The Epic Dungeon Master's page

29 posts. Alias of laughmask21.


Races would be good, if I don't make them exact, I hope you don't take offense. They've really helped with ideas for tweaking and thinking about new ones. I was thinking about making a separate page on the website with your races for those who want a more powerful variant.

I was looking at the Shaman from the ACG and thought it was the best fit of all the Shaman variants. I had it in mind to just do a Shaman archetype that focused on totems, just to give players an alternative.

Can'tFindThePath wrote:
I look at the MMO like I would a fantasy novel, and adapt what is described to PF.

Agreed as well. I went down the other path of trying to build make an exact duplicate of the MMO in table-top form and it just felt wrong.

I edited the forsaken to take advantage of the Half-Undead subtype vs. full undead.

Just throwing it out there, feel free to shed it to bits. Not sure about balance and scaling, but this is what I had in mind for shaman totems. I feel like it'd be a fun ability to play with.

Shaman Totems (SU): Shamans use specially crafted totems as an instrument of war. Characterized by their immobility and area of effect, the totems embody the shaman's mastery over the elements. Some totems possess destructive power while others aid and assist allies. Shamanistic cultures outside those of the Horde and draenei also possess the ability to use totems in battle.

As a swift action, the shaman may place a totem in his space or any adjacent space. The totem is small enough not to block movement, grant cover or provide flanking. Each totem belongs to one of four elements: Earth, Fire, Water and Wind. Only one totem of a given element may be active at a time. Placing a second totem of a given element will replace the first totem. The shaman must declare which totem he is placing when the ability is used and cannot change it except by replacing it with a new totem. A totem lasts a number of rounds equal to 1 + the shaman’s Wisdom modifier. The shaman may use this ability 1/day. This increases by 1 at 4th level and every 4 levels after. Saves for totems are equal to 10 + totem level + shaman’s Wisdom modifier.

1st-level Totems:

Earthbind Totem (Earth): Enemies within 25ft + 5ft/shaman level of this totem must make a Fort save at the beginning of their turn or treat all spaces within range of this totem as difficult terrain.
Searing Totem (Fire): At the beginning of your turn, this totem shoots a bolt of flame at an enemy within 30ft dealing 1d4 points of fire damage. For every two shaman levels beyond 1st, you gain an additional 1d4 damage (max 5d4).
Healing Totem (Water): At the beginning of your turn allies within 30ft of this totem are healed 1 point of damage. The healing increases to 5 at 4th level.
Windwalk Totem (Wind): Allies within 25ft + 5ft/shaman level ignore all movement impairing effects.

4nd-level Totems:

8rd-level Totems:

12th-level Totems:

I have to agree with Diodric. While I didn't hate the books quite as much as he did since it was early in my roleplaying career and knew no better, I can see now where they fall short. At least in my opinion, several of the Pathfinder classes already do a better job at representing Warcraft's classes, at least the in-game ones, with no conversion.

Can'tFindThePath wrote:
The reason not to do it is that they made a lot of custom stuff up, and not very well in my opinion. Better to start fresh, altering as little as possible. You don't need WoW versions of classes and magic; treat it as a setting to play PF in.

This was actually the approach I had in mind. Keep as much Pathfinder as possible to reduce the chance of error and confusion. Some of the things in the WoW 2e RPG are easy enough to tweak for Pathfinder, but I'm trying to minimize the amount I do that. I agree with magic, but like with classes, there are some pretty iconic spells that I'd like to provide just as an homage.

Diodric wrote:
Um, looking at my old documents I had also apparently started adding favored class bonuses. I will probably need to finish those too if wanted.

This was going to be another future addition I'd look at and wanted to do. If you did wrote those up, that'd be amazing!

@LazarX - At the risk of looking like a fool, how would it be easier? The 1st addition rules were more closely tied to the base 3.0 rules, whereas the 2nd addition builds of 3.5 while making a lot of changes themselves.

@Diodric - Thanks! I'm not sure if you posted this after I started or not, but I wish I'd seen it when I was looking for material to build off of. This should make things go a little faster with some of the races + tweaking others.

Eltacolibre wrote: would be a better representation to use Half-undead...

I was actually thinking the same thing. I just saw that the other day when going through. Once everything's on the new site, I'm going to review the races again and try to continue working on them.

LazarX wrote:
I take it, you've never seen the Warcraft D20 material published by White Wolf?

I have actually. I have the books somewhere in a box in a corner. That was what we initially played with.

Currently transferring it over to my WordPress. Seems to be working much nicer. Only have a few of the creature stats to do up before I'm back where I left off.

Thanks for the great feedback Lurion! I guess I'll just go point by point to respond =)

Lurion wrote:
Question 1: Are you doing this conversion just because you enjoy both WoW and pen/paper RPGs, or do you have a specific group/campaign you want to run it with?

