It's been a while hasn't it? Well onto to two years. That is not to say that the campaign hasn't continued. Oh no, no. Au Contraire. However, our tabletop group has a rule of sharing the spotlight between GMs. The player of Deksyana runs us in a non-Pathfinder campaign off and on that is wonderful, and the player of Ymrhee the Unrepentant also for the better part of the last two years was bravely soldiering us through Iron Gods.
This on top of the Year of our Lord COVID did complicate the progress of the S&S campaign. However, the endeavors of the pirate captain Marshall Tobias Dragomir and his crew of reprobates who behave more like merchant marines than pirates has indeed continued.
(for the curious we're moving into the latter stages of one campaign now, S&S si building to this expansive "thing" and Iron Gods has been put on indefinite hiatus. The GM is excellent with years of experience, but there is a lack of connective tissue to the adventure path and the content is either underwhelming or so variable as to be somewhat hard to maintain a theme with. Valley of the Brain Collectors was the final straw. Though we love our characters, and we have mostly enjoyed material in the campaign with some truly hilarious moments, we're probably not completing Conan v the Alien Robots in reality. The GM is currently exploring new alternatives for a future campaign.)
Which brings us neatly to ... THE ISLAND OF EMPTY EYES
Consider this a meager taste. I'll be sharing a few of the tid-bits from the events of Book 4 tomorrow. I want to write them up properly. But there's a particular event that I wanted to share.
So, my players LOVE immersion. I'm starting to think this is in general a Pathfinder thing. They crave things which get them better into the mood of the campaign. And as such? We do feasts. For the party itself in Book 4, we started the session off with what was quite frankly a 4 course meal crafted by the members, complete with small cardboard treasure chest filled with plastic gems that could be used later as counters by the players.
But no, that didn't stop there. As we neared the end of the fourth book, I picked up the Lost Omens 2e material for the Mwangi Expanse and did not regret it a minute. I'd really wanted more on Bloodcove and Senghor and it delivered in spades. I've got lots of adjustments and the mechanics don't help, but the material and NPCs were helpful. Well, one of my players got their hands on the recipe for a spice rub barbecue in the sidebar, proclaiming to be an approximation of Bloodcove Barbecue.
Yeah, we had mustard-powder based barbecued pork ribs, baked potatoes in sea salt, baked macaroni and cheese and cookies before game. It was a miracle that I wasn't in a food coma for the rest of the night, but oh god it was good.
So, something to tell you guys: If you're still running old 1st ed material, don't necessarily ignore the 2e stuff. You might be fans of the mechanics (Look, we're old 3.5 players here. Creatures of habit. We buy for the fluff, not the mechanics), but Paizo does REALLY good immersion in its writings these days. And if you're planning to expand adventure paths beyond merely running through the dungeons, I highly recommend it.
If you're going to run S&S? You will not go wrong in picking up the Mwangi Expanse along with tracking down older material like the actual Shackles Splat Book.
I will return tomorrow with Adventure Path - Chapter 4: The Island of Empty Eyes
This is less of a question and more of a little something for James Jacobs. I run a tabletop with some of your older, 1st Edition product still, and we pick up and pepper in the good material we find in the various splat books for related sections of the Golarion Setting where appropriate.
We're still running a very long-running Skulls & Shackles campaign that we've been pecking at for years. Recently, I had recommended to me the Lost Omens product for the Mwangi Expanse. Lovely book. I've already gotten my money's worth out of it with some adjustments to our setting from the Vidrian, Bloodcove and Senghor material to give added sense to the setting around the Shackles.
Anyway, the point being that we had a session on Sunday, and the previous week I jokingly commented that your writers actually included a spice rub for barbecue meant to reflect Bloodcove cooking. It was a Mustard Powder/Brown Sugar spice rub. Well, my wife cooked spare ribs with the rub this last weekend and we started the S&S session off with a little feast.
If you have the means to do so, please tell whoever put that spice rub in that it was excellent, and we love its addition. Little things like that really add to the immersion of the game.
So, it's been a few years. And after chatting with my players, they suggested that I shouldn't leave the campaign at Book 4, not without coming back to Book 5... and the fight with Rasputin.
Now, I mentioned that I gave them Mythic, right? Yeah, Mythic is NOT why they managed to get Rasputin to do the absolutely unthinkable. There's a bit of a Content Warning below for NPC getting so desperate as to commit self harm.
spoilers for book 5:
So, first of all, we loved book five. I honestly feel that Book 5 should have been reworked and Grigori Rasputin remade as the 'secret manipulator behind everything' because this book just ended up being *mwuah* perfect. God... Book 5? Book 5 made up for tepid writing in books 3 and 6 and kind of a forced campaign start in book 1. Book 5 was just... f&*&ing worth it. We still talk about it years later. It was a legitimately FUN book.
Right, so, most of the shenanigans were what you'd expect for this yahoos. We had lost the spellcaster from books 3 & 4, so it was our Samsaran Witchguard, Orc Witch and Valeros 2.0 tag-teaming to take on the forces of Russia and Rasputin. They primarily focused on stealth tactics, and in this? They'd developed quite a niche at getting where I didn't expect them with ridiculous rolls and decked the NPC healer out with enough crap to make sure she could keep pace.
Where things got interesting was the Rasputin fight. Predictably, because I'd read book six over and over again and decided I had to rework EVERYTHING (I have opinions about book 6), the fight with Rasputin ended up being climactic confrontation of the entire campaign. They were primed for it, and by giving him mythic tiers, it was a vicious, hellish fight ... right up until the moment that the Witch caused Rasputin to decide that killing himself was the appropriate tactic in that moment.
So... let's return to our Orc Witch for a moment. Gorch was .. no question? An odd character. He utilized mythic tiers but only so much. The other members of the party got more out of it, and even at the minimal levels cold do impressive things. But Gorch found his niche in just the basic tricks he had at his disposal, and recently, he'd taken two levels as an Arcane Archer. This had caused no small amount of confusion on my part and the rest of the party. We got it. He could imbue some of his curse spells in arrows and get some serious range. Great, nifty. But it didn't seem worth it. And truth? It didn't really alter any major fights enough to be worth it... you know...
Until he shot Rasputin with an arrow carrying Source Severence as a spell. And then did it again the next round to cut Rasputin, now the personal target of the spell because of Imbue Spell's rules that even personal spells are now targeted where the arrow landed (in Rasputin), causing Rasputin to become a walking Anti-Divine, Anti-Arcane magic field. He was getting focus fired, battered by repeated attacks and utterly, incomprehensibly unable to impact the fight. Rasputin looked with rage as I went through his options, hit upon his one unique trick, and he shouted in rage, venting epithets in Russian and killed himself.
...to come to life back a little later while some of his minions still alive, but all of his magic back. He proceeded to attempt to beat a fighting retreat so that he could get through to safety and teleport to Jadviga in the hopes of enacting elaborate plans for revenge, but they were having none of it. It's been a couple years, but I'm pretty sure that they managed to Source Severence him AGAIN from divine magic (Gorch was saving all of those level 6 spells ONLY for him) and I 'think' I remember they dimensionally anchored the bastard before he could attempt to teleport away with arcane magic.
In the end, the fight was legitimately brutal. I'd allowed them upgrades and went whole hog upgrading him, and it was to the wire, but they did manage to kill Rasputin. (Ironically, even upgraded heavily, Jadviga didn't stand an ice cube's chance. Her fight was deceptively brief comparatively. Rasputin hit that perfect mark of threat to player abilities.) But what still to this day makes all of us laugh evil tears is that they managed to get Rasputin to KILL HIMSELF in the middle of their fight just so he'd have a chance to beat them when he came back from the dead.
Oh... hah, and I carefully watch the use of Source Severance after that fight, haha. It's a horrifying spell, and they know my NPCs can have it too.
Book 4 waits for, ballpark, 3 months. I will probably pick things back up in November based upon past experience. We've go three cycling campaigns to avoid GM burnout. Iron Gods is next, and then Pokemon United, then we're back to Pirating it up.
I'll be working on Book 4 in the interim, double-checking the logistics. They currently have several attendant vessels:
-The Dominator/Deep Platinum - Their Flagship obviously.
-The Man's Promise/Drowned Drachma - Rosie Cuswell as captain.
-The Thresher/Damp Riel - Royster McCleagh as captain.
-The Salty Flagon - Pierce Jerrell, good as his word, as pledged his ship to their fleet.
-*ship unnamed* - Gortus Svard, surviving the Regata to accuse Harrigan of cheating, pledges himself to them as a future commodore, saying a man owes him a favor while he goes to get a new, hopefully last, ship.
-*ship unnamed* - When faced with the Dragon Turtle Hirgenzosk, they go headlong at it and defeated it, throwing Besmara's Tricorne to the crew of the Sullied Strumpet fighting for their lives in the water after it capsized them. Their captain, Polly "The Saucy Devil" Trebilcock has sworn her allegiance.
-Waverider's Revenge/The Breaking Crest - Sprig as Captain. We played No Plunder no Pay immediately after Book 3 to wrap things up with a pathfinder chronicle (using my old Venture Captain from society play as the VC of Quent). The ship acquired in that book was kept and given to Sprig. (They have decided that he's earned it and his abilities are now less pivotal in a fight than Lirianne's gun or Sandara's healing.)
Next ship goes to Knuckles apparently.
So, they're already building a fleet. I'm treating a pre-Book 5 "Fleet" as a mixed squadron with one commodore (the admiral). The Skald can thus control 7 additional vessels besides his own, which lets them cover these ships and start building up as they approach book 4.
I totally expect them to have one hell of a struggle or two in Book 4, but I also expect them to get the highest prize. They were already talking about "Alright, so we have to host a pirate fete. What's the menu? Do we know who's coming? Do they have food allergies? Dude, I just know Aavimar Sorinash is going to be there. We've been avoiding that psycho! We're going to need a great place to host them. Gotta build docks..."
...no, seriously, they're already planning twelve steps ahead of Book 4 (I didn't even spoil Aavimar. They GUESSED he'd be one of them because he'd be a pain in the ass to host so of course he was one.). It'll be tough, but I'm expecting top prize (which means multiple pirate lords to the council.).
I will probably put a 'filler period' between Book 4 & 5. They have been hampering Chelish efforts repeatedly, giving me good excuse for Harrigan to need to take his time getting ready and Druvalia to plot cautiously. So I will probably craft additional material between books 4 & 5 as there's some open air for regular pirating as pirate lords, and just time a major Pirate Council meeting to kick off Book 5.
Feel free to ask any questions if you're curious. I know S&S is old material, but it's still fun. I'll be back probably with an update come Nov/Dec, when Book 4 wraps.
Tempest Rising Part 2 - The Regata and the Rescue of Grok.
Where in the World is Carmen Santiago goes just fine. It's by the book, and most of the encounters aren't all that fascinating. Good fights though. I use the Naga as an excuse to get them to visit the Windward Isle and keep up kingdom building, but otherwise it goes progressively forward.
Where things start to get interesting is run up to the Regata. The players have been tracking three ships in particular for months. The Dowager Queen, a chelish caravel that slipped past them before, has been tracked for a long time and they've determined that it's been hitting several ports and is now making a winding route back towards the Arch of Aroden, giving them a possible chance a really big score (This is exactly the kind of planning through Track Ship that should be awarded in my view.). The Blind Manta, which they left rudderless and crewless in the South Fever Sea, has been slowly flowing along the currents around the Shackles and back towards the Eye of Abendego, dangerously close to the future Regata course (not that they realize this). The "Birthday Present," a massive Junk that they sighted in Senghor has sailed around and to first the Ramport Isles, before waiting at Cauldron Rock seemingly for months.
