Standard wizard feats; spell focus, improved initiative, toughness. Spell specialization if you have a favorite spell, Varisian tattoo for the CL bump. Start looking at metamagic feats 7th level and above. Spell perfection once you hit the end.
Spells just depends on what school you pick.
Spellcraft. Almost all the knowledges are good but go heavy into Arcana, Planes, Local and Nature. Throw at least a few into the others. Escape artist is handy but you have to keep up on it. Give perception a little bit of love but you won't have the best.
Best advice is not to min/max too hard, it won't be fun.
Next up is the first rebuild of book 4 and what I think is a pretty interesting one; Paeta the phase spider. Monsters with class levels are some of my favorite enemies as you can achieve some truly crazy results with just a few levels.
Paeta CR:10 XP:9,600:
Female phase spider unchained rogue (thug) 8
Init:+11; Senses:Darkvision 60ft, Low-light vision; Perception +19
AC 24, touch 19, Flat-footed 17 (+3 Deflection, +6 Dex, +1 dodge, +5 natural, -1 size)
hp 158 (14 HD; 6d10+8d8+64) (Average 133)
Fort, +11 Ref, +17 Will +8
Defensive abilities Evasion, Improved uncanny dodge, Ethereal jaunt
Speed 40 ft., climb 20 ft.
Melee Bite +18 (2d6+9 plus poison and grab)
Space 10 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
Special Attacks Ethereal ambush. poison, sneak attack 4d6, Debilitating injury (bewildered, disoriented, hampered)
Rogue spell-like abilities (CL 8th, concentration +9)
3/day - Message
2/day - Alarm
Before Combat Same as AP. Paeta casts alarm on the tower's main doors and the stairs to area B30 every day.
During Combat Paeta tries to intimidate her foes by using her ethereal ambush to attack, intimidate and poison the apparent strongest intruder. She repeats this tactic until her foes surrender or retreat. Paeta will try to lure her opponents towards any remaining phase spiders within the fort and will grapple and walk up the wall with anyone who becomes incapacitated to use as a bargaining chip. She power attacks unless she misses twice in a row and when sneak attacking always picks the bewildered option on her debilitating injury.
Morale Same as AP. Paeta has no wish to die and will retreat to inform her mistress if reduced to 30 hit points.
Str 20, Dex 22, Con 18, Int 12, Wis 15, Cha 8
Base Atk +12 CMB +18 (+22 grapple) CMD 38 (50 vs trip.)
Feats:Ability focus (poison), Dodge, Improved Initative, Lunge, Skill focus (stealth), Iron Will, Weapon Focus (bite), Weapon Finesse, Power attack, Cornugun Smash
Skills Acrobatics +23 (+27 when jumping), Climb +30, Intimidate +16, Knowledge (Local) +5, Knowledge (Planes) +5, Linguistics +5, Perception +19, Sense motive +11, Sleight of hand +17 Stealth +22
Languages Aklo, Common, Cyclops
Combat Gear Other Gear Ring of Protection +3
SQ Rogue talents (combat trick, minor magic, major magic, weapon training), Frightening, Brutal Beating (give up a sneak attack die to make target sickened), Finesse Training (bite), Rogue's Edge (Intimidate)
Poison (Ex) Bite-injury; save Fort DC 19;frequency 1/round for 8 rounds; effect 1d2 Con; cure 2 consecutive saves.
Notes: Paeta receives a +4 on intimidate if she is larger than her target.
Sticking with the theme of the fort I choose to make Paeta an unchained rogue thug archetype, as I felt the abilities matched nicely with the tone of the fort and helped trade off the lackluster trap sense and trap-finding for some more useful abilities. Technically the rogue levels only counted for 1/2 CR each as rogue is not a key class for magical beasts I'm curious to see if 8 levels change much in regards to difficulty. In addition I'm wondering just how much difficulty my party will have with her poison since my players all have double digit fortitude saves. Thankfully the AP is written so that she doesn't just grapple and drag off her first victim to the ethereal plane, which would have made for a cheap death. Not expecting her to be nearly the powerhouse that Giles was, but I've certainly been surprised before so we'll just wait and see what happens.