More of the former. I've been playing warcraft since WC3 and went back to play 1 and 2 after WoW was released. I became so engrossed in the story and my older brother happened to pick up the RPG books when they were released. To date, I've yet to play in as fun a game as that one because none have had so strong a connection. I don't have a group at the moment, so I don't have the pressure of getting everything hammered out immediately. However, I do have a group in mind that I'd like to test it with in the future.

Question 2 not applied

Lurion wrote:
Question 3: How passionate are you about this? You've definitely put some good solid work into this effort so far, but do you intend to see it all the way through?

Fairly passionate. I don't want to sound disinterested, but it's not something I devote all my free time towards. Maybe 3-6 hours a week. This was a couple weeks worth of off and on work. I was working on it during college so I'd get fairly caught up in work, but now that I'm graduated and working 8-5, I have a steady block of free time. Probably the one thing I'm not sure I'd go all out on is the bestiary. I feel like it'd be easy enough to re-skin Pathfinder equivalents (which is what I did for a lot of them).

Lurion wrote:
There are a few of the racials that I probably would've bumped the cost up by 1 or 2 points but that's not really a big deal considering all but one of the races so far are 12 point buy.

That's where my inexperience with custom races shows ;) . I had no idea how to gauge some of them (like Night Elves' shadowmeld). It was an ability unlocked for taking levels in Night Elf that seemed to fit well enough. On the other hand, I purposely didn't stick to the guidelines - such as Troll's Troll Regeneration (Fast Healing). It's a Monstrous Trait, even though it requires 20+ RP points. I'm sure it could be substituted, but as sticking to lore over the game, Fast Healing seemed most appropriate.

Lurion wrote:
How do you intend to deal with Worgen?

I was actually thinking about this last night hah. I was going to review the rules on lycanthrope and check which would be most appropriate. I'm hesitant to create my own abilities (Transform(SU): Gain claws+bite+10ft movement etc) due to the chance of unbalancing things. Worgen are interesting as well, because they kind of came in three forms throughout the span of the MMO. The fully transformed and feral worgens (the original worgens), the more traditional, full-moon were-wolves that lose control while transformed and the "cured" worgen that can control their transformation. I'd like to be able to offer each of these three styles. Maybe one is the base race and the other two are racial archetypes. Either way, I was going to look into that at some point. (If you have suggestions feel free!) This is similar to a problem I had with High Elves and their addiction. Blood Elves eventually waned off of Moonwell energies after their exile and began feeding off of the Sunwell and even living creatures. After Kael'Thas entered outlands, a group of them began using fel energies as well. So there are numerous traits that vary based on the time of the campaign.

Lurion wrote:
Do you intend to do other races such as the Pandaren or possibly even ones that aren't currently playable in the MMO, such as the popular Murloc?

Definately! I agree that freedom is one of the critical aspects of p&p rpg's and races are a great path towards freedom. I was going to actually work on more neutral races when I got a chance including Pandaren, Centaurs, Furbolgs, Ethereals etc and some common monster races (murloc, kobold, gnoll, etc). Elementals would also be quite fun!

Lurion wrote:
As for the warlock, have you considered making that a term for certain casters that deal with fel and ignoring the class itself?

I didn't! But that could work. The doing the warlock archetype was actually quite easy since the abilities were done up for the 3.5e version of the WoW RPG. I just copy+pasted and adjusted the levels at which they're acquired to fit the Wizard build better. Like I said though, I really wasn't sure what the best course of action here was. I figured I'd just present the option if people wanted to use it over others. Ultimately there's probably numerous ways to build a convincing demon-controlling warlock.

Additionally, there are a few things that I'd like to do with classes: Build a fitting Shaman archetype with a working totem ability. Write up the witch doctor, runemaster and tinker class. Runemaster might actually be a good monk archetype and witch doctor, while there are Paizo versions, I feel could be better represented with a witch archetype.

Well, lunch break is over. "Work, Work" Thanks again for the feedback!

Oh man, if an "arrogant noble" comes along, I would love to try my hand with a protocol droid. I'd probably steer clear of a threepio personality as I would hate to butcher it. The concept I had in mind was less of a font of knowledge droid and more of a social analyst to help its master finesse through the intricacies of politics. If said noble does not make an appearance, perhaps I will consider something else.

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I have been working on a conversion of the World of Warcraft RPG rules to Pathfinder rules and thought I'd share it with the community to get some (inevitable) critiques. Originally, I tried converting it to D&D4e to make it feel more familiar to the video game players, but I quickly realized it was more work than I wanted and slowly seemed like a bad idea. Instead, I figured I'd do something much more manageable and reskin it with Pathfinder. This is my first attempt at something like this, so don't expect it to be great or without error.