The Dowager Queen I turn into a secondary pirate encounter with hints of Druvalia's plot. It's a ship that is heavy with plunder and a crew that is far too well armed. Originally intended to surrender to Harrigan as one of his first vessels, it is instead plucked up by the Deep Platinum after a serious fight. While they scratch their heads, Yhmrhi spreads rumors that there is plunder to be found near the site that they find it waiting, sending another pirate vessel to its doom at Harrigan's Hands. The PCs learn of that ship's sinking through Track Ship, adding to their paranoia.
The Birthday Present is my take on the optional "Big Blue" encounter. With two Metropolises easily accessible (Port Peril & Senghor), the PCs don't need a Mercane, not really. So, I altered the mercane to be a "Merchant Prince." Big Blue does not trade for your average +1 Sword. Instead, he sits surrounded by fascinating and exotic "Honored guests" hosting lavish parties and trades unique magical items for other ones to 'complete his collection.' The PCs traded him the Crystal Dodo, getting in turn a young slave he'd recently acquired in the Ramport Isles, who they freed and made their cabin girl (a blank slate lvl 1 for training as they see fit). He'll be sticking around in case they find something really unique that they want to trade something interesting that they'd rather not sell but don't want to use. For the flavor.
What of the Blind Manta? Oh, they narrowly avoid it for having tracked it during the Regata as it goes to its final doom, damaging but not stopping the Skullduggery and slowing it down.
But, before we get to the Regata, my players inform me that they have a crazy plan. They have been wanting to repay Grok for her kindness and offer her a chance to get out of the Wormwood's "Employ." So, they hatch a plan via animal messengers and sendings to contact her and use an animal messenger to fly a CAPE OF THE MOUNTEBANK to her. They have Brisbane craft the blasted thing, pay the cash for it and fly it in to teleport her away. I was sufficiently impressed when it happened that I allowed it, thus sparing Grok a horrible fate in Book 5. She currently is fighting through her alcoholism with Kroop's help and being instated as quartermaster on the Deep Platinum. (Deksyana's joke at the start o this all: "So are we playing heroes now?" Tobias: "No, no, I just always repay my debts and we owe her.")
The Regata goes great. By now, I'm getting happy with random names and stuff. I look up different ship sail configurations, name all the various ship captains that they meet (as potential rivals or ships in their fleet in books 5 & 6) and start looking up pictures. But of these interactions, the ones that stand out are Harrigan and the Skullduggery at the start of the race.
Harrigan, recognizing Tobias (it's hard to miss a crazy undine and an aasimar captain), storms up and snarls "You had one rule to obey. Just one. I never wanted to remember you or speak to you. And you couldn't even manage that simple task."
Tobias: "Excuse me, sir. I'm confused. Have we met?" (Yeah, he's not bluffing Harrigan, but he did bluff the other captains.)
The Skullduggery's meeting is tense, with glares and recriminations, but the two groups agree that... for now, as long as they are not attacking each other and don't plan to for the moment (neither does), if Badger stays out of sight and never gets caught, the Platinum doesn't have to execute her and the Skullduggery doesn't have to get revenge. A shaky truce is born, though it remains very shaky when Brisbane begins casting Detect Scrying at the end of book 3 and finds out that the Skullduggery or Wormwood has been using Track Ship on them, further advancing the paranoia of both vessels.
How'd they do in the regata? Uh, something like +30 points. They spent more on scrolls and pre-prep than they won in the purse itself (though the prize was the island and a seat on the council, let's be honest). They utterly destroyed it through careful planning and a lot of well timed magic.
Also, Gallant Inspiration is total hacks, just saying.
So, one of the fastest ways to screw with your players is to have people who plan based upon their tactics. I crafted the Skullduggery as a group of former Pathfinders who turned to piracy and Anti-Cheliax movements after they went about 1/2-2/3 of the way through Legacy of Fire (which we will never play. Absolutely no interest in the players). When the PCs begin scrying and regularly checking in on the Skullduggery, I have to come up with a few responses or it'll be an easily forgotten plot and ended very quickly.
-1) Why not hand Badger over. Easy, ends up being one of the officers' lovers. Done.
-2) How do they respond to the scrying: The ship is being upgraded for the Regata with armored plating to protect against the harsh shoals and rocky walls of the Iris. In the metal plating, they include a lead lining. Suddenly a wide assortment of scrying spells (including Scrying and Track Ship) will not work on their vessel.
-3) They too use Track Ship (using something of the vessel that Badger carried with her but not telling her why.). She doesn't know about the spell herself, but they do and use it about once a week to avoid close contact with the Deep Platinum because it feels like a futile and wasted fight to go up against something that they're sure has a full barrage of cannons.
(I don't like NPCs using track ship. It's a powerful spell and if it was used regularly by pirates, could destabilize the setting, so I treat this as a rare tactic used by only a scant few captains, none of whom reveal that they do it lightly. most of them are either wreckers or pirate lords.)
The side effect of having a vessel, the first one really since the Dominator, that they can't track serves as a burr in the PCs saddle to keep them goaded to be paranoid and not complacent, perfect for the rest of the campaign.
Tempest Rising Part 1 - The Problem with Badger Medlar.
The Test to become Pirates: Goes almost comically well. The actual encounters are designed to only be minimally challenging, and they make mincemeat of the social check at the party, acquiring vast infamy and reputation.
Gortus Svard makes a reappearance here, having claimed a new vessel and telling them he hopes to see them at the Regata, where he plans to trounce them and prove that his luck hasn't run out. I place him as the captain of the Barnacled B$!+~ (the vessel betrayed by Harrigan in the Regata, giving a good excuse for him to take Sandara's place as a commodore in book 5, as she's still a "Party Member.").
Pierce Jerrel is currently being "romanced" by Yhmrhi, who has given him the shrunken corpse of Master Scourge as a gift and token of her affection. They get into a betting match with him, first to see who gets more in their holds in the next month (They do, handily. You guys know how much plunder is in Book 3), and then convincing him to enter the Regata, with whoever wins agreeing to be part of the other's fleet. It feels really in character for Jerrel (And it's a convenient excuse to make him into a Commodore in Book 5 as is already suggested), so I'm running with them getting into pirate dares with him.
They manage to capture Caulky Tarroon, who Tobias had tried to recruit on the Wormwood and failed. Desperate for her life, she decides to try her lot at least for now with the Deep Platinum. In short order, however, she can see that as long as Harrigan never finds her, this is a MUCH better situation and starts to become loyal to the crew.
An offer of a job by the Pirate Lord Fairwind is obviously accepted, and besides they already hate Cheliax so they're totally on board with this whole thing...
But there's a wrinkle in their plans. Badger Medlar.
Who the F is Badger, you ask? She's one of the regular Wormwood crew. A buck warrior 2 with terrible stats. A tired half-elf who they rolled 1s on their attempts to get her on their side, and who sided with Scourge, trying to kill Yhmrhi in the bilges back in Book 1. They've had her as a press-ganged crew member since Book 1, and while they've been good to her she's been getting more and more paranoid. Tobias now uses Spell Kenning to cast Mark of Blood on his crew so he can keep tabs on them (in case he needs to rescue them because they're HIS crew and you don't press-gang HIS crew, or he murders you in your sleep.). Mark of Blood, regular magical healing, a freaking frigate and food like no pirate ever gets regularly, along with as much equipment as they can spare to make them really badass is usually more than enough for the regular crew to love being loyal to their captain... but Badger?
She's been trapped in the ship, unable to see shore for months, and now he's cast Mark of Blood on her. She's convinced he's going to kill her because of all the secrets she knows before she ever gets out, so she finally hatched a plan. Throughout Book 2 she retrained as a rogue and gradually leveled with the crew (I level generic crew members +1 level per book, and do the same for enemy crews to keep fights serious.). Now, at Level 4, she finally has access through Rogue Talents to Vanish. While they're in Port Peril at the tests, she Vanishes with all her stuff, flees to the nearest magic shop, sells everything for a Potion of Remove Curse, and gets that Mark of Blood off before trying to disappear entirely on the next ship out of town.
Tobias, Deksyana and Yhmrhi officially flip the F out. Their players are having a blast, but all three get a low grade obsession about finding this massive security risk (They're keeping the cannons quiet, hiding the Cloudkill use to take the Dominator so it doesn't get done to them, hiding from Harrigan, and are afraid she might know not only their abilities but about Track Ship even though the main crew doesn't know.), tracking her down and shanking her in a back alley.
This search continues for as long as they're in Port Peril and, on a whim, I say that she's snuck onto one of the other regata participants, the Skullduggery. Shortly after they leave port, Tobias begins regularly scrying on her, and I know that I have a plot hook I can toy with them over on top of the main plot: The trouble with Badger and the Skullduggery.
With this, I begin statting out the Skullduggery to be a capable, extremely dangerous but very solitary pirate vessel that is out of the party's league at this time, but not actively planning to engage them if they can help it. An additional thorn in their side because of Badger and a potential rival pirate group. They're powerful enough to be a focus of the side campaign, but not ambitious enough to overshadow Harrigan, Druvalia and Bonefist, at least not for now.
The Sack of the Dominator... and the Christening of the Deep Platinum
Kreelort is dead. Wolfe's Treasure is theirs. They're famous enough that they feel comfortable seeking to be named Free Captains (and Kroop is advising them to do it soon because the Hurricane King will want his cut from their kingdom). And suddenly the Dominator won't appear on their maps.
They're nervous about this, but they opt to start sailing to Port Peril. I have my own plans. They've been ducking the "Dominator Encounter" several times successfully, and I want to give them a real challenge before they start Book 3, either a good excuse to scare the fear of god into them while they flee or to see just how insane they are.
I put a tropical storm in their path, forcing them to either face several stormbound hazards or make anchor in a small island inlet about fifty miles north of the Windward Isle. They opt to anchor, which starts the traditional Dominator encounter. Seeing its flag in the flash of the storm while they're hidden away, they freak out a little bit at first. But, seeing it anchored there, they decide to investigate and ultimately... yeah, my players are crazy.
So, a few things have changed at the end of Book 2. One, Tobias now has Leadership at level 7. His recruited cohort is a wizard specializing in the use of explosive runes and focused on anti-caster spellcasting, a ratfolk by the name of Brisbane the Deliverer. With some arcane punch, they've bought several scrolls in preparation to add them eventually to Brisbane's book as counterspell work. One of these is a spell that they are a wee bit paranoid about even at this level because it can absolutely WRECK a vessel:
Now, they come up with an insane plan. As stealthily as possible, the officers of the Drowned Drachma would sneak into the tiller area of the Dominator and prepare to begin ambushing and slitting the throats of the officers of the chelish warship while the rest of the crew have been poised outside at the treeline, hidden in the dark. By now, the crew of the Wormwood have been retrained as gunslingers and turned into a small rifle crew and are prepared to fire upon any marines they see once the signal goes off.
Brisbane pulls off a caster level check and releases the cloudkill into the hold while they pull off some insane stealth checks to coup de grace as many officers as possible. This goes on for several rounds, for almost a full minute before they are finally caught in their efforts, not by the Kyan Kain, but by the ship's navigator (An NPC I gave the Captain to give her a fighting chance. Her cohort was a spellcaster who'd been fooling their track ship and trying to track down the upstart pirates himself).
The thing was, Cloudkill would gradually go through the decks, sinking lower and lower, and even if I upgraded the crew of the dominator by a full level they were still automatically dead and likely dead at +2 levels. With the alarm taking so long to raise, it absolutely devastated the crew. Their surprise gave them enough of a drop on the Captain, her Cleric, Cavalier and pet Sorcerer that they were able to keep them separated between the rooms of the officer's quarters that they could beat each down seperately.
Yhmrhi and Brisbane spent the fight taking out the spellcaster. Deksyana goes toe to toe with the captain, stated as a two-handed specialist (and I find out that letting Deksyana get a chance to charge her blasts = dead NPC), and Tobias, Sprig and Knuckles work to handle the rest of the officers, Knuckles knocking Kyan Kain out with a massive punch.
