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I'm preparing a game in which undead and necromancers will play a fairly prominent role, and I'm curious what rules and resources might exist for co-operative undead creation? Spells like animate dead and create undead, and creatures like Bestiary 4's necrocraft, tend to refer to a single caster as the creator and controller of the undead in question; that's a good baseline, and it's the most directly useful approach when considering what a PC or solitary NPC might be able to achieve, but what I'm looking for here are ways in which multiple casters can pool their resources to create stronger creatures.

Part of this is that I feel "simple" animated dead (skeletons, zombies, necrocrafts) lag in effectiveness behind the difficulty or requirements of creating them as you get into the higher levels of the game (e.g. a Colossal necrocraft might be big and horrifying, but at CR 11, I don't know how significantly it can contribute to an encounter with the 18th-level CR 17 necromancer that created it) but another part is simply that providing ways for necromancers to work co-operatively to create stronger undead helps to explain why organisations of necromancers exist by giving them another reason to work together and a clear advantage to pooling their resources rather than working individually.

Can anyone point me to a good set of relevant rules or resources in published Pathfinder material on this topic?

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I've been tinkering around with an idea for an item that's intended for a non-caster who needs to (somewhat sneakily) keep in touch with someone over an arbitrary distance, and I'd like to turn to the minds of the Paizo forums to see what I might have overlooked.

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Subtle Page of Sending
Aura: none (moderate varied, see below); CL: 7th
Slot: none; Price: ?; Weight: none or varied

Subtle pages of sending always come in pairs, with each page attuned to the other. If pairs are mixed up or lost, or an attuned page is destroyed, a subtle page of sending can be attuned to a new subtle page of sending in a process that takes 24 hours and requires both pages to be in contact or close proximity. To make use of a subtle page of sending, a character must first have successfully identified it or been informed of its nature as a magic item, and must then attune themselves to it by carrying it for 24 hours. A subtle page of sending can be attuned to only one user, and one other page, at a time. The listed price is for a single subtle page of sending.

A subtle page of sending is usually created using a single page of an otherwise non-magical book, but it is possible to create a subtle page of sending in the form of a scroll, chalkboard, clay tablet, or any other writing surface or material. A subtle page of sending made from a scroll has no appreciable weight, and the page otherwise does not alter the weight of the item into which it is incorporated.

Once per day, the bearer of a subtle page of sending can inscribe a special word or symbol on the page, equivalent to a command word, and may then write a message of up to 25 words on the page. The words then appear on the attuned page, as long as it is on the same plane of existence as the sender. If the recipient wishes, she can send a return message of up to 25 words within 24 hours. The recipient receives no special notification of the message's appearance. Words sent and received erase themselves from the user's page when they are crossed out. If there is insufficient space on the recipient's page for a message that is being sent, the oldest message currently on the page is erased to make space for it; the page of a typical book can hold between 250 and 300 words.

Writing on the subtle page of sending appears to any reader except the attuned user as alternate text of the user's choice. The bearer of the subtle page of sending may alter this text once per day by first inscribing a second, separate command word or symbol, and anyone may write on this page, adding to or modifying the existing alternate text, as though it were a normal writing surface. Certain spells and effects can bypass this protection to reveal any messages currently on the page, as the spell secret page, though dispel magic suppresses the alternate text for only 1d4 rounds; assume that one message or response of 25 or fewer words may be read per round.

A subtle page of sending is protected by a permanent magic aura and does not appear magical to detect magic or similar effects, although the identify spell or close examination may reveal its true nature if the examiner succeeds on a DC (11 or 13) Will save.

Construction Requirements: Craft Wondrous Item, magic aura, secret page, sending; Cost: ?

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First up I'd be interested in knowing any thoughts people might have regarding this item, its usefulness, and its shortcomings. My intention here was to come up with something that a spy or agent without their own spellcasting abilities could use to briefly report back to a superior or co-ordinator, and to receive similarly brief answers and instructions. It's hard to detect through casual inspection and my thought is that writing in a journal or ledger may, depending on the circumstances, be less easily detected, and less likely to be thought suspicious, than "talking to yourself" as would be the case with a sending spell or the use of a shell of sending.

