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James Jacobs wrote:
Hey there, everyone! This post is partially for me (so I can keep track of the last place the thread was at when I last looked at it) and partially a PSA to let folks know that I'm going to be stepping away from this thread for various reasons mostly to do with my own mental health.

Unfortunate. This thread is one of my favorite Paizo "products" and I read it weekly. It has often led me to other -for purchase- products I was either unaware of or uninterested in until some piece of information surfaced here. For me, this thread was what kept me regularly coming back to as the game itself, from a rules perspective, moves further away from something I enjoy.

Im not sure what led to James exit from this discussion. I have not seen any inflammatory or offensive posts (I assume mods removed them?) but it's a shame they were able to destroy it.

In general and as a long time Paizo customer I also continue to be baffled at James Jacobs changing -shrinking- role in Paizo products. Time after time in this thread he has publicly lamented Paizo's own staff trampling or ignoring his world vision, the ongoing rules bloat and lack of world/rules cohesion, and a total lack of involvement in rules based products that dont seem to cross his desk at all. Im not sure how a Creative Director can direct anything when these kinds of things happen. It must be supremely frustrating.

I also continue to be baffled by the decision to not have James involved in the Strange Aeons AP at all and instead do the Curse reprint. I've been waiting years to hear James's take on Lovecraft in Pathfinder with a full AP and when it finally happens he has little to no involvement with it despite being the most public and knowledgeable Lovecraft fan at Paizo? Wow.

Then a new game gets announced in Starfinder that follows the model James has been unsuccessfully lobbying for Pathfinder for years: a synergy of rules and flavor in print; a limited rules set that only expands when the story requires it; and a single world vision run by the CD. Not only does Starfinder get James preferred Pathfinder model but a new Creative Director gets named to run it. Stunning.

To me James Jacobs and Erik Mona are Paizo and as they have moved further away from creating the published products I'm interested in my enthusiasm for the game has declined in parallel. I hope the ending/furloughing of this "product" isn't a sign of bigger change for James and Paizo.

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1. I've always interpreted your title as "Creative Director [of Paizo Publishing]" but with the announcement of Starfinder it seems that it is actually "Creative Director [of Pathfinder]" and James Sutter is "Creative Director [of Starfinder]" Can you describe how the two Creative Directors will work together on direction of both properties?

2. As a follow-on to the above, and based on the responses I see you often posting here, it seems like your actual job function is "Creative Director [of Golarian]" in that you don't have direct control over the rules of the Pathfinder game (in fact you seem to disagree with many of those rules in regard to published products as they work in Golarian specifically). This does not seem like it will be the case with Starfinder since it appears James Sutter does/will have authority over both the rules and flavor of Starfinder. Can you elaborate on this distinction and if the same merging of Creative Director responsibilities will happen for Pathfinder as well?

3. Not a question: thanks for all the great work you and your team have produced over the years. The Adventure Paths are still far and away the best RPG products published today.

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In addition James Sutter is listed as Creative Director for this effort:

We hope you're as excited about Starfinder as we are, and that you'll join us as we boldly go where Paizo's never gone before!

James L. Sutter
Creative Director

Oddly James Jacobs doesn't seem to be heavily involved in this or the Strange Aeons AP. I have to say I'm disappointed to hear that. I can't imagine the Crimson Throne redo is taking all his time so I wonder what else is in store?

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We are three sessions into Mummy's Mask to date. I have read the entire AP as well. I have significant AP GMing experience (you can see my post history to find the details) and I'm pleased to say Mummy's Mask is well written, well paced (I think Paizo refers to this as "developed"), and I'm sure will be quite enjoyable for my players.

After the *challenges* of Seprent's Skull I'm pleased to see one of the newer Paizo APs regain a high standing. I remain slightly frustrated at the amount non-core content in the AP but I've learned to deal with this.

Book 1 is a great start. Book 3 looks to be something special indeed. Book 6 is a worthy campaign cap. The story-line is cohesive throughout. Kudos to the whole team.

As a side note: the bindings on Book 1 have already cracked and the pages are completely free of it. The same happened with my Serpent's Skull volumes, but not with any other AP I own.

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Serpent's Skull was the 5th consecutive AP I've GM'd start to finish. It took us a full two years. I'd like to share my thoughts on it for future GM's of the path.

- Overall, though much maligned, it was an enjoyable campaign. It requires a significant amount of GM tweaking and flat out rewriting but it still provides a good framework for adventure.

- It uses very little (maybe nothing) of non-core rule book rules. This is probably the last Paizo AP to do so. My group is still a "core rule book only" group, probably one of the last in the world, but I thought I'd mention this. It's a bit of a milestone for Paizo I think.

- That being said it basically begs to add the mass combat rules for the last chapter. Which I did to pretty good effect. The mass combat rules worked well for the 3 or 4 mass combats we had. A pretty concise rule-set overall and worth a look.

- Chapter 1 of the AP was a fine adventure but very isolated from the rest of the path. One of the first changes I made was to make the alliances they formed on the island have impact all the way through to the last chapter of the AP. It's been over two years at this point since we played part 1 so I can't recall all the details but I suggest other GMs do the same.

- The AP as written really struggles in parts 3 and 4. This is probably the section that needs the most GM modification. You have to really take a hands on approach to pull the campaign through these parts. The written adventures require more work from the GM than any other AP I've run and leave things very open for the PCs with little direction. The AP can really go off the rails here.

- To get through the AP I would suggest reading the Conan "Red Nails" story and using that as your inspiration for the Serpentfolk overall.

- If your players are Golarianphiles there is a significant amount of Golarian history buried in this AP. If your players have the interest I think there is a lot to mine. Between this AP and Second Darkness (oddly two of the most universally disliked APs) a large amount of Goalrian history and back-story are revealed.

- For my group I used any victories they achieved using mass combat to weaken the Aspect of Ydersius for the final battle. For my group Ydersius would be pretty much unbeatable without this (remember we are core rulebook only). I took away resistances or spell like abilities, etc, for each time one of there armies defeated an opposing army of Serpentfolk.

