So I was looking over the various intimidate themed feats, and got an idea to put the best together quickly and effectively:
Traits: Fate's Favored, Bully
Level 1-7 Slayer, Level 8+ Rogue (Thug, Scout)
Level 3 starts to show merit, as you can Intimidate then attack once, giving up essentially nothing.
Level 6 is when this tactic begins paying off, since that second attack will activate Shatter Defenses, and you're still not giving up too much (Move + Intimidate + free attack vs. iterative attacks if you're already in position).
Level 7 is the big payoff, as that's when you get to Intimidate as part of your first attack in a full attack, triggering Shatter Defenses on the Hurtful attack, allowing your iterative attack to be against flat-footed AC.
Sometimes, you'll have to choose between Studied Target and Hurtful, unless you're already within 5 ft Step range, then you can spend your Move action to Study, leaving your Swift for Hurtful, or Study on the following round.
Added to all this, I'm inclined to use a reach weapon, which, along with Combat Reflexes and Pushing Assault, provides and option for battlefield control as well: choosing between Power Attack damage & Cornugon Smash on AoOs, or Pushing Assault to keep enemies at bay.
If the AoO plan isn't your speed, or you don't like Pushing Assault, these could be swapped out for basically anything else. Skill Focus (Intimidate) isn't a bad idea.
The Rogue levels after you've finished with the Slayer stuff provide a few things:
That has me thinking that maybe the king will ask the players to go as a way of demonstrating the valor of non-dwarves to his people who still hold ancient grudges. Could also mollify some of the king's nobles who aren't thrilled with him spending so much time with outsiders.
So, the dwarves have a rail heading off...somewhere...and there's been a problem. No one is coming back. Some have been sent to investigate, but no word has returned. The PCs go to find out what's going on.
Trolls, maybe? Something else?
Good call on using old PCs to flesh out an NPC.
I like the trouble on the tracks idea, but...why send the PCs? They're foreigners and they've just returned with the heroic prince. Why not send the prince and his band? Not to say I don't want to use this, just that I want to come up with a solid reason for the PCs to be the ones doing this other than, "It's a game."
Jhaosmire, I love the implementation, but for me...I'm ALREADY planning to do basically that!
Basically, the PCs, along with the prince, killed a dragon, and when looting his hoard came across a map depicting a treasure room of some kind buried within the mountains near the dwarven capital. When they all bring this to the king, he will set miners to excavating to discover what awaits. However, what's actually there is the resting place of a powerful lich. He built himself a chamber in (at the time) isolated mountains, with his phylactery, and his back-up spellbook, but while he was off across the world waging war, an earthquake rocked the region and caused a collapse, which both sealed his chamber and destroyed his spellbook. During the war, he gets killed, and when he awakens back at his phylactery, discovers that he's trapped: he knows only the spells he had when he was killed.
Over the centuries, he has managed to use the spells he DID have still memorized to extend his influence, and he ended up making contact with the aforementioned dragon, whom he charged with recovering any magical knowledge he could, and then sending the spells via some unique divination magic back to the lich so he can get out. The campaign opened with kobolds raiding the city, stealing spellbooks and scrolls. The dragon created a sort of scrying device that SENDS images, instead of receiving them, and the lich began rebuilding his spellbook, but the PCs prevailed before the lich could acquire the spells he needed to escape.
The dwarves uncover this chamber, with its treasures, and are none the wiser to the lurking threat of the lich, who possesses/otherwise takes control of the king, and things devolve similarly to your bardic example: the king makes some incrementally worse decisions/decrees, but his people follow along because initially they seem unusual but not BAD. Eventually, the population is driven insane, and he turns to changing them into undead. The entire civilization collapses, and one of the great cities of the world becomes essentially a ghost town...inhabited by swarms of undead dwarves.
What I want to happen from the players' side of things, is they visit the dwarves, and have some time among them to grow a little attached, to develop some fondness for the place, and some of the NPCs. Then they're sent on some task that takes a few weeks to a few months.
When they return, things are different: the king isn't so happy to see them, and has been doing some strange stuff. I want things to be JUST off enough that the players start to make some waves, but don't immediately leap to trying to kill the king, or exorcise a possessing spirit. Basically, they end up the enemy of the state, and ideally, are force to leave.
They go on some other adventure that takes a few weeks to a month or so, and then for some reason, are sent back to the dwarves. Maybe the king of the neighboring kingdom is concerned about the complete lack of communication and trade and fears they may be mobilizing for war.
The players return to find a dead city. Horrors abound. And the impact is all the greater, because they KNEW some of the people here.
The PCs (level 6) departed from the city in which they had met and performed acts of valor in pursuit of a kobold army, thinking they may be led by a dragon. Eventually, they reached the dragon, but were joined on the way by a team of dwarves who had been told of the players' intentions and set out to aid them. Together, they defeated the dragon.
The leader of the dwarven band is Prince Qhildir, son of the king of the neighboring dwarven kingdon, leader of an elite combat squad. He's a paladin, and is a member of a religious sub-sect devoted to repelling evil, generally, and undead specifically, that one of my PCs also belongs to. He also is wearing the armor made from the father of the dragon they all just killed, and wielding the weapon that slayed him hundreds of years ago.