@JohnHawkins - Nice builds there, I think that I'll steal and likley expand upon the kipper build for when my party confronts the Wormwood in book 5. If they haven't learned to deal with alchemists after Zarskia and the Eel then they deserve whatever happens.
Huh. Somehow I missed this change. That is a big difference in terms of area covered. A 15' radius not only let you collect more AoOs, it also made it easier to grant flanking bonuses to your melee party members.
Flanking specifically calls out melee weapons, so you could not flank while using a bow even if you threaten.
CRB Combat Section wrote:
When making a melee attack, you get a +2 flanking bonus if your opponent is threatened by another enemy character or creature on its opposite border or opposite corner.
Your game already seems to be well outside the norm of what most games and GMs would allow since you're a celestial outside at level 6, but ccs has a good start. Once you understand those basics you can start delving into the more 'complex' aspects of the game.
No seriously, take it from a GM; if all you understand about the game is the bare mechanics of how your class works, how the combat system works and how leveling works and show up with a genuine interest to play and learn every session, then you're already ahead of the curve and most people would be kicking in your door to have you at their table.
A couple of free resources to consider using are:
The difference between the second two is that one has ads and the other does not, so some of the language differs between them. All of those websites are invaluable for players as they allow quick rules checks without having to carry around a library full of rules books.
EDIT: Links edited to make for easier reading with the explanations of 'My Self'.
Metagaming is a tool that can be used properly to improve the group's experience or abused to make things unnecessarily difficult. It is not inherently good or bad from a GM perspective.
What does a GM do when the AP features an item that has a specific faith requirement that runs antithetical to all of the PC's traits and personalities? Does he just say 'tough break' and have the party sell it for half? What about the powerful artifact that the PCs spent all book hunting down and claiming? When it turns out to be an exotic weapon that nobody can use and does the GM just let it collect dust or does he change that shotel into a weapon that the party Kensai's signature weapon? Does the GM flat out refuse to let a party take a certain course of action simply because the book doesn't say what to do if the players take that route, or does the GM roll with it to accommodate and even reward the players for their ingenuity to create a better game for everyone?
Meta-gaming is just a character using information that they do not have or would not normally have access to but the player does. By the time that characters reach mid level there's a more than good chance that they've developed a bit of a reputation for themselves and people (including antagonists yes) hear about that. It might become known that the sword swinging lightning calling character is fond of transforming into a being of air and flying around slinging spells and slashing honest hard working henchmen. Its far from unreasonable to say that some villains wouldn't prepare for this. The same goes for a PC fond of utilizing invisibility, or casting fireball, or charging in with a greatsword, etc. Enemies that remain ignorant of the world around them and simply wait in a box for murder-hobos to stroll through, slaughter them and take their treasure are static, boring and pointless.
Should only enemies hear about and plan for the PCs in this capacity? No of course not. The characters (and by extension the players) should feel their growing power not just by their steadily increasing numbers, but through the world they inhabit and the people around them. They could go into a tavern and overhear a bard telling a dirty limerick inspired by the actions of the party barbarian two villages over. They could walk into a shop owned by the father of a young girl that the party saved when they took down the tribe of giants that had been terrorizing the village for years and earn a discount for their courage. The party could be invited to a dinner held in their honor by a local lord looking to curry favor with such a powerful group of heroes. A young woman could approach the party wizard and ask to become his apprentice so that she can grow strong enough to challenge her brother's killer. Similarly, villains should publicly humiliate the PCs, challenge them when they are not prepared, strike when their backs are turned and exploit their weaknesses. The lists go on and on but the end result is that the world becomes interconnected and alive, rather than just a collection of nothings waiting for the PCs to come by and interact with them and no personalities, motivations or goals of their own beyond handing out plot hooks and treasure.