Pathfinder Warcraft RPG

Some notes:
I decided to do up my own custom built races since some of them simply had no obvious sibling in the Pathfinder World (take Warcraft's Gnome for example). When doing this, I realized I could basically do this for all races to better represent the Warcraft setting. It seemed more-or-less like a pre-defined Alternate Racial type for each one. I tried to flat-line everything at 12 RPs for the sake of balance since I'm new with creating races.

Originally, I was going try to translate the more unique classes (Shaman, Warlock, Priest) to Pathfinder equivalents, but the more I thought about it, the more I felt like sticking to the MMO's pre-defined classes wasn't a critical step in capturing the essence of Warcraft. Plus it seemed more fun to have greater class freedom. In the books, comics and else-where, you see characters that do not necessary fit the eight base classes of the games. How I justified it to myself was: I don't want to feel like I'm playing World of Warcraft, but that I'm playing in the world of Warcraft. That world will surely be populated with bards, sorcerers and witches and more that have never been played in the video games.

I created a Wizard archetype for the Warlock class using the abilities presented in the core rules for the WoW RPG that I felt could serve as a good alternative to the Summoner or Conjuration focused Wizard. To emulate the cloth-wearing caster priest of the games, I felt the Adamant Entertainment 3PP Priest class does an excellent job.
Shamans and their totems, on the other hand, seem to be unrepresented either in Paizo or 3PP. There are plenty of ways to capture the spiritual side of the class, but I'd like to see a well-done totem ability. I was thinking about an X-times a day ability that lets you place a totem of either Earth, Fire, Wind or Water. At first level, you start with one totem of each type (Earthbind, Searing, Healing, Grounding). At 4th level, you gain access to a new tier of totems (Stoneclaw, Magma, Mana Spring, Wind Fury) and continuing following this sort of progression. You can only have one totem of a given type on the field at a time. Something like that...

Lastly, I will probably re-do this in Wordpress or something because google sites is just too hard to work with formatting wise.

Anyways, let me know what you think.

Personally, I find the simpler more fundamental fantasy races to be my favorite PC classes. When players are controlling these fantastic and exalted races, I feel like it takes away to the mystique of coming across similarly fantastic races while playing.

That being said, I like the insect race suggestion. It makes me think of the Nerubian's from Warcraft. And I was always surprised there wasn't a minotaur pc race.

Overcoming Damage Resistance

One could pose the notion that in gaining absolute power and not exercising it, anarchy and chaos would ensue, thus fitting the MO.

I like the look of these a lot more than the 4e style spell cards. Great job!

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This is a great opportunity to test your players' response to the grim and macabre. I like the idea that others have put forth with an ordinary staff. However, I would push it further by noting to the more perceptive character that there is an unplaceable hideousness about them. Keep conversations and appearances pleasant and otherwise normal, but emphasize that when talking to the staff, it seems as though something else is listening from behind their physical facade.

Again, as others have said, it is important to think about the setting and the 'why' of things. Your players may still have a great time even if you throw in a seemingly out-of-place zombie or looting bandits, but you create an opportunity for both them and you to walk away with a truly memorable experience with a well constructed story and series of events. It seems obvious that there will be some sort of confrontational force, be it aggressively insane patients, twisted staff with a lust for sadism, or an otherworldly force that has possessed a few of the inmates (it seems like the latter is the case). Make sure to develop goals for your antagonist (presumably the warden). Is he trying to summon an Great Old One or one of their lesser creatures from the Beyond? Is he attempting some ritual that exploits the weak will of the mentally insane? Or perhaps he is possessed by a unutterable thing from the Beyond who is using him as a vessel to herald its arrival. Since you are going down the path of the Great Old Ones, a tribute to the wonderfully insane machinations of HP Lovecraft, consider what elements and themes make his work so potent.

1) There is a long build of suspense.
In the vast majority of Lovecraft's works, suspense is built gradually and over time, with subtle and ambiguous clues that something is not quite right. Often times, the reveal is the climax.

  • Note to the players that they feel an unwarranted discomfort dealing with the staff.
  • The players feel more at ease with the inmates than the staff.
  • Whispers or commotion is heard from within rooms that, when investigated, are empty and in pristine condition.
  • You see more staff taking "medicinal substances" than the patients are receiving.
  • You continually see dead patients being carried to the morgue, and whispers of mass suicide become heard.
  • The PC's encounter the body of the former warden. Depending on how long ago the take over was, the body will be in different states and require an appropriate clue.

2) There is a supernatural element.
Not always. But it is certainly not uncommon. The supernatural element adds to the suspense by introducing something unknown - and we naturally fear the unknown. In Pathfinder and other fantasy settings, this can be hard to use to the same effect as there are already "supernatural" things from our point of view such as magic, elves, dragons, etc. But when you go beyond that and introduce things that are supernatural to our characters, it becomes a powerful tool.