Several of the members of the dwarven strike force perished in the confrontation with the dragon and his kobold minions.
What I'd like is an adventure that does the following:
The ultimate goal are for the players to spend some time (a couple of weeks to a month) living and adventuring with the dwarves, and to develop an affinity for them, so that, later, when some problems begin to arise in the dwarven capital, the players will have a genuine interest in wishing to aid their friend.
This can include meeting some interesting NPCs, getting into some tough scrapes (combat, traps, environmental hazards, weather, political intrigue) with the prince and a number of dwarven NPCs (the latter won't be traveling with them).
The dwarven kingdom of Ferrumgaard lies within and around a maintain range to the north of the land the PCs have adventured within. The two kingdoms are on friendly terms after declaring a truce to a war between them waged a few hundred years ago. Dwarves have established settlements of various sizes in the high plains and foothills before the mountains, consisting mostly of low stone buildings with multiple basement levels, while the region's major cities are carved out within the mountains themselves.
There is a trade center at the head of a river that eventually runs by the capital of the southern kingdom, and the major trading port city the players are familiar with. The place exists as a market to sell and trade the goods the dwarves fashion (jewelry, metal- and stonecraft, including both mithral and adamantine items, all of both mundane and magical varieties) and to purchase wares of the varieties that they do not produce (wood, cloth, fur, parchment, etc...). Dwarven farmers also use this as a place to distribute their crops and meats. The entrance lies two days from a small seaport.
Traveling to the seat of the king involves going by foot, or something between a mine cart and a locomotive, from the market city to the capital. Both cities are multi-leveled.
The kingdom is lawfully inclined, and just on the good sign of neutral. The king is a lawful neutral cleric and the society is based largely upon merit, but has a touch of socialism--there are no beggars or homeless, but there are definite gradients in wealth and influence.
On the other side of the mountains are nigh-endless frozen plains...a dangerous place, but somewhere that some dwarves have settled in small numbers. Somewhat to the west, there is a small trollish nation that has largely remained aloof from the goings-on of the dwarves, but has started to expand recently. There may be any number of savage races in or around the mountains (mostly either high up among the peaks, or off to the west) away from the major settlements of the area. Drow may exist somewhere underground nearby.
I'd appreciate any suggestions you may have. Thanks in advance!
So, I'm looking hard at Corsair Swashbuckler (in-flavor, especially if I'm the captain of the ship), maybe Freebooter Ranger for probably 2 levels (also in-flavor as captain, and lets me pick up something like Cleave without needing Power Attack, and maybe Pirate Rogue (Swinging Reposition seems cool!).
May also just stay single-classed Corsair Swash.
Anyone want to convince me one way or the other?
Still trying to figure out some feats.
Have a game coming up, and have decided to play a Swashbuckler, but am kind of on the fence about exactly what direction I want to take him in. He will be a pirate, hired by Taldor to do some spying/underhanded stuff, it sounds like.
Definitely Dex-based, using a cutlass and Slashing Grace.
Was considering going the Intimidate route with things like Shatter Defenses and Violent Display, but the swift action for the built-in Demoralize attack seems like it will be tough to get reliably, so I was thinking Cornugon Smash, but not sure I really want Power Attack (it's good, but I'd rather keep my to-hit high for Parry, and that would allow me to not put points in Str).
Was thinking about taking 2-4 levels of rogue for trapfinding, sneak attack (seems like a poor trade vs. more levels on Precise Strike and Weapon Training), earlier Evasion, and a bonus feat or talent.
Was thinking maybe 2 levels of Corsair Fighter for free (no Power Attack) Cleave with no AC penalty to boot.
Considering getting a combat maneuver (Dirty Trick makes the most sense I think), but waiting to hear back on whether we will be mostly fighting humanoids.
Looking for any suggestions on where to go with this character.
Lawrence DuBois wrote:
I added Mythic abilities to my E6 game, but in a limited way. Basically, as a reward for completing a "mythic challenge" (ie., the aforementioned dragon), the characters received 3 mythic abilities that I felt were appropriate to their character's concept and playstyle, with a very limitied mythic pool. I tweaked some of the abilities downward (mostly reducing duration, especially from an always-on ability/option to a limited number of times per day--I think all required a mythic point to activate).
This gave characters some interesting rewards that could occasionally yield exciting gameplay moments without altering the feel of the game dramatically.
I also had E6 capstone feats that essentially bring characters up to level 8 in terms of class features.
We also used some of Kolokotroni's magic item replacement rules (he's a RL friend).
Overall, most of the players really enjoyed the game, and it maintained the feel that I prefer: heroes aren't THAT far ahead of everyone in the world, and have to be scared still of some lowish-level threats, rather than transitioning to god-like status.
The only reason the game ended is everyone was so busy it became impossible to schedule anything, and I got frustrated trying to pin down dates.
Lawrence DuBois wrote:
I'd like to ask a quick question concerning E6 since in some ways I like it and some ways I don't, but this is all conceptual since I've never actually tried it. One of my greatest reservations is how it would seem to drastically cut in to the sorts of encounters you can have. Wouldn't iconic encounters like an ancient red dragon or pit fiend forever be outside the abilities of such characters to deal with? If not, how do they manage? If so, about what is the cap to encounter difficulty?