The assertion that deviation from an adventure as it is written is poor GMing is ludicrous, and contrary to both the spirit of the hobby and the characteristics that make this medium of storytelling unlike any other.
Monstrous Physique II: Minutes'/Level so you're better off shelling out for at least the medium rod of extend or this spell isn't lasting more than half of a dungeon at best. And that's assuming all of the encounters for the day are set up in a nice sequential order.
Polymorphing down to tiny is also not a very good idea. You won't be threatening at all and will be eating at least one AoO just to get within striking distance of your enemy. Getting off a full attack while tiny is not going to happen against any enemy that isn't mindless. Significant combat maneuver penalties as well.
Elemental Body: Any magi that drop fly for elemental body are useless magi. Polymorphing into an elemental takes away your ability to cast and melds all your gear with your body. But its ok because in return you get a fly speed and some natural attacks. Good job magi, maybe you can fly over to the nearest town and bring back someone who can actually contribute.
GM meta-gaming: Meta-gaming is part of the GM's job, and it benefits the players and the game as a whole.
Question same as the title, could not find answer after a quick look through the combat section.
So for example if a medium creature (human commoner) was being attacked by a tiny creature (house cat) currently occupying the same square as each other; would the commoner be able to attack the house cat or would the commoner first have to 5' step to an adjacent square?
Would the same hold true for larger creatures?
So its taken quite a long time but my group has finally gotten through book 3 and my lucky player got his third dream. For my group the best place to have this dream take place was the night before the regatta, though I suppose it could also happen during the PCs time in Port Peril since they have a run in with Caulky and would know that Harrigan is in the area.
Third Dream: Paying Your Dues
You are a young man standing in chains in the middle of a circular domed room, situated high atop the boardwalks of a mangrove tree.
If the player has never been to this city before they may make a DC 10 knowledge check to identify it as Bloodcove, otherwise they are able to recognize it automatically.
You have just been found guilty of theft from both the Aspis Consortium and the Government of Bloodcove. The judge, presiding above you, resounds to you with the following,
The player may make a DC 15 Diplomacy check to attempt to have the judge go easy on them or a DC 20 Bluff check to appeal that they are innocent. If the player succeeds on Diplomacy, describe the judge pausing briefly, as if in thought. If the player succeeds on the bluff check, have the judge respond that he wishes to believe the player, but the evidence speaks for itself.
If the player succeeds, they gain a +2 on their next check to increase their ship's infamy, if they fail they take a -2.
Regardless of the outcome, the judge responds with,
If the PC failed his check from before have the judge inform the PC that he's lucky they don't hang him.
You now find yourself down by the docks, the red water of a nearby river pouring from its mouth into the sea. A man stands before you, his diamond earring glinting in the moonlight instructs you with the following,
The player must now make either a DC 20 Stealth check, a DC 15 disguise check, or a DC 15 Intimidate check. If the player succeeds on the stealth check describe them slipping into the holding area for the crates and making off with the cargo during the guards shift change. If the Player succeeds on the disguise check describe them disguising themselves as the guards officer and taking advantage of the low light during night time, instructing the guards to move the crates down to the docks for a last minute high priority client. If the player succeeds on the intimidate check, describe them threatening and bribing one of the guards into helping him move the crates to the dock, then killing him with the help of his client once the job is done.
If the player succeeds on this portion, it is discovered the next day that some of the plunder on their ship is worth more than originally thought, granting the players an extra point of plunder to spend. If the player fails, a leak in the ship causes seawater to seep in and ruin one point of plunder.
Late in the dead of night the gnawing pangs of hunger keep you from sleeping while you lie in your hammock, swinging slightly back and forth, dim light filtering in just enough to see the lines between the boards above your head. Exhausted and sore, you do not think that you will last another day without eating. Holding a rock hard wafer of ship's biscuit in your hand, you think back to just a few hours when the cook's mate handed it to you, and the weevil larvae you could see crawling through it like diseased worms. With no other option, you decide to eat.
