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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Adding the running Doomsday Dawn play report, so I can find that as well.

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--- 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.

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Society Subscriber
GinoA wrote:

Merisiel can explicitly sneak and search simultaneously. The Rogue Feat Trap Finder (which M has trained at 1st level) reads "Even if you aren’t searching, you still get a check to find traps if you are trained or better in Stealth."

I also interpret the Defending Tactic to only mean you have your weapons/shield raised and ready. Not that you can't have them in-hand. I'm surprised Defending doesn't have the Fatiguing trait though.

The pregen does get Trap Finder at 1st level, which helped when the party was playing pregens, but then you end up with only Rogues being able to scout; in the two parties that didn't use pregens, the lack a Rogue made the trap section of Rose Street a case study in frustration.

The language in Defending leads me to believe that wherever you carried your weapon was immaterial - if you didn't need to spend an action "drawing" your weapon (hefting it off your shoulder, pulling it from its sheath, stringing it, etc.) then you were using the "Defending" tactic. I'd really prefer that not be the case, and it's just a way to get Raise a Shield before your turn - that would eliminate my complaint with that specific tactic, but not the system overall.

Shisui wrote:
Maybe there should have a rule saying that a player trying to do more than one of the tasks at the same time gives a -2 penalty to all checks for each extra tactic? A player who multitasks is not going to be as effective, but if he is good enough, he can do it.

Being able to do multiple tactics at a penalty would be a (frustrating, but) viable option. However, the intent of the rules seems clear:

Rose Street Revenge, p.14 wrote:
In general, each tactic requires enough attention that a PC can only use one tactic at a time, though each PC can select a different tactic.

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magnuskn wrote:
Excellent feedback, but you probably would have been better served to post all this in one thread in the general forum. People barely seem to be...

Thank you! Hopefully I'll have more meaningful feedback (i.e., actual game data that isn't incoherent from sleep exhaustion) once we finish Doomsday Dawn I on 8/19. In the meantime, hopefully someone on the Dev team can get some value out of what I remember of Gen Con.

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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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I know I'm a lot late to the party of reaction threads to the Pathfinder Playtest (PFP from here on in), but after running six tables of the PFS playtest adventure Rose Street Revenge and half of the first chapter of Doomsday Dawn I think I have some feedback to share on the playtest that are more than just visceral gut, "EHRMAGERD THIS IS DIFFERENT I FEAR CHANGE MAKE IT THE SAME!" type responses. Borrowing an idea from Deadmanwalking's thread I'm going to create this thread in General, and link out to the individual threads so that they're findable in accordance with this post's instructions.

I've tried my best to post in accordance with Vic's requests, but I fear some of these will come off as, "The sky is falling you did something horrible." That's not my intent, with one notable exception where I genuinely think one design choice was... well, bad. I think underneath some unpolished portions of the rules is a really cool mechanical system that needs some refining, some polishing, and a few changes to core components to make it a strong offering in the larger RPG market, and I because I like Paizo I want to see that accomplished I'm sharing feedback from my game sessions in the hope our playtesting moves it toward that (in addition to filling out the surveys).

Playing the Game

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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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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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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.

Male Human GM 1/Geek 2/Nerd 2

Ysoki is not something that I was thinking about, but maybe it's a good excuse to try mechanic. Or mystic.


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Dracomicron wrote:
Sometimes they run APs at Lodestone Coffee, but I've never managed to get there due to scheduling, or if I could, I didn't have a character that worked for the book.

Hey! That's us! What level(s) of Starfinder character(s) do you have? We have a couple players who need to gain another level before we start Book III of Dead Suns, and when we offer scenarios we can sometimes get to two tables; we're kinda at a weird point where at our biggest we'll seat 14 players, but then the next week we might only get four RSVPs.

Since this is probably a bad place to schedule our game days, feel free to PM me or reach out to me through the MSP Pathfinder Meetup (or via email, I think that's public on my profile). We'd be happy to add another Starfinder to the Lodestone crew whenever you're available.