I think I can figure out "by the book" price for this item, but I'm left with couple of questions that I'm hoping the community here can supply me with guidance on.

1) Can the different spells used in a magic item with multiple abilities be "bought" at different caster levels?

In this case I had originally calculated the price of the subtle page of sending using the minimum caster level necessary for each constituent spell or ability, noting that the item is one that does not occupt a space on the character's body and has three abilities that I consider to be similar, as they're all part and parcel of the function of providing covert communication...

sending: 4 (spell level) * 7 (caster level) * 1,800 (command word) / 5 (one charge per day) = 10,080 gp
secret page: 3 (SL) * 5 (CL) * 1,800 (command word) / 5 (one charge per day) * 0.75 (second-highest level similar ability) = 4,050 gp
magic aura: 1 (SL) * 1 (CL) * 2,000 (continuous) / 2 (spell duration 1 day or longer) * 0.5 (additional ability) = 500 gp
(10,080 + 4,050 + 500) * 2 (no body space) = 29,260 gp

However it then occurred to me that perhaps all of the item's different abilities should be acquired (and priced) at the same caster level...

sending: 4 (spell level) * 7 (caster level) * 1,800 (command word) / 5 (one charge per day) = 10,080 gp
secret page: 3 (SL) * 7 (CL) * 1,800 (command word) / 5 (one charge per day) * 0.75 (second-highest level similar ability) = 5,670 gp
magic aura: 1 (SL) * 7 (CL) * 2,000 (continuous) / 2 (spell duration 1 day or longer) * 0.5 (additional ability) = 3,500 gp
(10,080 + 5,670 + 3,500) * 2 (no body space) = 38,500 gp

I've quite possibly worked from an incorrect assumption or otherwise messed up here - please let me know if you spot something I've done wrong in the calculations above!

Note that the DC listed for the Will save necessary to see through the magic aura when the item is closely examined is varied (DC 11 or 13) depending on which of these interpretations is correct; I know the rule for magic item save DCs is often "use the spell level and the ability score modifier of the minimum ability score necessary to cast that spell," but I feel as though even this lower-level spell incorporated into the item should use the ability score modifier of the ability score necessary to cast the highest-level spell in the item, otherwise in this case the high-caster level magic aura costs seven times as much for literally no benefit.

2) With magic item crafting and prices being more art than science, and the gold piece values arrived at via Table 15-29 being estimates, would you consider the prices calculated above to be significantly higher than this item warrants?

I feel as though the limitations on sending and secret page baked into the item curtail somewhat the usefulness of those spells; you can't use sending to contact any creature that you name, only the recipient of the page attuned to your own, nor can you use secret page to disguise the contact of any page that you wish, only the one on which you've been sending and receiving messages. I feel this limitation is significant enough to warrant reducing the price of the item by one-half, to 14,630 gp or 19,250 gp depending on the calculation used, but I'd be interested in knowing if the community here agrees or disagrees with this.

Many thanks to all those who cast their eyes over this!

I'm building a custom ogre to throw at my players and I'm looking for some clarification as to how unarmed strike damage ought to be calculated.

An unarmed strike is "always considered a light weapon," and so my baseline understanding of how this works is as follows:

  • If you're just making one armed strike, it deals damage based on your size plus your full Strength modifier
  • If you're making multiple iterative unarmed strikes, again, each deals damage based on your size plus your full Strength modifier
  • If you're going two-fisted and 'dual wielding' your unarmed strikes, your main hand deals damage based on your size plus your full Strength modifier, while your off hand deals damage based on your size plus one-half of your Strength modifier

So far, so good?

Assuming an Ogre with a Strength of 25 (prerequisite for Ogre Crush) this means, barring any other modifiers, his unarmed strikes will deal 1d4+7 damage.

