, may have plenty to hide and social norms might (I repeat, might, as we don't have good direction on this from any sourcebooks thus far) dictate that divination magic cast on the attendees is verboten or considered rude.

Questioning public spellcasting:
So, this isn't relevant to the social reactions to spellcasting, and thus is spoilered, but I ask this question frequently and saw it referenced outside the context I understand the question to be used in, at least locally. Asking, "Are you really casting that spell right in front of the NPC?" has nothing to do with how the NPC is going to react. Some, I'd venture to say many, players will state, "I cast detect magic," as shorthand when what they actually envision their character doing is politely excusing themselves from the conversation, walking to a private corner or a washroom, and whispering the incantation for detect magic. Now, my example doesn't work because you can't whisper verbal components, but the idea the player has of casting discreetly is not conveyed to me as a GM when players announce, "I cast detect magic," in the middle of a wedding while chatting with three other people. I have to ask that question as a follow up because if I don't and they didn't want to openly cast in front of Hamaria Blakros they're about to earn a tongue-lashing they didn't deserve, which will prompt players backpedalling and denying their intent was to cast openly. Its not an adversarial question, just a follow-up question to clarify the action being taken because sometimes discretion *is* relevant and if I don't ask on the front end, then I don't know later if and when it does matter whether you really cast openly, as you stated, or whether you actually wandered off to cast but failed to convey it. From what I read in the thread prior to this it was often perceived differently than intended.


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Alright, since Mattastrophic gave me credit for my remark about 4-8, I suppose I should actually expand my veiws on what I'd like to see out of PFS going forward. First, to be clear, my idea of Tier 4-8 was an entirely off the cuff remark. Upon further contemplation, I think that's actually a bad idea; changing the structure of past scenarios is a flusterbluck waiting to happen, and inconsitency in tier between the seasons is a pain. Lets work within the existing framework, because there's a better fix than Tier 4-8 within it.

So, first up, some quick responses to John's comments followed by my ideas for correcting output of PFS scenarios to better cater to the player base the campaign has developed. This one's gonna be long. You might want to read it after work, or in stages between flipping to another tab where you look like you're being productive the way you would read MPR.org or Grantland (best website ever) at the desk without your boss knowing. What do you mean only I do that? Anyway, this is long. There won't be a TL;DR version at the end. Deal.

John Compton wrote:
Are evergreen Tier 1 scenarios useful? Are they only appreciated when they are published as bonus scenarios?

While a Tier 1 evergreen scenario has its niche, in my experience it is not useful to schedule it for a game day. Tier 1 evergreens are nice at convention play. They're also generally useful to open up a new venue in a new geographical area. As Drogon states, they can be useful on nights dedicated to teaching new players specifically. However, my experience is they're not useful for local game stores. Its rare that we get a full table's worth of walkups, instead of two or three, and their limited tier range makes them an unattractive option for long-running players who are deciding whether or not to attend a game day. Its great to have a GM who has run it before so it can be brought out under duress, but putting it on the schedule is not productive after the first time and even the first time likely faces underwhelming turnout. They're handy as bonus scenarios, but if the choice is between seeing them in the production line and not having them, I'd rather not have them.

John Compton wrote:
Would it be acceptable to have two 1–5 scenarios in one month and none in the month that follows?

As long as 12/26 scenarios are Tier 1-5 we're OK; I'd rather see every month include a 1-5, but c'est la vie. The big thing is making sure that the season has a 1-5 option for each month. More on this later, but I'm of the opinion the magic number of Tier 1-5 scenarios is 12 per season under the current production format, since the ideal option, three scenarios per month, is currently not on the table.

John Compton wrote:
In my experience, level 7+ scenarios serve an important community purpose.
John Compton wrote:
Level shapes the stories we can tell.