Also, while we're not likely to get to Book IV before September, I'm also eagerly awaiting Dead Suns' complete sanctioning. I love that the Starfinder AP is sanctioned in its entirety instead of only sanctioning dungeon sections of it, because it weaves so well with some of the Second Seekers' missions (I've been trying to tie the two together as one cohesive campaign) and hope to see the same sanctioning process and frequency for the PF2 adventure paths.


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Reposted from here:

You'll notice a theme here; I'm all for a clean slate. First edition boons should, in my opinion, have no effect on 2nd Edition. That includes, sadly, the very cool Legacy boons that are now floating around in PFS scenarios. As much as I'd like to see that legacy carried over to give the world the illusion of persistence and our characters some illusion of agency, that also creates a situation where content for PF2S is gated behind playing PF1S. Anything that does so should be avoided like unlimited replay. New campaign, clean slate please.


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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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Brain-musings from the excited synapses after reading the blog (and some responses).

GM Stars
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.

PF1S Replay and Boon Races in PF2S
Backs away slowly...

First Edition Boons
You'll notice a theme here; I'm all for a clean slate. First edition boons should, in my opinion, have no effect on 2nd Edition. That includes, sadly, the very cool Legacy boons that are now floating around in PFS scenarios. As much as I'd like to see that legacy carried over to give the world the illusion of persistence and our characters some illusion of agency, that also creates a situation where content for PF2S is gated behind playing PF1S. Anything that does so should be avoided like unlimited replay. New campaign, clean slate please.

PF2 Playtesting
For figuring out appropriate bonuses, one idea that comes to mind is a PF1-style chronicle sheet with event name | event ID | date lines, similar to the Expanded Narrative boon. Every time you run a PF2 Playtest event at a sanctioned PFS event (and do the associated reporting) you fill in one line, just like you fill out the Expanded Narrative boon.

Then, when PF2 comes out (or at least when it's solid enough to be circulated internally), write up a boon that scales based on the amount of PF2 Playtest credit the player has. Based on the number of events reported on the sheet, the player can claim a single scaling benefit. The benefit applies one time, to one character, and is non-cumulative; if you ran (for example) 10 tables of Playtest, you can claim the rewards at 1, 5, or 10 tables of Playtest on your PF2S boon, but [b]not[b] 1, 5, and 10.

I wasn't sure if this is what you meant by a, "Prize pool," system, but it follows something many PFS players are already familiar with from existing PF1S boons, both Expanded Narrative and others, and would let players/GMs begin tracking credit from launch while you wait for the PF2 ruleset to be concrete enough to assign benefits to the prize pool.
I've snipped the relevant bits and posted them in the corresponding threads.


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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 also want to see the slow track option kept, even though I likely won't use it right away; I've used it extensively on characters once they get past their tipping point levels (whatever level the character's build "clicks" at, usually 5th-7th in PF1S). It's helped me control the number of new characters I have to make while stretching out my PCs' PFS careers long enough to develop some kind of attachment to the character as more than a stat block.

Re: the concern about not having enough content if slow track is allowed; my thoughts.


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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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Serisan wrote:
Unless the divan has bullrushed enemies, I don't think that counts as a weapon. :-p

I mean, what else is he going to wield? His many, vast chins? His page boy? He can't even lift the boy! It's teleported him out of melee - that's kinda weapon-like.


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Weapon challenge... ACCEPTED!!! Multiple weapons listed in order of preference, characters marked with an * cast spells as their primary combat action.

-01: scimitar / shortbow*
-03: spiked gauntlet / katana*
-04: light flail / longsword / longspear*
-05: double-barreled musket / double-barreled pistol / dagger
-06: bastard sword / longbow
-07: divan*
-08: longsword / lance
-09: scythe / unarmed strike (unarmed mustache?)*
-10: spiked gauntlet*
-11: scimitar / light crossbow*
-12: quarterstaff / spiked gauntlet*
-13: quarterstaff / dwarven war axe / dwarven longaxe*
-14: unarmed strike
-15: greataxe / longsword + shield / shortbow
-16: unarmed strike (and MIND THRUST!!!)*
-17: repeating heavy crossbow
-18: longbow / elven curve blade (but really just MOOSE!!!)
-19: rapier / light crossbow
-20: scimitar / light crossbow*
-21: longsword / heavy steel shield / armor spikes
-22: longsword / hand axe / heavy wooden shield

I actually notice that my non-PFS characters have more diversity in their weapon choices than my PFS ones, including the Aldori Dueling Sword, Earthbreaker, and one industrious fellow wielding a pair of Dwarven Dorn Dergar(s?).