I'm asking for clarification because the Ogre Glutton from the Monster Codex (one of the example monsters I'm referring to when building my ogre) seems somehow to be getting 1.5 times his Strength modifier to his unarmed strikes, and I'm not entirely sure how that's being achieved:

  • Is there a class feature, feat, item, or other special ability elsewhere in the glutton's stat block that's enabling this?
  • Is this derived (possibly in error) from the idea that a creature with only one natural attack gains 1.5 times its Strength modifier when dealing damage with that attack? (yes, I know, unarmed strikes are not natural weapons, hence 'possibly in error')
  • Is this simply an error, and should the glutton's unarmed strike damage in fact be lower: 1d4+10 damage when raging, 1d4+8 otherwise?

I had a look through the Possible Monster Codex Errata thread and couldn't find reference to this being an error there, and I'm generally used to other denizens of the Paizo forums being sharper-eyed than I in these matters.

Lastly, the Ogre Crush feat increases the ogre's unarmed strike damage by one step when grappling smaller creatures (such as your typical Medium- or Small-sized PC), in this case from 1d4 to 1d6; and grants a Constrict attack dealing damage equal to either the ogre's unarmed strike damage or a Large creature's slam attack. The ogre doesn't have a slam attack, but if it did, it would be its only natural attack; should the damage dealt by Constrict to a Medum or smaller creature thus be:

  • 1d4+7, since Constrict damage "is typically equal to the amount of damage caused by the creature’s melee attack," and in this case the ogre's melee attack is its unarmed strike
  • 1d6+7, since Constrict damage, basing the damage on an unarmed strike that's bumped up by one die size since a Medium creature is being grappled
  • 1d6+10, since Constrict damage based on the ogre's hypothetical slam attack would be based on the ogre's hypothetical only natural attack which would thus gain 1.5 times the ogre's Strength modifier to damage

I suppose it's the "whichever is greater," part of the wording of the feat that's tripping my brain up; the die types are identical and the question of how much of a Strength bonus is applied is quite a situational one.

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So, Kingmaker has established a well-deserved reputation as one of the most beloved Adventure paths, to the point that it's received a CPRG adaptation and is in line for a 10th anniversary hardback and updated edition for Pathfinder's second edition. A lot of that has to do with encounters and local setting details that are unique to Kingmaker and the Stolen Lands; however, if you were to run a game focused on kingdom-building elsewhere on Golarion, what sort of places might you set your game?

Note that I'm particularly looking for opportunities for potential PCs to build their kingdom "from the ground up" here; while there are certainly opportunities for kingdom vs. kingdom conflict among the established nations of the Inner Sea, I'm more interested in the frontier-taming and homestead-building sort of play that characterises Kingmaker, but involving a different corner of the setting and a different cast of characters. I do like the idea that, just as the kingdom of the Kingmaker PCs received charters from the swordlords of Rostland and founded their kingdom with Rostland's tacit approval and initial support, so too should there be a link from prospective PCs in another part of the world to a nation or organisation that provides intial support for their efforts in order to get the ball rolling and provide an initial premise or structure for the expedition.

Note also that I'm interested in locations within or close to Avistan first, Garundi locations second, places elsewhere on Golarion third - my last significant campaign took place in a homebrew setting styled along Chinese and Korean lines and so I'm looking for somewhere a bit "closer to home" in terms of traditional D&D and Pathfinder settings and expectations.

Southern River Kingdoms: On the other side of the River Kingdoms from the Stolen Lands, there's a fairly significant area of territory that doesn't seem to be strongly claimed by any existing River Kingdom - this is an area that borders Galt and curls around Cordelon and Hymbria before stretching up through the Embeth Forest. The natural suggestion is that any group of would-be kingdom-buildiders in this area consits of refugees, exiles, and hopefuls from Galt, and there are a few similarly-themed settlements in the River Kingdoms already (Gralton and Liberthane). Kyonin is nearby (with Hymbria essentially being its exclave) which adds a welcome non-human angle to the situation. On the down side, this would be "just another River Kingdoms kingdom-building exercise," that's possibly too close the the Stolen Lands of Kingmaker to really develop its own identity.

