In one adventure, the DM gives out a little extra EXP to the party for a recap of the previous session, and encourages everyone to take turns retelling part of it. Unfortunately, one or two players tend to get carried away and try for the whole thing at once.
In one where I'm the DM, I set up an Adventure Journal thread on the VTT and offered a Hero Point to the last person to post something non-consecutive. It worked until it was the turn for the player who has anxiety or something similar. The player has notes written down and means to post something, and I'm thinking of encouraging one of the other players to post something.
"Here, have some dumplings before you go. We made them ourselves, and they're sure to keep you warm!"
In case they ask, "Oh, no, not of anyone you know. Just some ogre who outlived his usefulness. We asked Barl and everything!"
EDIT: I did this myself, and the PCs just accepted them without asking. Then one of the hags told Barl they quit, incidentally also tipping him off that Those Guys were here.
I don't normally think of "20 point-buy when the AP expects 15" or "roll for HP (reroll 1s) OR take half-hit-die+1" really count as boons so much as options.
I do give PCs boons on occasion, by means of NPCs they help. If they get in a random encounter with reasonable/sensible people ("knowing when to give up" counts), they can get clues or information. Anything from, "you returned the golden locket to the baker rather than pawning it, so you get enough Baked Goods of Gratitude that you don't have to pay as much monthly rent for the next year" to "The orcs respect both your power and cunning, and some of them will want to spar with you the next time you pass by." Rewarding Good alignments, while still setting up dangerous fights.
Similarly, if a religious PC goes out of the way to do something for a religion, they'll get a boon from that religion:
If you're irreligious, figuring out something important with no religious assistance is such a stroke of genius that you get to reroll the d20 once.
Similarly, anyone who profanes a religious shrine or temple without being careful (using something like Desecrate or Hallow or a lot of Religious Water beforehand stops this from happening), gets a divine punishment. Taking a bathroom break on a shrine to Erastil might make any food you didn't grow or slaughter yourself taste disgusting, while toppling a statue of Abadar just because the temple staff were all LE embezzlers might end you up with a long, boring audit. Or defacing a temple to Razmir might result in the divine punishment of getting mugged by Razmirites.
Basically, I like giving little one-time benefits to my players for doing something important. They get rewarded, and they can pull out those rewards in a dangerous situational circumstance.
The book does say to modify his tactics. Say, if GM & players agree more books than Core are on the table, you can give Karzoug Firey Body. 9th-level Transmutation that renders him immune to a lot of things, as well as healed by fire. Karzoug's Burning Glaive has 3 healing spells, but unlimited Fireballs. I'd also recommend a Wall of Suppression. He can goad non-flying PCs through it.
As for the Meteor Swarm, my idea was he'd prepare spells like Cone of Cold and Polar Ray for the Karzoug Holograms to use on the PCs. Hopefully, they'd protect themselves against cold, only to get blindsided by a pocket plane made of molten gold. Then, Round One: Meteor Storm
"Taken on the whole, the writing makes no sense. Looking at one character at a time, you can figure out that this one's from Aklo, that one's ancient Thassilonian, that one's either the schwah from Infernal or the 'zh' from Draconic written upside-down.
Graham made something hauntingly beautiful.
Matt Dusty, the reason Krune wasn't in any of the APs is because of PFS1, season 4: Year of the Risen Rune.
Plus, when you get to such dizzying heights of personal power, individual people tend to blur together. Though Baba Yaga does keep a bit of a personal touch, (what she seems to get up to involves "Being A Grump" and "Eating Her Children") it doesn't look like she has any destructive designs on Golarion (I mean, she did get helped out by people from there once). Of course, that doesn't mean she's wreaking havoc on some other setting with a Mythological Russia analogue, but she can't do that when she's on a lunch date with the Old Mage.
As it turned out, my group did, in fact, get the Bad End. Now they've begun Shattered Star, six months after the Rise of Mhar.
My advice? Put Karzoug's box text in the mouth of Khalib, and have Special K complain that he's the only one who could stop someone like Xanderghul or Alaznist from ruining everything, and your attempts to murder him show how much you need him to own all of Varisia and everything in it.
