Evil damage is a slow black stain, spreading and burning like acid. Maybe some temptation is ladled in. ("For a moment, you feel very angry/lustful/tired/whatever the character's major sin is")
Good damage is a flare of white-gold light that leaves evil creatures scarred and smoking.
Lawful damage is a steady blue glow that's maybe a 3D grid if you look deep enough, closing in around the victim like a cage.
Chaos damage is a shifting of form and feature, leaving the victim blurred and distorted before reality snaps back into place.
True strike does two things.
It helps low level casters reliably hit with something, even if they’re not normally proficient with it. This also works for anyone who can do big attacks and cast arcane spells, for instance dragons with Power Attacking bites. Not all spells are primarily PC spells,
And it negates miss chances from concelmeant. This is incredibly powerful, especially when quickened in conjunction with powerful attack spells.
You could put it in Thuvia (desert and mountains) or in Garund somewhere (have the natives be Mwangi instead of Indians).
The natives are really good trackers in tune with the wild (obviously, ranger levels and druids).
The local schoolmistress (who may be a cleric or bard in this world) as a quest hook, possible love interest, and local support.
SO MUCH room for things to do with mines. Probably have them disturb some kind of underground spirit (homebrew, look up something the players have never heard of before).
A gang of bandits who are enemies of the local bankers (not that they're nice people themselves, but the locals like them because they mostly leave the locals alone).
I'm assuming fairly low-level here (below level 5). A couple of possible sidequests:
1) Farmer Brown's prize bull has broken loose and gone into a dense area of forest. Farmer Brown went after it and hasn't come back yet. Please go retrieve him and the bull, preferably both with positive hit points and not cursed by the local fey. (Oh, and the local woods? Aren't fey-haunted, they're undead-haunted. Or maybe something-else-haunted.) An advanced herd animal can be a nice CR3 encounter; rescuing Farmer Brown from the tree limb that fell on him is probably a CR1 encounter (strength check to get the tree limb off him); dealing with the whatever-it-is can be whatever you want.
2) The missing grain has led to some starving locals hunting and venturing deeper into the woods. The local dryad would like the local farmers and woodcutters to Go Away And Stop Bothering Her -- if the PCs won't do it, she might have to take action.
3) A flock of local birds that normally eats grain from the fields has been feeding on dead bodies instead of the missing grain... can you say "carrionstorm"?
I think a variety of different types of encounters is handy -- if everything is a dungeon crawl, no one will worry about long-range stuff; if everything is combat, no one will worry about diplomacy; if everything is easy, no one will be mentally ready for the APL+4/5 encounters.
Tactics as given should be reasonably intelligent -- anybody who spends three rounds buffing at the start of an encounter will be dead before they can act in round 4, unless there's something going on. But a lot of tactics seem to be set up assuming that PCs, especially high-level PCs, won't just act fast and do something deadly.
Also, have some reactions from time to time -- group A 30' away should react if combat happens within earshot; the clever devil should watch and listen to the PCs for a bit rather than just jumping into attack mode; some monsters should try to surrender or run rather than fighting mindlessly to the death. (I still use something like the old AD&D morale rules for most monsters.)
Long-range encounters should happen -- flying archers, a castle on the other side of a chasm (I like Thistletop in Rise of the Runelords for just this reason.) Of course, they're hard to map, and they can be lethal for unready PCs, so make sure they have retreat routes (back away from the castle, duck into the trees to get cover from the archers, etc.)
Also: action economy, action economy, action economy. Single BBEGs just don't work (and Aldern Foxglove is a particularly bad example) -- you need some other enemies who can attack around the tank, occupy other players, do various things, so players don't just have one player soak up attacks while the others annihilate the enemy, and don't just gangpile on one enemy till he dies very fast. Minions make the combat last faster; effective ones can attrit the PCs somehow and even ineffective ones can absorb attacks. PCs feel good about mowing down mooks and they can't just ignore them as long as the occasional mook has an impact (noticeable damage, trips or grapples or disarms a PC, casts a supporting spell or two.)
That said, keep in mind that save-or-suck abilities like, oh, ghast paralysis, can make for very swingy encounters -- one bad die roll and a PC is out of action, which makes a BIG difference in how the combat goes. (particularly, mooks + paralysis is a nasty combo since now the BBEG can paralyze someone and a mook then coup-de-graces them!) High-crit weapons can have similar effects (x3 crit with power attacking greataxe can really take down PCs, even at this level -- let's not talk about the ugly ugly stuff that x4 crit-fisher builds can do!)
Giving Aldern a rat swarm or three (maybe an undead one that fed off his flesh) might be an effective way of making it difficult for back-rank players to do things while they're being covered by biting rats...