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James Risner wrote:
I’ve got all the sheets except for one. Please PM if you have a reporting sheet and couldn’t find me to turn it in tonight.


You received my tracking sheet, but I believe the PC to whom I assign credit was wrong. The credit should be assigned to -12, not -1 (-1 is currently not within the 12-15 level range to receive credit for the scenario).


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Folks playing the Wednesday night Unleashing the Untouchable scenario, I'm going to need some assistance from you. Before we begin, I need to take a cursory look at each of your character sheets. This shouldn't take more than ~5 minutes for each PC.

Because of the length of the adventure, and in an effort to get us all a reasonable amount of sleep before Thursday morning or to other activities Wednesday night, if any of you have digital versions of your PCs, either in stat block form or as digital character sheets, that would be a tremendous time saver. This is not a character audit and it is not a request to digitize your PC if you're running on pen and paper or only have PDFs saved locally on a tablet - I can take care of all the necessary note-taking/sheet-looking on site.

If you have any questions, feel free to PM me here or email me at blomquist.r@gmail.com. I'm looking forward to this adventure, and I'll meet you all on Wednesday!


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Like Gregory I'm interested, but I can't commit until I know what time we're leaving Monday morning.


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Hilary Moon Murphy wrote:

Do you need anything else from me, James?

Also... Will anyone have a hex map with them that I can borrow to draw the first map of Iron Bound Schism upon? I am traveling on the plane, and was not planning on bringing my medium Chessex map with me, largely because I don't think it would fit in the suitcase, and I only want to travel with one piece of luggage on the plane.


If you wind up needing a Chessex mat once you're there, I'd be happy to lend you one of mine. Both will make the trip.


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Hey all,

I've been lurking in your thread watching as these develop. Do you have all the GMing scheduled for the Wednesday 7pm stuff? I searched through and didn't see anything about it, but I might've missed it because I just used Ctrl+F and flipped through the page quick while at work.


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Aside about Acute Senses:
Serisan wrote:
Acute Senses virtually guarantees that you hear it and there's always been at least one PC at the table with it up. Rather popular spell in my region. We had multiple PCs with greater than +50 perception when I ran and again when I played.

I had to go back and check to make sure I didn't have it, but after review I can confirm that neither of the two super-high Perception monkeys at the table had Acute Senses when you ran it (unless you ran another table besides ours). That spell only became ubiquitous locally after you popularized it with Mickey.


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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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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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Ragoz wrote:
Maybe it lets you apply a module?



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Disk - the error was mine, and it was pointed out to me by Jack Brown after the fact. For the record, it made exactly zero difference in how quickly your party ROFLstomped every encounter without resistance or remorse.

EDIT: That is not meant to be a jab - the party in question was extremely well-prepared and efficient, they came in with their A-game, and the reward was a (nearly) complete success.


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Serisan wrote:
andreww wrote:
The cyclonic effect gets around wind based impediments, such as the penalty to attack rolls or inability to make ranged attacks in very high strength wind. Fickle Winds is a spell effect and I don't believe cyclonic does anything to get round it.
I've heard experienced players make the claim that Seeking (a +1 enchant) should bypass Fickle Winds because it's a miss chance. Cyclonic (a +2 enchant) had better do exactly what it says on the tin and go through without incident. In my mind, Cyclonic clarifies that Seeking is insufficient to bypass Fickle Winds and Wind Wall.

Interesting - based on my understanding of the rules, Cyclonic flat bypasses fickle winds while Seeking does not (unless applied to a gun, in which case fickle winds is just a 30% miss chance and Seeking does bypass it).