Have the PC make followed by a DC 10 constitution check followed by a DC 15 fortitude save. Regardless on whether or not the PC succeeds, describe them gagging on the tasteless pablum as they choke it down.
As you swallow the last bit of ship's biscuit you experience a single forcefully intense heartbeat, pounding louder than the sea beneath you with a noise identical to that of a ticking clock.
If the PC succeeded on their checks describe them peacefully falling asleep (+1 on their next fortitude save or permanent +1 to Constitution if you're that kind of DM). If they failed then describe them rushing above-deck to vomit into the sea before anyone sees them (nauseated for the next day).
This dream was a difficult one for me to write, mainly because I had the challenge of not wanting to make it too long, but at the same time wishing to include as much as I could. There's scrapped scene where I had the player go through Dwali's first interaction with real pirates, where they gang up on and mug him of everything he owns (including the ragged shirt off his back) at knife-point.
Really I do think that this dream is probably too long and the final third could be worked into the fourth dream instead. However, since I haven't written the fourth dream yet, I decided to include it here just in case I come up with a really good idea between now and then. Aside from that I've always had a fascination with hardtack and the fact that people's diets used to consist of nothing but the stuff for months on end. I have been determined to do something regarding the universally reviled "Tooth-dullers" at some point in the AP and to me this seemed like the best place for it. If you decide to cut this part simply add a scene at the end of the second part where Dwali shakes hands with the diamond stud man and feels the same heartbeat from the third part as the ship sails away.
Overall this dream was a lot more linear and straight-forward than the last two, because in addition to my weak metaphor skills I don't want my player to end up too confused by these dreams. For the next dream I plan on a few scenes; Dwali changing his name to Harrigan, Harrigan losing his eye, and Harrigan becoming the first mate. Honestly, I haven't decided on whether or not I want to include the fact that Harrigan served time on Sea Wasp before the Wormwood as it seems like a superfluous detail I could spend somewhere else or at the very least omit.
Alternatively the gradually lengthening dreams could be interpreted as the growing desperation of Harrigan's trapped soul and the PCs deepening connection with it.
So Giles ended up getting away in my campaign, after downing Corlan in the surprise round he rolled high enough in initiative to go second and let loose a full attack against the party's half-mwangi hunter, killing him outright with 2 hits and a critical on the second iterative. If I hadn't bumped him up to level 11 I probably would have swapped one of his feats for rapid shot anyway, making the outcome essentially the same. The party attempted to give chase, but the distance was too much and he escaped. Kind of excited about this as I plan to slot him in later into the campaign now. Maybe by that time he'll have enough money to afford sniper goggles.
I was planning on rebuilding the guards in the Jasperleaf apothecary since they had a few levels in rogue but my players managed to progress farther than anticipated and I had to run them pretty much as written, they worked out alright though failed both attempts to tumble and mobility didn't stop the AoOs the movement generated. Zarskia turned out to be the extremely deadly. With the potential to throw 4 bombs in one round one of the characters went from full health to on the floor in one round after just 3 bombs, the animal companion went down in the next round. The encounter had the potential to become a TPK if the party gunslinger wasn't invisible going into the final showdown. A decent AC, stoneskin, displacement and Con bonuses made her a very tough opponent to bring down.
I'll likely end up rebuilding at least one of the cyclopes in book 4 and Lady Cerise Bloodmourn is an obvious swashbuckler candidate. It's been a few months since I've seen the Eel's build but I can't see myself doing anything more than minor tweaks after the way that Zarskia's fight went.
My group took a break around the beginning of December, started up again in mid-January.Thus far I've been fairly satisfied with the enemy builds in book 3, but Giles was definitely an NPC that could benefit from a rebuild with the material that's come out since S&S's release. This is my take on Executioner Slayer that Rynjin mentioned above.