  • When the arcane or divine player investigates a supernatural element, take advantage of this to explain that is not magic that they are experiencing, but a power foreign to Golarion.
  • The players may walk into a room to find blood smeared across the wall in an unknown language (Aklo???), a foetid stench tests their stomach (save or become sick) as they lay eyes upon a freshly gutted inmate sprawled in a ritual circle, but in a blink returns to a normal room with a "healthy" patient inside.
  • The PC's come across notes between staff that speak of "The Whisperer in the Darkness", or some other Lovecraftian epithet.
  • The inmates cry out to the PC's to get out before "The Whisperer in the Darkness" (or some other Lovecraftian epithet) comes to take them.
  • At times the PC's get a glimpse of a staff member/inmate who they just saw as an inmate/staff member. If they try to alert anyone a staff member suggests they get checked out.
  • The PC's find a secret room with hidden tomes of forbidden and ancient knowledge. (Chance for magic loot - possibly cursed)
  • One of the PC's hears sporatic whispers in a tongue that he knows he has never heard before, yet somehow understands.
  • The warden bursts into a writhing mass of horror mid-fight (50% hp, new abilities, fun and dynamic fight). The payers must make will saves to prevent some form of insanity.

3) There is an element of unstoppable and impending doom.
Many of the stories that relate to the Great Old Ones are often heavily undertoned with a sense of impending doom. Regardless of the outcome, doom will come. If the evil was halted, it is only temporary. This sense of doom really makes the previous two elements stand out so much more. What is the difference between an Arkham detective and a real detective? When an Arkham detective finds a clue, it is never a relief. If the players were to come across a note that the warden was killed and the new warden is an insane killer, that is manageable. They could apprehend, kill or maybe join the warden. But if they came across a note that warden was killed and replaced by a harbinger for a being of chaos and calamity that has existed before existence? Well, my character wouldn't be sleeping well, regardless of how we dealt with the warden.

  • Continue the whisperings from the Great Old One every so often in subsequent adventures, like the threat still remains.
  • Add a supernatural relic that poses as a threat to all of Golarion if it were to fall in the wrong hands. (Follow up adventure to destroy the one ring?)
  • A nice, quick monologue from the warden to illustrate the scale of things.
  • Show hints that the cult has been around before recorded history, and has always posed a cosmic threat.

This advice is taking the direction of a very Lovecraftian feel to your adventure, which may not suit your wants or desires, but I hope it at least gave some good ideas!

This is why I dont like using minis and maps. I tend use theater of the mind and it elicits these kinds of narratives much more frequently. When I get something like this, now we aren't thinkifng in terms of which square is who occupying and is there flanking, instead we let the narrative dictate that. Example: "I'll skirt around the enemies between me and the fighter to get in flanking position and stab it in the back." With the exposition mentioned by the OP, if the character mentioned a desire for flanking bonuses, I would just ask for a single roll, acrobatics or grappling. Whenever my players ask for any kind of mechanical bonus, I just break it down into 1 check per bonus if they're trying any sort of stunt. I had a very acrobatic rogue in one of my parties who loves using his hand crossbow mid-flip for a bonus to the attack roll, saying its a distraction. If he fails he falls to the ground. I feel its important to keep up the pace in combat and maintain an engaging narrative if that is what you are interested in.

Kaisoku wrote:
Simon Legrande wrote:

A couple things I think:

1. The GM has a thing for the girl
2. The GM has something against you
Giridan wrote:
We r dating, as players, me and the antipaladin.
Huh... would you look at that.

Lol. This is probably your answer to the motives. As to the directive.

Giridan wrote:
Like. Introducing my character. He told me to come over a little before 2. I showed up at 2, took a minute to get situated. The group was prepping on how to get to their next location and I sat down, ready. Then my GM proceeded to skip directly to when they had arrived at this location and I asked if he was going to implement me. To witch he replied"oh, I didn't know u were ready". But made no changes and the party went through a !4! Hour dungeon crawl that I wasn't able to be involved in... Which is completely dumb. He had predicted the crawl to only take 3 hours, but still!

This is an unreasonable response and completely out of bounds. For one thing, any worth-while and caring GM would have worked you in, even if it took some time to find the opportune moment. The GM was practically treating you like a child and placing you in time out for being a little late, in front of your girlfriend. 1)That's unkind and out of line 2) It's a waste of your time. If you showed up to play and expected to, and just sat around for 4 hours. That's wasted time. Your punishment should have been as simple as, you don't get an in depth introduction to the campaign or you have to wait to be worked in. This was personal and probably only going to be avoidable in the future by confronting him about it. Do it kindly, but make it clear that you feel like you are being mistreated and it feels personal. Honestly, though, I wouldn't bother showing up to the next one because it's probably only ever going to get worse. Believe me, the last thing you want is the almighty GM coming between you and her.

One very important thing to keep in mind is that there are only 2 PC's. So while a level 7 vs 4 level 4's might not be so intimidating, when there's only 2 you're going to be hurting. If the players act on tactics and ingenuity, this might not be such a problem. Afterall, it seems like they already did. However, it seems they only did so from your prompts planted suggestions.