Also, spoke to MisterSlanky and I get what he was saying. Lots and lots of sunder (which I did not miss, I just couldn't execute due to good party tactics).


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MisterSlanky wrote:
Overall the encounters were fairly fun - though you could tell that the certain builds of two opponents made the gunslinger with the +1 (+5 equivalent) weapon cry.

An interesting sentiment. I ran this at Gen Con with a gunslinger at the table, and though Mr. Khayn was certainly frustrating for the gunslinger, I'm not sure what in the last encounter (other than fickle winds, which is bypassed by the Cyclonic weapon enchantment) was going to slow down said gunslinger? What did I miss?

I plan to submit a full review of all three this weekend, but I did want to chime in and ask this because I noticed the gunslinger was barely impeded by the encounters in Part III, a distinct difference from Parts I (pre-Cyclonic enchant, and the impetus for him purchasing it in the first place) and II (lost LoS and the immunity to bludgeoning).


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It won't work until you reach All for Immortality, but Project Image might help by letting you send the image into town instead of you?


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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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I'm excited to hear that - again, I want to reiterate that I really like the mechanic on a conceptual level, I just felt really burned in the moment (which is why I waited until Monday to reply - to cool off after the session) by Janira suddenly turning into the worst parts of a field agent, instead of the best parts. I'm looking forward to Part III and hoping the arc goes well enough to justify the presence of Seeker content going forward.


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Serisan wrote:
So, about that leadership thing: my players glazed over with frustration about this section of the scenario. It's seen as (A) a wealth sink and (B) petty gotchas to get back at the complaints about the VCs. One player likes Janira and that's literally the only positive feedback I received about this section of the adventure.

As the mystic theurge who caused so much trouble at Serisan's table (see: force sphere, emergency and prison, icy) I wanted to chime in here (and separately in a review, once we finish the arc and I can read the last two scenarios) on the Leadership mechanic in All for Immortality. As a concept, I like the Leadership idea. Especially in All for Immortality I, it felt like an awesome way to make the high level PCs feel like the hard work of achieving high level is being rewarded, and that they're being recognized. However, during Part II there came a point where the mechanics behind the scenes made the whole encounter feel punitive at the expense of actually being more challenging.

We must do research!!!:
After doing the research briefing (or maybe during it, my recollection is unclear) my character provided the research team a Handy Haversack to store the information. I didn't intend for this to be a "donor item" for their success; I wasn't even really at that point of the briefing mentally. It just seemed appropriate to store the research they were sifting through. Instead, they apparently found a way (while on the island, mind you) to whisk my haversack into the ether (maybe they turned the research over to the VCs in it?).

I found the entire exchange regarding that item jarring, and unlike in our previous runs noticed a gaping hole in consistency between the NPC VCs and the PC VCs - when an NPC gives the PCs a permanent magic item to do McGuffin stuff to, it's returned to the VC at the end of the scenario. The PCs can't sell it, they can't keep it. The NPC field agents, on the other hand, seem to be designed/empowered to rob their VCs blind, and based on the comments in the previous GM thread on the matter are empowered to do so as a punitive measure for the PCs not showing the NPC Venture Captains proper obeisance:

John Compton wrote:
For years, players have complained that Venture-Captain Sheila Heidmarch a) didn't provide enough information before adventures, b) didn't give the PCs free equipment for missions, and c) didn't seem to care about the dangerous circumstances into which she sent agents—concerns I've tried to combat while at Paizo. Players have also seemed to assume that she and other venture-captains have all of the answers and unlimited resources, rather than just being accomplished adventurers who run lodges out-of-pocket. Now those same players get to play the part of Sheila and other Society leaders they've spent their careers demonizing. As the adventure advises, if you know that the players/PCs are critical of their venture-captains for perceived tight-fistedness, lack of empathy, or incompetence, let the NPC Pathfinder teams give them a taste of their own medicine. You may have heard the classic parental line "I hope your children are as terrible to you as you are being to me." Have some fun with it. Leadership isn't easy.