It was all or nothing. Win, or the campaign might be over, but they play the cards obscenely carefully and carried the day. At the cost of a Scroll of Cloudkill, they claim a Chelish Pirate Hunter and take a week or two off to have it Squibbed, choosing to arrive in Port Peril, not in the Man's Promise/Drowned Drachma, but in the newly Christened Deep Platinum. And me? I buy the playmat "Bigger Ship" because... yeah. I wanted it, and this was a good excuse.
The Drowned Drachma is handed over to Rosie Cuswell, who takes Cog as her mate and begins regular defensive raiding and pirate circuits from the Windward Isle. Royster McCleagh is tasked to man Isabelle Inskin's "Thresher" (now the Damp Riel. They've got a coin thing going.) with anti-pirate protection, and he begins building a defensive force for the Windward Isle.
Now, at this point I did change one major thing about the Dominator. Not only did I up the stats of its crew by a level and stat out officers besides Kain, giving them a cohort sorcerer and a two-handed fighter captain, but I built them with the understanding that the setting is firearms heavy. It was a Pirate Hunter, so ... yeah. It has a deck of concealed cannons (and they needed the Captain's Locker to have hold space properly).
I know there's risk in giving them cannons (because of course they didn't sell them), but to be clear: They've verified that these are weapons to use only when they absolutely need to. They're pricey and they prefer to capture vessels. So, for all that they have 20 cannons and hired a crew in book 3 specifically to man them? They haven't fired them ONCE yet. I don't feel quite so nervous. They know to treat the weaponry responsibly as players, and we get to have a pirate frigate with actual canons.
As a GM: Cannon inclusion - Be careful to know your players. It can trivialize ship to ship combat if you're not careful. It hasn't proven an issue for us, but it is something to be careful of.
...that and they 'could' have sold all that for about 60,000+ gold and gotten a mint (but I knew they wouldn't. Seriously, would YOU?)
So, I told you guys that these three were entirely on board with wanting to be pirate lords and create a pirate kingdom? Yeah, they were wanting to do a lot with Tidewater Rock. They claimed it by marriage (Hey, it's not like Tobias won't outlive his new bonny bride, so why not have a business arrangement.) and immediately started looking around for "How can we improve this? Can we conquer the neighboring island?"
...so, yeah. Hah. I was like "You don't even have a writ yet, but you're on the edge of the Shackles, so you can claim the rock. That's story. You want me to break out the kingdom building rules?" And we broke out the kingdom building rules. MORE LOGISTICS. Haha, yeah. They were absolutely thinking out entire plans on how to build Shipwrights on the neighboring larger island and build this into a major trade settlement with a protection racket for ships going through its territorial waters to Senghor and Bloodcove (not Sargava. Not horning in on Port Peril's racket).
This afforded me the first real chance to start divorcing from the main materials themselves. It was now clear that they wanted to keep going at this, even over and above the series' storyline (and there's a solid chance that we may do post-game adventures with S&S's setting after book 6). Enter Cucumber Isle. I came up with reasons that it was never settled, putting an old temple to Thuskchoon (the slug qlippoth lord) there that spewed out infernal large slugs killing any villagers who tried to settle there. Cleansing the island of this temple netted them contact with a cyclops trapped in the temple who has become a minor advisor and the mystic means of contact between their ship and the kingdom.
But once again I think the thing that made me laugh most about that. I used a throwaway Cyclops prophet to do a one off encounter to give them hints of stuff coming in later books. They tried to recruit her with, you guessed it, the food plan. Cyclops, known for gluttony and they're offering her the finest food they can manage (and to be clear, they were blowing about 1,000 gp/book by now to stock Kroop on spices and non-perishable foodstuffs.). So, after I laughed, we agreed that she wouldn't ever be on their ship, but she's proven an amusing storyline element getting ready for book 4.
-Yeah, so as soon as they met Rickety Hale they were trying to recruit him to do shipwright business in the future. Their eyes were on making a fleet from day 0 apparently. I started breaking out Squadron rules almost immediately to familiarize myself even though they did not formally claim a second and third vessel until the end of Book 2 and the start of Book 3.
This is where things got interesting, and by interesting, I mean Logistics Heavy. My players found the spell "Track Ship," and Yhmrhi could breathe underwater, so they flat out told me that every time they were in port they were going to steal every single shard they could from every vessel underwater. One of Sandara's big jobs became casting Track ship every day to gauge where various merchant vessels were in the area.
It was at this point that I had to start using google spreadsheets to avoid going insane. I was annoyed for one day, and then I started loving it. I grabbed fantasy name generators for random pirates and kept a record of their current crew along with all of the slivers they were hunting.
What this meant, however, was that they had valid excuse to accurately hunt down other ships. They footed the cash in Bloodcove or Squibs to pay for a Banner of Piracy, and combined the tactics to trick ships into easy boarding actions over and over again, splitting large shares with the crew. So I began to keep tabs on what they were spending on the arsenal of the crew.
Overall, the side effect was we had this lengthy several months-long sojourn as they did circuit after circuit more or less from Firegrass Isle's viscinity to Bloodcove and back around to Senghor, with plans that they ultimately scrapped to hit Sargava (I think they plan to go back at some point).
The campaign became a chess game of 'where on the map are all of them' with them hunting down as many challenging threats as possible and keeping tabs on the ones that got away.
Some of the Fun Moments of Book 2:
1) Knuckles Grype knocked the captain out with a Knock-Out Punch (I turned him into a proper brawler), which earned him a job offer and a promise down the road that he'd be a captain in his own right after he proved himself. He is still proud of the fact that he knocked Tobias flat.
2) They pulled some serious shenanigans when they spied the Dominator using the Farglass from miles and miles away to manage to get a sliver of the vessel. I did not make it easy, but they fairly got it, which allowed them to escape near miss after near miss, dodging the ship using Track Ship, as it became increasingly aware that something was up and they were being scried. One day, it disappeared on their maps and they knew that the gig was up and the Dominator was blocking their scrying attempts.
3) Their first village that they sacked had a village tree and an elder who was a spell caster. When she escaped them, they made a point by chopping the tree down (thus desecrating the ties of the community to Gozreh.). I used it as an excuse to create a minor NPC that hunted them and went completely insane, performing an infernal pact in her efforts to get back at them.
4) They pointedly tried to recruit Gortus Svard. When they beat his ship, they ultimately gave him back his blade, told him that his life was now theirs and offered him a "job" in the fleet while giving the ship he was sacking to him rather than his current warship. Bruised and ruined, the pirate captain fumed and tried to decide if he was out for vengeance, or if he was going to ultimately side with them as far bigger fish.
-Of all of the books, the Wormwood Mutiny was the one that has gone the most straightforwardly for reasons I'm sure anyone that's played can understand. The PCs are trapped on the ship, at Harrigan and Plugg's mercy, and so their story is effectively centered on a pre-set path of adventures until they claim their own vessel and their ultimate destiny as pirates of the high seas.
However, there were a few reasonably key notes:
-First of all, they pretty much charmed the entirety of the Wormwood's Crew. Rosie, Sprig (standing in for Conchobar), Grok and Kroop were literally putty in their hands, and they developed an immediate liking for Kroop despite his being drunkenly inept. Tobias saw potential in him after a few talks, and began trying to work on the old drunk early on, while the players focused their ire on other people than Grok and went out of their way to be good to her.
Cog was a little tricky because of rocky rolls, but they got him on their side. Jack Scrimshaw, Narwhal Tate, Barefoot Toppins, Tilly, Aretta, Fipps, Ratline, Maheem and Giffer and ALL of the Man's Promise crew that Plugg brought on to bolster his chances at mutiny were converted into crew eventually. Of the rest, only Badger Medlar survived (turning against them because of epically bad rolls), and she became something of a ... story.
-Deksyana did not reveal her powers as a hydrokineticist to anyone but the PCs until they were marooned on Bonewrack Isle, while the others kept their cards close but did not hide that they had power somewhat. The result was that, when she returned to the Man's Promise and obliterated Plugg with a water blast, she terrified the whole crew (And Harrigan had no clue that she was anything other than a borderline incompetent warrior.)
-When they claimed the Man's Promise, that was the day that the fun really began. By acclaim, Tobias was named captain of the new vessel and instituted his policies.
--The Man's Promise, now called the Drowned Drachma, was always hiring and competency and loyalty were the keys to getting on the ship. Period. He didn't care about the fact that someone had been an enemy once. If they could sail under him, be loyal, they could be considered a work in progress.
--Punishment on the Drowned Drachma was a bit unique. It was metted out either by the hydrokineticist or via "Coin Shot," the spell. Coppers for 'rope bash' level infractions. Silvers for 'serious' crimes, and Golds and Platinums for stuff nearing Keelhauling. Tobias talked in terms like he was investing in his crew when he did this, using his coin shot to 'buy' the loyalty and invest in those they took from Plugg's employ. Badger got the harshest treatment because she outright tried to kill one of the crew before (Yhmrhi) at the behest of Plugg.
--Everything was done in 'business' terms like he was some merchant prince. So, they started advertising their "Health Plan" (employing multiple magical healers), their "Food Plan" (By bolstering Kroop's confidence and spending money to get high end spices and foods for him) and the fact that they lavished equipment on the crew rather than selling it off for personal cash. Every act of piracy was like forceful, hostile negotiations and recruitment, a chance to hire more people.
--Three Rules of Particular Note - Romance was to be by consent only, no theft between crewmen, and they didn't traffic in slaves. The crew decided the slave trade was too likely to result in revolts and so avoided it entirely, usually skipping even ransoms unless it was for a non-chelaxian aristocrat.
So, First Caveat that made me laugh through the whole campaign and will continue to do so: These three were 100% on board with the ENTIRE PLOT of the campaign.
1) I had warned them "Don't tank Charisma. Socializing is part of being a pirate." But they went above and beyond. Each of the three: Deksyana, Tobias and Yhmrhi specialize in different forms of intimidation, bluff and diplomacy and focus on building crew loyalty, making them almost overprepared for most of the social elements of the campaign.
2) They were planning an eventual mutiny from day 1, and already on board with preparing to kill Harrigan eventually, treating him as a primary villain. They went OUT OF THEIR WAY to avoid his scrutiny through every means possible so that he didn't know they still existed until the day of the Regata. Their paranoia over him was the stuff of legends.
3) They were planning their fleet the moment that they squibbed the Man's Promise and rechristened her the Drowned Drachma. Their VERY NEXT vessel, they were assessing whether or not it could be incorporated into a fleet and I was just "slow your roll guys, wow. So you want a fleet that badly?" They were already chomping at the bit for creating a pirate kingdom and fleet, without ANY prompting from the books.
4) They were so intensely into the idea of a pirate kingdom that I included a 'quicky' version of the kingdom rules that we've been rolling every month since they claimed Tidewater Rock.
5) These guys are really really big on recruiting NPCs instead of killing them. I have to look at NPCs they will fight ahead of time to determine if there's even a chance of recruitment. If they 'could' recruit someone, assume that they did. Because they start almost every fight with Tobias or one of the others saying "Just telling you ahead of time, we are hiring! We have an excellent food plan!"
My players: This is going to be a pointedly evil campaign.
Tobias Dragomir: Aasimar athiest Skald and "Gentleman Merchant." A hater of most gods, he is a failed businessman with decades of attempts and losses, many tied to prior campaigns we've played. The 'Admiral' of the building crew.
Deksyana: Future Bosun of the Drowned Drachma and later Deep Platinum, she is a cruel, hard-bitten and deadly human Hydrokineticist with a laugh as she sadistically destroys any who threaten her life.
Yhmrhi the Unrepentant: The psychotic and insane Undine Spiritualist whose sister (Envy) aids her in combat. She is both a twisted taxidermist who likes to keep her prized victims as shrunken heads on her person, and who is a compulsive liar, constantly spinning false tales and gossip in every town the go to.