Giles Halmis CR:10 XP:6,400:
Male Slayer (Executioner) 11
NE Medium Humanoid (Human)
Init:;+4 Senses: Perception +14
AC 18, touch 14, Flat-footed 14 (+4 Armor, +4 Dex)
hp 110 (11d10 + 33)Average is 94
Fort, +9 Ref, +11 Will+5
Defensive abilities -
Speed 30 ft.
Melee SharpShooter's Blade +15/+10/+5 (1d6+5/19-20 x2)
Ranged +1 Human Bane Heavy Crossbow +17/+12/+7 (1d10+1/17-20 x2)
Special Attacks Studied Target (swift action +3), Painful Strike (Fort DC 16 Sickened 1d4 rounds) Assassinate (Fort DC 16 dies), Sneak Attack +3d6, Dedicated Adversary (Humans +2), Seething Hatred (+3 damage to human studied targets)
Before Combat Poisons his bolts with Deathblade, no need to drink antitoxin as he has poison use.
During Combat Same as AP. Shoots one more bolt at Corlan, along with more bolts at anyone that tries to help him or is of Mwangi descent. Saves a second poisoned bolt if he's wounded. Uses deadly aim, takes a move action to affix his sharpshooter's blade if needed.
Morale Same as AP. Once he's sure the Tengu is dead he retreats, if cornered fights to the death.
Str 14, Dex 18, Con 14, Int 12, Wis 10, Cha 8
Base Atk +11/+6 CMB CMD
Feats: Point-Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Rapid Reload*, Weapon Focus (Crossbow), Crossbow Mastery, Deadly Aim*, Iron Will, Imropoved Critical (Heavy Crossbow), Seething Hatred (Humans)*, Dedicated Adversary (Humans)
Skills Acrobatics +13, Bluff +7, Climb +10, Intimidate +7, Knowledge (Geography) +10, Knowledge (Local) +15, Perception +14, Sense Motive +9, Stealth +23, Survival +14, Swim +16
Languages Common, Polyglot
Combat Gear Potions of Cure Light Wounds (2), Deathblade Poison (2 doses) Other Gear+1 Shadow Studded Leather, +1 Human-bane Heavy Crossbow with 20 bolts, Sharpshooter's blade, backpack, climber's kit, spyglass, 50 ft silk rope with grappling hook
SQBloodstained Hands, Studied Target, Track, Focused Killer, Painful Strike, Stalker, Slayer Talents (Ranger Combat Style*, Poison Use, Ranger Combat Style*, Combat Trick* Assassinate)
I went ahead and bumped him to level 11 just like Rynjin did, my group is always above average when it comes to combat so I doubt that the extra attack will do much if anything, more HP is always welcome though.
Call me a Scumbag but I don't see any reason that Seething Hatred and Dedicated Adversary wouldn't stack. Giles damage might look low at first glance but when attacking a human while deadly aiming his damage jumps to 1d10+11+2d6. If he bothered to use one of his unlimited swift action studied target abilities and the target is still a human it jumps to 1d10+17+2d6, not bad at all. Running the encounter as written makes it unlikely that he'll ever land a sneak attack or get to use his assassinate ability but you never know how a chase scene will go. I could have reworked the stats to get a 19 dex so Giles could take Improved Precise shot at level 11 but it seemed unnecessary. Excited to see how this one goes as I have another slayer (vanguard) for the party to face off against after the end of book 3.
@Wintersky, those are some nice builds. They would definitely make for a much more difficult fight to finish off book 1.
Unfortunately Tidewater isn't really featured in the AP past those two attacks by Sahuagin and Isabella. I think that Sarliss would be a good ally to bring along in the finale when the party goes into the underwater caves at man-catcher cove. Heck that could even become her new nesting ground once its de-Sahuagined.
The Settlers on Tidewater could become uneasy with her presence, she's got no problems attacking humans if they bother her after all.