Being required to invest gold in the success of the agents under our PCs' commands is totally reasonable. We see "care packages" of useful consumables handed out by NPC Venture-Captains in lower tier scenarios often, and that's something the PC Venture-Captains should be asked to do as well. However, the inability to also provide loaner permanent items was frustrating in the moment and in hindsight seems like it was designed as a finger in the eye of a (possibly large) segment of the player base who took issue with some of the NPC Venture-Captains. I have no problem with needing to invest resources in the success of the field teams - I have a problem with not being able to also lend powerful gear to them to help them survive (heck, I'd just like the option to provide loaner equipment at no bonus in III just for the entertainment value of being able to lend Shadow-Janira the Crook of Cidhureen).

Having read the mechanics presented in All for Immortality I*, I think the disconnect is fixable. Either weight the value of items given versus items that must be returned differently (perhaps they only contribute 1/10 of their value, rounded down, towards the target gear donation, so a 32,500 gp Persistent rod would count 3,250 gp towards the "equipment" goal), or provide a lesser bonus for loaned gear (say, a flat +1 if the party loans an item of value equal to (5*[value required in donated items] to the group, so to get the +1 at APL 14-15 would require an item valued at 12,500 gp or more). In-character, Ontovar would be happy to hand off his trademark staff or his Persistent rod to one of the field teams to see them through a dangerous task, but he's not willing to gift them 16,800 gp of unique item (or 32,500 gp of useful non-unique item).

Lent gear at a reduced cost-to-bonus ratio also means PCs who want that bonus will be without mid-tier (I'm not sure what else to call it) gear, like boots of speed or metamagic rods, raising the challenge for the party during the more traditional portions of the scenario; without aforementioned staff I wouldn't have had the spell resources to play, "What's my elemental resistance?" using shadow evocations, and loaning out my rod would've saved Loaralis from one icy prison in Part I. If part of the design goal of the scenarios is to provide challenging combat encounters to the PCs, this would certainly facilitate said goal.

I hope the Leadership mechanic sticks around, and maybe even makes its way to Tier 7-11 scenarios. I like the idea a lot. It is very hard to create a fair, balanced challenge for high level PCs while still adhering to the CR system, and this mechanic makes high level PCs feel like they've accomplished something. However, the current "equipment" portion of the mechanic appears, at least to this player, to sacrifice its full potential in the name of punishing players for not being grateful enough to the in-game NPC Venture Captains.

I read All for Immortality I during the brouhaha surrounding emergency force sphere and icy prison use/abuse. I felt that I was being called out as a bad table influence without the ability to defend myself. I have, at Serisan's recommendation, avoided reading certain portions of the first scenario and all of Part II to avoid any plot spoilers in advance of III. If the mechanics materially changed between I and II, then my recommendations for fixing them may no longer be relevant or applicable.


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Ryan Blomquist wrote:
...no more Lantern a lodge...

ARGH! That's what I get for posting from my phone. Lantern Lodge. Lantern Lodge.


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I believe that is correct; currently the only way to reach level 20 is to achieve level 19.2 through sanctioned module play, then play or GM Race for the Runecarved Key. During a brief window it would also have been possible to use the faction retirement scenarios, Rivalry's End and Way of the Kirin, but that should no longer be an option because there are no more Lantern a lodge or Shadow Lodge PCs.

Male Human GM 1/Geek 2/Nerd 2

I echo Matt's thoughts, Ben. In-character introspection helps everyone, the writer and the other players. It's also a fun way to share part of your character that often isn't seen by the other players.

Male Human GM 1/Geek 2/Nerd 2

Fargo Core Con is this weekend, so my availability will be sporadic. I'll catch up Sunday night.

Male Human GM 1/Geek 2/Nerd 2
Mattastrophic wrote:

I think Lady Gabrielle has found her medium-term target: The Evil-Doing Lumber Consortium!

This one sounds like a job for Lady Gabrielle and Morgrym. They've only got 400 security guards on their payroll; the two of them can totally take 'em. Or maybe this is a job for low-level adventurers recruited by her.

One step at a time!If we want to continue a home campaign with these PCs, we absolutely can do that. Lets wrap up the hanging threads from the Road to 20 first though.