Ran an E6 game for a couple of years to great effect.
I included a few epic encounters that went over very well with the players. For a black dragon, I used the basic stats of a CR 7 dragon, then added most of the abilities the black dragon receives as it ages, and increased the size (this is off the top of my head, so the starting CR may have been different). May have also added a template. Basically, the dragon ended up at roughly CR 10, but had the abilities of a CR 17+ dragon. The players prepared, had a tough fight, and just barely made it through the encounter. Honestly, I think I could have beefed him up a bit more.
One thing about E6 is the players should go in prepared to die. Not to say I killed anyone, but that was actually a complaint I received from a couple of the players, so sometimes facing off against a threat that seriously outmatches them will be appropriate.
Hmm... if you are going strictly by the costs in the book, it’s essentially almost the same thing as the large ability, but with less downside, so I’d price it a bit higher than 4 RP. At least the same as Large (7). Although, I also think that the race builder is a bit off on the point costs, so take that with a grain of salt.
Not sure on the pricing, but I disagree with your assessment. For most characters, the number 1 advantage of being large is increasing your reach, which Powerful Build does not do.
Some things I used in my kobold game with a similar theme:
Players tracked kobolds to a library. The shelves held large tomes on them (over a foot tall, some books almost 24 inches), and it's dark inside. Some kobolds are hiding on the shelves, between books. Some are low to the ground, while others are a little above, getting higher ground to-hit bonuses. They have cover against attacks, and would scramble around on the shelves to hide, or surprise players elsewhere. Some would be atop the stacks with alchemical items to hurl down at them, and crossbows
Their leader was a kobold ninja, Namtab, with Vanishing Trick and the feat that grants kobolds gliding wings. The kobolds had set up a couple of traps in the shelves, while a few hid somewhere else in the room, waiting for the PCs to get into the aisles before flanking them.
When the tide turned against the kobolds, Namtab went to a window, spread his wings, and made his escape.
In this case, I had the kobolds using a trapmaker's sack, which the players ended up claiming as a reward (though they haven't used it much). It's a cool item in any case.
I liked a couple of kobold sorcerer's with the kobold-archetype/bloodline? Where they can set traps of their chosen element (acid, since they're blackscale). Lay a few of those down, then ambush the players.
Use tiny traps that are a nuisance in the midst of fights (thunderstone, blinding powder, trip line...).
I like kobolds lancers or archers mounted on giant geckos.
Similar to the first scenario, the players followed the kobolds to their lair, and discovered that the entryway's rock was very porous (lava rock), some of the holes large enough for kobolds to stand in without squeezing. Some of THOSE they dug out into a network of connecting, small, tunnels, which they used to get above, behind, or ahead of the PCs to harry them with crossbows.
For one of the major fights, I used a synthesist summoner kobold done up as a dragon. This was a serious boss fight for when the players got to level 3 or 4, so it's a bit higher than CR 2, but it was amazing.
• Pyripnon, Avatar of Rhindvuthak (the black dragon), Synthesist 6, CR 5
Languages: Common, Draconic, Dwarven, Giant, Gnome, Undercommon, Elven, Orc, Halfling
Your entire argument is based off of one quote from a contributor's post that implies something similar to your ideas by saying, "Let your players Take 10 unless they're in combat or they're distracted by something other than the task at hand."
I'm not basing my argument JUST on that post by SKR, but it's certainly relevant.
And classifying SKR as simply "a contributor" is selling him short: (from his wikipedia entry) "Paizo hired Reynolds as a developer on the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. Jason Bulmahn has described him as a "critical part of the design team"
Your assertion that the magnitude of the consequences of failure is somehow a distinction from simply failing and suffering consequences of any sort is overly complicated, highly subjective, and has no support anywhere in Pathfinder. It depends upon numerous tiny variations of perspective and interpretation, and all to do what? Dictate how a player's character should feel and act?
If you think something should be scary, have the player roll a Will save against fear, otherwise, use the rules we have. Or, do whatever you like at your table, but don't make an claim that your way fits the RAW when discussing the rules in the Rules forum.
I didn't mean playing someone according to your class, I meant playing someone that should be using firearms. For instance, you're playing a cowboy from the Old West. When was the last time you saw Clint Eastwood or The Duke in the same SCENE as a bow, let alone use one?
Provoking AoOs for shooting and reloading when you have to be fairly close to your opponents to use a firearm effectively (or burn through grit) means that you're going to be in situations where 5-foot stepping isn't going to get you out of harm's way.
And while Dodge and Mobility aren't GOOD, they're at least not worthless feats.
And if your character is being played as someone who is a gunslinger, and not simply as a pile of stats, do you hang up your guns for a while and use a bow instead?
Also, being able to avoid AoOs can be VERY important, especially when you're provoking 2 per shot. Not saying Deft Shootist is a great feat, or that taking two mediocre prerequisites doesn't hurt, just that dismissing it as really bad, when there isn't really anything that accomplishes the same goal, is kind of overstating things.
Well, this IS the Rules forum, so making broad rulings is kind of the point...
How can distraction result in fear? I think you have that backwards.