Belkzen: Didn't I just say that I wasn't interested in kingdom vs. kingdom conflict? I think a kingdom-building game in Belkzen isn't going to involve an outright invasion from one of the neighbouring realms, so much as a push by determined opportunists with their own ambitions or a personal stake in the matter - an Ustalavic noble or general with a hatred of orcs and/or a desire to replicate Kazavon's feats of conquest across the region, or a shrewd crusader-captain from Lastwall keen to see the Conquered Lands reclaimed and made a buffer against Belkzen to allow Lastwall to devote its attention to Gallowspire more fully, or the rise of an ambitious Mammoth Lord determined to carve out a realm of his own and seeing the orcs as easier (or more deserving) targets of conquest than his own people. Both of the southern routes into Belkzen leave me with the feeling that the sandbox in which the PCs might be playing would be very close to Urgir, and the idea of a kingdom growing and prospering so close at hand to Chief Grask Uldeth might strain the suspension of disbelief; at the other end of the Hold, an expedition from the Realm of the Mammoth Lords seems like it might be more focused on a particular, barbaric theme, and accommodate a less broad range of potential PCs, than one from Belkzen's southern neighbours.

Isger: Andoran, Cheliax, and Druma all have some interests here; I think the Menador Mountains form an effective natural boundary with Molthune (which besides has its attentions focused on Nirmathas more than southward expansion) and I don't really imagine the dwarves of the Five Kings Mountains seeking to expand beyond the mountains proper. Nor do I see Druma as particularly expansionist in this direction, and Cheliax... honestly, if Cheliax wants more direct control over Isger, it's going to replace its current Steward with one with shorter strings, rather than carving off chunks of the back country piecemeal. I think a kingdom-building game in Isger represents an Andoren endeavour; the Isgeri army is consolidated around Elidir and the Conerica River, surrendering the hinterlands to banditry, and so certain Andoren factions take an "enough is enough" approach and dispatch agents to tame the wilderness which Isger's own government seems uninterested in, or incapable of, bringing back under some semblance of control.

The Nolands: This wilderness area between Varisia and the Linnorm Kingdoms is described as a haven for exiles and bandits who are growing more co-ordinated of late - precisely the sort of situation that might prompt either Varisian or Linnorm King interest in bringing the region to heel. That creates a natural opportunity for a rival kingdom to develop (a Varisian-backed kingdom to oppose the PCs Linnorm King-backed expedition, or vice-versa) and the region was once part of the Thassilonian kingdom of Cyrusian, providing an opportunity to tap into that part of the Golarion's lore too. On the other hand, it's a smaller area than the Stolen Lands that's depicted on existing map as less varied in its terrain, in particular a lack of forests; maybe that would make it a less interesting setting for a kingdom-building game.

Iobaria: This is a huge region, dotted with ruins but generally sparsely settled thanks to persistent plagues, internal turmoil, and the repercussions of external calamities. It's ripe for the conquest, but as a pseudo-Russian corner of the setting it's perhaps a bit too similar in its overall themes to Brevoy and the Stolen Lands just over the border, indeed the Nomen Heights region that Kingmaker PCs explore seems to represent the western foothills of the Hills of Nomen that mark Iobaria's western border. I think Iobaria's various plagues would make for a unique obstacle for the PCs' kingdom to content with, and might perhaps represent the work of a disease-themed villain (in the same way that fey themes are present throughout Kingmaker).

Thoughts and further suggestions, anyone? If you were to run a kingdom-building game elsewhere on Golarion, where would you set it?

By "grabby monsters," I'm referring to those with multiple Grab attacks, particularly those that also have the Constrict special attack, and which are thematically all about grabbing at things: giant squids, krakens, shoggoths, there's a tendency for these creatures to be tentacular horrors but I'm sure there are other examples out there too, including a particular Adventure Path-specific monster/encounter that my players aren't so many weeks away from.