Male Human GM 1/Geek 2/Nerd 2

You don't have to handle all of it yourself; I'm a fully-functional GM most of the time. Dwarves of Golarion and the wiki are both good sources on the dwarves. I'm not sure about any major dwarf stuff in the AP line, but Halls of Dwarven Lore and The Secrets Stones Keep also had some dwarf-related information in the Adventure Background section.

Ben - when you get the chance, can you expand on what you're looking to accomplish with the Tapestry? I'm guessing that you want to put the dwarven spirits to rest and that you're hoping to destroy the artifact that Shemis was using in Skyreach, but its not nearly so clear about the Tapestry.


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Cracked Vibrant Purple Prism:
kinevon wrote:
@Ryan: And that disallows using a wand just how?

If you read the sources you'll see the item specifically enumerates what methods may be used to fill it:

Core Rulebook p. 483 wrote:
A spellcaster can cast any spells into the ring, so long as the total spell levels do not add up to more than three. Metamagic versions of spells take up storage space equal to their spell level modified by the metamagic feat. A spellcaster can use a scroll to put a spell into the minor ring of spell storing.

Because activating a wand is not casting a spell (its using a spell trigger completion method) and it is not specifically listed by the item, its a no-go.

@Silbeg: Woo! Finally a player! What now? WHAT NOW!?

Yeah... might need to take a breath on this one. Looking forward to Sunday though.


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kinevon wrote:
Ryan Blomquist wrote:
** spoiler omitted **
** spoiler omitted **

This train has left the tracks:
Your answer (as is usual for these kinds of questons) is in the Core Rulebook. Lets take a look.
Core Rulebook p. 281 wrote:


School enchantment (compulsion) [mind-affecting]; Level sorcerer/wizard 5
Casting Time 1 standard action
Components V, S, M (a handful of clay, crystal, or glass spheres)
Range medium (100 ft. + 10 ft./level)
Target one creature
Duration instantaneous
Saving Throw Will negates; see text; Spell Resistance yes
Target creature's Intelligence and Charisma scores each drop to 1. The affected creature is unable to use Intelligence- or Charisma-based skills, cast spells, understand language, or communicate coherently. Still, it knows who its friends are and can follow them and even protect them. The subject remains in this state until a heal, limited wish, miracle, or wish spell is used to cancel the effect of the feeblemind. A creature that can cast arcane spells, such as a sorcerer or a wizard, takes a –4 penalty on its saving throw.

Reading feeblemind, we notice that it doesn't apply a penalty to Intelligence or Charisma; it reduces them to 1. That may seem like the same thing but in game rules, because Ability Score Penalty is a defined term, those are very different. We already have the definition of ability score damage from my previous post, but for completeness' sake:

Core Rulebook p. 555 wrote:

Diseases, poisons, spells, and other abilities can all deal damage directly to your ability scores. This damage does not actually reduce an ability, but it does apply a penalty to the skills and statistics that are based on that ability.

For every 2 points of damage you take to a single ability, apply a –1 penalty to skills and statistics listed with the relevant ability. If the amount of ability damage you have taken equals or exceeds your ability score, you immediately fall unconscious until the damage is less than your ability score. The only exception to this is your Constitution score. If the damage to your Constitution is equal to or greater than your Constitution score, you die. Unless otherwise noted, damage to your ability scores is healed at the rate of 1 per day to each ability score that has been damaged. Ability damage can be healed through the use of spells, such as lesser restoration.

So, in your example, our unlucky feebleminded PC now has an Intelligence score of 1 and 1d3 points of Intelligence damage. No matter the result of the die roll, he or she is in a coma.

The last paragraph regarding an Empowered ray of enfeeblement is a little more open ended. If I understand you correctly you want me to substitute the ray of enfeeblement for feeblemind in the previous example, and have the poison deal Strength damage? In that case, we need to take a look at ray of enfeeblement:

Core Rulebook p. 329-330 wrote:


School necromancy; Level sorcerer/wizard 1
Casting Time 1 standard action
Components V, S
Range close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)
Effect ray
Duration 1 round/level
Saving Throw Fortitude half; Spell Resistance yes
A coruscating ray springs from your hand. You must succeed on a ranged touch attack to strike a target. The subject takes a penalty to Strength equal to 1d6+1 per two caster levels (maximum 1d6+5). The subject's Strength score cannot drop below 1. A successful Fortitude save reduces this penalty by half. This penalty does not stack with itself. Apply the highest penalty instead.