Sandara Quinn & Kroop - I hate to say it, but duh. So, because I have 3 and not 4 players, I generally make it so that there is one NPC always with the party as a "Fourth." For understandable reasons, although the hydrokineticist can single-target heal, the party prefers to have a healer around, and Sandara was both convenient and easy to use. They have two other NPCs on the crew they've used for ship-board actions, but Sandara is the 'go to' for dungeon adventures.
Spriggan "Sprig" Elias Thornblood IV - A Grippli Ranger. Sprig was created as a playful replacement to Conchobar in book 1. Conchobar would not have worked in interacting with the cast for reasons that will be clearer shortly. Sprig was a more 'playful' take on his romancing attitude that also avoided being a Bard when they already had a Skald. They've made regular use of him for 'ship board' events (leaving Sandara to heal the crew) because of his ability to share bonuses against the humans they fight.
Lirriane - Yes, the iconic gunslinger. These guys requested a firearm heavy story, so I relented because damnit it's pirates. I wanted the too. I'll just make old Bonefist more impressive in his own right. They outright hired a gunslinger in Bloodcove, hunting for much of Book 2 to find a good one, and we settled on making the iconic into a Musket Master version of herself.
A couple notes -
- The Rules of the Fleet of Coins that they began to establish included two very specific rules. The crew was fine to plunder their victims as they saw fit and encouraged to better themselves, but they were not to steal from/cheat each other and sex on the boat was expressly by consent only. The latter was mostly a player request since we were playing horrible psychotic buccaneers here, a request I was all too happy to fulfill. Keep everything nice and RRRRRR, not NC-17.
This did, however, make Conchobar a tiny bit uncomfortable as an NPC. He carries a Potion of Love he clearly is considering using on Rosie, as he's trying to romance her. It was just close enough that I opted to change the character, as his whole story surrounds him pushily romancing a female character, so I created a hopeless romantic grippli pretending to be a Frog Prince who only true love's kiss will turn him back into the elven prince he is. We... haven't regretted the decision. Yeah, there's ways to make Conchobar work, but in the end? I just didn't like him of all the NPCs so poof. Frog buccaneer.
So, it's been a while but I have to say that my players continue to impress me with how 'in to' a setting they can get within the mechanics of the original pathfinder game system. There's a remote possibility some of you recall the antics of our Samsaran led party in Reign of Winter, posing as fey over and over again.
Well, since the closure of the Reign of Winter campaign, we'd agreed that we wanted to try our hand at an evil campaign, but none of us was at all enchanted with Hell's Vengeance. We're not big Chelaxian fans as a rule other than cheap jokes at the diabolists' expense. Since we had done Hell's Rebels in an online campaign for years and everyone at the sit-down group liked the idea of a Pirate Campaign, I'd had Skulls and Shackles ready to go.
So, I thought I'd share a few of our highlights when I remember to do so. We've just completed book 3 and as we switch campaigns for a couple months, I'm working on plans for Book 4 at a measured pace.
Some general commentary on the Skulls and Shackles Adventure Path:
First of all, storyline wise, this is arguably one of the best if not the best Adventure Path I've ever had the privilege to run. The writing of the story is logical, mostly seamless and with perfect use of the various memes one expects of a pirate campaign. The mechanics of the setting are 'usually' in no need of rewriting, despite the fact that the Path is a very old one comparatively and my players are a high-wealth group with access to two Occult Adventures classes and an Advanced Class one, making their tactics drastically outside of what was expected when the Path was written.
Now, here's the caveat on "scaling encounters." The storyline encounters (e.g. guys like Milksop Morgan, Kreelort, Inkskin Locke, the Whale.) are generally not in need of much upgrading. I sometimes toss Advanced onto a couple of them when I feel they need just a bit more pep, but these 'crafted' NPCs usually prove extremely solid at giving challenges even when the PCs are prepped for them (they're an anti-arcane party, but even still Milksop gave them a fair run for their money, as did the illusionist I am suddenly forgetting). I think this is because when they did NPC crafting, they played well to the skill set of the NPCs, meaning that I could take full advantage of what made their classes tick.
However, the generic ship encounters were in need of 100% complete rewrites. The average vessels in Book 2 needed full rewrites. Within short order the party were slaughtering lvl 2 fighters and warriors with generic pirate stats. I understood why they were done the way that they were, being generic low-grade pirates and merchant vessels, but we wanted continued challenge so I built templates for various generic crewmen both for the PCs vessels and the NPCs. This upgraded encounters to the kind of nailbiters that made them smile which pleased me.
I've done extensive reads of all six books, and I'm going to say point blank that I'm a total brownnoser with the Paizo staff for this series. James, Rob and the rest of the team knocked it out of the park overall with this. Most Adventure Paths falter in at least 2 books, at no fault of the team really. It is fair to say that keeping tone for six full books and an entire character's career is not easy and, for every Frozen Stars or Rasputin Must Die, you're going to get a Mother, Maiden, Crone.
There are 'weaker' installments in the series, but Skulls and Shackles does one of the best jobs I've seen so far of series I've played in or run (Wrath, Hell's Rebels, S&S, Iron Gods, Mummy's Mask in particular with some experience in Rise of the Runelords). The theme is clear throughout. Progression is logical (Book 1 - Swabs get ship, Book 2 - We be Pirates, Book 3 - Gaining Recognition as Pirates and seeking the council, Book 4 - Earning their place on the council, Book 5 - Facing off against Harrigan and revealing the final end-game villains, Book 6 - Claim the Crown for Yourself and Down with Cheliax.).
The Strongest Installments:
Wormwood Mutiny - This one really gets them into the idea of being pirates and 'puts them in their place' with ample reason to build a true loathing for one of the primary villains of the whole story arc. Claiming their first vessel then feels like a challenge and something they've earned.
Raiders of the Fever Sea - Though generic NPCs needed a complete overhaul, this is one of the best 'open world' installments I've seen in an adventure path. As long as the GM is creative, you could all kind of things with this book. It's easy to charge through, but better if you take your time.
The Price of Infamy - We're not here yet, but there's a lot to love about the build up to confronting Harrigan. The fleet battle also isn't cumbersome in comparison to the armada of Book 6. It's a 'good' introduction to the fleet mechanics so they're ready for them in Book 6.
The 'weaker installments:'
Tempest Rising - Don't get me wrong. 'Weaker' comes in quotes. Tempest Rising had great encounters and lots of good material for me to use in building up the feel of internal politics among the Pirate Lords. However, the investigation itself (while logically serving as an excuse to visit all major Pirate Ports in the Shackles) is a little wonky and time consuming without teleportation. We jokingly called it the "Where in the World is Carmen Santiago" part of the book.
Island of Empty Eyes - I'm going to need to do some reworking so that Book 4 does not become a massive dungeon slog. The material is great itself, but it's a bit more "Traditional Pathfinder" than "Pirates on the High Seas." However, the piracy content is still solid and I'll be able to do a lot between the cracks.
Alright enough gumming up the works with my commentary, on with the show!
And we return, after quite a while of silence, to our scheduled "Wait, what exactly did my crazed party do?" installments. All has been quiet, as the campaign is one of three that has been run off and on for some time, and frankly Book 2 was hilarious, what with the blue-skinned Samsaran posing as a winter-touched fey witch and such. Book 3 was, predictably, something of a slow point. We got through it, but the storyline is very limited.
Oh, but they did not disappoint in Book 4. And they are continuing to not disappoint. So, we're out of the introductory zone and onto part 1 and it starts out almost immediately going into crazy-town.
Stuff related to the siege that they completely ignored.:
So, by now I am accustomed to the fact that the worst stealth check in my party is the heavily armored NPC cleric healer at +2, and the rest of the party is considerably better at stealth. I knew that they were probably going to try to sneak up on the castle.
Nobody really knows any language other than draconic to parley with either side, and only one member knows draconic. And, while our blue-skinned little rogue turned ranger, turned Witchguard of the Orc Scarred witch is good at some things, their usual schtick just isn't working on another planet. The party decides to look for a way in. They've acquired a legitimate arcane spellcaster lately, and that spellcaster happens to know teleportation magic, so it seems like a brilliant idea to sneak in close enough to get to a teleportation point and try to get into the castle.
Smart, right? Well, the scouting team of Greta + Blue-Skinned Misty are thoroughly enough to find the location and assist getting past the General's patrols. They get to the desired point sufficient distance away and the arcane caster and everyone else fails to detect that something is horribly wrong and gets shunted into the teleportation trap.
The encounter with the Iron Golem is easily the most terrifying fight that they've had since I brought Hommelstaub back, armed with several levels more of Oracle, amplified gear, a few elementals and an axe to grind from book one. Nothing in Book 3 challenged them this way. But, their anti-adamantine DR was a liiiitttle under the weather, so they barely got through it. Afterwards, one silence spell and some care later, and they got the drop on the guards in the guard room of the prison cells. The spellcaster is one of those rare "I like enchantment spells a lot, and have a colossal caster stat" types, so one Deep Slumber and a Suggestion later after a botched initiative on the guards' parts, and they were locking themselves in a jail cell, out of combat.
Where things get hilarious is that the players very carefully used gloves of reconaissance and proper scouting techniques to, by sheer guesswork take the small likelihood of avoiding all of the heavily armed-guard frequenting points and go RIGHT FOR THE COMMANDERS' PERSONAL CHAMBERS. DC 30 locks? No problem. Hey, look. There's the key.
I finally had to make a hip shot choice between "Is the commander in that room, or is the siege beginning in earnest." Coin flip, and the General has begun their offensive. They have literally skipped the primary thrust of the first campaign arc and are trying to sneak out/fight their way through the siege as the general's forces engage, prepping a scroll-cast bubble of invisibility sphere and passwall to enable them to potentially get the party through the damned outer walls. Because I am allowing Mythic 1 for the characters (And believe me, fighting a Mythic Treant was a fun fight in the first part), the spellcaster has wild magic, which means that yes, you guessed it. They can actually attempt to passwall through this castle's walls successfully with two casts.
I now must re-write several encounters, create additional storyline and somehow address the massive gear issues, as their social approach eerily enough made them drastically undergeared at the start of this book, having avoided several key fights. So, it is time to start pulling things out of the posterior, because we're about the go off the grid.
Scorpion, just thought I'd note: Your statblocks have been very helpful especially in the last three books in boosting the overall threat-level of several of the encounters. I think you've wrapped your head well around the idea of how the mythic material works in actual combat and thusly how to set up the NPCs to be more effective without overkill.
Paul - LG Male Human Paladin/Rogue/Fighter Hybrid of Sarenrae - Champion, "Exposed to Awfulness"
Acoran - NG Male Human Cleric of Sarenrae - Hierophant, "Touched by Divinity"
Iardi - LN Male Human Inquisitor of Iomedae - Marshall/Champion, "Child of the Crusade"
Samantha - CG Female Tiefling Wizard (Transmuter), devout worshiper of Milani - Archmage, "Riftwarden Orphan"
A brief return. We have now concluded the tale of the last Mendevian Crusade. Deskari, lord of Locusts fell and a successful Soul-Bind was cast to ensure he could not resurrect afterwards using a gem given by Iomedae at the end of Book 5.
The final party was comprised of Paul, Acoran, Iardi and Samantha, along with Sargona, an ascended Planetar present since mid-book 5 and Arushalae. In the aftermath of the rebuilding, Paul moved into relative retirement having had his fill of crusades and holy wars unless called upon by Sarenrae. Iardi and Acoran were presumably involved in the rebuilding efforts, but had largely no battles to fight. Sargona returned, no longer shamed, to the courts of Iomedae. Arushalae was found largely in the courts of Desna. Samantha, now known by her family name of "Liath" gave the gem of Deskari to Iomedae for safe keeping and largely disappeared from sight into a demiplane of her creation.