Don't claim nebulous "studies" in support of a point. First, this game is necessarily an abstraction of reality, so there's some degree to which going into the psychology of things is well beyond the scope of what the game rules should be doing.
Second, you can look at tons of examples where that's simply not correct--there are people who rock climb ALL THE TIME and don't die, even when doing something incredibly difficult. The parallel here is that they're taking 10, and their 10 is high enough to succeed. Those people who fail, I'd say, didn't notice something was amiss (a loose rock), or had other challenges that pushed the DC higher (the wind picked up--might rule that as a distraction--or the rocks were icy, or their hands were getting cold), or they were distracted by something else like a bird flying nearby, or someone shouting to them, or they became fatigued or exhausted, or they were trying to rush things, and were rolling hoping to get a high roll to do something quick/more efficiently, figuring the odds of their succeeding would be good, and instead rolled poorly.
The very nature of many professions requires that the professionals NOT allow fear to affect how they perform, or they simply don't acknowledge the fear, or don't think about the consequences. Have you ever gone climbing? You don't think about the two thousand foot drop below you, you think about your next handhold and your next foothold--there IS no drop below you. Haven't you ever heard of "crunch time"? That's when the stakes are high and you buckle down and kick ass. Now, perhaps you could say that's getting OFF of taking 10 and going for rolling hoping to keep rolling well, but sometimes it's simply casting aside distractions and taking the time to make sure you do something RIGHT. Maybe that's take 20, but it can't be if there is a consequence for failure. For those situations, we have take 10.
If we couldn't take 10 when there was some negative consequence for failure, why would there be take 10 rules? After all, if we want to guarantee success when there is no penalty on a failed roll, we have take 20, which we expressly cannot use in such circumstances.
Why is a GM deciding when my character is distracted? How does he know if my character's 5 ranks, and Skill Focus, and +2/+2 feat, and high ability score and +5 magic item ALL improving my capability with a skill haven't left me feeling confident even in the most dire of circumstances? Or cocky even? What if he feels like he can waltz past any hazard? Are YOU going to interject and tell me how to play my character? Tell me that he's distracted by the pit yawning below him, even though he's done that 100 times? Or that he can't take 10 to sneak by the dragon at level 10, even though he COULD sneak by the 2 orcs at level taking 10, even though they were just as likely (or even more so) to kill him?
On the one hand, we have your position, where you need to weigh every single action the character has taken, every trial they have endured, every decision they've made, AND every obvious or semi-obvious outcome of their failed check to decide whether they are permitted to take 10. Has he bested this challenge in the past? Has he done so often? Has he done something more difficult objectively (higher CR)? Has he done so subjectively (higher CR compared to the level he was at the time vs. the current CR against his current level)? Is he the sort to laugh in the face of danger (whether bravely or foolishly)? Is he immune to fear? Does he have a death wish? Does killing 2 hydras single-handedly equate to sneaking by a dragon when you have backup? Was he distracted by the sleeping hydras? That's either arduous, hard, or you're not being fair and relying on GM fiat (what you want to see happen) rather than on what makes sense for the game and characters therein.
On the other hand, you say, "Is he trying to do two things at once (2 skill checks), being attacked, rushing, or focused on something else (like a conversation)?" No? Then he isn't distracted and can take 10. Yes? Then he can't take 10. That's easy.
Is your issue with SUCCEEDING at these difficult/dangerous tasks, or with not having to roll for them?
Personally, I LOVE take 10 as a GM, because every now and then I can lull the PCs into thinking they can get by taking 10 and then they run into something with a higher DC for some reason, and they fail, sometimes spectacularly. As a player, it means that I don't have to zero out a skill in order for me to be able to do something consistently.
After all, the INTENT of take 10, is that a person should be able to make a standing jump of 5 feet every time unless there are outside mitigating factors, and it really shouldn't matter whether the intervening 5 feet is ground, water, snakes, a 10 foot pit, a 100 foot pit, a pit with spikes, or a precious mirror you don't want to step on and break.
If nothing else, just remember this: D&D and Pathfinder are about HEROES, and heroes don't fail stuff like that without good cause. Also, MAGIC! The wizard gets to skip most of these challenges by casting a spell...are you going to penalize the fighter who has invested heavily in his skills to succeed at something the wizard is doing effortlessly because somehow the fighter is distracted by the danger of failing, even after all the practice and training he has had, and all the times he has succeeded?
In response to thorin001, Cevah, and yeti1069, the reason it's harder to sneak past a dragon than a castle guard is the same reason some people fail tests even when they know all of the material: we are imperfect creatures. If you are trying to sneak past a dragon, chances are you are going to be terrified, or at least extremely nervous. This causes people to be less able to calmly carry out their task. That is a fact. It doesn't make the task impossible, it doesn't make the task more difficult per se, it makes the character distracted. If the character is distracted, they cannot take 10. That comes directly from the rules. And worrying about being eaten if you get caught is something completely different than "the task at hand" which is trying to move stealthily. In much the same way, thinking about the difficulty of climbing a wall doesn't distract you from climbing it, but thinking about the possibility of falling into lava might, because that is something other than the task at hand. Another separate factor is time constraints. These are most often not an issue, but, especially when combined with dangers resulting from failure, might be distracting because they distract the character from simply completing the task in the best manner possible. The person Cevah quoted specifically mentions being in a rush as something that could prevent someone from taking 10. And finally, yeti, a person could sneak past a guard and a polymorphed dragon in the same way because it's not about the danger. It's about the character's perception of danger, which affects their nerves and their ability to act without being distracted.