Later on in book 3 two more water nagas (fully grown) come up that its in the party's best interest to not kill so she could act as an intermediary there.
Testing my memory here but there's also some sort of creature in a grotto in book 4 on the PC's island that she could aid in interacting with.
Far as Leadership goes I wouldn't recommend her as a cohort, but if the party is deadset on it I would mark her "level" as CR-1. So right with the young template the earliest that the party could get her would be level 8, level 9 once she's fully grown. Remember max cohort level is also limited by leadership score as well as character level. There's a chart in the feat's text that explains it all.
You could ask your DM to let you rebuild into a more hardy class with a rogue VMC to keep the flavor, but even then survivability is going to be poor as the only dedicated melee. Try to stack on miss chance to boost your defenses, cloak of displacement is a good start. Oils of darkness are a good consumable option.
The only other real option is to take on more of a support role during combat. Stay close to your allies and wait for enemies to close to gap, if you have the room for it, the dazzling display line of feats is pretty good, and gets a lot of mileage out of the enemies in S&S.
See if you can talk the Druid into taking on a more front-line role. There's going to be many times throughout the AP when relying on spells simply won't be enough to carry him through the day, especially since he passed up the domain for the animal companion. That would triple the targets as the tiger would likely he joining the Druid in melee. Alternatively he could start summoning some critters by sacrificing spells.
Charon's Little Helper wrote:
Now you're adding something to the text. The text never says "effect". If it did - I'd agree entirely. Instead, it's the entire spell which is being duplicated - that includes both the effect & the casting time.
A limited wish lets you create nearly any type of effect.
You could say in this case that specific trumps general when the spell description goes on to list all the variations of spells that can be 'duplicated', but the word 'duplicate' is no more specific that the word 'effect'.
Have the cultists, finish up what they were doing, destroy the evidence as best they can (leave a few vague clues), pack up and leave. Maybe a few of the crazier ones stay behind out of devotion or something. Depending on how much time has past some wandering monsters like oozes or aberrations could take up in whatever sort of structure is left. For a "final boss" type thing make it so that the cultists were able to successfully summon a planar being with some significance to whatever they were worshiping. Pad that fight out with a few more mooks and you should be good to go.
Great chance for forshadowing what might happen in light of the party's initial failure.
pipedreamsam: that's some good stuff there. Keep it going!
Thanks, my game is still going strong, we took a break for a couple months but will be starting up again this week. I plan on posting the rest of the dreams here as they come up in my campaign. So far my dream receiving player hasn't quite caught on to what they're all about yet but I expect that the change with the next one.
I ran the emerald spire module for 2 players and decided to give them a gestalt to make up the difference, which is a superdungeon that went from levels 1-14. In that experience for me the gestalted characters were seriously gimped at lower levels (1-4) but curb-stomped nearly everything level 10 and up to the point where I was doubling the encounters per dungeon just to make it challenging. Granted those 2 players chose powerful combinations and as others have said the gestalt combination is really what makes or breaks the power level. For the first few levels (1-3) I wouldn't adjust much if anything, levels 4-8 I'd add +1, levels 9-15 I'd add +2 and if your players chose powerful combinations I'd add +3 for anything 15+. Depending on your group that might not even be enough. The right answer is just to do what seems to strike a balance between challenge and fun (and throw in a few curb-stomp encounters for good measure, your players will thank you).
Ectoplasmic spell seems like a must otherwise any magical (spell) buff only ever has a 50% chance of working. I don't see any reason that the usual +4 to one stat spells (Cat's Grace, Eagle's Splendor) wouldn't work on an undead. They are transmutation effects, allow a will save and give enhancement bonuses all of which undead and incorporeal creatures can be affected by based on reading their traits under the universal monster listings. Mage armor is a force effect and only has the restriction of "Creature touched", same as the aforementioned stat boost spells.