- Overall I think the AP is a good one. I don't think it can be run without GM enhancement so be prepared to do this. If all the APs were written like this one I don't think the AP line would be the success that it is today.

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I would agree with some of the sentiment in the OP. The Pathfinder game has exponentially expanded over the years and I must admit it is well beyond the interest level of my group.

I would like to see Paizo further refine its "experimental every other AP" philosophy to be: one AP a year is "core rulebook rules only" and the other is "anything goes". This way groups like mine that have no interest in any of the rule expansions always have an AP option. I bet it would also alleviate some of the day to day release pressure from Paizo staff.

Today it is harder and harder for me to find an AP (or even adventure) I can run without having to ignore or heavily modify way too much rules content to fit into my game.

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Aldarionn wrote:

Just thought I would post an update here. I've been DMing Wrath of the Rigteous for some time now and we made it through book 3 and partway into book 4. The campaign started out great, with cool challenges, fun NPC's and a relatively well balanced set of encounters.

Once my players became Mythic though, everything went to hell. Power creep quickly outstripped the NPC's and basically everything came down to me asking the Wizard what he did (his initiative bonus started at +17 and only got higher) then scrapping the combat because his first action usually prevented the enemy from acting and the rest of the party did so much damage that they never got a change to retaliate.

I started using Sc8rpi8on's updated stat blocks in book 2 and this helped for a while, though my players began to feel that I was sniping them when I would knock one of them out of a fight with a well coordinated attack. By the time we got into book 3 though, the combat went back the other direction even with the updated stat blocks. Nothing lasted long enough to even act in combat, so there wasn't much point.

At that point I made the decision to completely scrap combat rules and just let players roleplay their way through everything. It was an interesting experiment but without a structured system it devolved into me describing combatants and my players telling me exactly how they demolished them before they could even act. The moment I tried to narrate a challenging fight they told me how they would completely stomp it without ever breaking a sweat.

I got tired of it, and last night I made the decision to fold the campaign and chock it up to a failed AP. I verbally told them how the AP concluded and next week we will begin Mummy's Mask with a different DM.

I'm extremely disappointed. The Mythic rules took a compelling story about Good VS Evil and turned it into an absurd game of rocket tag. The average party will walk through 80% of the stuff in this AP without batting an eye, and the enemies that do challenge the PC's will...

Pretty much what I figured would happen with "Mythic" PC rules. See my post here where I suggest Paizo should have made Mythic rules for the PC adversaries ONLY. This would have given PCs cool Mythic challenges to over come as a group instead of just super-buffing them and making combat even more fiddly and even less fun.

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Robert Brookes wrote:

AP fiction is such a strange beast. I personally don't pass around the AP volume to my players, so they'll likely never read the fiction. As a GM I want anything in the AP to directly enhance the experience. Right now, while well-written, the fiction still seems extraneous.

If fiction *must* stay in the AP line, why not have it involve the major players in the adventure path itself? I'm envisioning a fiction piece for Reign of Winter where we get to see Elvanna and Rasputin plot to overthrow Baba Yaga. Make the fiction directly serve the AP's story so we (the GMs) can learn and understand the principal cast better.

Could not agree more with this sentiment. The AP is for the GM. The players never see it so why not make the fiction another tool for a GM running the AP? Tie it directly to events in the AP.

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In general I'm not a huge follower of the RPG contest but I do check in on some part of it each year out of curiosity.

As a casual observer, some of my suggestions:

- I've seen enough "Wondrous" items. I'd like to see some other aspect of the game be the focus of round 1. Personally I'd like to see novel uses of existing skills.

- A "make the game better" round. I'd like to see one of the latter rounds of the competition showcase the ability of the contestant to make the game better by suggesting a subtle or wholesale change to an existing part of it OR apply existing rules in an uncommon way. Not just a new monster or encounter but something like a new stat block format, or a diceless combat resolution system, or new overland movement and exploration rules, or resolving combat using only ability checks. Something that showcases the contestants knowledge of the rules and creativity in applying them in an innovative way.

- A "stat up a legend" round. The contestant would pick a fictional (or even non fictional) character and stat them up using Pathfinder classes and abilities. Julius Caesar, Conan, Nostradamus, Nimue, Joan of Arc? What they be to you in Pathfinder rules?

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Ravingdork wrote:

Could you clarify for us what a "death spell" or "magical death effect" is exactly?

Any spell (or spell like or supernatural ability that emulates a spell) that has the "death" [Descriptor].

Ravingdork wrote:

Is fireball a death spell?


School evocation [fire];

School conjuration (summoning);

Ravingdork wrote:

What about a spell with the [death] tag?


School necromancy [death, sonic];

School necromancy [death];

School enchantment (compulsion) [death, mind-affecting];

Ravingdork wrote:

What about a supernatural ability that says it is a death effect?


Devour Soul (Su) By making a touch attack as a standard action, a devourer can deal 12d6+18 points of damage as if using a slay living spell.
School necromancy [death];

Body Thief (Su) As a full-round action that provokes an attack of opportunity, an intellect devourer can reduce its size, crawl into the mouth of a helpless or dead creature, and burrow into the victim's skull to devour its brain. This is a coup de grace attempt that inflicts 8d4+3d6+8 points of damage.

Wail (Su) Once per minute, a banshee may wail as a full-round action. Those that fail take 140 points of damage (as if affected by a CL 14 wail of the banshee).
School necromancy [death, sonic];

Soul Lock (Su) Once per day as a full-round action, a cacodaemon can ingest the spirit of any sentient creature that has died within the last minute. This causes a soul gem to grow inside of the cacodaemon's gut, which it can regurgitate as a standard action. A soul gem is a fine-sized object with 1 hit point and hardness 2. Destroying a soul gem frees the soul within, though it does not return the deceased creature to life. This is a death effect.

That's how I rule it anyway.

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Kerian Valentine wrote:
I'd like to point out that the phrase Mythic is probably what's bothering people more than the concept of Mythic rules... the entire post

What you describe is basically what bugs me about the "mythic" stuff in a nutshell. To me, the mythic levels are redundant. Everything you describe, and what I've read about as far as "mythic" inspirations, is already modeled in the existing class hierarchy. At least in my games it always has been.