I agree with this in spirit. High level play does serve as an important reward for playing the campaign over an extended period of time. High level play also opens up new areas that can't be presented as effectively in low-levels. However, and this is a great transition to where things get really wacky, I don't think 7-11 is a natural pairing of tiers. It works nicely in the PFS format, because everything is a 5-level range with a low and high subtier, but unlike the other ranges there is a huge gap between characters of 7th-8th level and 10th-11th level. This gap manifests in both the mechanics of combat at those levels/subtiers, and as an extension of that in the stories that are appropriate for characters of those levels. Levels 7-8 really aren't high level yet; they're really low level. Not low tier, because that's a metagame construct unique to PFS, but low level in reference to the spectrum of levels in the full Pathfinder RPG. They fit in the category of stories appropriate for low level characters, and their combat mechanics look a lot more like 5th level than 15th. By 10th level that changes completely; combat mechanics look more like 15th level characters more than 5th level ones, and the stories they're appropriate for change commensurately. Based on personal experience and anecdotes from my community I think part of the disconnect on 7-11s is that the Tier 7-11s functionally become Tier 10-11s; 7-8 only sees play when a 7-11 is scheduled at a game day for a pre-organized 10-11 table. So, while I agree high level play serves as a reward, Tier 7-11 is not a great way to showcase high level play because the scenario's content either fits 7-8, adapting low-level mechanics to high level play (The Cultist's Kiss) or it uses high level mechanics and is a poor fit for 7-8 play (The Waking Rune). Therefore, I'd advocate for the elimination of 7-11 scenarios entirely, coupled with an evolution of how PFS supports high tier, and thus high level, play.

To address the current (perceived?) deficiencies in PFS production schedules I'm going to toss out some suggestions for how I'd "fix" the release schedule (and some other stuff not directly related to the release schedule while we're under the hood anyway) if I were campaign coordinator for a day and could make all the decisions. Some of these may have budgetary limitations; I don't have Paizo's or the campaign's budget and finance information in front of me, so I can't address those limitations effectively. Instead, I will work within the structure of the existing campaign as much as possible to avoid running afoul of them, because the existing structure is built off of those finances. The final few suggestions are drastic changes that would have drastic one-time costs associated with them. Unavoidable failing of my sugggestions; I think those one-time costs would be worth it. I will proceed from least to most controversial.

1. Earmark 12/26 scenarios for Tier 1-5. Pretty straightforward. Just accept that every month needs a 1-5, and one month needs two to account for the lack of a 1-5 premiere at PaizoCon. If the X-Ex for this season is a 1-5, it does not count against this 12 scenario total because its not readily available to any game store (more on this later). This keeps stores like Drogon's that run every week and need fresh material for brand new players, but are likely not going to recruit six brand new players every week to fill out an entire Season 2 or Season 3 1-5 table. Those stores are vital to the success of PFS, so they need to hold a high priority in the allocation of campaign resources.

While we're here, I have another ancillary addition to this. 1a. Use the additional low-tier scenarios to develop at maximum two plot threads that include recurring NPCs who the PCs regularly interact with multiple times over the course of their careers, and who show up again later in the now more abundant 3-7 and 5-9 offerings. One of my longest-running gripes with PFS is that no matter what I do, I never grow the level of attachment to the setting that I see in my old LG characters or in my current LoA character. I hypothesize that the reason for this is that unlike in those campaigns, the only recurring NPCs that I see are the faction heads and the Venture-Captains, and they barely get any screen time anyway. What I would hope to see is a recurring villain (who we might finally have in the form of an annoying conjuror from Cheliax) who I can grow to hate, maybe a few friendly allied NPCs I can grow to respect, and a few sleazy cheats that I can grow to want to throw under the bus when I finally get my chance. I read often that players have, "Lots of characters to cover whatever the party needs." Make that stop; I want my players to sit down and say, "Man, I really want to play BillBill in this adventure because he played the last three parts of the arc!" rather than, "I have a healer, a rogue, and a tank for this tier. What classes are you playing?" Characters having an in-character investment in what's going on in the game world will do wonders for the number of poeple who keep playing the same PC to higher levels rather than stalling out, especially now that retraining is running around to let them fix poor early choices if they find that particular PC can't hack it in the 5-9s.

2. Allocate the remaining 14 scenarios per season thusly: six Tier 3-7, five Tier 5-9, three Tier 7-11. This seems pretty straightforward and weighted towards lower level; the preponderance of evidence in this thread and in my own local reporting shows that this is where the demand is. It doesn't do away with high level play entirely; the carrot is still there. It caters to the largest segment of the player base, and the most valuable consumer among the player base. That's what the campaign has to do to survive and retain profitability, so lets make this happen in our hypothetical PFS-world. We can talk about growth (and more high-tier scenarios) after we secure the foundation, and the foundation is 1-5.

