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Organized Play Member. 58 posts. No reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 6 Organized Play characters.

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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

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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.

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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. 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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

Best Five Mythic Power I ever used.

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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.

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Entering the Howlings

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.).

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Tabletop Prophet wrote:

Seriously though, I'm going to be running this in about a month, and while I appreciate the "heads up" this thread has been... I refuse to let it beat me. I'm going to run it, and I've let my PCs know that they are on board for an experimental system, because while I doubt I'll have another campaign get to 10th tier or anywhere close, I want to make this work.

Rather than a thread where we constantly harp on how broken the AP is, or how so-and-so's party had to quit in book 3, let's figure out a way to make this thing work: It's got to be epic, I understand, but let's not forget that we have options. Figuring out what the best options are: That should be the objective here.

So far, I've seen a few suggestions that seem feasible:


  • 15 point buy
  • Mythic Flaws
  • Only go to 5th Tier
  • Buff encounters by either buffing monsters, or increasing the number of combatants. Between +1 to +3 CR seems to be the right numbers.

    What I want to know is what of these options works? My party is 15 point buy. I'm planning on buffing encounters and adding elements to existing ones that will make them more strategically complex. But I do those things in every campaign I run, AP or no.

  • As has been mentioned, the 'ongoing campaign' discussion seems to have some salient points. Of the suggestions you're looking at, I would personally avoid "Only go to 5th Tier." If you're going to incorporate the system, incorporate its full benefits. Here are some thoughts that may help you:

    1) Point Buy will stop mattering in a significant way by book 3. Higher point buy does permit players to have some broader stats or avoid a certain level of min-maxing stats for single-stat users, but in the end the difference is still only a +2-+3 to certain stats. By book 4-5, this is a drop in a very large bucket. It will, however, impact books 1 and 2 and possibly give them a bit more of a fight in the earliest stages.

    2) Assume that their true "CR" as a party is their Level + Tier + 1 starting after mid-book 2. Build your encounters with this in mind, using the original written encounter as the backbone of the encounter. Increase this number by +1 for a 5-6 man team possibly.

    In short: Mythic Tier seems less impressive at Tiers 1-2, depending on how carefully the PCs choose their first powers. However, it can very quickly ratchet up its potency once they're using their Amazing Initiative to buy extra standard actions (especially if they are frequently under mythic Haste.). The reality is that we saw 'challenges' when our GM treated us as if our tiers were actual full levels, and boosted it by +1 because of the incredibly high amount of gold the party had access to.

    This suggestion begins to break down around book 4, especially late book 4. It also struggles when dealing with 1-2 'big' opponents as opposed to large numbers of slightly smaller threats that can nevertheless soak up attacks while causing damage.

    By Book 4, if you're using these numbers, the party is roughly the equivalent of CR 18 for a 4 person team. By book's end, they are slated to be around CR 22 by these numbers, which means that things like Balors and Pit Fiends are 'at CR' when pitted against them. From what I've seen, now being roughly 2/3-3/4 of the way into Book 5, this is holding up fairly consistently. We were recently pitted against a CR 24 creature with specific and unique abilities that, in my opinion at least, made it closer to a CR 25. By the numbers, the fight went pretty close to 'by the book,' for a CR +1 encounter.

    Build in all encounters outside of Nascent Demon Lords and Demon Lords (I have only limited experience with how these beasts impact CR) with the assumption that these are the 'real' levels, and fights will go more appropriately.

    Suggestions in Beefing up Encounters:
    1) Hit Points are cheap. Maximize them. - Don't feel bad about maximizing the hit points of every named encounter. Both you and the party will be dishing out considerable hit point damage on connected hits with mythic opponents. DR is effectively meaningless when PCs are using mythic critical effects and foe-bitering opposition. The Hit Point mechanic is probably the one thing that truly breaks down most clearly in the Mythic systems. It's too easily overwhelmed by sheer numbers.

    Basically, straight Advanced Template and Maximized Hit Points are your friends.
    2) Life is cheap. Send more mooks. - Don't focus on making your individual threats bigger and badder. The higher that PCs go into the mythic tiers, the more raw damage they can put out in a single shot. Having one incredible power-house against two to three high-damage producing threats will mean that the party sees far fewer of that high threat's abilities. Instead, bolster encounters with increased numbers of salient threats. These should be creatures capable of hitting the party and capable of sustaining enough damage that a PC will have to focus attention on them to bring them down, rather than kill multiples in a round. Consider light Mythic Powers for these mooks (Use the Mythic Minotaur as something of a template for the way this can be done.).

    Why Mooks are better than single high-end targets: They soak up attacks, slowing party pace in killing enemies. They increase the possibility of hitting characters and enable flanks. They threaten 'background aids' like Clerics and Wizards more easily through sheer numbers. They are mythic power sponges, draining resources before later encounters during those situations where PCs can't simply walk out of the zone, take a break and come back the next day. They buy time, if there is a boss they're protecting, allowing that boss to cause more havoc through their own abilities (especially for Cleric/Wizard enemy threats).
    3) Abuse terrain and CMD tricks whenever possible. You ever notice how Tarry Demodands are kind of a minor pain in the tuckus because of that whole 'reflex save or your weapon is stuck' thing? Remember tricks like that. They can shift the flow of combat depending upon your PCs' respective builds and seriously alter the difficulty of an encounter back towards more natural levels.
    4) When you really want to challenge them... send a PC.