Using powerful, challenging encounters to make the PC's feel heroic once defeated isn't a bad tactic. It just needs to be used sparingly. It seems like you only really do one very challenging encounter. Perhaps try to split it up. One easy, average and hard. Giving the PC's an easy challenge helps to reaffirm that they are, in fact, heroes and powerful. An average encounter will show that there are worthy adversaries in the world. And a hard encounter might display the power of the antagonist or more powerful forces in the world.

Do not ever plan for specific actions to be taken. If you plant a perfect device to 'x', the players may never think to use it and, generally (or at least with your druid player), they're not going to want to be told what to do or how to do it, even a friendly suggestion. Then, if end up not reminding them of their perfect tool, they'll never use it and possibly get overwhelmed.

Being a GM is about compromising between your ideas and your players' expectations. Clearly the ranger is fine with what you've provided, and I expect he'd be fine with a little easier challenges. But the druid is not. So ask yourself, what is it you want from your games? Generally, I think it's shared amongst most GM's that they just want everyone to have fun and to come away with an epic story. Something you guys will bring every time you see each other. For that, you don't need incredibly hard challenges that will be satisfying IF they defeat it. You just need a good story that meets everyone's expectations. You know what the druid wants - easier encounters. So plan for that. There's nothing wrong with easy encounters. You can still make them epic through circumstance, environment and context.

Here is an article from the great DM, Chris Perkins, about how he used goblins against level 22 PC's to epic proportions. LINK

Your combats should be more than just a series of mundane attacks, you should have various levels of activity going on (not saying you didn't do this, as I don't have a play by play, but just a suggestion). Add environmental problems for the players to deal with - traps, hazard or conditions. This will effectively increase the challenge of the encounter and druid might never realize your CR 2 encounter was actually CR 5 with the environment. A trap that shoots octopus ink into the waters as a smoke screen, assassin kelp (assassin vine reflavored, read this on another forum), add an illusory room with an image of the relic they are looking for, but really it's something worse, a whirlpool that pulls creatures towards it which becomes hard to resist if they don't have swim speed, a coral wall separating PC's from their destination - enemies can attack through it with cover and the PC's will have to break it, a room of passive jellyfish they have to be careful to avoid while dealing with enemies.

Lastly, I would encourage or ask the druid to keep the bestiary out of the game while you play, it'll break the immersion and turn the game into a numbers game. Rather than focus on what his DR and AC is, he should be focusing on what's available that he could use to his advantage. If he wants to know those things, make him roll knowledge checks for it. Hope this helps!

Silus wrote:
I'll try to get something like that typed up when I can get something like Microsoft Word on my laptop for formatting purposes (Using the Mac equivalent of Notepad for all my text stuff currently). At the very least it'll make it so I have all the information down for myself and future groups, and have it in a way that I can print it out and hand it out to the players.

Might I suggest Google Docs? It's free and can be accessed anywhere as long as you know your google account.

Going against what Captain K. said here, but it doesn't really fit the music she described. It's all orchestrated and mostly free of chants ;). But the music is from World of Warcraft and Guild Wars 2 and mainly consists of environmental and ambient music. None of the over-the-top combat and cinematic tracks.

Absalom Mix
Cheliax Mix

Quality video game soundtracks are great, if you take the time to filter through them and pick the perfect songs out of them. There's usually a lot of style to them and fit a very particular emotional flare that they want you to feel in different environments.

Taku Ooka Nin wrote:
Did I hear Kobold? I hope they're not, Werewolf kobolds!

Heh, gives me an idea for Weredragon Kobolds.

Yes, Tucker's kobold. I can never remember the name of it, but use it often. There's a reason traps are listed in the environments section. Traps are traps, if they're environmental and a disable device check is applicable, which it was, it's no less a trap. Every room had a mechanical trap and those were the only obstacles that widdled away at their resources. I don't remember exactly how he ran it, but that's how I did.

And the city was a trap. It did require disable device. It was a series of explosives rigged around the city, but he couldn't get to all of them in time, so he had to teach others to do it with him.

GypsyMischief wrote:
I never thought traps were all that relevant to the game anyway, standalone they're horribly boring. They're either resolved by an attack roll followed by one sentence of description, or some skills rolls, and one sentence of description.

My guess then is you've never utilized the true potential of kobolds. I ran a level 7 party of 4 through a kobold warren filled with traps and it was almost a TPK. When they came out, there were 2. Every single room and hall was a death trap. The kobolds had dug out small tunnels between rooms that were a cake-walk for them to run through, but too burdensome for the party. When the halfing thought to run in and chase them down he found himself falling through a false floor made of ice that he was about 50lbs of weapons and armor too heavy for. He landed in freezing waters that washed out to the sea, he was not rescued. Bye-bye trapfinder. The players insisted that they continue through to recover the white dragon egg that they so desperately needed (I don't really remember why). The remaining players never fought a kobold. Not one. Only an adult white dragon they managed to defeat by luring it into a trap. The dragon managed to take one player with him, though.