3. Eliminate the X-Ex scenario and reallocate that resource to producing things that game days and conventions can run without a special class of GM. This has been discussed elsewhere. In my opinion, and this suggestion is 100% opinion based on nothing but anecdotes of others and personal experience, its not a productive use of time to release a scenario that only a few GMs in any geographical region can run. Spend that production time on something everyone can enjoy without importing a 4-star or VO to run it, like an extra scenario or another convention special (see below). If something isn't productive for the entire player base for whatever reason, in this case that its availability is limited by the number of VOs available to run it, do away with it. This is not productive for the entire player base.

4. Retire Eyes of the Ten. I still believe that Requiem for the Red Raven is the best single product Paizo has produced out of its PFS-centric lines, both the scenarios and the modules. I have to disagree with PirateRob and say its not even close; second place (Blakros Matrimony) is closer to last place (The Many Fortunes of Grandmaster Torch) than it is to Requiem. That said, the changes we're going to make later are going to make having a dedicated "Seeker arc" completely redundant. As a result, lets do away with the last relic of an old (and in our hypothetical soon to be dead) construct. Plus, while I love this arc, Part III is a steaming pile o' mess and Part IV has a chronicle entry that is wildly inappropriate and unbalancing, 2x more unbalancing (literally) than the Way of the Kirin/Rivalry's End boons. Its had a good run; now lets put it out to pasture.

5. Eliminate Tier 7-11, drop subtier 7-8 entirely from the campaign, and move subtier 10-11 to Seeker play. OK, we're getting on to thinner ice here, I can see some cracks, but bear with me because I covered this earlier; subtier 7-8 and subtier 10-11 are not intuitive partners in 3.x offpsring rules, and PFRPG is no exception. One wants to be low-to-mid tier, one wants to be mid-to-high tier. So lets make Tier 10-11 what it wants to be; high level play. This doesn't mean cutting support for Tier 10-11, simply changing it by no longer holding it back by saddling it with accommodating low-tier needs. There was tacit acknowledgement that this is the case in Siege of the Diamond City; 10-11 was lumped in with subtiers 12-13 and 14-15 rather than being paired with its scenario mate 7-8, which didn't even make an appearance on the chronicle. Lets put 10-11 where it belongs, with the high tiers, and do away with that strange 7-8 pairing that really doesn't need to exist in the first place. How, you ask and/or demand? Hold on, the metaphorical ice is gonna break shortly.

6. Produce two convention-only X-Sp events anually, one for Gen Con to launch the season and one for PaizoCon to cap it. Hmm... sure is wet in the water (and that'll end my running thin ice schtick). I know that this has been done away with, but this is where I'd choose, in my King for a day hypothetical, to reallocate that X-Ex scenario development time to. Special events are way to incorporate the Seeker tiers, whose players have invested three or more years in the campaign, and the more Specials that come out the more incentive to travel to conventions; I miss the old days in LG where I had to go to Wisconsin to play Highfolk or Iowa to play Dyvers. Why go to a convention in Iowa City or Madison to play PFS? I can do it here and not spend $500. However, if there's a convention-only special down there, I now have an incentive to spring that extra money traveling. Lets breathe some life back into that convention with an additional convention special, and then lets release it to the wider public because, as I said above, anything that isn't available to the entire player base is a poor use of resources. Also, lets release both specials to all conventions because we also decided to...

7. Produce a high-level plot series every year at Tier 10-11, written as a single continuous story and published in three parts, like Bonekeep, to become a three-part scenario arc for high level PCs. Remember that allocation for three scenarios at Tier 7-11, way back in suggestion #2? What I propose happens to Tier 10-11 is that each year the high-level story arc that relates to the Season-long story is written as one continuous super-scenario, then broken down into three parts kind of like the Lissala arc (except with three parts instead of five). This allows for a tight, self-contained plot that actually works well for high level characters and puts them on the same pace to “retire” a PC every other season, just like Eyes "retired" a PC every other season. Potentially, you could also cap out a PC every season by playing the two Specials (Gen Con and PaizoCon) plus a Season 0-5 7-11 scenario (no reason to retire what’s already written, after all), but those events wouldn't be mandatory to get the story of the high level arc of the Season story. The goal here is less about retiring a PC than allowing the 10-11 author, and ideally it would be one author writing the whole thing in the way one author writes a whole module, to write one tightly bound and well-polished ~75 page module that presents a complete, appropriate experience for the highest tiers of play. The goal isn’t to eliminate high level play, but to make it feel truly high-level and awesome; these guys are, after all, the badasses of the Society. The traditional scenario format just doesn't have enough room to do that kind of character justice, in or out of combat.