Examples (the classes and levels are arbitrary, it's the progression that matters):
- Gandalf the Grey (level x wizard)/Gandalf the White (level x+2 wizard)
- Soldier (level x fighter)/Captain (level x+5 fighter)/Lancelot (level x+15 fighter)
- Temple trainee (level x paladin)/Temple Champion (level x+5 paladin)/Temple Hero (level x+7 paladin)/Gawain (level x+10 paladin)
- Tough guy in a tavern (level x barbarian)/Toughest guy in the tavern (level x+3 barbarian)/Toughest guy in the country (level x+7 barbarian)/Hercules (level x+15 barbarian)

I just don't understand where the "mythic tiers" fit within the existing class system on a narrative level.

To a common farmer, a 12th level cleric seems mythic. A 12th level cleric can create water at will and bring people back from the dead, certainly "godlike" powers to a farmer, or even a 2nd level person. So to that same farmer, what is a 12th level cleric with 1 mythic tier?

What is a cleric 2/mythic tier 2 cleric to a 12th level cleric? Does the 12th level cleric look at the mythic guy and aspire to have his power, revere him in awe as a chosen servant? Why would he? He's 12th level! If not, then whats the point of the mythic tiers?

A 10th or 12th or 15th level paladin has certainly done many extraordinary things in his adventuring life in service of his deity and the greater good. He has the divine blessing of his deity and is directly granted powers due to this blessing. So when a level 3/mythic tier 2 paladin comes along what does that mean to him? Despite his (probably) years more dedication and service to his deity this chosen one is more favored?

I don't get how the mythic stuff works on a story level when the existing class system is already modeling "mythic" and "fledgling" beings today.

What would make more sense to me is if the "mythic" tiers were reserved for deities and monsters, NOT PCs. Now that would be interesting because it would open truly horrific and/or beautifully powerful beings for the PCs to interact with and battle and for designers to stat out so we can see the numbers on these terrible beings (I'm not above stats for stats sake!). High level PCs would have to draw upon their own "mortal" (non mythic) abilities to defeat these cosmically powerful foes by luck, planning, overwhelming numbers, perseverance, or some combination of all. It would give PLAYERS of high level characters reasons to count up and track all those little bonuses (instead of hand-waving them) for every little edge and come up with strong battlefield tactics or work as a group to defeat a mythic opponent. It would allow GMs to run high level battles with powerful BBEGs without over complicated stat blocks, tons of mooks, and reams of paper.

So "mythic monsters" work for me but "mythic PCs" seem redundant and unnecessary to both the game rules and narrative.

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Carrion Crown was not very urban at all. Each volume had some kind of urban site to start off but the adventure almost immediately left each urban area and moved into a dungeon like setting:

Part 1: town->dungeon like prison
Part 2: city->mini dungeons in the country and big dungeon-like manor way outside the city at the end
Part 3: royal estate->wilderness and deserted town of undead
Part 4: small town->actual dungeon
Part 5: city->vampire dungeon lair
Part 6: wasteland with dungeons mixed in

Not that I'm complaining about dungeons though. As long as they are a manageable size I have no issue with them.

Regarding S&S, I remain baffled by this AP and the reaction to it. The pre-release hype was all about "OMG Pirates! I love Pirates! ARG!" Yet when it was finally released interest seemed to immediately fade into malaise. So what happened? The goal seemed pretty simple: a bunch of customers wanted a nautical pirate AP and Paizo agreed to write one. How could that have gone wrong?

Funny that the core rules were too simple to cover what S&S needed and the expanded Ultimate Combat rules were too complex so a third set of nautical rules had to be invented which caused it to get behind schedule. I don't know, seems to me it would be easier and more beneficial to write adventures that use the rules already in print instead of constantly inventing new ones that just put the adventures behind schedule and make them sub-par anyway.

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Requiem for a Fiend

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In the original write up of ROTRL knowledge of Thassilon was almost unheard of, no one spoke Thassilonian, and even the guy (Brodert) who seemed to have some clue about the local Thassilonian ruin was regarded as a complete quack. The discovery of Golarians history, specifically dealing with the Thassilonians, was one of the key points of the AP. Ultimately the PCs discover what these monuments lying about Varisia are (Thassilonian ruins) and what they mean to the current day. The climax is of course the discovery of Runelords and that at least one of them is still around. Any local historians knew none of this knowledge, from what I remember reading. In fact, in the original Thassilon write up I seem to remember some of the common theories of what ended Thassilon and only one of them was an Earthfall type event. The most universally accepted scholarly explanation for Thassilons fall was the giants revolting, from what I remember, not a rock falling from the sky. Earthfall was not some kind of fact ingrained in the populace of all Golarian at birth. It was a theory that a rare scholar might know about but your everyday person and even knowledgeable historian knew nothing about it or at most vague details that may or may not be true. The PCs are the ones that discover this information throughout the course of the AP.

Since then, as the writing about Golarian continued and more Paizo products were published, Earthfall became fact and (seemingly) common knowledge to a larger population on Golarian. How common? I’m unsure. If we look at the world today and our own “Earthfall” type event, I would guess most people are unaware of the Chicxulub crater even today and our own experts didn’t even know about it until 1978 or so, so that discovery took about 65 million years. So in Golarian considering Earthfall only occurred 10,000 years ago it is entirely possible for the vast majority of the planet to have no idea it occurred or even care. Keep in mind though Golarian has beings capable of living for 10,000 years. In fact, many creatures alive on Golarian today actually survived Earthfall and continue to live on Golarian to the present day. Many such creatures make appearances in ROTRL and the other APs, off the top of my head I remember a dragon and a few demons that are just encounters the PCs have, but almost every AP has a BBEG that was around before and after Earthfall and was personally effected by it in some way. Since these creatures are sentient and can communicate with anyone they want it’s easy to see how the details of Earthfall could be known to some people alive on Golarian today but probably not many.