Can we talk about what a nightmare it is to actually sift through the FAQ for a moment? I like that the devs are able to make reasonably fast corrections to rules via FAQ however the lack of any real organization and sheer number of FAQs makes finding the ruling you are looking for nigh impossible, even if you know exactly what question you are looking for. The only way that I've ever been able to find a FAQ on purpose is by getting lucky with a messageboard search to find a person who made a post with a link to the specific FAQ.
I ran emerald spire for two gestalted PC's and I can attest that the first level is brutal. Both were human, would have TPKed three times on that floor alone if I didn't take pity on them.
Dungeon Spoiler Info:
Have the players even tried to scout the location at all? There's a pretty obvious back entrance that most so-called "veterans" should be able to find blind-folded. I can understand feeling frustrated at the quite honestly ridiculously ham-fisted advantages the goblins are given in this particular dungeon but its hardly grounds for a full on rage quit.
If you restricted the races before knowing the consequences it would entail then that's on you, apologize and move on, allow a race change if you think its warranted.
One Spoiler-y solution:
Seriously though these guys need to buck up, they've at the very least scouted the place far enough to know that visibility is reduced to 5 feet due to darkness, this is information that they can plan around. Smokesticks are cheap and even the playing field and even if the party spent all of their starting gold already there are more than enough plot hooks in Fort Inevitable and Thornkeep, two reasonably close locations to where they can do a side quest to gain some extra gold. They can also just go the old fashioned route and start making craft, perform and profession checks. At the absolute worst unksilled labor is worth a wage of 1sp a day and I hear that the hellknights are always looking for more bricklayers .... After all, the dungeon is not time sensitive.
In short, they're overreacting.
I really like the idea of running a dungeon that another group has already gone through part-way. It can help justify a lot a fantasy tropes and builds tension for a later date when the party has to face some of same foes at before, but this time at full strength. It lets you show off how strong the enemies really are without having to pull punches or water down encounters.
Have the party walk into the first room and describe the scene of rubble and broken construct pieces scattered across the floor, and how as they enter two platforms in the corners of the room lights up with a golden glow for some arbitrary amount of time, say 1d6 rounds. However, since the party before had already come through this room and destroyed its construct guardians, the empty platforms simply light up for the 1d6 rounds. As the party enters the next room they see whatever terrain features are designed to work with the guardian's special abilities and two stone obelisks, though one is visibly damaged as though it had been hacked at haphazardly. Once again as the party enters the obelisks light up with the same golden glow for 1d6 rounds but the light for the one that is damaged is only glowing faintly and peters out a round early (or maybe it doesn't light up at all). After the 1d6 rounds a golden wolf guardian is summoned. The wolf radiates illusion magic and is surrounded by the same golden glow of the obelisks and the platforms. As they further examine this room the party notices scorch marks as well as a lingering evocation aura that is notably absent on the undamaged pillar. In the next room the party finds two more obelisks (as well as different terrain features suited to these guardians), but both obelisks are undamaged, glow for another 1d6 rounds and summon more wolves. After the battle is over the PCs notice that while the obelisk hasn't been damaged it does appear as though it has been tampered with and perceptive PCs might even notice that the wolves that were summoned by this obelisk lacked the special abilities that the others possessed. Then as the party enters the next room they see three obelisks, all of which are un-tampered with and begin glowing once again for 1d6 rounds at the end of which summoning more wolves than before. By this point the party should realize that they can interfere with the guardians either by attacking or tinkering with the obelisks. Now you have an encounter who's difficulty is dependent on the players and the decisions that they make. Do they attack the obelisks in an attempt to shut them off even though they aren't sure what the consequences of such an action are? Do they try and tinker with the pillars in an attempt to weaken the wolves possibly leaving themselves open to attack if the guardians are summoned before they finish? Or do they simply dig in and spend the glowing obelisk rounds buffing and getting into a formation for when the enemy emerges and preparing for a tough slough against the full strength of the guardians? This is a good opportunity to really throw a tough encounter at the PCs after strolling through a few rooms weakened by the previous party.