That's being needlessly inconsistent with how the rules work.
If you're scared because you're trying to sneak past a dragon...we have rules for fear; use them! Add the Shaken condition, maybe, or a circumstance penalty. Maybe activate the dragon's frightful presence and have the player roll a Will save.
What if the adventurer has killed a dragon before? Is he still too distracted to take 10? What if he's kill 5? What if he killed the last dragon he encountered in one swing? What if he's bigger than the dragon?
What if he's just the sort of person who simply isn't concerned with such things? Maybe he's got a death wish? Maybe he's a paladin and is immune to fear? Perhaps he has confidence in his friends and feels assured that if he wakes the dragon, one of them will take care of it quickly by pouring molten gold over its head?
You should never be distracted by the task you're performing. That goes against the point of the rules. Differentiating between sneaking by a dragon and sneaking by a guard is subjective. At what point do you disallow someone to take 10 sneaking past that guard?
If you alert the guard he will:
A simply, objective way of looking at the way take 10 works by asking yourself: What happens if I fail? That result, CANNOT BE A DISTRACTION BECAUSE IT IS THE WHOLE POINT OF YOUR USING THE SKILL.
Climbing over lava can't be a distraction, because the only way for that lava to be a danger is if you fail, therefore your whole attention is on NOT falling in the lava, such as by focusing on your task and taking 10, rather than being careless or taking unnecessary risks (rolling a d20 when you know you can scale that wall with ease).
Again, at which point is it distracting?
What situations that involve you using Perception are distracting enough to not allow taking 10 on Perception because of what you're trying to perceive?
What situations that involve you rolling Appraise are distracting because of what you're trying to judge?
What situations that call for rolling a Knowledge check are distracting because of what you're trying to recall?
Do you see how inconsistent your viewpoint is?
If you want to disallow taking 10 to sneak past a dragon, come up with a better reason:
OR, just impose some modifiers: he's scared, so he gets a -2 penalty.
OR, you know, let the person take 10 if they want to, but the dragon notices him anyway, because the dragon has a very high Perception, or was just pretending to be asleep, and even though the character was focused on their task, they simply weren't good enough, without getting lucky, to avoid detection. THAT'S how taking 10 is supposed to go! You think you can accomplish a task with your tried and true level of focus and skill, so you approach the task in that fashion, but sometimes you misjudged, or something unexpected comes up, and you fail.
Take 10 doesn't mean you automatically succeed, it means that you are consistent on the tasks that aren't supposed to be challenging for you. If you're a neophyte weaponsmith, maybe you take 10 on a dagger and succeed, get cocky, and take 10 on a masterwork composite longbow and you fail. Meanwhile, the master smith is taking 10 and succeeding on that bow, but then fails when he tries to do the same with what he thinks is a piece of standard iron, but finds out is actually adamantine.
There are so many ways to deal with these situations WITHOUT neutering the take 10 rules that I can't understand why so many people want to arbitrarily deny players that option.
Bob Bob Bob wrote:
Taking 10 is also about committing your standard amount of attention/focus/skill to a task. And, generally, we can perform the same relatively simple tasks again repeatedly without risk of failure...until something else changes things, such as our becoming fatigued, or being distracted by something unrelated, or by conditions getting worse.
Drive 10 blocks down a straight road with stop signs. Are you EVER going to fail that check?
Now, do it tired (fatigued for a -2 penalty to Dex).
Or try taking 10 when some maniac is swerving all over the road (DC goes up for defensive driving).
Similarly, your Perception check while driving should note what other drivers are doing when they signal properly, when you're spaced properly, when everyone is obeying traffic laws, etc..., but the DC may be higher than your Take 10 can achieve for some kid stepping into the street from behind a parked car.
Cevah, thanks for pulling up that quote. I was going to mention it, but was too lazy to go find it myself.
The way I view it is that you can take 10 any time your only concern involves the action you're performing--if you're using Acrobatics to climb or jump, it doesn't matter if you're climbing 10 feet up or 100, and doesn't matter if you're over earth, water, lava, or spikes, since your only concern is succeeding at Acrobatics.
Now, if something else becomes a concern, such as being attacked while climbing, then you can no longer take 10.
Similarly, if you're trying to climb AND be sneaky, then you cannot take 10, since you're focused on two different tasks. Are you trying to avoid falling blocks while climbing? That's distracting. Looking for traps while balancing? Distracting. Pickpocketing while dancing? Distracting. But you can take 10 pickpocketing someone irrespective of the results of your action--whether you're stealing candy from a baby, or trying to scoop some slime off of Cthulu's hide. Ruling it any other way is not only very metagamey, but also paradoxical. You can't change the way you're performing a task based on a possible negative result of failure that you may not be aware of. For example, you don't know if that guard you're trying to sneak past is a mook with a wife and kids who has no interest in doing anything but raising the alarm, but a shapechanged dragon looking for his next meal, so if you can sneak past the first guy taking 10, then you can sneak past the second taking 10 as well.