She did so out of distaste for the mortal realm and the reactions of the crusaders. Having become a Divine Source and, through her actions, a saint of Milani, she was developing a cult of worshipers she never wanted. With the GM's permission, I've been allowed to create a priest of my own character for Mummy's Mask starting next week.
Liath is ****'d as hell, and I have to come up with tenets for a horked off tiefling saint of Milani.
Has anyone thought of just maybe using the Terrain and having the PCs make survival checks and such to be even able to stay in the Abyss and world wound for longer then a few hours at a time?
What about having them make hourly checks to resist the corruption of the abyss? Each time they fail then gain negatives to saves and start to lose some sanity, they can't "cure" this because it is the Abyss itself that is perverting them, They can leave the abyss for 24 hours to rest and be tended too. The longer they stay the more likely they are to be corrupted. Also each step into one of said Demon Lords Citadels doubles the saves they have to make.
We all know that the Demon lords are watching them come, make them more prepared so by the time they get to them they are weakened or they are so low on resources rock-et-tag becomes something they don't want to play.
Also if they bring NPCs with them (no idea if people's parties did) have them roll 2 saves per hour as they aren't "Mythic" and can't just resist such power. Irabeth fallen and turned into a Anti-Paladin would be hard on the party and on her wife.
Raltus, now that we're at the cusp of the final encounter I feel comfortable slipping back here. There's only one thing left to fight, and I know the GM is modding the encounter heavily as is...
I like what you're suggesting conceptually, but not necessarily exactly in mechanics. However, in several parties, spells like Mass Planar Adaptation would be effectively automatic spell inclusions due to the sheer number of planar encounters the parties have had. I know that from about the middle of book 4, Planar Adaptation (and Mass when it became available) was cast on the party constantly. By the numbers, that spell negates this sort of negative effect and a competent wizard at this level should be at least considering using it.
Technically a player, but we just started book six, so you're not spoiling anything. ^.~
That was largely our experience at that location, NH. Mythic wasn't really smacking hard just yet. The Transmuter had a limited number of mythic spells at that stage and saves could go abysmally much more easily, which was very dangerous against the latter two of the NPCs you mentioned (Not to mention our Paladin hadn't retrained to their final build-direction, which they did after book 2.). We came to dread that particular class of enemy until the next book, at which point the power-scales had tipped significantly in the party's favor. But, several levels and 2 mythic tiers will do that.
So, yeah, we definitely found that particular series of encounters challenging.
Inspired Spell and Wild Arcana are abilities to keep in the back of your mind with spellcasters on the Hierophant and Archmage tracks. Alone, they don't completely alter the face of the game. However, they do mean that at any moment, the caster can belt out almost any spell their hearts wish to toss at you. It can make the magic element a touch unpredictable, and it can mean that they always have the one trick that they need to get out of a jam, regardless of the situation.
In the end, they tend to make appearances in our group more as a means for the divine spellcaster to throw down almost endless collections of Heal spells and Mythic Heal spells on the party, something that, with Divine Reach, will make it very difficult to bring down a party with a well trained cleric or oracle of life behind it. So, keep in the back of your mind that in due time, your healer may be doing that (even with turning it into a standard action).
Our Arcanist chose Arcane Surge, which creates an entirely different set of problems with their sky-high DCs and spells like Baleful Polymorph. Beads of Newt Protection are regular loot these days on boss characters.
Ok, I don't care about the rest. I got to have a little 'moment' right at the start of Book 6. The GM finished the initial box text as our party saw the demonic horde approaching, my transmuter turned to Irabeth and said "Excuse me for a minute." Invisibility went up, along with Undetectable and Fly. She teleported a mile out and flew over the horde.
5 Mythic Points and one Super Baleful Polymorph later, and the GM officially dubbed the battle "The Day of the Bunny," which would be henceforth spoken of in hushed tones among demons for ages to come and with laughter and triumph by crusaders everywhere.
The night where every one in four-hundred Babau, Schir, Succubus, Incubus, Brimorak or Dretch making up the foot-soldiers of that massive armed force within a 2 mile diameter got turned into rabbits... rabbits that it would have taken a DC 42 to dispel (Resilient Arcana and Mythic Paragon is just mean sometimes) as they fled in woodlaands. We've been warned that for the next several years it will be illegal to cast Antimagic Field or similar effects without a license in all Mendev because of the possibility of random wildlife spawning Babau. GM made it clear that the assault didn't stop by any stretch, but that put a dent in it before we hit the real fights.
I've since spoken with him. He indicated that he stretched things slightly on one of the answers we gave (due to the fact that our party is half and half split down the middle on Redemption v Destruction of Evil as a dynamic, and both sides are passionate about it. The latter is simply willing to yield if it's clear atonement is possible.). No changes in mechanics.
His personal attitude was that the scale of the damage was a little silly, given that it was left to cause relatively little permanent harm, so it was a needless mechanic. But, with our group, he had no need to actually get into the mechanics involved, as the questions were asked correctly.
So, as I trust him as a GM, he followed the conversation points pretty closely.
Heh. I'm sort of pleased with my choice at the end of book 5. The transmuter I play thought about the gifts she was offered. Divine Intervention was a really nice option.
In the end? She just flat asked Iomedae if she could give her a gem valuable enough to Soul Bind Deskari with. Now, it's a question of whether or not she can pull that bit of insanity off, should they fight Deskari, which I suspect will happen.
We just finished 5 ourselves and ran the optional encounter at the end. I admit that our GM has mostly just taken a shotgun to the random encounters since early book 3, if not before. He tailors the encounters themselves and takes the assumed gear we're supposed to get from a couple randoms and tosses it onto key NPCs so the wealth evens out to expectations for the books and the big fights are nastier.
Our group's pretty optimized. We found the Ivory Labyrinth encounters until the Father of all Worms laughable. An encounter with 3 Balors went ... eye openingly. However, once we reached the Prison, the story started to shift. The gateway fight was a relative breeze, but within the Prison, several of the fights were difficult. They ran quickly in terms of rounds, but there were always moments when the fight could have turned very far south for the party:
Tarry Demodands, which he advanced to give better DCs on the reflex saves, were walking problems for our DPS. The Inquisitor's Reflex Save, even upgraded, is fairly normal for his class, which means it's pretty much crap. He lost his sword to the demodands at least once in each fight, which significantly dropped his damage output and slowed fights. It slowed the Torturer match a lot more than expected.
The Drow Cleric was a royal pain. Due to the ability to move her blade barriers, she would drop effectively 3 damage dealing spells on the majority of the party each round and found ways to limit how many actions were used against her by various characters. Her demodands kept melee DPS busy while she remained in the area. It took several rounds to whittle her down.
The Linnorm was updated to the Father of all Linnorm's template. He nearly dropped the party without a speck of mythic power in the opening round through breath weapon. A couple failed saves and limited resistances left us dealing with ridiculous damage initially. The fight was over in three rounds, but nearly went south in each round, the healer tapped out just to keep pace with his raw output.
The Mythic Iron Golem and the Mythic Minotaur were a joke. Neither stood a chance and were little more than speedbumps. The Marilith, sadly, proved far less a challenge than expected. Her demodand backers proved more dangeorus than her, as they targeted lower AC foes in the back. When she hit, it was credible damage, but the ACs on both melee DPS were just too high for her to strike with her massive number of attacks.
The Herald was a brutal match: Two characters failed their Maze Save - A Melee DPS and Arushalae (who had been given the heart). As the inquisitor was a worshiper of Iomedae, his standard tactics were to level he and the Planetar NPC who was tag-teaming with the cleric just to keep him alive. It became a fight to bring him down slowly, blowing around 9 mythic power on the Inquisitor's part while two characters spent most of their time keeping him and only him alive. A well-placed bit of non-lethal damage give the round needed to Miracle Arushalae and the heart out of the Maze.
Baphomet: The fight lasted 4-5 rounds. It was over in lightning speed, but in Rounds 2 and 4, we nearly lost both melee DPS. Ardapast, even boosted through Ascension to be mythic, was effectively on 'add crowd control' along with the Planetar and Arushalae. All three of them spent their entire time killing summoned balors. A well placed Dimensional Lock blocked a Labyrinth Minotaur from joining the fray (which might have resulted in a very different scenario, given Baphomet's rather brutal damage.
One round, the first, it looked like it would be over immediately. The GM had quadrupled and maximized his hit points, but otherwise left him unchanged. The Inquisitor dumped literally all bout about 6 mythic power he had left into overkilling everything with Foe-Biter in that round while he and the Paladin battlemind-linked a full slew of attacks. The damage was ungodly, around 2000 hit points. Baphomet rebounded by bringing the Paladin to dead and turning on the Inquisitor as he realized the Paladin should have been dead but didn't drop due to Deathless and Diehard (His line in the scene: "Well... that's new." Baphomet had been observing the party's tricks for months in game. Deathless was a newer spell being used by the Transmuter.).
The Balors followed up with a bevvy of Greater Magic Dispels on the Inquisitor and Paladin. The latter was made legitimately dead after Deathless was dispelled, and the Cleric had to put a ridiculous amount of mythic healing using one of their abilities to bring them back up the next round as if through a breath of life, having spent the previous round doing much the same to the Inquisitor.
In the end, the characters brought Baphomet down, but the Paladin died at least once, and the Inquisitor was dropped once. Arushalae nearly died due to Balor explosions, the Planetar and Alderpash (both Ascended) were badly hurt at the end.
Upshot of the above: The GM's found a need to adjust, mostly in terms of hit points with the key NPCs. Their abilities are usually nasty enough to brutalize us given the chance. It's just a matter of dealing with the massive damage bomb that Foe-Biter represents in the hands of several classes, especially as both of them are running auto-confirm crits on mythic enemies through powers. He's already looking at the validity of Heavy Fortification to negate the need partially for 4x enemy hit points and dropping back down to a more reasonable 2x max.
However, we found that movement conditions significantly altered the flow of the fight, and CMD/Reflex saves are still very solid ways to control our Inquisitor. However powerful, the GM has still challenged us. really, it didn't seem to be enemy abilities that were the issue, but simple raw survivability.
Frankly, the same could be said for us. The difference between us and the baddies is that we have someone who can drop two Mythic Heals if they get desperate at a range of 30' and pretend they're breath of life spells, who then has an AC in the mid to upper 40s. The ability to laugh at two DPS going down in a round definitely makes fights tricky. One of the closest fights we ever had was in Book 4, against the final boss. The addition of a certain updated and returning NPC who focused solely on the cleric proved nearly fatal for the party.
I wouldn't be surprised if he tries something like that again, though honestly I suspect that the final confrontations of book 6 will be hellish enough as is. Again, it's just a matter of the enemy surviving long enough to use even a tenth of their abilities.
True, though at the same time the raw power in terms of statistical damage is generally had by spells that permit Spell Resistance, particularly in the case of Mythic Spells. There is also only one mythic version which negates the need for concern about spell resistance: Magic Missle. In the end, with Maximize, Empower, Heightening, Channel Power and 2 additional Mythic Power, you can drop a pretty significant amount of damage, but a very large amount of focus on the Magic Missile and several power selections. For the rest, spell immunity and items like beads of newt prevention tend to be useful as limiters.
Magical damage, from what I can see, is somewhat easier to mitigate at Mythic within some tolerances than it is to mitigate melee and ranged weapon damage.
*nods* Book 5, we went through the last two encounters without the ability to regain mythic power. Due to a pair of bad saves, the first of those encounters was down one melee combatant and Arushalae, and due to storyline, that encounter focus-fired on the other melee combatant until it realized it had to down the cleric first about two rounds in.