Premise: The visual of something like a kraken sweeping up half-a-dozen squirming sailors in its tentacles is a powerful one, but as-written, the rules for grappling make this difficult to achieve; feats like Greater Grapple and Rapid Grappler only address this to a limited extent and are designed first and foremost as options for humanoid PCs.

I believe there's been disagreement in the past over whether a greater with multiple Grab attacks can attempt to start a grapple against a creature already grappled via an earlier attack with Grab, if it's beneficial for the creature to do so (e.g. if it has Constrict); I believe it has been agreed that because the Grab ability specifies that because the Grab ability specifically allows a creature to attempt to start a grapple, additional attacks with Grab don't functionary as 'ordinary' subsequent successful grab attacks (i.e. additional successful Grabs can't be used to damage, move, or pin an opponent).

Grab also offers the Grabbing creature to "hold" an opponent with the Grabbing body part, taking a -20 penalty to its CMB to make and maintain the grapple in exchange for not becoming grappled itself, but I feel as though there's a bit of a blank spot in the rules as far as the further benefits of "grappling a creature without being grappled yourself," go. For example, Tom Flock's grapple flowcharts are about the clearest (linked at d20PFSRD here for the curious) illustration of how to proceed through a grapple I've found, but they don't cover the situation in which a creatures used Grab and chooses to "hold" its opponent rather than grapple it conventionally; there is no guidance as to how "Round 3: Attacker's turn, attacker controlling, defender grappled but attacker not grappled," ought to proceed.

Barring Greater Grapple and/or Rapid Grappler, no matter how many Grab attacks were used to make successful grapple attempts on multiple targets in the previous round, the attacking Grabbing/grappling creature doesn't have much of a choice except to let all but one of its grappled creatures go in order to use a standard action to maintain the grapple on the single remaining grappled opponent.

I feel there ought to be a way for a creature with multiple Grab attacks, using those attacks to "hold" multiple creatures rathern than engage in an ordinary grapple with any of them, ought to be able to use a full-attack or full-round action to maintain those holds, but there doesn't appear to be one. Greater Grapple and Rapid Grappler potentially extend that to three concurrent grapples, but that's still far short of the number of creatures a kraken can potentially grapple, and the fact that the shoggoth has an extraordinary ability specifically designed to let it do horrible things if it starts a turn grappling multiple creatures suggests that this is something of a blank spot in the rules otherwise, and it's one I'd like to close.

As an aside: It's already a house rule at my table that creatures with Grab can't use attacks with Grab to start a grapple against a creature they've already Grappled. A further house rule I apply is that if a creature with Grab chooses to release the grapple as a free action, its sequence of attacks (if making a full-attack action) ends and it can make no subsequent attacks, Grab or otherwise; this is a result of a horrible encounter involving a Mi-Go which has the ability to inflict on an average round of successful attacks 50 points of damage and 10 points of ability damage, which had me reeling and thinking "this can't possibly be the rules working as intended." In other situations where a creature has multiple Grab attacks with damaging "riders" on them, the effectiveness of the Attack > Grab > Rider > Release sequence creates a situation where the optimal way of conducting attacks seems to run counter to what the fiction and themes suggest a creature's behaviour ought to be.

Proposal: As a house rule, a creature which is holding multiple opponents through the use of multiple natural weapons with the Grab ability, having chosen to hold those opponents rather than engage in a standard grapple, can, as part of a full-attack action, make grapple attempts against each of the creatures it is holding. The natural weapons originally used to Grab and hold those creatures are engaged in maintaining the holds and cannot be used to perform other attacks as part of the full-attack action. These attempts to maintain the grapples against held creatures are made at a -20 penalty to the attacker's CMB, and if successful, each deals the damage indicated for the attack that established the hold, as described under the Grab universal monster rule. Natural weapons not engaged in maintaing the holds can be used to attack held creatures or other opponents as the attacker wishes. A creature that possesses the ability to grapple opponents without gaining the grappled condition itself, such as a kraken's Tenacious Grapple extraordinary ability, does not take the -20 penalty to maintain a hold on creatures provided the limitations of its ability are otherwise adhered to.