    There are numerous occasions where a humanoid NPC may be encountered who could possibly survive an encounter. If they have reason to continue their fight against the PCs, feel free to bring them back, level them up and above all, give them Mythic Power. With enough time between encounters, they have the justification of retraining and you can set their stats more appropriately to harrying the party. I don't suggest this in every encounter, but there is nothing in the GM's handbook that is telling you not to toss in the occasional Mythic Trickster or Champion who knows the party's tactics from past experience and adds their own fresh breed of heck to an encounter.

    In these situations, "What is good for the Goose is good for the Gander." They like to use touch attacks for their melee strikes and foe-biter their attacks with mythic criticals? Return the favor. I don't suggest doing this often, as it can really threaten the party's ability to progress through the whole storyline (As some have noted: Defense in Mythic Campaigns is at a premium, while Offense is deceptively cheap. Too much of this can TPK the party too easily, much like they're TPK'ing multi-Glebrezu ambushes...). However, once in a while it adds some serious 'spice' to a fight.
    5) Be aware of Action Economy
    -Standard and Move actions are a dime a dozen at Mythic. People buy them for a pittance and can get to the point of basically taking two turns at once in some cases.

    Immediate/Swift Actions, however... have a quick look at those nifty Mythic Powers and tell me how many are Swift Actions, and then check class abilities... and then remember.

    They only get one/round. Trust me. It's come up more times than you can shake a stick at. Forcing high DC saves to cause surges to be used, thus taking that precious swift action away next round? It's been one of our GM's most damaging effects.

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    Magnus, this is a random thought, but something you might consider in one or two of the later challenges to give the players a solid run for their money is to use their own tactics against them. While sometimes this doesn't work as well for monsters, you've got access to a collection of enemy humanoids with class levels who could be logically brought to bear at a later time.

    In our case, one of the most devastating fights we ever had came in book four. A certain half-pint bardic pain in the patoosh got away from us during the conflagrations of Drezen's taking back in book 2 by getting lucky at a key moment. Our game master hinted at their continued trouble making from a distance for the rest of that book through and into book 3. We had thought they met an unfortunate end off camera around the end of book 3 when we found their original gear inside of the final dungeon.

    She semi-surprised us by appearing in the final boss encounter in book 4, built up to I want to say Mythic 6 (It was Tier 6, I think, as I looked back and identified that their weapon was a minor artifact) and upgraded appropriately for her classes. The GM did with her what our inquisitor had been doing numerous times of late, turning attacks into touch attacks, foe-bitering attacks, making her invisibility impossible to see through, along with a few other tricks. She used proper tactics, having watched the party in action for the better part of a book, and focused her attention on the party's healer, whose heavily amped abilities had been severely impeding the ability of enemies to deal with us, as the cleric would frequently drop mythic heals in the middle of fights, undoing even major damage. However, where the cleric had robust hit points and a not inconsiderable 40s AC from enchanted armor, their touch AC was appropriately abysmal. It took roughly 1.5 rounds to drop the cleric like a bad habit.

    Dropping the healer as she did and with the party in a clinch point, the final encounter came down to the transmuter being unconscious, the paladin/rogue being roughly -500 HP dead, the cleric marginally worse and the Inquisitor taking one last ditch effort to take down the last remaining NPC and blowing almost every mythic point he had to finish them off. They were the only character alive for the scripted event at the end, and an Oil of Life had to be used afterwards to begin rebuilding the party.

    Basically, there is nothing saying you can't drop a PC-style threat or two into the campaign at appropriate points. If PCs are devastating as mythic, so are NPCs using the same rules. Now, admittedly, both of the other two key NPCs had maximized hit points and one of them was altered to not be 'weakened' in quite such an overwhelming way, but regardless that trio was extremely dangerous so soon after blowing a reasonable amount of mythic power just to clear all the minor mythic threats of the zone.

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    Voadam wrote:

    There is not a defined time rush deadline in Whitethrone. The closest for a deadline is the market forest and the pipers plot with the Hut and you can monkey with the timing of that easily enough.

    Whitethrone is a good opportunity for some downtime activities like purchasing magic items, crafting, NPC social network activities, becoming herald spies, and urban revolution plotting.

    My PCs worked on converting Greta, info gathering, recruiting old Iron Guard to coordinate rioting when the dragon is taken out, setting up the goblins to go nuts when the riots happened, and crafting and magical marketplace dealings.

    Precisely my thoughts. The 'event' that forces matters forward quicker can be implemented when it seems appropriate. The plot is set linearly to push for a resolution within X time frame you and I both know (I know at least two of my players visit these boards and one this sub-board as well, so I'm being vague). However, I'm doing some extra legwork this week and next before our next session a week from Sunday to enable me to handle things 'organically' after the Howlings.