...Then, when they need help from Dead Karzoug, he can say something like,
"...You mean to say that Alaznist is destroying the world, and even time itself, and you need my help to stop her?
To be fair, a lot of fantasy RPGs involve dealing with traps, and a great way to stop them from being a pair of Perception/Theivery checks is to make them intricate or elaborate. Slowly rising water, a shooting range maze where nothing is as it seems, swarms of cannibalistic rats (who hopefully don't eat each other before they get to the PCs)...
I do admit, I once had an idea for a Bond-style PC, who'd specialize in calmly walking out of cover and doing Sneak Attacks via Shot-On-The-Run. Also, who would get humorously rejected by every NPC on whom he'd advance. But I had to shelve the idea.
Ah well. Sean Moore will return...
I've always thought of Old-Mage Jatembe as the kind of man who would - now that his glory days of spreading literacy back around Golarion, Ten Magic Warriors with him, are over - encourage small, subtle, yet much-needed acts of kindness and compassion across the many worlds of the Material Plane. Why not have lunch with Baba Yaga in some Taldan place, for old time's sake?
This makes me want to run an RPG in a different setting, and have Jatembe cameo to offer a clue or some advice when the PCs are in a pinch.
(To preface, I'm talking about 1st Edition here)
As for house rules I don't like: Critical Skill Checks.
They do have another niche: they talk bigger than both ysoki & goblins. They're the super-intelligent little dinosaurs who claim to actually be little dragons instead. That's gotta be worth something.
Though I'd expect a lot of them on Verces: while the others pay a lot of money for super-gentrified housing that goes up, they can dig down all under the place and set up their own subterranean arcologies.
After a horrible shipwreck, we came to the Eleder's Pathfinder lodge with our findings, eventually found out where the lost city was, we eventually managed to figure out what to do. Not only did we set out determined to stop a race war, we spent months after the final conflict working toward reparations.
Here's who ended up calling themselves the Keys of Yhi:
Ael'eraki Valiance, aka Aki:
CG half-elf half-Varisian human alchemist, worshipper of Desna. Crackerjack tinkerer, she made poisons, potions, and went on to learn about constructs. Her stuffed moth came to life and she made it her familiar. She eventually shrunk herself so she could ride Phoen, as it was called. The youngest member of the group, she found herself horrified at the realities of war, resulting in many spa days in Eleder. She went on to travel the world, stopping in Nex to design a giant beetle construct she could call her home.
Abner Little, stage name Roqueforte Passendale:
CG ysoki bard, also from Varisia. A runt in his youth, he finally got to travelling, and ended up on the adventure of a lifetime. He wrote and performed an opera of his adventures, of which disguised serpentfolk insurgents saw its first few acts and expressed their displeasure. His mandolin was inhabited by a vulpinal agathion, who wanted to see where he'd go and what he'd do. After bringing peace to Savinth Yhi, as well as beneath it, he went on a world tour.
Jijitimazoo, though there are some who call him Tim:
N Mwangi kobold monk/rogue/magus, breaker of cults, puncher of gods. He fled his home when demon-worship took hold, and held that violence could solve as many problems as it could cause. He kept asking to engage friends in sparring sessions, figuring he could learn spells that way. He eventually figured out ones like Longarm and Twisted Innards. (Think One Piece, only more body horror)
After having involved himself at the end of one god and the re-ascension of another, he returned home to fight the demon-worship with everything he could at level 17 (which was a lot). He never did stop throwing himself at any challenge that presented itself.
NG vanara jungle druid, hailing from a small community in the Laughing Jungle. He just wanted to bring a bag of grape seeds and the holy text of empyrial lord Halcamora back home. Instead, he found himself a Pathfinder field agent, protecting people from fire, getting eaten, and jungle humidity. During his travels, he found himself able to make peace with the charu-ka he once thought irredeemable. His love of storms led him to control them, and even temporarily become one. His only 9th-level spell, Winds of Vengeance, even let him become a huge squall wrapped in a slightly bigger squall.
After the first dawn the serpentfolk were able to see in earnest after thousands of years, Duvri gave them a sun shower, followed by a beautiful rainbow. He then spent six months rebuilding damaged architecture in the cities above and below, only to find that he had too much power for any one person in his small village home. So he became Venture-Captain Kounug, set up his own lodge, and went on to pioneer the listicle. He even once became the grape tree everyone didn't know they needed.