8. As the changes to 7-11 play have obviated the need for one, eliminate the Seeker arc. After the changes outlined above, all play beyond 11th level can be handled in the Modules line and the sanctioned APs, because the annual 10-11 story fills that capstone role for the PCs that was formerly intended to be filled by Eyes of the Ten/future Seeker arcs. Really, the entire Seeker designation only serves to distinguish players who have graduated from field work to become special operatives no longer beholden to the traditional chain of command (couple this with an in-game VC title vanity for, lets say, 30 PP). As long as the Modules and AP lines remain robust and put out something sanctionable for Tier 12+ every year between the two of them, the high level groups are still going to have play opportunities without taxing the limited campaign budget. Meanwhile, the campaign itself is still putting out fresh capstone arcs every year to cater to the demand that is repeated every year for new Seeker material.

I don't know what possible pitfalls might await in the Paizo production line for this plan; I don't see behind the curtain at Paizo. I do, however, believe that this would let the current 26 scenario, 2 special production model meet the demands of Drogon, Dragonmoon (yes, misspelled on purpose), and others who are clamoring for more low-tier material while still retaining high tier play as a carrot for players to persevere through those low levels and get to the pinnacle of their PC's career. Also, I would hope that the greater number of low-tier offerings would mean we could spend more time on developing the NPCs the characters interact with from scenario to scenario, which might help with the lack of attachment that some players seem to feel to their PCs.

My 2,000 cp.
Ryan B.

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Ranged: Scorching Ray, with honorable mention to Disintegrate and Enervation. Scorching Ray is amazingly versatile; the damage scales well relative to caster level and its low enough level to be bait for metamagic to either do more damage or change the energy type. Disintegrate does a lot more and has great utility besides, but you have it for at most six scenarios of PFS play; not as attractive within the PFS metagame. Enervation would win this but for the changes between the 3.5e negative level and the PFRPG negative level. If negative levels still stripped spells known/spell slots, Enervation wins hands down. However, as it stands Enervation is only good as a setup spell for another save-or-suck, and 4th level slots are far too valuable to spend setting up another high level spell. Enervation also suffers from being a Necromancy, a school that is relatively easy for specialists to give up compared to the more attractive Evocation and Transmutation schools.

Melee: Frigid Touch. Its not even close. Its damage is minimal, but the selling point is the action denial from the staggered condition. No more full attacks means surviving at mid to high levels where monsters can dish out four or more attacks per round and a mobile magus (say, one with Spring Attack) can do naughty things with this, while a ground-and-pound magus can stand in melee and deny monsters their counterattack to extend his survivability and mitigate a softer AC. Better yet, as a spell with the [Cold] descriptor its also eligible for the amazing Rime Spell feat, which tacks on Entangle to the Stagger and slight damage. Its also a prime candidate for a Lesser Reach Rod, which vaults it to the best melee touch *and* the best ranged touch in PFS play. The only touch spell that comes close is Vampiric Touch, and Frigid Touch wins out by virtue of being lower level and providing a better secondary effect. The rest are either too high (Calcific Touch, Fleshworm Infestation) or don't do enough (Ghoul Touch, Frostbite, Chill Touch, Shocking Grasp, Corrosive Touch).


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Well, I guess we can all agree that casting "Animate Thread" is an evil act. :)


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Society Subscriber
Alexander_Damocles wrote:
Goblins. Can we please be done with them? Or at least return them to their roots as crazy pyromaniacs? I feel like Goblins are becoming plush toys, not monsters. We've over done the "play a race against type" trope, I feel like we're starting to push into "Oh look, another good Drow Ranger on the surface..." territory.

This. A hundred times this. I need to go and clone myself, so my clones can all second this.

EDIT: AARG! I hate double-posting. Still, worth it.