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I occasionally get the feeling that pieces of the AP adventures (or at least the set pieces in the adventures) have been repurposed or reskinned from their original theme to fit the current AP. So a freelance author might have written and/or mapped a "haunted keep" encounter area that never got published, or was used in a home game, or Paizo never printed, and they repurposed it to meet the current AP assignment and deadline. I imagine the deadlines are so tight it must be very tempting (and maybe even necessary) to do this for both Paizo and a freelancer. Maybe something like this has happened with S&S? Some of those out of place dungeon crawls were re-skinned into the pirate AP assignment?

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Why are deities geographically constrained at all? Tian Xia should just be worshipping the same core 20 as everyone else. It’s not like Desna can’t cross an ocean. In the real world, different religions have different deific representations because they are imaginary and people come up with what suits them. In Golarian the gods are real, they really exist, and are not constrained by oceans or borders that their followers haphazardly create.

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Annika wrote:

SUCH lovely creepy wonderful ideas!!! I've had AA and the WW scrying on the party through a piece of treasure that I planted and he's been leaving or having delivered creepy/taunting/stalker-ish notes for them here and there. It's creeping them out and making them furious but they haven't yet figured out the method of his spying =)

I've been doing something similar: the Ouija board the players find in part one is a twin of the one in the ghostly necromancers’ room in part 6. They function like walkie talkies, but the players think it is divination. So every question the PCs have asked of the Ouija board since part 1 has been answered by the necromancers in part 6 using their board. They just found this out last night!

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The only disappointment I have with this is that the LOTR story was condensed to fit the movies while TH story is being expanded to fill them. In a perfect world, I would have preferred the exact opposite. LOTR is the greater, deeper tale that deserves the extra time and exploration in a cinematic venue. TH is the lighter, simpler tale that would suffer very little when made into a single movie. I’m glad TH is being made, but they just got the plan backwards.

In the run up to LOTR I pretty distinctly remember PJ and company explaining that you have to trim the literature for the screen; otherwise the movie doesn’t work. Now, with TH, they seem to be doing the opposite. When all is said and done one of PJs conflicting perspectives will be proved correct. I have a feeling he has learned that condensing the story for LOTR sapped some of its strength as a genre defining epic and he is making an expanded TH as a kind of apology to the spirit of the thing.

As far as GDT goes with TH, I was much pleased when he left the project. He never seemed like a good fit to me. For movies like LOTR and TH I think you have embrace and internalize the story to do justice to it. You almost have to treat the source material as a historical account of real events, not a fairy tale. GDT specializes in fairy tales. That’s why I think the Hellboy movies were so lackluster. The very soul of the Hellboy stories (and the BPRD) is that this is real stuff happening to real people; it’s not a fairy tale or superhero story. Hellboy movie 1 was about a superhero, Hellboy movie 2 was a fairy tale. TH under GDT would have been a combination of the two (Bilbo the super hero in a fairy tale setting).

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I'm not sure I get what this product is for. $10 for 16 pages of character information? I assume the pages can only be used once so what happens when the character dies at 2nd level, or 5th, or 10th? Do you just throw it out and buy another one for the next character?

Maybe my group is playing a different game but we usually have many PC deaths through the course of an AP and once the AP is finished the surviving characters are retired (thrown out) anyway and we start again from 1st level. In addition we are always looking to get the 2 page character sheets we use now down to one --not up to 16!

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If you've never GMd an Adventure Path before you might be surprised at the amount of effort required to run either of the APs you've selected. If your players have never been through an AP they will certainly be surprised by the level of detail and adventure in either as well.

Given the two options you listed and assuming you've never GMd and AP before I would recommend starting with Carrion Crown as each volume is fairly linear and concise. You can run the CC volumes as written and your group will have a great time. Just be aware that CC does contain a significant amount of material not in the core rulebook. As GM, you will need to either get that material ahead of time or be prepared to replace it. Also be aware that the end game of the AP (all of part 6) does get mechanically complex for whomever is sitting in the GM chair.

Serpents Skull might be a good follow up to Carrion Crown. Serpents Skull is more free-form and will require a significant amount of planning and preparation from the GM (above and beyond the amount any AP requires). Serpents Skull turns into a big free-form adventure (sometimes referred to as a sandbox) in parts 3 and 4. This was partially by design and partially by what is assumed to be some kind of issue with the initial writing of part 3. The original author of part 3 was never used to write another product for Paizo, which I think is pretty unusual, if not unique. So I think that says something right there. In the hands of an experienced and dedicated GM part 3 and 4 can be merged into an outstanding lost city exploration adventure, but I don't think you want to tackle this on your first AP.

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Jerry Wright 307 wrote:
One of my biggest problems with 3.5/PF as it stands is the complexity issue. The rules try to cover everything, and that's just too much.

I think this is true when starting out but, even with a complex system like 3.5, you can master it after a surprisingly quick amount of time, provided it stops expanding. Unfortunately we've yet to see a D&D rule set that does not continually expand. Pathfinder had a great start but the APG and Ultimate books pushed it right over the edge. I think once a game crosses this line it’s hard to come back, you’ve forever abandoned the casual or rules light customer in favor of the tactical player. You either force the rules light guys to play a game they don’t want to play or to ignore escalating amounts of content in the game they do play and force them to deal with diminishing returns on their purchases.

DDN has an opportunity right now to keep players of all kinds happy if it can publish a cohesive enough set of rules at the start, allow and enable the players to master it, then: (this is the hard part) leave it alone. We’ll see.

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Epic Meepo wrote:
I'm speaking only from the perspective of a semi-professional author and game designer who is, for all intents and purposes, excluded from participating in this playtest.

Yup. That’s exactly what they want. If you are a "semi-professional game designer" you are almost certainly designing for a game other than D&D so they don't want you to take anything from the playtest and bring it into another game. I don't think it's a bad thing for them to do, although it is a bit overbearing.

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sunbeam wrote:

Tell you guys what.

Roll up some characters. I don't really care what level.

Let's take an encounter from the Adventure Paths that is significant.

I'll run the encounter and use what I consider to be intelligent tactics.

I really like the Clocktower in Magnimar from the Skinsaw Murders, and I actually have that Pathfinder.

Now, let me get this straight, you guys are saying roleplayers don't take Iron Will right? Because that makes as much sense as the rest of what you guys are saying.