I've also had a "trap" that would sink a city into an underground prison if the rogue couldn't disarm it in time. He had to instruct groups of professionals on the matter and send them out to various parts of the city to get it done in time. Meanwhile the rest of the party was underground trying to stop a prison riot and under threat of being crushed by the city above.

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A lot of what I have read on setting a sandbox in motion is starting on the railroad, then running off the tracks. For reasons stated by Corvino, a lot of players simply won't know how to respond to the options. I've seen it myself in my games and have since altered my introductions to sandbox homebrews. I would establish a quest, set in stone, before the game begins. That is what we are doing. The players use this as a starting point from which they can spring forward and expand their scope of adventure. I fancied my group quite the role play focused group, but when I said, "You've heard of x, y, and z. Also a, b and c. And roll to see if you've heard of q," the players decided to go to the tavern to look for adventure. Like there were so many options, they needed someone to tell them what to do.

If you want to get players in the sandbox mood while still starting with a little rail-roading (aka an agreed upon quest), define the quest, goals, motives, pretenses and everything before hand - TOGETHER. Ask them questions about everything. So using your example, if you want them to explore the ruins of the fallen kingdom, tell them that and ask them questions to fill in the details. How were you informed about this task? Why did you take it? What's in it for you? Who's rewarding you? What have you heard about the place? What do you hope to gain? Where do you see yourself afterwards?

With questions, you will get a clear picture of the character they expect to play and the direction they plan on taking them. From within, place plenty of hooks for other adventures. Clues that the kingdom was felled by people they know. Clues that the kingdom was once a pinnacle of arts and culture, so who would want to destroy it? Clues of a rising threat (cult, army, invaders). All these things can be placed in the adventure, and the players can choose to pursue them as they see fit. I have not really seen an absolute sandbox that works as intended. The use of hooks alone is practically railroading, the players just choose which railroad to ride. The other thing to keep in mind is once the players have settled on a hook, let them play with it for a bit. Don't start dropping more hooks to the point where they go from hook to hook to hook without ever obtaining a quest that they can finish. Use the quests to provide more hooks. Generally, their attitude will be "Ooh let's check that out when we get back with the MacGuffin." And that's what you want.

Think of it this way. A railroad is a quest. It is the beginning, the middle and the end. The player starts with the quest giver (whatever it may be), goes through a trial, then concludes the quest. Some railroads may branch and meet back up, and some quests can be completed with multiple approaches. What is a sandbox? It is an opportunity for players to do what what they want to do when they want to do it. And what are those things? Well, it varies party to party. Some will focus on the plot and do things that seem integral to the plot. Others will create their own goals, with or without regard to the plot. But one thing is the same throughout, they will want a quest of some sort for whatever it is they are trying to do. Whether the quest is going to a tavern, taking it over and making it your headquarters, making a map of the lands for personal satisfaction, fixing the city's sewer systems because you're tired of fecal-lined streets, or answering the king's call for aid, quests will give a satisfying beginning, middle and end to their task. So when you ask, do I want a sandbox or a railroaded system, you're essentially asking "Do I want a game where the players focus solely on the plot at hand? Or a game where the players create the plot, while the world goes on around them."

For instance, my sandbox game followed this progression: I started the players as associates of a tavern who worked to solve peoples problems. They received a job to investigate the sewers under a noble's mansion only to find goblins setting up explosives. [We determined ahead of time the goblins were working for a bugbear that was denied payment from the noble for sacking a competitor's establishment. The bugbear was now going to assault the city. Choice 1] While they were under the mansion, they overheard individuals in the mansion speaking about plots to overthrow the king. [This we did not discuss ahead of time. The king was a good king, and sometimes employed the players for good pay, so they liked him. Choice 2] When they returned to the tavern to store their loot, there was a 'businessman' looking for capable people to seek an expedition to a family crypt where there was supposedly great treasure. [I figured the crypt would be haunted and filled with undead. The businessman didn't know his family was involved with necromancy and the loot was all taken from terrorizing raids. Choice 3] At this point, the players figured they would go deal with the noble, get paid for the goblins, get information on the bugbear, and try to stop the assassination of the king. Long story short, they stopped the assassination but the bugbear destroyed their establishment and they couldn't get back in touch with the businessman for some quick money to rebuild [he vanished after investigating the crypt himself - future enemy].

When I asked if they felt that they had free reign to do what they want, it was a resounding yes and they enjoyed the plots. So, in conclusion, start on a railroad with a defined quest, introduce hooks with compelling stories, and let the players choose their path and the world moves on around them. That last part is key. Make sure you show the consequences of the choices they make. If I said, "Okay, it's been a month investigating the assassination plot. The bugbear has been waiting patiently, and the businessman is still in your tavern." That would have been quite static. It would make their decision less consequential.