This is a short and simple example of what I, as a player and a GM consider to be good dungeon design. The PCs are given all of the information that they need to succeed, they just have to be willing to pay attention and connect the dots. First, the party sees the golden auras and the signs of battle. Then, they fight some encounters of their own while slowly learning more about the temple, its guardians and the inner workings of their devices and some of their weaknesses. Finally, the party is given a chance to test what they have learned in a scenario that is challenging and meaningful. While this example needs more additions and polish before I'd stick it into a game, it serves as a solid framework with which to build upon and flesh out. For example; adding in some hints about the anachronistic origins of the temple, placing pieces of religious imagery throughout the rooms and perhaps even a cryptic or coded final message by one of the first party's members after they realized that they were about to be captured. This example is also very linear and adding in an additional room off to the side or in between would also add to the experience.
One thing of particular importance that I want to distinguish is the difference between player knowledge and character knowledge. At first glance they sound the same, but there's an important distinction to be made. Character knowledge is something that you tell the players. "OK you got a 27 on your knowledge (engineering) check and know that the building techniques used to construct this temple did not exist at the time that the writings and pictographs claim." In contrast Player knowledge is something that you present to the players. "As you enter the room you notice two symmetrical stone obelisks at opposite ends of the room though the one on the east side appears to have been hacked at and is missing large chunks of stone. The Obelisks begin to glow with the same golden aura as the platforms in the room before although the eastern Obelisk is glowing only faintly to the western obelisk's bright radiance. The result is that solving a problem using player knowledge is immensely more satisfying than by doing so with character knowledge. To put it differently, character knowledge is something that is known and player knowledge is something that is suggested.
Now this is not to say that character knowledge and skill checks don't have a place in pathfinder, or even that every skill check a player makes automatically translates to character knowledge over player knowledge, only that the way that a GM phrases or presents the information that the players are given is just as important as the information itself. If you phrase the information as fact, the players are likely to interpret it as such. However, if you simply give your players the information through a medium, such as the environment or the enemies, rather than from a disembodied voice in their head they are going to treat it much differently and in my experience, in a way that enhances the game.
Confusing language aside ... that's pretty much how I see it.
Winter S Jackson wrote:
Oh, and relevant note I guess:the captured party are the players' primary characters.
Hmmm... Does this mean that the players have already gone through part of the dungeon before or was that more of an off-screen event? At first I had assumed that the first group of adventurers had been killed but taking them captive can work just as well. What exactly is the psionic entity planning to do with the captured party? Sacrifice? Brainwash? Convert their lifeforce into some kind of psionic energy?
As a full disclaimer I've essentially no experience with psionics in-game.
Mix up the encounters a bit. The golden wolf guardians sound really cool but nothing is more stale than fighting the same enemy for multiple encounters. Having the rough statues give each set of wolves unique abilities (think stuff like breath weapons, spider climb, etc) that work in tandem with the environments would be awesome. For example if one set of wolves has a breath weapon that is a 30ft line of acid, then have the room contain lots of statues lined up to make 5' wide "aisles". Wolves usually have a superior ground speed, which they can use to outmaneuver the party and position themselves for breath weapons when the party bunches up or to gang up flanking attacks on one party member if they split up. Another set of wolves has spider climb in a room with a lot of vertical barriers which they can use to attack and flank the party from unusual angles. Maybe that set of wolves also have the feat spring attack making them even more difficult to combat.
Depending on the tone you are going for you could focus on the tradgety that happened to the other party that went in before. Maybe one of the slain members dies in a way horrific enough to turn into an undead like a ghost or a wraith (perhaps with a few of those class levels they had in life?). There could be an encounter where the energy from the psionic item "reanimates" or "possesses" this party so to speak and the two groups have to face off in some classic party vs party action.
Does the temple itself have a story behind it? How about the high priestess and the psionic item? If not that's a good place to start. The challenge comes in getting that information to the players in a way that is exciting and fun.