Wilfred Wezpol, Crazy Old Man turned Crazy Old King:
CN samsaran transmuter wizard, who cheesed his familiar so much that it ascended to godhood.
Actually, it turned out his familiar was the last vestige of Curchanus, who managed to regain godhood by cannibalizing the remains of Ydersius.
He started out determined to see what Eleder was like because he spent most of his life ignorant of what the Mwangi Expanse was like. Shortly after getting to Savinth Yhi, he stayed put in the Artisan district, crafting like mad. During attempts to sort out everyone's problems, he asked them if they'd be okay with him keeping everything organized, and after everyone agreed, promptly declared himself king.
He spent his rulership researching the Clone spell, then researching a method of achieving immortality so that his reign would last into the forseeable future (or at least until a bunch of psychopomps showed up and kept asking him when would he have all his affairs in order).
On the whole, the AP was enjoyable (most likely due to GM edits) though I was hit hard with the Middle of Serpent's Skull Issue. Between getting swamped by so many sidequests at once and repeated spa days wherein my character, who had CHA 5 (rolling dice for stats makes it fun and exciting, and prevents dump stats!) couldn't really participate for a big chunk of it. Worse, one dungeon crawl had all the other PCs hiding in an expanded extradimensional dwelling carried by mine, who snuck around invisibly; this effectively had the same problem from the other direction.
My first impression was that Paizo said "etching" when they actually meant "soldering" or something similar. But I do like the idea of carefully sticking the runestone itself onto the item. The wizard harmonizes its aura with the flow of the Ethereal Plane, the cleric keeps a vigil over it in prayer, the bard spreads rumors of this awesome new magic shield that can block anything and that you can also use like a sled!
If the runes are obvious enough on an item, would it be possible to figure out what they do just by looking at them? Presuming there isn't a standardized iconography all over Golarion, or that magically empowering runes aren't universal, an Arcadian wizard would probably have a harder time telling what a Vudran cleric's armour does, especially if the rune isn't just Vudrani for "slick" written on the front.
For beginners? Fighters tend to be my go-to suggestion, or, if you want to do magic, pick maybe a sorcerer or an oracle. You can pick blasting spells, or ones that alter/obviate the terrain. Or a witch, who can pinch-heal, summon, buff, and have a few fight-ender spells, in addition to hexes you can use round after round.
Or a standard bard. Stand back and make everyone better at everything. You can be the Pathfinder who takes care of all the documentation. If you don't want to sing or dance or play an instrument, make your Performance skill Oration, and just yell at everyone to do better!
I don't recommend classes who come with animals or anything, since that'll require having a second character sheet. Summons work okay if the GM is willing to take care of the monsters for you, or if you just open up the beastiary and know what the monster can do ahead of time.
Though really, ask your GM and the other players for help. If you've already got an idea for characterization, they should figure out how everyone can accomodate each other.
I'd be okay with orange/yellow/brown kobolds who claim metallic heritage. Or even ones who relate in some way to primal or imperial dragons. Black & red kobolds who claim their tribe was once chummy with a magma dragon, or similar.
Personally, I like yellow kobolds. I did once have a PC who kept claiming, "the gold ones are the good ones, so so am I!" while actually being sycophantic LE. Either way, you can't judge a kobold by their colour.
Wall of Ice is handy when you need some cover or line of sight broken right now, but don't want/need a higher-level spell slot dedicated to a sturdier wall.
Also, if your wall is going to be made of stone, I recommend also packing Stone Shape so you can easily make an archway, in case you've blocked off a way you were going to go.
Huh. I always presumed that Xanderghul's Flawless Hammer was made from a skymetal alloy, and considered its' Full Potential ability to mean it could get around any sort of DR.
Plus, since the Runelords are all wizards, none of the Mythical ones would need mythcial weapons, since they relied so much on their spells and the polearms were usually more badges of office.
This reminds me of the disappointment over the gravitational powers of Starfinder's solarions. When you use it to pull people toward you, it doesn't cause random unattended junk to slide toward you and stick to you.