It not only seriously slowed that first encounter, but the Inquisitor dumped all of his 8 MP from his sword and one or two on top of that to bring the bastard down. When he went up against the final encounter, he bled through every last point of mythic power, roughly 2/3 of it in the opening volley.
It ultimately becomes a game of finding 'just enough' threat that they feel a need to toss either a point or two here and there, or a couple serious shots of 4-6 points to down particularly nasty secondaries. Get the right combination of threats and they'll nickle and dime their way down until they reach the big bads. Won't always work, but it's definitely worked well enough on us. I think the GM now knows exactly how to scare myself and the Inquisitor to dance to his tune.
...and he's come to love abusing the heck out of Spell Immunity. Damn those signature attack spells! *laughs wickedly* Well... I'll be picking up Mythic Meteor Swarm for the last choice, so that might change things up a notch.
Five players in attendance. The new character was introduced (a Samurai reskinned to a medieval knight image, since the player liked the class better than the Cavalier) and in the same move the Wizard was removed from the party, via order from Queen Galfrey. She needs the Wizard for vital research into closing the Worldwound and has sent the Samurai, who obtained his mythic power via involuntary consumption of a Nahyndrian crystal, to not leave a gap in the party.
The party went to Arueshalae's redoubt via teleport (it took a few rounds to transport everybody) and a huge fight ensued. Which ended after four rounds, when the two Retrievers were each downed by one character in one round, the Lord of Swarms (who had escaped last time and replaced the normal Derakni) was also downed by one player in one round and everything else was obliterated in short order. Since the players have discovered the Foe Biter legendary weapon ability, thing are really going a bit even more cray-cray now. :-/
Arueshalae introduced herself and I think I portrayed her pretty okay, emphasizing that she wants to redeem herself but still has those old impulses and also playing her a bit flirty, even against her own wishes (hence those old Succubus impulses). She gave her Spherewalker's Staff to the Cleric and had an atonement cast on her and the players are willing to give her a chance. I'll have to play up the opposition in Drezen to introduce more resistance into it, so that it becomes an actual roleplaying issue.
Well, the party advanced to level 11 (it's again going very fast) and I'll have to adjust things upwards a bit again, because they are outpacing even the upgrades now. Although their defense is not that good, the Ranger was almost insta-gibbed by a lance-wiedling Incubus on a Rift Drake and if the Paladin didn't have the Neutralize Poison mercy, the Ranger would have been a goner.
First of all, hats off on finding the means to switch out characters with mythic power in the setting while factoring in a way to justify the mythic. Had the samurai gone through any sort of atonement to deal with the evil influences of the crystal (willing or not in consumption)?
Oh god, Foe-Biter. Ironically, only one of our Damage-dealing melee characters has used that through book 5. Our other is well aware of it, and doesn't think poorly of the method, but until he got Dawnflower's Kiss, he was using Radiance as it upgraded. While he liked Radiance, its power set wasn't a perfect match for his playstyle as the Paladin. The Kiss, however, was a cleaner match and he may be picking up Legendary Weapon with Tier 9 finally.
Foe-Biter alone is the cause of our GM doubling and maximizing boss and mini-boss HP. However, Foe-Biter is also a wretched MP sink. If the characters are forced to encounter 2-3 major encounters within a twenty-four hour period, it can be a very serious power-draw, and by the second they may be forced to seriously think about their usage of power. Giving them excuses to blow their power and be unable to recover it quickly will force a bit of tactical thought into several of the battles.
In some cases, however, like the end of a book... they sort of just know there isn't anyone else coming to say boo before they recover, so they don't hold back.
Capping it at 5, mechanically, will avoid some of the key issues. One of the major factors are abilities such as those which allow you to auto-confirm/maximize crits. This in combination with Foe-Biter, keen weapons and Unstoppable strike can produce incredible damage. When you have two optimized damage dealers using Battlemind Link and teamwork feats to produce multiple attacks of opportunity off of each other's crits...
There are ways to focus-fire that become fully available at Tier 6-7 which severely alter the amount of damage produced. However, it won't mitigate everything. This said, you will be able to operate with far closer to normal maximum HP on key NPCs and avoid trivialized fights.
If you want to keep the full scale of mythic, increase HP significantly or use tricks to make sure people aren't pulling all of their tricks at once. The tactics on the big bads are usually pretty impressive as is. It's more a matter of making sure they don't pancake people through abuses of the system.
If a caster, even a Paladin, denotes some effort to overcoming SR, then it becomes laughably easy. There are many items that can add to SR checks, and several feats too. Especially if he takes Piercing Spell combined with an Otherworldly Kimono. Fortunately, it's unlikely a Paladin is going to be able to take Spell Perfection, so he won't be able to abuse Spell Pen. Greater Spell Pen. and Mythic Spell Pen for auto-win SR checks.
Yeah, there are ways specifically. I'm the Transmuter in a campaign, so I've seen several options to do that, and I explicitly focused the caster's feat selection to enable them to be able to consistently cast against Mythic foes. The result, naturally, was that in Book 5 the GM and I have an unspoken agreement not to bring up SR unless it isn't a Demon and has Balor-level SR, or it's got a name worth remembering for more than one round.
I believe I've had to roll on SR against one opponent in book 5. Maybe two. I only remember one with the SR needed to force me to roll "Not a 1." Bastard nearly wiped us. Yay for Deathless. However, because our enemies are now very familiar with the powers we've displayed against their minions, Spell-Immunity Fireball, Spell Immunity-Baleful Polymorph, Spell Immunity-Disintigrate have all become downright commonplace with divine casters, and non-divine casters have taken to carrying potions of Resist Fire and beads of newt prevention around with them when they logically are in a position to know we're coming.
So, yeah. It's very doable with two regular feats and a mythic feat to put casters, even secondary casters like Paladins into realms where the SR of any 'by the book' creature is largely meaningless, especially by Book 5. However, it requires the investment of feats which limits other options for secondaries (while for primary casters, it's much less of a challenge.).
What Victor is getting at is that you're going to be dealing with DR a lot. A pet is doable, but you're going to be dealing with DR from demons. Versatile Weapon can get around this, but that's a Level 3 spell, and it's not normally one that Druids learn.
Overall: You're going to need some method of dealing with DR/Cold Iron and DR/Good, possibly DR/Magic. An Amulet of Mighty Fists +3 should do the trick, but it's pricy.
A summoner would have a slightly easier time, but DR will be an issue at times no matter what. In book 1? They'll be a lot less of an issue.
To be honest: That's a Six of One, Half Dozen of another question. Each of those will have its own advantages. I know I said this before, but I'd say "Go with the one you think would be the most fun." All three races will give you a small benefit you can capitalize on. Changelings get your caster stat as a bonus, a small natural armor boost to improve survivability and claws just in case. Gnomes get magical tricks and size bonuses to AC, and they don't have a constitution problem like changelings. Humans get better skills, better feats and slightly easier to figure out stats.
Neither will mechanically matter in the long run. Play the one you think is fun.
yes, well, Lini is level 5 when she's dropping all of those spells onto her pet. A level 5 Animal Companion is a very different thing from a Level 1 Animal Companion.
If you want to try and play Lini, the iconic Gnome Druid, you can. She wasn't a terrible build in my opinion. Using those tactics will work, once you start sporting Level 3 or so, but you'll want to be careful about an animal companion at Level 1-2.
However, here's the trick:
Str 6, Dex 12, Con 16, Int 12, Wis 16, Cha 15
This means her original stats were these:
Str 8, Dex 12, Con 14, Int 12, Wis 16, Cha 13
Lini is a 20 point buy, not a 15 point buy. So, you'll need to make a few adjustments in the stats you use for her to reflect this, if your GM is doing 15 point buy. Above all, however, you will notice something important:
She's got a Charisma unadjusted by her race of 13, not 16, as you were originally planning to have as a Human. She's also got a Wisdom of 16, when you were originally looking at a 10, and Wisdom is the Druid's casting stat. Lini, like most of the iconic characters, is not putting all of her eggs in one basket.
Most of the builds you've suggested trying focus on having one stat at 16 or 18 before racial bonuses. The iconics spread their points around even when they've got 20 points to spend. Only the dedicated spellcasters: Ezren, Seoni and Lem are sporting a casting stat of 18. Even Kyra spreads her points around more, and she is a dedicated cleric.
A lot of our suggestions have sort of been based upon the kind of unusual way you've approached these classes. You want to basically try and play Lini? Go for it. That's how a traditional Druid is built. Lini in mythic is terrifying.
But, if you're going to build Lini, build something very close to Lini. Don't monkey around too much with those stats. Druids are a tight-rope, because they need more than one stat to be effective.
Weapon Proficiency, give it a +6 total value weapon or greater. Problem solved. If that is not sufficient, you can look into Dual Path with Guardian and use mythic powers to upgrade the creature. As I'm sure you're aware, though, the limit on the 'amulet of mighty fists' is that it cannot be used to exceed +5.
You might also look into mythic items or giving a legendary weapon to the creature. Use the Glebrezu's Claw as sort of a bench-mark of the type of thing you're talking about.
You might also look into Cesti. Those can be enchanted and used without proficiency or penalty if I remember correctly. You simply get more options if you're using them with proficiency.
Unless your GM is not running mythic rules in Wrath of the Righteous, you will be using those rules starting at the end of Book 1, and will become Mythic at the very end of the Book. You will gain Tiers as a mythic, roughly, at a rate of 2 tiers/Book in books 2-5 and your last tier in book 6. Wrath of the Righteous is built with the assumption that you will be Level 20/Tier 10 for about half of book 6.
I suggest that you speak with your GM about whether or not you will be using Mythic rules. If you won't, pretty much all of my suggestions will change.
Provided that you are playing with Mythic rules: Every Tier, you get 3+2/Tier Mythic Power Points which you can use to boost d20 rolls as a swift action or do neat stuff with. You will get one Mythic power, depending on if you're a Champion (melee fighting), Marshall (Buffing/bolstering allies), Guardian (Defending/harder to kill), Trickster (Rogueish/skills), Archmage (Arcane caster) or Hierophant (Divine caster). Each of these do weird things, like for example Faith's reach: It allows you to cast a Touch Healing spell out to a range of 30 feet. On Odd tiers, you also get a mythic feat, which can significantly upgrade a feat you already have or give you a few other nifty tricks. At Even tiers, you get +2 to any one stat you want. On top of that, you will get things like initiative bonuses, being harder to kill, faster recovery of abilities and damage, Evasion-light for all attacks you save on that aren't from a mythic monster, and a host of other abilities as you gain levels. Your character, by book 6, will be on par with Solars in terms of power, or higher.
If your GM is not using mythic rules, then he will be downgrading the difficulty of encounters a lot. It's necessary in several cases. But that ONLY starts at the END of Book 1. You're still a squishy squishy Level 1 at Level 1.
Regarding Your Animal Companion as an Oracle at level 1. Animal Companions and Familiars are ALWAYS weak at level one (Unless you somehow convinced your GM to let you have an Axebeak or something to start). You have to build them up. Buff them with spells. A lot of times at level 1, you aren't sending them into the fight, so you pick up a light crossbow and shoot people instead for a level or two.
If you want your 'companion' to be able to wade in and fight it out right from level one, then you are correct in thinking you want to play a Summoner. Their pet is ready to fight from the very start, and if it dies it doesn't matter as much as an Animal Companion does.
What a human Oracle with two "Extra Revelations" can have, however, is a Charisma of 16-18 that doubles as their Dex for AC, giving them a high overall AC at the start of the game (Heavy Shield, Chain Shirt and a +3 or +4 "Dex" bonus to AC means an AC at game start in the 20s, comparable to defensive fighters and Clerics in heavier armor for cheaper) an Animal Companion and the ability to summon more Nature's Allies from the start.
Yes... you 'could' do that. However, I'm going to repeat. You will gain, without any shenanigans, without buying manuals or tomes, without attribute-boosting headbands, without anything at all, 15 additional stats you level and gain mythic tiers.