How would you use these NPCs?
My plan for this was to give the player some additional stats/abilities he has, telling him to try and play the character mostly to form, but a little regressed (he was known to be more of a dick a few months ago than he has been lately), and to try and cast as much blame as he can on the wizard for recent events. He's to also be a little more inquisitive about what his fellow party members are doing/what they do.
Oh, because it would probably be useful, the party composition is:
-Samsaran Oracle w/ the blind curse, and the spell scar mystery; he's a bookish sort with multiple personas derived from his ancestors, and is searching for ways to heal spellscars.
-Teifling rogue w/ a 5 Cha...he started off as being incredibly pompous, rude, obnoxious, and selfish, but has slowly started to adapt to being a figure within a larger community, and has been humbled a bit. He's the one that would be getting swapped.
-Human monk acting as an officer of the local justice/police force temple branch (separate from the city guard). He is fairly even-keeled, and tries to steer the group in a lawful direction.
-Changeling monk who is a member of an order devoted to the goddess of light and good, and that stands against the evils of the world, particularly unnatural ones such as the undead. He's...prone to violent solutions.
-Sylph witch who really cleaves to the "watcher" ideal of his race, and tends to rarely get involved in ANYTHING unless he feels like it. He hangs back to observe much of the time, occasionally deigning to help out...or do something inappropriate. No very politick. Also, he's currently under a Curse of Indecision.
-Kobold...we'll see what she's actually playing. She had been a kobold sorceress, but when the players liberated her people from the sway of an evil dragon, she stayed behind to become their new ruler. We've discussed how she'll continue from there, and she was thinking about sending an acolyte (basically a copy of her previous character) to join the party and try to gain some reparations or some such, but it's not fleshed out yet.
The party has been made part of a semi-independent elite branch of the city guard.
Oops. It's an E6 game, and they're 6 with some "epic" feats under their belts (and a few mythic abilities), so, I'd say the APL is probably 8 (6 person party).
As for the doppelganger, I thought it would be fun to let one of my players play the subversive in the group for a few sessions. We've talked that bit over, gave him just enough detail to play the character along the lines I'm looking for, and will give him some stats he can use.
My players are, occasionally, a fairly suspicious lot, so I have to be VERY careful with NPCs that I want to keep suspicion off of if I want to do something like that. This seems like a fun way to get that done in a fashion that will likely work better--they have some downtime, and in there, the player gets swapped for the doppelganger.
First off, George, Jon, Mike, Andrew, GET OUT!
So, here's what I've got so far:
The players had dealt with a crime ring that had been distributing some nasty drugs around town, and discovered a couple of odd things during their investigation: the purveyors of the pestilence were maintaining a ledger not only on the transactions, but also records of how the effects the drugs were having on their clientele, and SOMEONE was impersonating a noble, framing him as the mastermind behind the whole scheme. They rounded up most of the perpetrators and put and end to the drug ring, imprisoning the head of the local crime syndicate, but without ever finding out who had been impersonating the nobleman. During a separate incident, the cell in which they had imprisoned the boss was discovered to be empty, and her corpse was found back in the hideout the PCs had cleared out...except THAT person had been dead for a LONG time.
Some time passes, and the PCs encounter a runaway flesh golem wreaking havoc in the city. After defeating the monster, they follow its trail back to the cemetery, and discover a few things:
The PCs decided to investigate the graveyard, and waylaid a wizard skulking around just as they themselves were waylaid by a bunch of undead. They managed to capture the wizard alive, but unconscious. That's where they left off last.
What I've got cooking:
So I have two different things going on here. First, is the doppelganger who had been impersonating the nobleman from earlier has found someone else to conduct experiments for him--he wants to attain divinity, so he may travel the far planes...what kind is irrelevant...so he has an alchemist experimenting with different compounds, including the blood of outsiders, to create an elixir that will transmogrify him. This is the reason behind the disappearances and the oddly deformed corpses turning up. The doppelganger is a bard.
Second, the wizard they found is a somewhat hapless necromancer. He had been studying at the local magic academy, but was expelled for practicing the forbidden arts, which he felt was unfair, as their study could potentially yield new insights, and may be important. He's been doing experiments in the graveyard at night, using those already deceased, but he made a mistake, and raised a terror too powerful for him to handle--a witch, dead for hundreds of years, who had, along with her family of cannibals, captured unwary travelers, and kidnapped children, bringing them back to their den in the woods to feast upon. The townsfolk at the time had managed to track the family down and set fire to their hiding place after managing to capture the matriarch. Her family didn't burn to death, but instead succumbed to smoke inhalation and died, preserved in their hiding spot within their layer, never to be found. Meanwhile, she was brought back to town, hanged and interred with wards set upon her tomb to prevent just this sort of thing from happening. When our bumbling caster animated her, she broke from his control, prised him of some information on the current state of affairs of the area, and went off in search of her family, saying that she would return before the new moon.
In an attempt to remedy his mistake, he tries to create a golem who will be resistant to her spells and abilities to wrestle her back into the afterlife, but, again, he drops the ball, and ends up setting the thing loose.