I'm kind of looking forward to using that Lamia Matriarch against you guys.

What if my character is unusually susceptible to mental manipulation due to a low self-esteem and lack of social interaction from a childhood spent in work camps for half-orc orphans? Am I still required to take "Iron Will"?

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sunbeam wrote:

Take an example like Valeros. It's not even Char Op at this point, but everyone knows two weapon fighting only makes sense if you use the same weapon in both hands, so you can get maximum use from your feats. Everyone knows you have to stack as many damage modifiers as you can on that weapon.

Everyone also knows about will saves and fighters and 3.5/Pathfinder. Iron Will and probably Improved Iron Will HAVE to be in every build, along with those Gloves of Dueling.

This has to be a joke. I find it hard to believe a majority of people play the game this way or that it is expected behavior by most groups.

Do you just give the "Gloves of Dueling" out at first level or do they automatically show up at a later level? Do players complain when the "Gloves of Dueling" are not in the first treasure pile or available for purchase at any shops? Weird. I’m not even sure what "Gloves of Dueling" are or what they do.

BTW, I’m glad the iconic stat blocks are gone. I’d rather have the page count for other things.

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Power Word Unzip wrote:

Our group just doesn't see the overpowered caster issue come into play at all, and we've run games that typically stretch up to about 16th level.

If anything, we see exactly the opposite: casters are glass-jawed and often dropped by tough melee opponents. Layers and layers of defenses such as spell resistance, elemental resistance, and magic immunity typically nullify the really good high-level spells, and oftentimes creatures have sufficiently good saving throws that negate spells right off the bat.

Additionally, the complexity of being more or less unable to cast within reach of anything that deals significant damage shuts down a lot of good spells before they even start. Heck, it doesn't just ruin the casting - you lose the damn spell slot for the whole day.

By contrast, melee and ranged warriors have to worry about two things and two things only: armor class and damage reduction. If they can bypass those two qualities easily, and ramp up their base damage bonus high enough that even minimizing means eating away at 5-10% of an enemy's hp with a single hit, they overshadow the efficacy of the caster every time in a fight.

This describes the experience of my group almost exactly.

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ralantar wrote:
I swear, sometimes I wonder if some of you actually play this game or just read the books.

I don't wonder about this anymore. I now just assume most posters on the boards primarily just read the books, or more accurately the PRD, and don't actually play the game much if at all. It really does explain a lot of the "controversies" that exist. I don’t really think of it as a bad thing though. I just try to keep in mind that most rules based discussions are theoretical with little or no actual game play backing.

Just look at how prolific (with regard to number of posts per day) many of the regulars are. They don’t even have enough down time in their post history to be away from the boards and actually playing the game!

I do get concerned though when I think this is happening to the game developers and authors . I’m pretty sure a lack of actual gaming time has caused some questionable design choices over the years in many games I play.

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Nepherti wrote:

In all my years of gaming, only a single game has ever been finished. We started at level 5 and ended at level 18-ish. But there have been at least a dozen others that fell apart before the plot was completed.

Am I seriously lacking in the "finished game" department? Or is this a rather common phenomenon?

Well, here is my list of completed campaighns going back to 2000. I've had the same players since around 1984.

Some tips for completing campaigns:

- Map out the entire campaign arc for the players (the APs do this for you) and share it with the players and stick to it. If they know you have a beginning, middle, and end planned out they are more likely to stay with the campaign. If the players can track how close the end is they can plan for it (building anticipation) or accurately bide their time until it ends (if they don't particularly like it). I've found that free-form campaigns die more often because players can't plan for the end game or don't want to stick around for something that seems to have no ending. People usually like to get to the end of the story and know when it's coming.

- Limit the rules bloat. I stick to core books only for the players but every group has its preferences. Allowing any non-core rules into the campaign at any time tends to make the players lose focus on the game and instead focus on the rules they are (or are not) using. This usually leads to game fatigue as everyone tries to keep up with the ever shifting rules landscape and never achieves any kind of game play flow. Save something for the next campaign that the players can get by finishing the current one.

- Don’t homebrew. Calm down, I’m not saying homebrew is bad, but let’s face it professional authors are usually the pros for a reason. Odds are you have skills that someone already pays you to perform. Odds are those skills do not involve adventure writing or world building. There might be a good reason for this. Your players may be too kind to say something about it so it might be easier for them to just bail on your games.

- Limit the game days to a specific day of the week a limited number of times per month. Don’t try to play every time everyone is available. Instead, schedule a day 2 or 3 times a month (at most) to play for the majority of the day (6-8 hours).

- When one game day gets cancelled immediately schedule the next one that everyone is available for. Don’t wait to reschedule until next week or month, get it on the calendar as soon as possible even if its weeks away.

- As GM, try to always be available. If the GM cancels no one can play no matter what, so the GM has a responsibility to be the most flexible with his time.

- If you can, get players that are siblings. When you have siblings in a group you often get two players for the price of one. Usually siblings are going to see each other anyway and have similar family commitments so their availability tends to already be in sync. So if you have one regular player that has an age appropriate brother or sister with similar interests try to get them in the game as well.

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Watched the video and read the latest 5E stuff from EnWorld. The designers seem all over the place with 5E and what they want it to be. Either they are deliberately being obtuse or are genuinely flailing, I'm not sure.

Meanwhile they continue to (apparently) ignore the success that Paizo and Pathfinder are having as they publicly wonder how to do things that Paizo has already done. It's like Microsoft saying: "We want to do something that has never been done before: Create a phone like communication device that you can control completely by touch that consumers love so much they are willing to pay a premium for!"

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The article never mentions the 1E PHB. Did you know that all the humans in it were brown skinned? It's hard to tell with the black and white art work, but it's true.

The real issue regarding fantasy art work is age discrimination, not race. The only people over 30 years old I see in modern fantasy RPG art work are either elves or evil. The only women I see over 25 are either undead or invisible. There are laws against this kind of discrimination you know!

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Captain Marsh wrote:
How to fix Pathfinder?

Just use the core rules. It works fine all the way from 1 to 20.

Wolfgang Baur wrote:

I know there are groups that quit around level 10 when things get "too silly."