Bigger bosses later on might want to think about this sort of thing -- have minion guards, have reach weapons + trip to stop PCs from getting in their faces, have supporting spellcasters to help protect them or harass the PCs, maybe an archer or two in the background to shoot at the PCs. It'll make for more memorable encounters, but you need to be careful not to overdo it; sometimes the dice WILL go against the PCs. (Net-wielding minions trying to capture the PCs might be fun... particularly if, say, the lamia or the giant has an Obviously Evil Altar in the background...)
I'd guess that there are many cases where the local town does mass up and go after the threat-of-the-month.
It's up to the GM to provide some reasons why the local authorities want to hire the PCs. "Risking someone else's lives instead of our own" is a good reason in many places. So is "it's a good distance away and we don't want to leave the town unguarded", "we want you to find out how bad the threat is before we call up the militia for half their 40-day/year service", and "none of us are experts in weird monsters"
Anthony Pacheco 597 wrote:
Accurate CR is a big problem at higher levels, where players familiar with their characters' abilities and designing well can easily steamroller whole categories of monsters and encounters. "Ease of modification" is a good thing at higher-level design.
Interesting encounters (terrain, purpose, having at least 2-3 solutions to different problems) are good.
Plot cohesion and villain cohesion are good. The GM needs to know what the bad guys are up to so they can figure out what to do when the players go in a different direction, which they inevitably will. These need to be predictable and make some sense. Please, no gaping plot holes.
Consider what happens when the PCs use reasonably common spells to bypass encounters or get information. E.g., "what happens if the PCs dig through the wall or d-door and start the dungeon in a different place?" "What happens if they cast <any one of several of high-level divinations>?"
Interesting tactics and situations are fun -- I can put "monster X in room Y" all by myself, but having a combination I hadn't thought of, but that makes sense, is very useful. (It's also a way to help make lower-CR monsters still a viable encounter for the party.)
I accept that I'm going to have to do a decent amount of modification to fit the scene for my players and their goals; make it easy for me to do that modification. I have enough trouble rebuilding statblocks, so do the hard work of making the plot and characters clear and coherent so I don't have to rebuild all of those as well.
Fort Rannick would be a good place to add Leng-related content —the weird ship encounter in the forest, for instance.
If you really want to twist the players expectations, Broderick Quink in Sandpoint could be a Leng cultist.
A Denizem of Leng could be at Jorgenfist, selling things to Mokmurian, or consulting with him. Maybe several of them with some additional monsters in support. Maybe even offering to buy or sell things from the players.
Dragons are clever.
Dragons are charismatic.
Dragons can have powerful will-twisting magic.
All of this screams "minions" -- so who are the dragon's minions in your campaign? Agents of influence, defenders of the lair, people to make PCs have a horrible time going up against the dragon... add yours to this thread! And are there any twists on the idea?
1. A charmed warrior of great skill and little wits, equipped with the best weapons and armor of those who sought to slay the dragon (i.e., PC-level wealth).
2. A deluded princess. (Twist: she's not deluded, she's trying to sneak into the dragon's good graces to steal something in its hoard.)
3. A outsider who shows up periodically to play chess with the dragon and is also philosophically opposed to one or more of the PCs. (Twist: Or would be simpatico with one or more of the PCs if they weren't out to kill his buddy, maybe he wants to try and mediate.)
4. A bard who is composing songs in honor of the dragon and interviewing him to make sure all the details are right; naturally he'll help the dragon fight so he can get more song material. (Twist: he's also a fanboy of the most famous PC.)
5. An elderly druid who belongs to the Society for the Preservation of Endangered Dragons. (Twist: he's actually there as a matchmaker from another dragon.)
She's obsessed with getting Malfeshnekor free, so I'd say she'd stay. After all, she did win the battle, and she can probably recruit more goblins. She might make a side trip to Magnimar (by boat? by land?) to try and recruit more mercenaries. (Or she might have gained a level from defeating the PCs, it's a pretty impressive encounter after all...)
O and B would certainly be more on guard, and B would probably be out scouting and recruiting more goblins, and keeping the sentries on their toes.
Not bagpipes? The pipes have always seen very dwarvish to me :-)
Let's just say that Dolores' one attempt to use bagpipes to provide an aid another to Profession (Erotic Arts) was traumatically unsuccessful.
Besides, you can beat kettledrums fastened to your waist with one hand. You need at least three hands to properly operate dwarven warpipes.
And if the headband grants skill ranks in Linguistics, you get a bonus language for each level (for the skill rank) plus the ranks from your intelligence increase. :)
My headband of Int (Linguistics) looks like a large set of earmuffs with a small fish swimming in the clear plastic globe over each other. The Babblefish and the Babblefish!
Rhetoric and Elocution: Perform: Oratory and what else?
Diplomacy (make a convincing speech), Bluff (make a speech pretending to be someone else)
Dance (Perform: Dance and what else?
Acrobatics, possibly Stealth (moving without making noise on the floor)
Intermediate Elven: Linguistics and what else?