What I need help with:
What I'd like to do is continue to present the players with multiple leads that can point to the wizard, but which he staunchly (and truthfully) denies. He hasn't killed anyone, other than those his flesh golem tore apart.
My intent is to have one of the players taken over by the doppelganger, who will stay with them for some time, ferreting out their secrets, and trying to direct any investigation away from his dealings. I'm thinking that, when the wizard gets captured, the doppelganger puts a hold on his activities for a while, to throw more suspicion the wizard's way.
Eventually, the witch returns, after having animated her family, and they begin their old custom of poaching folks for their cannibalistic cookery once again. When the doppelganger gets wind of SOMETHING turning up missing people, he starts up his activation again.
Eventually, I'd like for the players to catch on to the witch and go after her and her family, and for the players to eventually stumble upon the existence of the separate plot, and trace that back to the alchemist's lab, and discover their teifling companion trussed up and being slowly drained of his outsider's blood while he's also still standing right next to them...and then have the doppelganger escape. In the lab, they'll also find some sort of good outsider and some sort of evil outsider crucified upon the wall and being drained of their blood as well.
So, I'd like:
You could also have a fairly standard pack of bandits (in the level 1-4 area) who are inspired to greater feats of prowess by a bard in their group who's perhaps a little higher level, or who has obtained some magic item that improves his abilities a bit.
Sometimes, just finding the right combination of buffs can make even low-level enemies relevant (to a degree). Plus, it can be satisfying for players to mow down a group of 20+ bad guys who are still somewhat dangerous (ie., they can land hits, can deal damage, but are going down quick due to mediocre/poor AC, and low HP).
I've also come up with a puzzle that uses a tiled surface like a chess board, but where the edge of each square teleports a character crossing the threshold to another square on the board. Each edge has its own destination, and players may enter squares facing a different direction than they were when they started their movement.
If you step down off of A, you may end up entering J from the right side. Stepping up off of A may have you enter from the bottom of 6.
Add some dangers, that have to be dealt with, or a time limit for getting across.
As a hint, I was thinking of having the twisting, turning hallways leading up to this room actually be the solution...right turn, straight, right turn, left turn, straight, etc...corresponding to the directions on the chessboard.
Get them across the river:
You have a chicken, a bag of feed, and a fox that you need to get across the river intact. Unfortunately, the boat is only large enough for you to carry one of them across at a time, and if you leave the chicken with the feed it will eat it; likewise, the fox will eat the chicken if left alone with it. How do you get them all across?
Take the chicken across first, leaving the fox with the feed. Next, go back, grab the feed and bring it across to the other side. Now, take the chicken BACK to the starting side, and swap it for the fox, which you bring across and leave with the feed. Finally, you return to pick up the chicken and reach the other side with all 3.
Here's a logic puzzle I've used before:
You're in a room with 3 switches that you are told light 3 lightbulbs/torches in another room. They are clearly marked On/Off, and you may switch them back and forth as often as you like, for as long as you like. Once you are satisfied, your trial is to leave this room, walk down the hallway to the room with the bulbs/torches, and identify which switch corresponds to which bulb/switch.
Turn one off, one on. For the last, turn it on for a while, then turn it off just before you leave the room. When you get to the 3 lit objects, one should be on, while two are off, one of which should still be warm from having been left on for a while previously.
There has to be a way to word such feats to function with things like Spring Attack without specifically having to call out those interactions in the feats' descriptions, since A) that results in a lot of extra text, and B) doesn't work well for future-proofing.
How about this? Remove Combat Expertise as a prerequisite for all feats it is currently attached to.
Or, the way to make it useful would be to alter it in one of a few ways, such as:
I'd also include:
-A Deed around level 6-9 that allows the Swashbuckler to spend 1 Panache to move 10 feet with a 5-foot step.
-The Rapid Attack ability from the Mobile Fighter archetype as a standard class feature at level 11.
-A Deed that allows the Swashbuckler to make one turn while charging so long as they have at least 1 Panache remaining, and allows them to spend 1 Panache to charge over difficult terrain and obstacles, and allows them to combine the charge action with a list of specific circumstances including balancing on a narrow surface, swinging from something, jumping).
-Consider granting Cha to AC, stacking with light armor (or not).
I'm basically in favor of all of the above, with some tweaks.
I think I'd prefer simply adding Cha as a bonus to Will saves vs. certain effects (similar to the feat that does this in the ACG), along with a good Fort save.
I'd think that for Evasive, Uncanny Dodge should come first, as that seems the most swashbucklery to me. Maybe Evasion at 10, Improved Uncanny at 15.
Power Attack, while a tax, is at least a useful feat, and highly desired by many martial characters even without looking at any chains.
All the +1 to X feats should definitely scale with level.
Any feat chain that requires successive feats to essentially just scale the first feat (ie., Two-Weapon Fighting, Improved TWF, Greater TWF, all the Improved/Greater maneuver feats, etc...) should probably get rolled up into a single feat that scales by either level or BAB, depending upon what the feat does (TWF makes sense to go by BAB, for example, since it would be kind of odd to gain offhand attacks faster than main hand ones).
I think all of the +2 to 2 skills feats should be removed.