So, let's just say you go Human, you can do let's say two or three builds:
1) 20 Caster Stat, 10 for four stats and 8 in one stat.
2) 18 Caster Stat, 14 in one stat, 10 in four stats.
3) 16 Caster Stat and a mixture of other stats.
If you dump all those extra attributes you get with every level and Tier into your Caster stat: 1 has a 35. 2 has a 33. 3 has a 31. The difference, unless you're focusing on hitting the enemies with spells, is minimal.
Going with a very high caster stat, no armor, minimal constitution and no dexterity bonus will make you extremely vulnerable to attack. You might get through book one if your party is reasonable about protecting you, but you will have a lot of issues.
However, saying that:
If you want to be able to blast things with a few attacks on a regular basis, have a powerful animal companion, a high defense for your level, stand back away from most of the fighting and occasionally heal? You can do that with an Oracle of Nature.
If you do that with a Druid, you can do most of those, though you won't be spontaneously casting Cure spells and to have the Healing Domain, you won't have an animal companion.
By now, I've learned somewhat to expect from my party. The party's rogue is less entranced with regular random combat encounters than some are, and all three enjoy the challenge of approaching confrontations through alternate means at times. So, the Howlings was predictably a combat-less encounter.
They remembered, without my prompting, the seal of Tashanna that they'd picked up and one of them could memorize Arcane Mark, so after the explanations of Ringeirr, they came up with the brilliant idea of putting the Rimepelt on the Orc, having the Samsaran pull their "I'm a blue-skinned fey" routine yet again and make it look like they'd gotten the crap job of escorting food into the territory with a quicky Linguistics job to spoof some short-term documents. Given that the rogue rolled a 19 on dice for their forgery attempt along with the arcane mark using the Tashanna seal, they weren't going to have any trouble from anything that wasn't a mirror man.
Where the humor really started to set in for this whole bit of madness was with our Orc. Gorch, a Scarred Witchdoctor witch with the personality of a sandpaper covered goblin on feast day, has been trying to get lucky with various female NPCs since the start of the campaign. He struck out hilariously bad with the Taldan noble, and Ten-Penny was a bit more interested in the human end of the spectrum, considering his appearance.
Greta, however, only got to see that he looked like a 'battle-veteran' country bumpkin of a winter wolf that didn't shift to human immediately in the Howlings. And, since everyone in the party has at least one social skill, they pretty much bludgeoned their way to the top of her 'interested' list, so Gorch got her number, so to speak. While the rest of the party was making arrangements with Mordin the Forger to get longer-term papers (They are continuing this Tashanna ruse, and I personally feel that they've justified it ICly.), he used some of the last duration on the Rimepelt (which I've given five charges because it's too much fun to only give them one), Gorch went to meet her off-duty at a local bar.
Now, this was about the time that I'd remembered something about Gorch. Gorch didn't speak Skald or Hallit. Fortunately for him, I'd done some adjusting to Greta, so she'd been able to communicate with him. However, a winter wolf who only spoke Taldan was something that made me scratch my head and haver her roll intelligence on afterwards. Soooo, when he arrived for drinks, the first words out of her mouth were "So, mind telling me why you smell like my kind, or should I bury my axe in your forehead now?"
Gorch proceeds to spill a couple important details, but the player picks just the right ones that a pragmatist like Greta's just "oh hell no I am not getting involved in this crap any further," at first. However, he does play his cards right enough that she's at least willing to see him again. She's bored out of her skull, seeking a mate and frankly not loyal to Elvanna (or anyone else but herself), so there's a possibility she might play a part later.
I just was almost falling over laughing as the social failure of the group who's usually growling out horribly inappropriate statements to reflect his Orcish nature was the one they had turn into a winter wolf and get hit on by Greta. Mr. Strikes out Repeatedly might actually get himself a "girlfriend" (or they might have to fight her later).
Next update will probably be in about a month. We switch between campaigns in this group and are flipping to the Drezden Files one for a few weeks, so I've got a month to prep Whitethrone encounters (Yeah, this group may find some interesting side encounters in the city. It's a little too much fun to pass up in my opinion.).
Honestly, while I see where some of you are coming from, I didn't feel Iomedae was out of character in her behavior towards our group. As I say that, I admit that our group naturally answered "correctly," so the punishment wasn't there, but all of the players walked in expecting a very severe, direct and demanding treatment.
Iomedae was a goddess who rose to prominence with a view of redemption that translated to "Fall upon your own blade and perhaps your soul will be purified enough so that you may be judged for your past wickedness in heaven instead of just being sent to hell to rot for eternity." It's one of her trials and miracles on her way to godhood, and considered a core aspect of her faith. I was honestly shocked she didn't criticize us for not offering a certain demoness the same option, since we had an Inquisitor of Iomedae in the party.
Her idea of a "Gift" is "Here, I'll give you a little boost for doing well. Now here's your real prize. You have the honor of going and saving the world while facing impossible odds doing it. Stiff upper lip, grab your sword, there's demons that need killing." She did much the same thing by summoning Aroden's Herald to keep an entire military force in place against a whole army of Wraiths, again as one of the core tenets of her faith.
When I read her write-up years ago, my response was "Ok, she's a pathfinder analogue to St. Cuthbert, Heironeous, Tyr and Helm." And in most of their depictions, they were all pretty much drill sergeants on good days. Helm and Cuthbert could be complete jerks at times. They didn't take guff from even the choirs of angels if they didn't live up to expectations, and you knew you'd pleased them if they had some new impossible thing for you to do. A cuff on the jaw (And I'm sorry, but 70 sonic is a cuff to my character, and I'm the archmage of the party. That's one healing spell to fix for our group when we're sporting level 8 magic.) to knock some sense into someone is well within their veil, and several of them were never known for their patience, nor was anything I'd ever read of Iomedae long before a sign that she was famous for her patience.
Torture is the repeated, extended use of pain, pleasure, psychological torment or some other form of stimulus to break someone's will. Here, she has her angelic choir cuff you up to three times and then sends you on your merry way to save the herald even if you don't meet her expectations because you're the best she's got. She's just not happy that she has to settle for the likes of you. That was the impression I got from the possible results of the conversation, and my character was under the impression that this was the case:
1) Please her, and she'll equip you a little more and send you off with her blessing.
2) Anger her, and she cuffs you but sends you because you're all she's got.
3) Really hork her off, and, well... roughly half of her trials to become god were for killing the unworthy. Were you really feeling that bold to backtalk the goddess who came to power on the corpse of the father of all Morghs?
I'll yield that maybe it was a bit much numerically from what I've seen of your stated numbers should someone fail at multiple questions, and our GM might have toned some of the numbers down. I'm not sure. I don't own the PDF and I won't buy any of this series until we finish playing book 6. However, I wasn't surprised by her behavior in general. This feels like an encounter that can be tweaked slightly, and I think "Torture" is a bit of an overstatement.
Your call. Faith's Reach allows you to do that at a range of 30', and an Oracle of Nature won't be focusing on healing spells automatically. You get a lot more spells/day as an Oracle and can cast any spell you know, so you can focus your attention on summoning allies for the fight and then blasting, saving just enough healing in case someone's in a pinch.
But, if you REALLY want to focus on that pet as the most deadly thing... yeah. Summoner. Just make it animal-like in appearance for flavor.
Well is there a cleric or orcle that i can have a animal companion
bescaus i want to play the hooded figure standing back casting up a storm while a great beast protects her
my plan was human or changeling on race
Oracle, Nature Mystery,
Revelation #1 to suit your interests -
"Bonded Mount (Su): You gain the service of an unusually intelligent, strong, and loyal mount. The creature must be one that you are capable of riding and is suitable as a mount. A Medium oracle can select a camel or a horse. A Small oracle can select a pony or wolf, but can also select a boar or a dog if she is at least 4th level. This mount functions as a druid's animal companion, using your oracle level as your effective druid level. Bonded mounts have an Intelligence score of at least 6."
Available at Level 1.
Revelation #2 -
"Friend to the Animals (Ex): Add all summon nature's ally spells to your spell list. You must still select these spells using your allotment of spells known. Animals within 30 feet of you receive a bonus on all saving throws equal to your Charisma modifier."
Also Available at Level 1.
This would also allow you to summon more animals to your side as allies in fights, and at higher levels moderately powerful giants and fey. You would need to select these spells for your list of spells known. However, if you choose to play a human, and your GM allows the Favored Class Options, then you can add additional spells known every level from the levels below your maximum level, making this less of an issue.
You may use "Nature's Whispers" to reduce the importance of your Dexterity in determining your AC, replacing it with your Charisma bonus and increasing your AC Significantly.
"Speak with Animals" can be acquired to automatically speak with a number of different kinds of animals without casting a spell.
So, in answer to your question: Yes, you can do most of what you want with an Oracle, and have your caster stat be Charisma, focusing most of your attention on that stat above others. Choosing "Extra Revelation" a couple of times at an early level (I don't suggest more than 2 times, as you will gain a certain number of revelations as is) gives you access to most of the tricks you desire from the start, or close to the start and a few improvements to your survival rate.
While you blast away with elemental attack spells and memorize healing spells that you may use to heal others, you may also send your creature in. Selecting the Guardian Mythic Path can allow you to further bolster your animal companion, and going dual path with Hierophant can permit you to select spells like Faith's reach to heal with touch spells at 30'.
Without even getting into Tomes and Manuals, just counting the automatic gains you will have over the course of the campaign, you will get 15 additional attributes before the game is done unless your GM has modified the mythic system. Automatic. No questions asked. You will simply get them. Every even tier: +2 to a stat. Pick one. Every 4 levels +1.
There's +2-4 that are potentially acquirable through a few different routes in the campaign that you may net and which aren't going to limit your gains from "Inherent" bonuses like Wish or Manual/Tome purchases in the last books.
This means that you can get 15-19 additional attribute points by book 6, without even factoring in Story Feats, Manuals, Tomes, Wishes and other malarky.
So, if you're starting with a 15 point buy? As a human, Half-Orc or Half-Elf, you can afford to go 16, 14, 14, 12, 10, 8; 16, 14, 12, 13, 10, 10 or something similar. You've got attributes to spare in this campaign. In spades. And if you're a divine caster, then you are probably NOT going to be the spell-caster who is the main boom boom to the bad guys unless you're a particular kind of Oracle. So, having an eventual 34-45 in your caster stat just isn't as important for you. Spread yourself out some and don't feel constrained to put all your eggs in one basket.
Ok. It 'sounds' as if you want to try your hand at a 'divine caster' type. With this understanding, I would suggest that Druid is not the wisest choice. First of all, if you're going to do the background caster as a Druid, as Lochar said, you actually will need a Wisdom that can reasonably hit 19 by level 17 through one method or another, minimum. Otherwise, you will not be able to cast spells. That simple.
It sounds, on the surface, as if you're playing at a 15 point buy for your character. This does limit things somewhat, but not as much as some might think. However, it does give an incentive not to spend all your points in your primary statistic. Doing so leaves you with very little in all the other statistics.
In terms of campaign expectations: Any animals present are only present because you nudge at the GM to have them there. There's a few Magical Beasts, but 95% of all encounters involve Humans, Tieflings, Demons, Daemons and Demodands. That's your NPC cadre. Those six generic types of races will encompass almost all encounters through book 5, and likely 6, though I haven't done 6 yet. That means that, while Charm animal is kind of nifty, you won''t get the chance to use it without the GM making allowances, and as has been brought up: When it isn't in this material, your GM hasn't shown a willingness to come up with a lot of additional material just for you.