In my experience the only thing that gets silly is the occasional high level adventure or things like ninjas and cowboys. The classic and vetted stuff stays very grounded when you have an adventure writer or GM that is experienced with high level play, not reading or daydreaming about what high level play is like, or what it was like when they were 12 years old.

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Wolfgang Baur wrote:

@Dream Daemon, I sort of see what you are driving at, but it is fairly impractical. That is, I think repeating "for the Pathfinder RPG" 12 times to cover the system for each article would get sort of tiresome. There's two "for 4th Edition D&D" articles in this issue, but it's not like 4E needs to come with a warning label.

@Kthulhu, according to DriveThru, the file is correct and functional. I quote them: "customer may need to clear his cache and re-download from the My Library portion of the site."

Alternately, I'm sure Paizo wouldn't mind if you bought it from them. :)

Why not just add a simple descriptor in the above published table of contents?

Like this:
The Shaman (PF)
Daughters of Lilith (4E)
It's a Mystery (N)
Clerical Conflicts (AGE)

The reason why I stopped regularly buying KQ is precisely because I don't know how much of each issue is compatible with my game. I concur with Shasazar above that clarifying the system for each article is a good thing, especially when the topic is something (like a succubus) that is fundamentally different in different game systems.

I think the "edition warriors or Pathfinder purists" comment was uncalled for. I don’t think there is anything wrong with a consumer wanting to get the most out of their purchase and politely complaining about it when they don't. If anything, the "Glad to hear you like the issue!" comment was inflammatory since the reviewer clearly did not. I'm not sure if that was just ignorance or snark though.

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From Trial of the Beast:
"The western border of Ustalav abuts the savge region known as the Hold of Belkzen, leading the western counties to finance border guards to patrol their roads and frontiers for dangers."

Same source on stats for them:
"Use the statistics for caravan guards from pg 282 of the Pathfinder RPG GameMastery Guide to represent patrols of border guards."

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None. I read each proposal. I would not purchase any of these adventures.

I'm not sure having the public judge the final four submissions is the best way to determine the winner of the contest. I don't read enough adventure proposals in my life to be able to accurately judge how good any of these are. For all I know these proposals are better than the proposals for "Seven Days to the Grave" or "Souls for Smugglers Shiv". I have no idea how much massaging takes place from this rough draft form to the final published adventure, so I can’t judge how these proposals match up.

Of course I have the judges’ comments to aid in the decision process but what’s the point of letting them do the thinking for me? Just have them pick one, they do a much better job of seeing the diamond in the rough than the general public does anyway, I think.

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Brandon Hodge wrote:

For this, IGNORE the picture on the right. TOTALLY IGNORE IT. For purposes of this adventure, that inner tower is off-limits, and noted by the central blacked-out areas on the main room maps.

For the left picture, know that the central tower "B" pointed at with the upper "B" and the arrow, is Gallowspire itself.

There is no "B" in the picture on the left.

Brandon Hodge wrote:

The INNER tower. That upper "B" is pointing right at Area H7.

The lower "A" is pointing to the FLOOR of Area H6.

The lower "B" is pointing to the WALLS of area H6....

All this is from the picture on the right, which you suggest we ignore. So I'm confused. I get the tower in a tower, but I don't know how to apply any of the above to the picture on the left. The picture on the left just has an "A" on it.

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wolfpack75 wrote:
For one I would like to see an introductory adventure for each AP

I'm fine with the APs starting off they way they do already. My group has never had an issue with already knowing each other, or having lived in the town their whole life, or whatever. We usually take 5 or 10 minutes to come up with a goofy back story for each PC and go from there, no big deal. I would rather Paizo focus its limited resources on the end of the AP, the beginning gets plenty of attention already.

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Interesting post. These are exactly the kinds of things I would like to see the authors of the Pathfinder Tales novels tackle in their prose. A novel based on the game, to me, would seem like the perfect place to describe some of these things and how they look and feel in the world. Wouldn't it?

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Ice Titan wrote:
Toadkiller Dog wrote:
I love the art in Jade Regent-- mostly because it shows the iconics alongside the named NPCs, which I think is awesome.

Why would that be a bonus? I think it's great only if your party runs iconics as their characters, which I don't think many people are doing. Every time I show a piece of art to my players, I have a mental sigh because I hate saying:

So this is how this encounter looks like, only these people are actually you.

The iconics are just there as stand-ins anyways. I hardly ever show my PCs a piece of art including iconics, but when I do, it's for "This dragon" or "this thing" instead of "this scene," if you know what I mean?

I like that the book's art is tied very closely to the book's contents, instead of in some previous paths where there are pieces of art where you're just like, wait, what the hell is going on here? What is happening? Is this even in the book?

Agreed. I've always felt the iconics are more for the "read but don't play" AP crowd. I'd love to see a variety of adventurers instead of the iconics but I don't think that will ever happen.

So far I have found the art in Carrion Crown to be especially detached from the text. I hope the APs improve in this area as well. Sounds like JR might have.

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Drakli wrote:

Okay, so... Acrietia is a dread wight monk 6, which means she gets three attacks a round if she flurries; which means she can potentially drain three levels from the same target. I am reading this right, correct? Wights don't have that same inhibitor vampires do that keep the vamps from triggering energy drain more than once a round.

She's also located with four wight acolytes.

Grant you, good fortune may also save them, but I feel like this is potentially rather devestating if Acrietia and her band get the drop on a party.

Well if Acrietia uses her Ki Pool she can actually get four attacks with flurry of blows (10/10/5/10), so it could be even worse than you think!

However, keep in mind that wights have the Energy Drain (Su) ability. They don't "drain levels" (nothing in PF does) they only "bestow one or more negative levels", which are still pretty bad but not as bad as losing a level used to be in 3.5.

With the wight, the negative levels do have a chance to be permanent after 24 hours but even a permanent negative level is not like losing a level, it's just permanent penalites that can still be cured with restoration magic. Pathfinder did away with actual level loss.