Thoughts, opinions, unexpected consequences, anyone?

So, here's the situation as it currently stands: my players are coming up to the end of The Skinsaw Murders, having hustled their way to and through the Misgivings in considerable haste, dealt with the ghouls at the Hambley farm, neutralised the Faceless Stalker at the Foxglove townhouse and wrecked the Skinsaw cult at the Seven's Sawmill.

There's a definite implication throughout the module that the various villainous NPCs have "an ear to the ground," picking up on events transpiring elsewhere. For example, aside from Aldern, the Skinsaw cult has no contact or operative in Sandpoint, but events at the Foxglove townhouse, as described, definitely assume that Ironbriar is aware of Aldern's defeat and has enough notice of this to lay a trap for whoever destroyed him and might be following up on evidence that he's left behind.

Similarly, Xanesha is noted to "often spend her nights in other parts of the city," and I think it's reasonable to assume that she'll be keeping an ear open to rumours, news, and other information - if nothing else, she's going to be consistently investigating "greedy" individuals as possible targets for abduction and sacrifice. She's not isolated or insulated from events going on in the city, and she's not foolish.

Here's the thing: my PCs have waited twelve days between wiping out the Skinsaw cult and assaulting the Shadow Clock, and when they attacked the Seven's Sawmill they turned loose one of the messenger ravens, which made its way (without a message) to the Shadow Clock and Xanesha. Between the message-less raven and the spreading rumours of a massacre at the Seven's Sawmill, workers at other Kyver's Islet premises swapping stories of the city watch carting a dozen bodies out of the sawmill under sheets, and whatever rumours are circulating about Ironbriar who has at best disappeared, at worst been exposed, and certainly is out of contact with Xanesha, I think Xanesha has all the information she needs to conclude that her plans in Magnimar are pretty well sunk.

Xanesha is noted as gathering greedy souls "in the wild;" unlike her sister she's not tied to any one location, if her plans in Magnimar have been foiled then she has the option of starting over elsewhere. And I'm hard-pressed to find a reason for her to still be waiting at the Shadow Clock when my PCs climb to its spire, instead of having packed her things, left a trap or an ambush for interlopers, and departed for greener pastures.

My questions are:

1) Does it seem unreasonable for Xanesha to not be there, for the PCs to arrive only to discover that she's cut her losses and run?

2) What sort of trap or ambush might she leave for intruding PCs? I've left the Scarecrow and the Faceless Stalker as-is (maybe with a level of something added to the ugothols to make them a beefier obstacle), but I'd like to have something nasty waiting for them when they get to the top of the tower. My first thought was to set up a bunch of gargoyles (including one with enough racial hit dice to achieve Large size, hiding in plain sight as 'The Angel' atop the tower), since they're urban predators that fit the location and are well within Xanesha's power to impress into service with her charm monster spell-like ability, but I'm open to other ideas if anyone has a suggestion here.

3) Where might Xanesha go if she's cutting her losses? My first thought was to send her north to Sandpoint to make trouble there, since that keeps things "in bounds" of the adventure path and doesn't add any new locations, red herrings, or distractions to the proceedings; but she has no allies there, no real reason to pick that as her destination other than the fact that she sent Aldern there and presumably can "pick up where he left off" in terms of greed-related murders. (She doesn't know yet who has been fouling up her plans, only that someone has.) My next thought was for her to head to Korvosa (a mercantile port city where greed will no doubt be flourishing) and beg assistance from the Red Mantis there, since she's established as being at least aware of the connection of Aldern, the Skinsaw cult, Vorel's legacy/phage, and the Red Mantis, if not the architect of that particular deal. That adds a new and unrelated location to the campaign, though, and may become a red herring dragging things even farther off the rails. A third option is for her to simply disappear to some unknown corner of Varisia and not play any further part in the story, but I don't expect my players to let her go that readily. As above, any thoughts and ideas that anyone might have here are very much appreciated!