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As Oath said, what you did is perfectly understandable, as long as it was done with the right attitude. If there are other players with the books, you could borrow them when you go over, or see if they can all chip in. My group did that where we collectively bought the books with the understanding that, I was running the games and putting in large amounts of time for them that the books would default to my possession if we were to split or anything.

If PDF's aren't going to work, and you can't get books, you can use the online resource. If you have access to the internet, you have access to pretty much everything. D20 Pathfinder SRD and Paizo's PRD are reference documents with everything, quick indexing and a search function. I prefer d20pfsrd because it provides a lot more information generally. If you don't want to use these resources, that's fine, that's your choice. But you should also be understanding if the players do not want to limit themselves. I have run games without books or pdf's due to borrowed technology and did everything from those sites. There were no hold ups or unanswered questions.

Rudy2 wrote:

If a martial character is always hitting the enemy, is your response to do your best to make the ACs of the enemy ridiculously high so that no one, not even him, can hit them? No, you let him feel good for being so effective at his job. At least, I hope so.

If a character has built his character to be an unstoppable trapfinding machine, then let him. Geez. Give him his niche, especially since he gave up so much effectiveness in other areas.

How to make traps useful? Place them near the party, let this guy find and deal with them. He feels rewarded. There, useful.

I think you're missing a key part to ensure the player feels rewarded: it still needs to be a challenge. As you say, if a martial character is always hitting the enemy, do I up the AC to make him unhittable? No, but I do up the AC to make it a challenge, at least in steady manner that follows their progression. Elsewise I would throw kobolds and goblins at the party the entire campaign because the melee characters hit and kill them, the casters succeed on their saving throws, and the party never gets hurt. I think the OP is having the problem of presenting the challenge to the player. If I build this awesome incredible trapfinder, and he can tackle anything, I still want some semblance of a challenge. If the combat -focused characters get bad ass enemies to fight that make them feel like gods, I want a trap that does the same thing. I didn't build this character to hear "there's a trap, you disable it." "I didn't roll though?" "It doesn't matter, you always succeed."

This brings up a point I'm not sure has been mentioned. Ask the player if he is satisfied with the challenges he is receiving. Let him know he is extremely powerful in that regard, and not much would stand in his way then ask if he wants you to challenge that, or give him the free-be's. Afterall, it wouldn't be fair to just eliminate traps from dungeons just because he can disable them without looking. At the same time, I would think it'd be pretty boring to say, here's a trap but you can easily disable it. So ask him, does he want you to challenge that aspect of his character as you do the martial's combat prowess and the caster's arcane abilities?

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Silus wrote:

It's actually less about them not wanting to play it and more about them tearing down the setting by picking apart the things I don't think of, and less in a "No my precious setting!" and more in a "Stop asking so many questions I don't have the answers gimme a friggin' minute to think of an answer that works". Though now I've learned from the first campaign to circumvent some of those questions.

"Why doesn't the Queen have a standing army?"
"That's a good question. Anyway, moving on..."
"You didn't answer my question."
"Yes, I know."

Here is a great opportunity for you to get them in on the world creation aspect. You said you wanted to, so here's your chance. When they start asking questions and you don't have answers, turn the question on them.

"Why doesn't the Queen have a standing army?"
"That's a good question. You tell me."
"I don't want to."
"I guess it's a mystery to you and the realm then." *queue devious smile*

You have to look for every opportunity with homebrews to get the players involved if that's what you want. There are constantly opportunities popping up and you have to learn how to see them. When a player says, "I worked for a noble as a squire where I learned the basics of horse mounted combat." Your immediate response should be, "Who was the noble? Describe him." And write it down. The players will see that you're serious once you start noting what they say. Don't just ask and listen, and ask and dictate. Write it up in a Google Doc and send it to them to show you are listening.

Google Docs is a great tool for collaboration. You could write up the setting you have in mind for it and leave blanks for the players to go in and complete. "10,000 years ago a _________________ wiped the majority of life on the surface world." Or, make a spreadsheet with multiple questions that they can answer in the next column. Build a column for each player and you can track all of their input.

I wouldn't suggest doing an AP when your turn comes around because then you are going to be tethered to a massive story and campaign arc that you may never see the end of, meaning no homebrew for you. Instead, just do a one shot that you can get out of the way and hope your players will be more receptive to your ideas in the future. But don't stop trying. The Gear Wastes Players' Guide would flip my s$$! if I saw that sent to me from my GM. It would show your dedication and you could really have some enticing things in it.