PRD on negative level:
For each negative level a creature has, it takes a cumulative –1 penalty on all ability checks, attack rolls, combat maneuver checks, Combat Maneuver Defense, saving throws, and skill checks. In addition, the creature reduces its current and total hit points by 5 for each negative level it possesses. The creature is also treated as one level lower for the purpose of level-dependent variables (such as spellcasting) for each negative level possessed. Spellcasters do not lose any prepared spells or slots as a result of negative levels. If a creature's negative levels equal or exceed its total Hit Dice, it dies.

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I've never read much RPG Superstar feedback in the past so I really don't have anything to compare it to but I do agree with the OP that the comments from the judges give an impression of "best of the worst" rather than "best of the best". I just thought this was deliberate behavior by the judges because you need to have thick skin to be an RPG designer and they need to expose you to that fact early in the process.

...and in the spirit of thick skin...I don't find Mr. Danceys criticisms to be "superstar judge" level. Maybe he's just too busy to put a great effort into the process but it seems like he is mailing it in compared to what the other judges provide. Running GW I'm sure is taking a ton of his time. I thought his mention of "beholders" in one of his criticisms was both funny and enlightening. Using auto-reject terminology (non-Paizo owned IP) in a criticism is a little odd.

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Here are my tips:

1. High level characters are best when they organically grow to that point. Just sitting down and building 18th level characters from scratch always results in ultra-optimized combat focused PCs that the players and GM are unfamiliar with. This leads to a very complex, time consuming, and un-fun play experience.

2. High level adventures need to be about the story and goal. The seeds for the capstone adventure should have been planted early in the PCs career.

3. High level PCs should be challenged by the environment as much as by the actual creatures. Deadly environments (magic or natural) are a must, the PCs still need to rely on those low level abilities to survive. High level PCs (sometimes) still need to eat and breathe so keep this in mind when designing the adventure, make those clerics use create food and water and endure elements, every day.

4. No sleep. In my campaigns, when we get to about 15th level or so, I always make sleeping very problematic and hard to come by. This can be done in various ways using the environment or opportunistic enemies with disposable minions or even curses or disease. I routinely have high level PCs go weeks without getting good rest.

5. Make high level abilities requirements don't look for ways to counteract them. Design the adventure so the players must fly to it or must teleport into it. Make the players use the abilities they have instead of looking for ways to keep them from using their abilities.

6. When using possession or domination type abilities on the PCs DO NOT use them to have the PCs attack each other. Just don't do it. If a PC must be dominated or possessed have the magic manifest in a detrimental way that DOES NOT include attacking friends. Instead they might begin randomly using consumable magic items, or casting spells on targets they know are immune, or using smite attacks on inert objects. There are plenty of things to do without degenerating to taking control of an 18th level character to attack another 18th level character (yuck).

7. Combat can (and will) be long and drawn out, just prepare for this. However, it is just as common for some fights to be very quick and deadly. Several times during my Savage Tide campaign I had 3 or 4 round battles that resulted in a PC or two being dead or unconscious and all the enemies defeated. These were some of the most memorable high level battles we have had to date. 3 quick rounds of massive damage, deaths, death effects, and the combat is over.

8. The PCs should feel their power. A great way to illustrate the power of high level PCs is by using their followers (or even some cohorts that are a few levels lower). Often high level PCs will meet things like solars or ancient dragons or balors, when this happens those lower level followers and cohorts should be paralyzed with fear or awe or both regardless of the actual abilities of the creatures. A 5th level fighter should just cower in the presence of a balor while 5th level cleric would fall to his knees into meditative prayer in front of a solar. All the while the high level PC can stand toe to toe or eye to eye with the being. This in itself is a victory of sorts and the player should get to experience it inside and outside of combat.

9. If you have a climactic battle you are building toward don't let the PCs get into it at full strength. They must be made to sacrifice on the way into the battle and they should know this, it should be part of the fight even though it doesn't take place during initiative. Maybe channel energy needs to be used to open gateways, or the paladin has to stay behind for three rounds to hold off an evil force with his divine aura, or the wizard needs to cast several high level damage dealing spells in succession without disruption to pass a ward while the rest of the party has to keep him moving, or maybe the ninja has to poison powerful living foe with a special poison that will force them into their true undead state for the real final battle.

10. Alignment. This is the climactic adventure for these PCs (since the level cap is 20) so there is no tomorrow. Someone should have to make a choice that goes against alignment and deity and pay the price.

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Leave the game alone. Just play it. I'm not buying any more "new editions" of games I already enjoy. The adventures are the point, remember?

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Well, who knows what the future holds, but "We’re actually much better off creating a single, stable edition. It’s easier for fans, it’s better for continuity for writers and designers, and it’s much easier in terms of creating a long-term product strategy." sounds like the most intelligent thing I've heard come out of the owners of "Dungeons & Dragons" in a long time. Those are words of wisdom that every TRPG publisher could learn from. Every one.

Just make a single stable rule set and do cool things with it. We will give you money for that. Simple.

At this point the only thing that would make me consider playing D&D 5.0 is PF 2.0. I figure, if the game I play is changing anyway, I might as well look at all the options.

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For me as GM I make a distinction between "charm" spells and "compulsion" spells.

Charm spells I do not consider to be effective combat options at any level and they have little to no effectiveness in actual combat (specifically, after initiative has been rolled). They are for social settings.

Compulsion spells I consider a combat based version of charm so I do try to give them every opportunity to work in actual combat.

Now, with Suggestion and this situation specifically, I do not believe the Rakshasa could just say "Throw your weapon away." in the middle of a heated battle (meaning you have rolled initiative) and you would blindly obey. At best you would get another save, at worst it would break the spell. However, I do believe the Rakshasa could have suggested that your bow was ineffective against him and you should stop using it (opposed by Sense Motive or Knowledge(the planes)) or that he should be allowed to face you in "more honorable" hand to hand combat (opposed by Sense Motive or Wisdom) or that he would let you live if you did (opposed by Sense Motive if he were lying or if you didn't feel like you were in danger).

The benefit of the Compulsion spell to the caster is that it allows the dice to make a decision for the PC (via saving throw, skill check, or ability check) instead of the player.