Consider an Oracle or Cleric. Oracles have limited numbers of spells known, so you can control how many spells you have to deal with on a regular basis and learn them well. Clerics frequently participate, if they're more caster-build clerics, by standing back, buffing the party and keeping participants alive. I am concerned that you might not enjoy this quite as much at times, as it's very cut and dry what a cleric does, and the healer/buffer type doesn't do much else, but there will be large periods where you as a cleric can have a fair bit of fun with feeling like the most important member of the party (because your group has an alarmingly low capacity towards healing. You can get through Book 3 with that if you're careful and sensible, but lack of ability to keep the party up is going to start mattering the deeper you get.).
If you go with Oracle, you can serve as a secondary healer with other spells that you cast. They carry so many spells frequently that they usually don't blow through their magic. If you go Oracle of Life, you will primarily be a healer.
Regardless of whether you go Oracle or Cleric, I suggest choosing a version that spreads your stats around more, but have a caster stat (Charisma for Oracles, Wisdom for Clrics) that is 14, as your bonuses won't kick in fast enough that you don't care before getting Level 4 spells, especially as a Cleric. Then, having spread yourself out, look at your Heavy Encumbrance and get the best basic armors available that you can fit with your gear into this, regardless of if you have the proficiency in that armor. Treat Dexterity as a dump stat (since you seem to like focusing on a limited number of attributes), armor up with heavier armor and get "Faith's Reach" as your first tier ability. Now, all you need to do is be within 30' of your party to heal them. Stay close but let them be in the field of fire and you can test out your chops as a casting-style cleric. Just be mindful of who needs healing in the party.
That, at least, is my two cents. I'm not sure with what you're thinking of for a Druid that you'll enjoy the experience as much, as you're building to a repetition of problems from the past.
Ah, hmmm. I think Lochar has the right of it. In 'theory' this issue won't come up as much after the first book. "Hard to Kill" is kind of potent. But, it sounds as if you like to build fairly non-traditional characters and your GM likes to pit them against fairly traditional scenarios.
Perhaps try something traditional, and go for roleplaying focus through interaction rather than stats. Build storyline outside of stats. If your GM is on the rigid side, you might seriously consider building a traditional Healing Cleric. This party could use healing, potentially.
From what you've said, with consideration of the two character concepts you've described, I suspect you risk either being a 'healer' with less practical ability as a healer, or a switch-hitting up front fighter through your altered form. Based upon how you've died in the past, I don't know that you're going to avoid this with a Druid on its own.
I'm going to suggest: Go simple. Cleric. Touched by Divinity. Hierophant. And, dumb as this sounds, seriously consider "Rich Parents" if you get regular traits. Pick up a solid set of starter armor like MW Agile Breastplate. Being properly geared will help you in terms of survival, especially if you keep the Cleric in the second rank of fighting where they belong. Providing occasional flanks and usually making sure the party is buffed and healed.
In a sense, don't worry about optimizing. If you've read any of the other commentary in this board, you should realize quickly that balance issues are a big thing in this game. Once you're through Book 1, your party is going to get more and more powerful, faster and faster. You're only going to have a tricky period in book 1, before you go Mythic, and that's just the lot in life of a low level druid. They're an unusual divine caster class.
Build your archetype based upon what kind of character you want to play. The raw power aspect's going to get taken care of for you, so don't even worry there. Seriously, you're going to be +10-12 attribute points over the course of the books above what you'd normally get, possibly with extra feats, all of the mythic goodies, and some. Min-maxing isn't important here, and can even detract a little from the 'epicness' of a fight.
That said, here's some considerations:
-Download the player's guide. Provided that your GM is doing the campaign traits (and they should, even if they tweak the bonuses. The story revolves around those choices to an extent.), read the backstory on each of those carefully.
-Choose the story you feel most interested in playing. If you're deeply concerned about mechanics, "Touched by Awfulness" and "Touched by Divinity" are the traits 'associated' with the two most common Mythic Paths for Druids: Guardian and Hierophant respectively. However, I'm going to go out on a limb and say that if you're a Druid, it is not THAT important that you choose a campaign trait that is directly tied to your path. You will miss out on one neat benefit, but the world will not end I assure you.
Pick the trait that you find the most interesting, because it WILL come up again... possibly multiple times. These traits are as much stories of part of how you relate to the storyline as a character as much as they are stat blocks.
-As a Druid in this storyline, the following Archetypes don't really add or make sense to the tone of the story and events therein:
Aquatic Druid - No, seriously, you're not on the water. It's not Skulls & Shackles
Arctic Druid - Reign of Winter and Jade Regent are over that way. It's a northern nation, but cold temperatures are not a focus of the story. Hell is, and hell's a wee bit warm.
Blight Druid - Because most demons are immune, and this is really more the other side's schtick, not yours.
Desert and Jungle Druid - Again, wrong terrains. Druids of these varieties have less reason to be there unless you've got a nifty story.
Shark Shaman - Same problem as Aquatic.
Cave, Mountains, Plains, Swamp, Urban druids are all viable if you're interested in a terrain-focused druid. Each of these terrains is present in the setting to some extent.
Animal Shamans are also fine. There's no real issue with them, though again avoid aquatic animals. You will spend literally no time on the ocean all campaign. This is a landlocked campaign.
Anything from the Ultimate Magic selection should be fine too, except Shark Shaman.
If you're more mechanically focused than "what's fun," I would personally suggest that you choose a Domain over and above an Animal Companion. Druidic Animal Companions don't get robust enough without the Saurian archetype and a few Guardian abilities to actually merit the effort, and they're always glass jaws compared to the rest of the party. It's not a risk worth taking for minimal rewards. A companion will be useful in books 1-2, but by book 3 it's a liability and you'll be seriously considering retraining into a new archetype, again unless you're a Saurian. That... changes the whole topic of companion slightly. Domain Spell choice will open up more avenues for you as a caster.
One thing to keep in mind for this campaign: Electricity is a somewhat common Druidic weapon, as is fire. Be wary of electricity, because 90% of all demons are immune to it, and mythic versions of electricity based spells do not have "ignore immunity" tricks like Mythic Fireball (which means that if you REALLY want to do electric damage, you have to somehow get a mythic version of a spell that does ignore energy immunity and then use admixture or some other trick to graft electricity onto it. It can be really cool to be the one guy in all creation who's lightning bolting demons to death. Don't get me wrong. However, just be aware you're going to be putting in extra resources to do it.).
Lastly, and more important from a mechanical standpoint:
Decide between Guardian and Hierophant, or possibly Champion. Of all the decisions you will make, this is the one that I think is probably most important for a Druid. Switch hitters like druids get benefits from multiple angles. There's a merit to Guardian, Hierophant, Champion or even Trickster for them. Hell, I could even see Marshall in some of the more unusual buffing builds. Guardian and Hierophant have things specifically tailored to Druids, however, so you are most likely to go those routes.
If you don't pick up Dual Path at some point, the choice between Guardian and Hierophant is as follows:
-Do I want to be an unkillable engine who gets in the way of things that could hurt the teammates who can really do damage, or do I want to fire off the most potent magic a Druid is capable of firing off?
Guardian gives you "Hah hah, you have to target me, and you won't kill me" bonuses, while Hierophant gives you "The Power of the Gods at your finger-tips." Regardless, invest at least one mythic power or mythic feat by Tier 3 in Mythic Spell Lore or Mythic Spellcasting (they do the same thing. One's the feat, the other's the power), and consider Mythic Paragon if a lot of your effects have levels of potency based upon your Tier. Being +2 on all of that doesn't sound outstanding...
Until things like Eldritch Armor come up for Archmages, and the wizard has a permanent +15 Mage Armor at the end of the game that he can resummon as a swift action. Yeah, Mythic Paragon is worth looking at at least twice for most spellcasters. However, even if you don't take it, Mythic Spellcasting is the bread and butter of Mythic Heroes in the Divine and Arcane fields. The raw potency of several of the mythic spells you will get will see you through to the end.
(Seriously, I'm still abusing Mythic and Augmented Magic Missile regularly in Book 5. Some of these mythic spells will hold you until the bitter end.)
Arch, I'm in agreement with Victor on this one, and I say this as a Tiefling player in WotR. Had anyone but the iconic NPCs not been looking at my Transmuter with either a mixture of concern, loathing or outright fear throughout book 1, I would have felt things weren't progressing appropriately.
Throughout the party's time in book 1, they're fighting armed militias of Tieflings, roving the streets, looting, pillaging, burning and murdering with the backup of Brimoraks and Quasits. When our group would encounter new sets of NPCs, my transmuter hung back around the corner until the NPCs had seen the Paladin's and Cleric's symbols of Sarenrae and the Inquisitor's symbol of Iomedae. She openly wore her symbol of Milani where everyone could see to serve as a reminder for the divine-focused characters more likely to recognize her faith.
Half the time, though, the generic NPCs took one look at the transmuter and half expected that we were another group of corrupted and turned crusaders, which was a thing we'd seen and fought. Until the end of Book 1, distrust was at the point of violence, and so the transmuter never went alone or ahead of the party. In book 2, that distrust shouldn't have faded yet in Kenebras and it hadn't. We had the Cleric make our purchases in town and the transmuter spent most of her time crafting items during down time, out of sight of anyone. Once she was given partial command over military forces under the Paladin, and they were on their way to Drezen, then the general NPCs opened up. They knew this was a tiefling that Galfrey had invested authority in, so she should be safe.
Now, it's book 5, and she's one of the heroes of the crusade. Galfrey has called her by name. Her reception in Kenebras might be a little different, but that's because she's moved beyond being 'just another damned tiefling scumbag' in the minds of the people. I wanted to earn that with the character, not have it handed to me because it was more convenient.
first of all, all APs are going to have plenty of combat and plenty of role playing opportunities.
Skull & Shackles is close, it is very role-play focused, and has plenty of intrigue and back room shadiness
Council of Thieves is more Urban, a bit dungeon-y in the first few books but does have outstanding roleplaying moments.
Kingmaker is what you make of it so if you like sandboxes thats a good choice (tho if you don't have it already good look finding a hard copy)
Reign of Winter, has had a ton of great moments for my group currently and recommend it to anyone and everyone, especially if you like dark faery tales (who doesn't!)
Shattered Star also has great moments for role playing but does have a few dungeons here or there;)
jade regent is also a great one:)
I've yet to run S&S, but I can second this as well. The writeup, particularly in the first two books, is designed to be extensively social in nature. While players can, theoretically, bludgeon their way through the whole story in a traditional fashion, a LOT of the storyline is lost if they do so. It's really designed for a more interactive storyline, which I found refreshing considering its original theme.
Paul - LG Male Human Paladin/Rogue/Fighter Hybrid of Sarenrae - Champion, "Exposed to Awfulness"
Acoran - NG Male Human Cleric of Sarenrae - Hierophant, "Touched by Divinity"
Iardi - LN Male Human Inquisitor of Iomedae - Marshall/Champion, "Child of the Crusade"
Samantha - CG Female Tiefling Wizard (Transmuter), devout worshiper of Milani - Archmage, "Riftwarden Orphan"
In the above case, the GM's solution to the PC/NPC money/gear acquired issue was to remove what he considered a relatively minor encounter with a group of cultists. The value of their loot was then transferred to the NPC in question, causing no net change in treasure acquired throughout the book (And as the party frequently uses Greater Teleport to hit major locations to sell/buy gear between books, the exact gear he gave her didn't matter much.). Further simplifying things, he used a Legendary weapon whose main benefits were in its statistics granted by the Mythic Powers (It wasn't that impressive on its own), so its acquisition didn't really alter the party's power.
However, I will definitely yield that upgrading the gear on these NPCs constantly bears a potential risk on its own, and that the process of changing encounters, shifting gold from one encounter to another in terms of equipment value and then levelling NPCs is time-consuming at best, tedious at worst, so it's a pain I can definitely relate to you on. Our GM was usually somewhat grateful for brief breaks just so he could take some time with updating encounters, rather than feeling rushed with limited available time.