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This sounds like quite a pickle for you. While on one hand, as Azyr said, you don't want to make the player's work and effort to become a trapfinder feel muted with traps he can't overcome. But at the same time, now you're down an entire asset that GM's typically use to add flavor to their games. The Moriarty trap is a great way to get around this as others have suggested. Another thing you could do, and not sure how detection rules would work here, would be to trap the trap. You know he's going to find it, and you know he's going to disable it. So make that the trap. I'm not sure what abilities he has specifically, but you need to remember that a lot of traps, the complex ones at least, hide their mechanical function behinds walls, floors or doors. So when he goes to look for a trigger or "off-switch" to disable it, he can only see what's in front of him and maybe draw on his trap knowledge to infer what's going on in the walls and stuff. So while he may be able to get a 40 without trying, what does that represent? It's hard to say. Does it give him the ability to perfectly infer whats going on mechanically 30 feet down the hall behind the walls? I wouldn't think so, but he might disagree. If I have two control boxes for traps on both sides of a hall and all he knows is "each disables one side of the room and they are connected somehow", does he know how they are connected. Probably not, unless he has x-ray vision and can see through foot-thick stone walls and ceiling where the wires and pullies run. So for instance, would this approach be appropriate?

DM: "You walk into a 30 foot long and 15 foot wide hallway. Along the outer walls are several dragon statues facing the opposite wall with gaping maws. Scorch marks mar the floors and statues. Rogue, you are able to see that to you're left and right are loose wall-plates that hides the the mechanisms for each side of the room."
Rogue: "Okay, I'll use perception to inspect them."
DM: "It looks like a fairly standard trap, simple for someone of your skill set. You note that the trigger is rigged with a wire shared between both control boxes."
(What he doesn't know is what that wire does. When he disables one, the wire will trigger the other side. So he has to decide, what is up with that wire?)
Rogue: "Okay, I'll inspect that wire further and try to figure out where it goes."
DM: "You can only assume that it runs to the other control box, connecting the trigger."
Rogue: "Okay, I'll disable the left one."
DM: "You set the trigger from ever switching, but as you get everything in place you hear a click come from the trigger box behind you. Suddenly the all the statues on the right side of the hall are spraying a constant stream of fire."

Not every trap has to be disable-able either. If I've got a big ass boulder hiding in a fake ceiling 40 feet off the ground and it's triggered manually by a kobold peering through two tiny eye holes at the other end of the room, there's no way he's disabling that! No amount sticks, pitons and twigs are going to stuff the cracks enough to hold the weight once the trap is sprung. If the rogue gets upset because you're not giving him a chance to shine or you're undermining his character's specialty, that's partly his fault. He put all his eggs in one basket. And I'm pretty sure the adage tells you NOT to do that lol. But don't take that as a cause to punish him. It's going to be a challenge but there are alternatives.

  • Place the control box in a position where the players have to navigate the trap first. Justification for such a setup: the enemies inhabiting the place would normally hail down a person manning the "off-switch" to get safe passage through the room.
  • Don't place any control box for the rogue to disable the trap. Justification for such a setup: the trap is triggered manually by another creature, or the mechanics are all behind walls.
  • Make the trap giant, with giant mechanisms requiring strength rather than disable device. Justification for such a setup: the players are in a storm giant fortress and come across a large room with a large trap.
  • Two triggers have to be disabled at the same time. He can only apply half his disable device modifier to each roll since his concentration is split. Justification for such a setup: the person who built this trap wanted to ensure that no one would be able to find a work-around.
  • Remove the rogue from the scenario. Split the party somehow with the most technically inept people in one area (the trapped area) and the magically inept in another (the magical area). Justification for such a setup: The only way forward required activating an artifact that would transport the players to different rooms.
  • Use a mimic disguised as the control panel. It gets +30 to disguise as an object, he will be equally matched on that end. Place this in an encounter, and the set-back of dealing with the creature could hurt the party, even as easy at it would be. If he touches it..."Opponents so grappled cannot get free while the mimic is alive without removing the adhesive first."
  • "Legends and tales speak of mimics of much greater sizes, with the ability to assume the form of houses, ships, or entire dungeon complexes that they festoon with treasure (both real and false) to lure unsuspecting food within." Make the trap/mechanism a mimic. And make it big.
  • Find a way to blind the rogue. Normally, he would fail that because it relies on vision, but give him a chance with a great penalty for being as good as he is. Justification for such a setup: the room has a supernatural darkness, blinding mold covers the control box that release spores when disturbed.

Good luck with your adventuring!

Silus wrote:
I do suppose I could straight up ask them "What kind of game do you want to play?". Granted last time I asked that all I got in response was "Something normal". Sooooo start in a tavern, kill goblins and wolves and eventually kill a lich-king that's been threatening the kingdom or something?

Well, I don't know about asking them that. Less of what do you want and more of what do we want. It has to be a compromise, so ask instead, "What could we do to compromise? I could change the setting to Golarion and keep the story/themes, bring of some of the setting ideas into the game and we build a story for it?"