As for collateral damage, I just figure it's reasonable for players & GMs to be careful around fragile/flammable objects. Lightning Bolt through some debris, so you can step aside from the now-open charge lane? Sure, sounds strategic. Throwing a Fireball in the library? Bad idea. I guess the GM would just have to eyeball Table 11-4 and take it from there. (It's the Material Hardness/HP/Broken Threshold table, by the way)
Also: at this point in the AP, Tongues is easily available for people who don't want to put a point in Linguistics. Considering how this AP is all about learning about stuff from Thassilon, it's reasonable for PCs to want to learn the language so that they can read things like how to get to Runeforge.
Of course, if they don't, you can always let the Scribbler cast Tongues on himself, or give him a sort of empathic communication where everyone around him gets the feeling he wants to know about/tell you something.
I'm slightly confused and disappointed with some of what goes on in here. The ghost iron sword was supposed to be Xin's attempt at his own Blade of Conviction, but Runeforge was built long after his death; his dismantling of the Sihedron was the time for the assassin to strike, yet he only breaks it after the assassin appears. Also, Xin being also condescending in the past and bent on conquest in the present makes it look like all his talk of virtue was mainly lip service, so I'm thinking of a different take on this:
The Way I'll Run It:
During his rule, Xin realized he was a better teacher than administrator, and knew that boredom with day-to-day policy and bureaucracy was a bad habit for an emperor. So he gave more authority and autonomy to his governors, and grew more reclusive as he rested on his laurals and went back to tinkering with his hobbies. The Ghost Iron Sword was the result of requests for a personal emissary, an idea which he later discarded because he thought the idea of trial by champion was a bad method of dispute resolution. Much later on, the concept was used as a basis for the Blades of Conviction, requiring Runeforge so as to be able to forge weapons of solid sin.
He did, with help from the original seven governors, build the First Sihedron, as well as the clockwork reliquary, should he ever die before completing everything he wanted to do, then dismantled the Sihedron. Since its power would flourish when shared, he hit upon the idea of presenting each governor with their respective piece, so that they could put it together as a symbol of Thassilonian virtue and use it jointly. He also wanted to modify the reliquary to be able to use it, should his mythical immortality fail him somehow. Naturally, his reliquary would be able to interface with his clockwork army, immune to allgolthu mind-control, should they ever try to attack his empire.
Unfortunately, his isolation had blinded him to the growing corruption in his empire. The Runelords sent their giant to scry & fry him, and, in a panic, Xin flung the most destructive mythical spells at his assassin, wasn't standing at a safe distance after the giant's initial attack, and flubbed his saving throw. His Contingency went off, teleporting his remains into the reliquary, but instead of smoothly possessing it, his heartbreak at this act of betrayal (of course Xanderghul would want the only one to claim authority over him to know who was behind his murder) caused his psyche to splinter, haunting his entire palace in a state of distraught paranoia.
Now, the ghost of Xin is certain the usurpers must be stopped, and they even let that horrible, slithering evil into his basement. The PCs' approach rouses him from his mournful fugue, but his plan is to use his army to scour the land for any trace of those hateful usurpers and dismantle them (without any thought to current living conditions). He doesn't want to re-conquer the world, he's just trapped in the past with an uncompromising single-mindedness.
Also, if he sees Sorshen approach him, Return of the Runelords has material for his interruption:
Location: The Pinnacle of Avarice (they hadn't found the Leng Device)
The party, all invisible with only one person able to See Invisible, scattered in an open area. They were fighting three Advanced cloud giants and one rune giant. With nobody else to attack, multiple giants surrounded Atropos and killed him faster than Koji could heal him. Akiko was under attack from an elemental summoned by the currently-hiding Khalib.
I also crit like three times in as many rounds >_<
Chellan was on its way (I wasn't going to announce Chellan's arrival until a round after the rune giant fell, but he didn't fall), the party had gotten itself surrounded, they'd forgotten some of their preparation, and were too spread out to attempt to D-Door to safety.
So they surrendered.
Khalib, Chellan, Ceoptera, and the rune giant marched them all up to the Eye of Avarice, where they reverently awaited the rise of the Claimer.