    I might monkey with the official "Side-Quest" if it seems appropriate to make it separate, and see what they're nudging towards. If they have a burning urge to plunge forward, then so be it. But, if they start doing like your crew did in one of the many directions, I'll just keep the ace in my sleeve of the Mantle and have that event occur when it seems fitting.

    Admittedly, they're only going to spend so much time here. There is all of Golarion to save, after all.

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    Voadam wrote:

    Check out page 61 for other Whitethrone specific blue skin implications.

    ** spoiler omitted **

    Have fun with that. :)

    Oooh, yes. I had noticed that. The Samsarans are supposed to have a "Pale blue" hue to their flesh (Instead of an uncharacteristically bright blue), more in keeping with that of the frost-touched fey. However, I like the idea of making use of this element. It could easily be the sort of thing that might be mistakenly involved, especially if the PC botches their roll at some point (And, while they've got a decent Disguise, it's far from THAT good).

    I'm seriously debating leaving a little open-ended their time in Whitethrone so they only have to charge through the plot if they choose to, so it's something that might actually come up.

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    I feel that, as I share this little humorous snippet that, when I took on Reign of Winter as my first Adventure Path to GM, I took to heart the suggestion that 'This is a good opportunity to play non-human' characters for the roleplaying opportunities throughout the series. I gave my party almost complete freedom in selecting any race from the Advanced Race Guide.

    So, the party's composition:
    An Orc Witch (with midling melee ability due to Strength bonuses)
    A Human Fighter (Valeros variant)
    A Samsaran Rogue prepping to become a Witchguard Ranger
    A Changeling Priest (NPC)

    Now, before we continue, I want everyone to remember that Samsarans are a rare race with Blue Skin.

    keeping a spoiler tag since details from Book 2 are following.

    The party is currently just through Part 1 of The Shackled Hut, and is about to speak with Ringeirr about getting into the city via the Hollows. The group adopted a plot from just after they entered Irrisen through the Winter Portal, along with the backup of Nadya where they pose as servants of the Winter Witches.

    The plan worked fairly poorly in Waldsby, as it was seen through initially by the bard Meirun and the people of Waldsby knew who to expect from the Pale Tower. However, they got some practice with it and the Rogue took up a disguise where they veiled their face and skin, allowing only the faintest bits of blue to show while sporting various accessories that they'd acquired in looting Nazhena's room and killing Radosek. Their disguise was not outstanding, but enough to beat the average thug minion with mixed perception, and they began leveling it.

    Because of the Rarity of a Samsaran, I ruled that it was a 15/16 to identify that a member of the race was clearly not a winter-touched fey (since enough of them are humanoid in appearance and have blue skin). This meant that only people trained in Knowledge-Local could make checks. The party, while very capable of fighting it out, all had fairly significant social skills (or the ability to assist others). So, they began traveling along the road to whitethrone as if they were an entourage of a winter-touched fey servant of the white witches. Against serious guards it wasn't going to work, but ... well, let's just say the thugs in the Fishcamps weren't nearly so well prepared.

    The party bluffed, intimidated and duped the hell of the first group of fishcamp thugs, who led them willingly to Marcian's base. There, I expected them to be in for a much more serious fight with all the extra fighters. However, they kept up the act and started rolling pretty damned high. The Ogres really weren't set up to be all that smart, and while the gang was bold, the party was claiming they were there to take Ringeirr in for questioning. So, Whunk let the group in. It was here that the story finally started to unravel, though a little too late for the bad guys.

    Marcian was easily able to tell something was up and that what he was seeing wasn't fey, whatever it was. However, as he was about to act, we went to initiative and the whole party beat the enemies. The Orc and Samsaran, having planned this before they went in, went simultaneously, the rogue using one of their spell-like abilities and bluffing that she was casting a spell while the Orc casted with a bluff check they barely beat the Ogres with. The Orc cast lip-stitch on Marcian as the Cleric and fighter intimidated the hell out of both Ogres, successfully demoralizing them for a couple rounds each. Briefly confused, the Ogres didn't know what to do. Marcian, furious, cut the lip-stitch open as Whunk was trying to convince him not to fight White Witch aids. He called out that they were liars...

    Right before the Orc and Samsaran pulled the same stunt, this time blinding Marcian and effectively taking him out of combat. The guards and one of the Ogres were by now aware something was up, so combat started in earnest. which point the Orc with their magic boar spear from book 1, Valeros the murder machine and the Cleric proceed to slaughter an Ogre and one of the guards in one round while the last Ogre was shaking off his demoralization. Marcian is trying to make his way to stab at something, and another set of social checks I made a GM call.

    Whunk decided now was an excellent time to take over. Boss was blind, so BAM. Crit. Marcian goes down, and Whunk just stands back smiling and holding his hands up. The party'd took down enough of the guards quickly that the remaining one fled as fast as he could.

    God, the Howlings are going to be interesting. They're already planning to further this whole charade.

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    The question was asked me by someone, and the person seemed a bit unclear, so I was curious. Do dwarven women in Golarion have beards?