Here, unlike in feeblemind, we are dealing with an ability score penalty. To review:

Core Rulebook, p. 555 wrote:
Some spells and abilities cause you to take an ability penalty for a limited amount of time. While in effect, these penalties function just like ability damage, but they cannot cause you to fall unconscious or die. In essence, penalties cannot decrease your ability score to less than 1.

So, if some unfortunate soul were to suffer a ray of enfeeblement for, lets say, 9 points of Strength penalty (an average roll on 1d8+5, rounded down) and later be bitten/stung/touched for 1d3 points of Strength damage the character would have a cumulative -5 to -6 penalty to all listed rolls modified by Strength, found on Core Rulebook p. 555. However, unless the poison damage alone was sufficient to meet or exceed their Strength score he or she would still be conscious and functional; as seen above, an ability score penalty cannot cause a player to fall unconscious.

These two negative conditions do need to be tracked individually; they are different things. In the same way you track nonlethal damage and damage separately you need to track ability score damage, ability score penalties, and ability score drain individually; they are healed by different things and have different effects on the character, though some of their penalties are cumulative.

Make sense? Am I answering the right question, especially with the ray of enfeeblement part? I wasn't entirely clear on the question there, but I didn't just want to ignore it entirely because ray of enfeeblement is distinctly different from feeblemind.


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Well, at least this thread will spawn a couple additional topics at our next GM happy hour.

Pirate Rob wrote:
That was a Living Greyhawk rule which some people incorrectly assume applies to PFS. (apparently including Herolab)

Its actually from the 3.5e Player's Handbook, page 131, under the Clothing header. That's probably why its such a common mistake in PFRPG; it was part of the rules on which PFRPG was based.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Society Subscriber

Absolutely not a derail:
Fortunately, the Core Rulebook has answers to your questions, so no need to not know!

Core Rulebook, pg. 555 wrote:

Diseases, poisons, spells, and other abilities can all deal damage directly to your ability scores. This damage does not actually reduce an ability, but it does apply a penalty to the skills and statistics that are based on that ability.

For every 2 points of damage you take to a single ability, apply a –1 penalty to skills and statistics listed with the relevant ability. If the amount of ability damage you have taken equals or exceeds your ability score, you immediately fall unconscious until the damage is less than your ability score. The only exception to this is your Constitution score. If the damage to your Constitution is equal to or greater than your Constitution score, you die. Unless otherwise noted, damage to your ability scores is healed at the rate of 1 per day to each ability score that has been damaged. Ability damage can be healed through the use of spells, such as lesser restoration.


Strength: Damage to your Strength score causes you to take penalties on Strength-based skill checks, melee attack rolls, and weapon damage rolls (if they rely on Strength). The penalty also applies to your Combat Maneuver Bonus (if you are Small or larger) and your Combat Maneuver Defense.

Reading there, we see that penalties to Strength apply to the statistics listed, and in the list carrying capacity is not present. Therefore we know that ability score damage (and penalties, because they work like damage, see below) do not lower carrying capacity.

As for the dangers of being subsequently poisoned...

Core Rulebook, pg. 555 wrote:
Some spells and abilities cause you to take an ability penalty for a limited amount of time. While in effect, these penalties function just like ability damage, but they cannot cause you to fall unconscious or die. In essence, penalties cannot decrease your ability score to less than 1.

Emphasis mine. To reduce the score to 0, you would need to take ability damage (not penalty + damage) equal to your Strength score. The penalty can't play any part in making you unconscious because a penalty can never reduce your ability score below 1.


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Point of clarification on the spoiler chain:
An ability score penalty, like the one from Ray of Enfeeblement, can never make your ability score go below 1. So no risk of that ray making your PC helpless.

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