I think Skill Focus should remain as-is, BUT should gain some new benefit somewhere before getting to the +6 bonus--basically, it should grant some new, special usage to every skill (probably print that in the skills' "Special" descriptions, rather than listing it all with the feat).
Point Blank Shot makes sense, but it should scale.
Honestly, I think Combat Expertise is the worst of the bunch.
It has an ability score requirement that most characters who would actually want the feats locked behind CE won't have.
It's a gatekeeper for a rather large number of feats/feat chains.
It has ZERO interaction with almost every feat that requires it as a prerequisite (CE is downright detrimental to using combat maneuvers, for example).
As stated earlier in the thread, it essentially works just like fighting defensively, has some overlap with fighting defensively (Stalwart feats, for example), yet doesn't gain any of the benefits aimed at fighting defensively (ie., Crane Style, and numerous other feats, class features, and traits), and is often worse than fighting defensively.
It mirrors Power Attack's penalty vs. bonus progression, but at a worse rate of return, and without any special benefit to a combat style well-suited to using the feat (I'd probably increase the defense bonus for characters wielding a single weapon in one hand with either no offhand weapon, or a shield).
It rarely gets used.
With Kata Master, I don't think Cha is all that important, especially if you're picking up more than a few monk levels. Wis+1/2 level should be enough Panache-equivalency so long as you have 1 or 2 standard points of Panache (that can be regenerated).
I'd rate that benefit higher than what Swashbuckler 1 provides all on its own, but all the other stuff monk comes with really tilts those scales, even if it means having to burn a feat or a few thousand gold on Weapon Finesse or Agile, respectively. It means delaying something a little. I'd probably bump Panther Style to level 3, grab Panther Claw at the same time, and push Panther Parry to level 9, pushing back Dodge (and everything that relies on it). It's good, but it isn't a necessity for everything else to work.
If you are thinking about swash, kata master and MoMS archetypes stack. Then you can parry/riposte with all monk weapons and unarmed strikes. Not sure if it works for you,but could get you more panache to use without the extra panache feat.
So, the Swashbuckler level can be skipped, you get more Deeds, and you get more Ki naturally, which also lowers your dependence on Cha, and removes the need to pick up Extra Panache!
Not gaining a level here, because we'd want 4 monk before going fighter (vs. 2 monk/1 swashbuckler/1 fighter), but that's not too bad sine the extra 2 monk levels are bumping all your saves by 1 (vs. +2 on just Reflex), and you pick up Fast Movement, Ki (notably Wis+2 added to Panache pool, for Cha+Wis+2), Maneuver Training (+1 to CMB/CMD), 1d8 unarmed strikes, and +1 AC along with everything else you get with a Ki pool, and Slow Fall.
I'd probably go: lvl 1-2 monk, lvl 3-4 fighter, level 5-6 monk, rest fighter.
1 Monk -Combat Reflexes, Panther Style, Snake Style, Improved Unarmed Strike
From 13 on, may want to consider going back to monk until 19, since the Kata Master should qualify for Signature Deed at 11 monk (level 19 with this set-up). Conversely, could also stick with monk after level 7 (so you don't delay Greater Trip) to get Signature Deed by level 14, and then go back to fighter. If going that route, I'd want to fit another Style in there, since we'd get the upgrade along the way that allows us to enter 3 styles at once as a Swift action (replaces the need for Combat Style Master for most purposes). Could pick up the Crane feats for yet ANOTHER riposte-type action (which thankfully uses neither a swift, nor an immediate), and some more AC.
Actually, I think I like that better...
1 Monk -Combat Reflexes, Panther Style, Snake Style, Improved Unarmed Strike
True. That looks pretty good! I'd been looking at what monk is getting from 4-6 (more saves, higher damage die, AC bonus, speed, etc...), but getting the focus of the build online sooner is a good idea.
Level 7 you get two feats with that set-up, so you could grab Power Attack there for Felling Smash at 9.
Would another fighter archetype work better? The bonus to CMB from Lore Warden is pretty nice, but the free Combat Expertise, which is the big draw for a lot of characters doesn't mean as much with that Swashbuckler level in there allowing you to use your Cha to meet Int prerequisites, and you want a bit of Cha for a pool of Panache.
Could add in some tripping to jack up those attacks even more:
Move to an opponent; provoke an AoO on the way, Panther/Snake/Parry chain, get to opponent, Power Attack and trip, 2 AoOs, back away from opponent, possibly provoking more AoOs from first enemy/new enemy.
If you can use an immediate action and a swift action in the same turn (immediate eats up swift action on the NEXT turn), you could conceivably get 3 attacks against anyone you pass on the way to your Spring Attack target, 3 attacks and a trip on that target, and 3 attacks at anyone you pass as you leave. You could also sub one of your AoOs from being attacked/missed while moving for a trip, which will generate 2 attacks if successful, so you could actually be doing 4 attacks to anyone taking an AoO against you.
So, move, provoke AoO, trip with Panther, Greater Trip attack, -4 attack against you, +4 attack against them now, Vicious Stomp. If it misses, Snake. If it hits, Parry then Riposte. If Snake hits and you didn't Riposte, hit again.
Power Attack hit your main target, trip, Greater Trip attack, Vicious Stomp at +4 attack.