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I really think the Paizo blog could use some attention and inspiration. I'd like to see posts in the Paizo blog made by rotating Paizo staff (or freelancers, or just interesting people Paizo staff can get to occasionally write for it) on things like:

- the RPG industry in general(not just Pathfinder)
- book reviews, movie reviews, tv show reviews
- existing game analysis, future game analysis
- stories from the work day (what happened with Second Darkness?, what was it like days before the PRPG was released?, what was it like the day 4E was announced?)
- art director stories (what goes into directing the artwork for an AP, what worked in the past? what didn't? why?)
- random gaming related posts from guest posters that don't work at Paizo but are still related to the genre (authors, game makers, publishers, whatever)
- rules based play-by play from an encounter a developer ran during their game and what they learned from it.
- Several senior staff members and industry experts can write a week long series of articles explaining exactly what Eric Mona does for a living.

For inspiration take a look at the "Ask James Jacobs" thread and some of the answers James gives about things in there, some of that stuff can be expand into really interesting blog posts. I also really enjoyed the comic book discussion Eric Mona was having on his own blog a few months ago, why not put something like that on the Paizo blog? Or what James Maliszewski does with Grognardia in discussing his game of choice and its history. Or the additional content Wes Schneider provided in the Carrion Crown forums would have been an awesome post.

Today the posts are too infrequent (developer posts like the Stealth and Poison discussions), too short and tissue paper thin (Golarian related posts), too marketing focused (the minis posts), or just not interesting (the PFS stuff, and RPG super star stuff) or just not the right place (I just don't enjoy reading the fiction on the blog). I think the Paizo blog could really use a refresh this year and can be expanded to become almost like a mini Dragon Magazine of old.

Yes, I know it takes time and resources to do this that Paizo either doesn't have or doesn't want to move from other projects. Yes, I know Paizo staff is already maxed out working 120 hour weeks. Yes I know Gen Con either just passed or is right around the corner so everyone is swamped. Yes I know RPG Superstar is like a resource and time black hole. So realistically I know improving the Paizo Blog is low on the list, but still, it would be cool if it became something better.

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Kindle version of the books please. Congratulations Mr. Sutter!

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Scott Betts wrote:
We think that the hobby today is cooler than it was 10 years ago, and that 10 years from now it will be cooler than it is today.

The hobby of tabletop RPGs in general or Dungeons & Dragons specifically?

I think the tabletop RPG hobby in general is much cooler today than 10 years ago but I do not think the game of "Dungeons & Dragons" specifically is.

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Jiggy wrote:
"We want a game that is unmistakably D&D, but one that can easily become your D&D, the game that you want to run and play."

So that was not the goal of 4E? Seems odd. So then what was the goal of 4E and did they accomplish it?

Did they want to make a sub-par game that drove vast numbers of loyal D&D players into the arms of a competing publisher that essentially reprinted the game they just decided needed to be replaced only to have to scrap and rewrite the new game 3 years later after a dismal launch and lackluster followup only to ask the very people they drove away to begin with for ideas on what they would like in another new game using an open playtest?

Because that seems like what 4E accomplished to me.

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Scott Betts wrote:

The real solution here would be for the gaming community to stop looking to be offended by everything anyone in a position of relative authority says.

True, but I just don't think that will ever happen. The well is far too poisoned by everyone involved which includes BTW, anti-4e players, pro-4e players, anti-4e companies, and pro-4e companies. They all played a part in poisoning the edition well and now I don't think it can be undone. I think it's best to just avoid the comparisons and talk about what the new game does without comparing it to any other game or version.

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Spacelard wrote:
Czar wrote:

I'm finding the trial a day schedule a little taxing. Game feels a little rushed. Foe example, the PC's didnt feel they had time to wait around until night fall to investigate the "night ghosts" - after encountering two of the "children" and investigating the in bed death, they felt they had enough, or were running out of time.

Also, they would also be faced with a choice -investigate vorkstags or go to the sanctuary if I didn't delay the trial schedule.

If I ran this again I would either stress time and push for all night rides and no sleeping, or space the court dates out by a day or so. As it is, I'm using the mob attack as a reason to delay the 3rd day of trial. Which seemed to make sense, esp. since the party prematurely torched the punishing man....

Overall the players are loving it.

Yea...the players are meant to feel rushed and have the comfort of a good night's sleep pulled from under them. And the authorities want the trial over and done with ASAP...The Beast is guilty in their eyes and the trial is just for show...

I thought the compressed timeline was the best aspect of the adventure and highly recommend GMs keep it to the 3 days for the trial. The players get to deal with a lack of sleep, sometimes a lack of spells or at least use of spells they normally wouldn't use as much (like the cleric using 3 or 4 lesser restorations a day to remove fatigue). It was a great change up and my players liked it a lot. The pattern was basically: investigate a site at night, try to squeeze in a few hours of rest, then trial, then back out to investigate with restorative magic in between. The whole adventure took only 5 or 6 "in game" days but several weeks of actual playing time over many sessions, a good juxtaposition from the norm. Not to mention the Count is locked in a coffin the entire time so a compressed timeline is essential.

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I put together this simple Vrood timeline so GMs can keep track of his whereabouts while the PCs progress through the adventures.

Auren Vrood timeline

Day 1 : Auren Vrood kills Professor Petros Lorrimor outside of Harrowstone
Day 17 : *PCs should arrive in Ravengro kicking off events of Haunting of Harrowstone
Day 46 : Auren Vrood meets Caromac in Lepidstadt and takes control of The Beast, steals the Seesage Effigiy, leaves the Count locked in the Mourning Maiden and heads east into the Shudderwood
Day 47 : *PCs should arrive in Lepidstadt kicking off events of Trial of the Beast
Day 50 : Vrood arrives at Ascanor
Day 52 : Vrood meets with Madame Ivanja at the Lodge
Day 60 : Vrood and the Whispering Way attack the Stairs
Day 62 : *PCs should arrive at Ascanor kicking off events of Broken Moon
Day 65 : Vrood and the Whispering Way arrive in Feldgrau
Day 67 : Carrion Crown components leave Feldgrau for Thrushmoor
Day 68+ : *At some point the PCs should meet with Vrood and end his storyline and pick up the Andrissant end game storyline

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