A denizen of Leng burst in, arms flailing and head shaking, but nobody would be dissuaded.
Karzoug stepped upon the Soul Lens.
The Eye of Avarice activated.
With a piggy-back from it, the Leng Device activated.
The Leng Device broke.
Then Mhar arose in a furious conflagration, instantly destroying the Pinnacle of Avarice, with a resulting pyroclasic flow that destroyed most of Xin-Shalast. The Ancient One then pulled itself up on legs of living ruby, and stumbled its way down the mountainside.
At least Karzoug is dead, but the rest of Varisia has to contend with the Rise of Mhar.
Two first-time players wanted to be kobolds, and wanted to be sneaky & magical. Instead of offering something else, I immediately helped them do that, by means of archetypes & prestige classes that were really complicated, and turned out to not be what they wanted in the long run. Also, having come into Pathfinder from hack&slash video games, they were unsure of just how much they could do in the setting. Since I forgot to extoll the boundlessness of TRPGs, they tended to take everything at face value, giving Karzoug time to prepare for them. I felt like I was being too "hand-holdy" at the beginning, but "turning the hints off" as I described it, went from too much direction to too little.
I'm still honoured that all the players want to go through Shattered Star, and they're already planning characters they'll enjoy more. I'm certain they'll do a lot less dying there.
Shifty Mongoose's RotRL Death Count:
Atropos: 2. Crushed by Barl/Mhar.
Dreg: 3. Disintegrated by Mokmurian/barrage of Magic Missiles by Khalib/Mhar.
Koji: 4. Azaven gave him the Finger/Killed by yetis & Khalib-as-yeti/Petrified by Khalib/Mhar.
Nordramel: 4. Best Death Ever vs. Xanesha/Strangled to death by a mummy/Assassinated by Gamigin/Mhar.
Akiko: 3. Vraxeris' simulacra/giants in the Pinnacle/Mhar.
Hero of the Hour sounds like a fun & useful way to refresh Hero Points. I was thinking of ways to get the players involved with them, since it'd keep them engaged when it isn't their turn, and it'd encourage cameraderie.
I ran into the same issue, and came up with a few other ideas:
In the Pinnacle, there's a banquet table that's a fixed magic item that can do a 1/day Bountiful Banquet or Heroes' Feast. You can also swap out one of Ceoptera's spells, and those of the other lamia, for them.
As for the lesser minions, give them a transmutation that makes garbage edible, as long as it's successfully eaten before the spell wears off.
Have you ever tasted Entropic water? Stuff's probably frozen at room temperature but melts when it gets loud enough.
Also, it might not fit the setup for Pathfinder, but I always liked the idea of a Good-aligned, peaceful religion whose favoured weapon was the unarmed strike or the net. Though I admit those would work better in times of lasting peace, than Golarion's current uncertain instability.
Why do Unicorns need darkvision? What is Darkvision? and other philosophical questions about the senses in PF2
Hm, my reaction to the first paragraph was, "Malfeshnekor was supposed to stay trapped even with the doors open. It sounds like you let him out - and you let a PC be an anipaladin? Uh-oh..."
But at the end, this might be a surprising plot twist. As for how Malfy gets the rings to the PCs, keep in mind that any ruse is doomed to fail the second the conned minion goes to ask one of the Karzoug Holograms what's really going on.
Though this could work to your advantage: Malfy doesn't know about those, so the door opens, and Karzoug Hologram says, "That's a barghest, most likely allied with Alaznist. Fling that worthless thing down a crevasse."
So the giants chase down Malfy, underestimate all the class levels/advanced templates you've given him, and steals rings while invisibile or tries to lure them into the Leng spiders.
As for how to give the rings to the group, he could turn into a goblin, turn invisible, then track the PCs, get in front of them, then make an offer. He can truthfully say he was sent to attack Karzoug's minions, but now found the opportunity to attack Karzoug himself. He has these magic rings and knows what they do, and will fight alongside everyone. Sense Motive could reveal that he's being truthful, yet sounds overly excited at the thought of all the incoming violence. Also, if the last remaining original PC is there, due to being one of the ones who freed him, Malfy could always aim for that one last.