Knowledge (history, local, or arcana)
Literature: no clue
Knowledge (history or local) or some other knowledge skill depending on the cultureLinguistics
History: Knowledge history and what else?
Knowledge (geography, nobility and royalty)
Style and Attire: Knowledge nobility, Disguise, and what else?
Bluff (to carry it off perfectly), Craft (weaving), Appraise
Music and Singing: Perform and what else?
Bluff or Linguistics (particularly if it includes opera), Profession (acting), Profession (musician), Craft (musical instruments), Knowledge (local or history)
Balor apologizes for his cousin, who's gotten out of control with this toy brought back on a trading ship from Vudra, recompenses the PCs for their trouble, and promises that Meliya will be on the next ship out so she won't be causing trouble.
Failing that, he throws her under the bus and she runs.
The Arkonas will be prepared for things like that; it probably isn't the first time someone has come close to one of their secrets. They probably have several levels of defensive schemes floating around, too, so there will be backup plans to the backup plans.
Vanilla bards are very good to play - besides the fact that they're great at buffing and face stuff, they can be useful in combat, though they pretty much need to focus most of their feats and some spell support that way. (I usually build archer bards so I don't have to get into melee, but you can build a bard who can contribute in melee.)
Also, the command undead spell, which is a 2nd level spell you can get at 3rd level, would let you take control of any undead you meet or arrange to have created.
Clerics are generally better undead-creators than wizards (wizardly necromancy is more focused toward debuffs).
A 5th level cleric with animate dead and desecrate could raise and then control 20 HD of undead at once, then use command undead (assuming he has the feat) to take/keep control of more. All in addition to his corpse companion, of course.
Control will be the real issue here, though if you're just after shambling mounds it won't be a problem.
Korvosa is a port -- places with lots of access to travellers and on the border between cultures are usually more diverse, either racially or ideologically, than places far away from roads or rivers or oceans, because it's harder for people to travel there. I'd expect seaports to be more diverse than the hinterland, and trading cities more so than local villages.
Having diversity where it shouldn't be kills suspension of disbelief nearly as bad as not having any at all.
Flame arrow or a similar spell to cast on the garrison's ammunition.
Unseen servant and mending for regular casting doing maintenance.
Dancing lights is great for signalling (different colors in different positions in different combinations can convey a lot of information.)
True strike if he's the guy pulling the trigger on the catapult or cannon on the fort walls (it's a really good spell for that, because not only is it +20 to hit but it negates concealment miss chances!) Might be a siege mage archetype if the fort has a lot of artillery.
Charm person, detect thoughts, or suggestion for interrogating suspects. Also share language and comprehend language, or even tongues -- you never know who might arrive at the fort not knowing any languages.
Floating disc for moving heavy stuff around.
Expeditious excavation for rapidly digging pit traps and/or clearing the moat.
Protection from arrows would be handy to cast on visible defenders.
Magic circle against <insert enemy alignment here> is always a good buff spell for a group of soldiers.
Heroism for a good combat buff.
Daylight in case of night attacks, and fireball just to act as defensive artillery.
With enter image he could have pictures of himself all over the fort (or nearby) and quickly gather intelligence about the ongoing situation.
Fly to go scouting or send someone after an aerial enemy; beast shape or alter self might be useful similarly.
Haste and slow for combat support.
Magic weapon and greater magic weapon (if high enough level) to allow the garrison to attack otherwise untouchable things. Also, to cast on siege weapons and/or their ammunition.
The +10 limit is for the total of all enchantments -- you could theoretically have a +1 weapon with nine additional +1-cost enchantments. Note that fixed-cost enchantments (anything that costs +X gold instead of "a +1 bonus" or "a +2 bonus") do not count against this limit.
You could have a +5 shortsword with a +2-bonus and a +3-bonus enchantment, and that would add up to your +10 maximum.
M Human (Ustalavian) Ranger (infiltrator) 2 -- HP 13/16, AC 16, init +5, Per +8 Fort +5 Refl +6 Will +2, San 32/34, distracted (-4 CHA), sickened (-2 to all)
"I think it's our jailer," Yordan says. "It isn't chasing us, so it doesn't want to kill us. I think it just wants us to stay in here and suffer for ... whatever it was we did."
Having a Hellknight would actually be very nice for some aspects -- Kroft is trying to enforce the law in books 1-2, and it gives additional motivation for the quest for Neolandus in book 3 ("we need to legally depose Ileora, which means we need the person who can legally do it") which always struck me as a bit of a weak point in the plotting.
Admittedly, questing among the Shoanti would likely have some hard choices for a Hellknight.
Immunity says "reduce all damage from <thing> to 0"; vulnerability says "multiply all damage from <thing> by 1.5".
If you apply vulnerability first, damage is multiplied by 1.5 and then reduced to 0. If you apply immunity first, damage is reduced to 0 and then multipled by 1.5, which is still 0. Either way, the target laughs at you.