KnightErrantJR's Rise of the Runelords Pathfinder Beta Playtest Campaign (Possible Spoiler)

Playtest Reports

Alright, I've finally got this one going, we've got characters going, and we played our first session of this. The current characters in the campaign include the following characters:

Human (Shoanti) Paladin: The character took monkey grip and carries an oversized earth breaker for his weapon. Also took the totem feat from the Player's Guide for the Skull Clan. Taking advantage of not needing a high wisdom score with this character.

Half-orc Fighter: The half-orc's favorite weapon, at this point, is the orc shotput (from the Arms and Equipment Guide) since its an "orc" weapon that he has familiarity with.

Half-elf Wizard: The character is taking advantage of being a generalist. He nearly took evoker, but after reading about hand of the apprentice, decided to take the "general" path instead.

Halfling Bard: Basically, the player was pretty happy with the fluff of the halfling matching up with bard being a favored class, and he wants to try out the Spherewalker PrC eventually as well.

First Encounter: No Way In Hell: Bear with me . . . the first encounter in the campaign was with the Sandpoint Devil. I wanted to give the PCs a taste of how powerful it was, and to play up that it feeds on fear.

As a CR 8 creature, its WAY out of their league, and no matter what additional abilities have been given to 1st level characters, they didn't even touch the Sandpoint Devil in the fight.

The half-orc missed it by one, but that was one of his best rolls of the night.

Without breaking a sweat, the Sandpoint Devil dropped them all into negatives, and the biggest challenge was to not kill them all outright. Still, the half-orc did get to use his Orc Ferocity in this fight, and the half-elf positioned himself as far away as he could to use the Hand of the Apprentice ability. He was the last one that the Sandpoint Devil knocked out.

What did we learn here? A CR 8 creature is still going to have 1st level characters for breakfast.

First REAL Encounter: Goblin Warriors (Average Encounter):

Okay, so the first real encounter of the campaign is a group of three goblin warriors. They are each CR 1/3, making this an encounter of Average challenge, and meaning that the PCs should use up some of their resources in this fight, but it shouldn't be a big danger.

The goblins got to act before everyone in a surprise round except the wizard, and they mainly position themselves at this point.

The wizard color sprays two of the goblins, and one of them is immediately out. Another one tries to jump on him, and misses, and the last one runs up to the wizard as well.

Once the rest of the party closes on them, its a short fight. No hit points lost in this fight, and one color spray used by the wizard. The half-orc performs an "unintentional" coup de grace on the helpless goblin, and they move on into the crowd.

This one felt a bit easy, but it did use some resources, and if the rolls had gone slightly differently, it might not have been as much of a forgone conclusion.

Second Encounter, Goblin Pyros (Challenging Encounter):

Alright, four goblin warriors and a goblin bard, and now all with added fire! I actually swapped out the goblin feat for the weapon and torch style feat from Dungeonscape so the pyros didn't have to decide between dogslicer and torch, and to make them more effective.

The half-orc managed to surprise one of the goblins, and the orc shot put took off its head in one shot. The goblin warchanter followed after another goblin, and tries to trip the half-orc barbarian.

She needs to roll a 19 to trip the half-orc. I forgot to give the half-orc cover from the goblin between them, so she did manage to trip him by rolling exactly a 19, though technically she shouldn't have. Didn't mean much for the fight, because the goblin missed its AoO when he stood up.

The quarterstaff/hand of the apprentice was the most consistent weapon to hit and damage in the fight. Once the wizard was in position, he managed to hit and kill twice in combat. The paladin's hammer was pretty impressive as well, although he only got to one goblin.

The critical fumble deck nearly killed the half-elf, though, as his staff bounced back and nearly crited him, and knocked him to 0 hit points.

The half-orc grappled the warchanter and finished her off easily.

The halfling bard used one of his first level spells to get the half-elf going again after the fight.

The paladin took minimal damage from a dogslicer/torch combo, and the half-orc fighter took a slight hit from a dogslicer from a charging goblin. By far the most damage dealt to a PC was from the PC to himself with the hand of the apprentice. Not a bad trade off for him hitting and killing more consistently than the "tanks" of the party.

Encounter Three, Goblin Commando (Hard Encounter):

The final fight of the evening, the fight against the goblin commando on the goblin dog with the goblin warriors backing him up, was up next. The goblin commando charged up the middle with his goblin dog, and did a good amount of damage to the half-orc with its bite.

The wizard "holds" the goblin dog where its at with a grease spell, and the Shoanti kills the rider in one blow with his hammer, leaving the dog to the fighter, as he took off to deal with some of the warriors.

The half-orc drops to zero, but takes out the goblin dog using his orc ferocity again. The halfling bard gets him back on his feet again, using another cure light spell.

The halfling got the drop on an goblin and killed it in two rounds, once the half orc arrived to flank with him. The paladin missed a goblin warrior three times with his earth breaker, and all of the misses were within his -2 range for using monkey grip.

In the end, paladin took out the goblin commando, the half-orc took out the goblin dog, the bard took out two goblins with an assist from the half-orc, and the wizard finished off two of the goblins with hand of the apprentice again.


Hand of the Apprentice was very, very consistent in damage and hit probability, but I must admit, the wizard generally waited until a "tank" got in between him and an opponent, then positioned himself as far away as he could, then moved the staff in to attack. Still, it hit more often and did more damage than the "tanks" did. Not saying its a problem, per se, just an observation.

I'm not sure how often it will come up at higher levels, but Orc Ferocity got used a few times in the evening, so it did, at least at low level, make the player feel like he was getting his "money's worth" for being a half-orc.

The half-orc dropped to zero as did the half-elf, and the paladin took some fairly serious damage by the end of the fight (though, given that they were in town and the goblins seemed to be driven off, he didn't get any healing after his last fight).

The halfling used two cure light wounds spells to bring party members back, and the wizard used color spray and grease, so both used up a good amount of their magic.

I have a feeling that in 3.5, the PCs would still have won, but would have been beat up a little more. Hand of the Apprentice kept the wizard doing useful things (very useful!) without using his spells, and the halfling gaining cure spells at 1st level made the bard a much more effective substitute for a cleric at this level of play.

The Exchange

Nice summary. Good to read some feedback on how the 1st level wizard and bard play out. They were always the classes my players hated to play at 1st level.

looking forward to reading some more.

Nice summary. I'd like to know, how are you using Hand of the Apprentice? Like, the exact mechanics? The text is really ambiguous and there's been considerable confusion and debate between myself and my players on how it should work (I have a thread elsewhere on the forums trying to get clarification).

Basically, are you allowing it to move 30', or 15' in a round? And are you allowing it to attack on the same turn it is summoned?

The way we played it the first night was that:

1. Standard action to summon the hand, gets to pick up item as part of the activation.

2. Move action to move the hand. For this particular night, we were allowing it to move 30 feet per move action, instead of the 15 as per mage hand, but for next session, we are going to go to 15 feet move, total range 30, as per mage hand.

3. Standard action to concentrate, as part of the concentration, an attack could be made.

As I said above, the only change we are making is the 15 feet movement instead of 30 feet, mainly because we didn't think to look at the mage hand description to see how far it moved per round. 15 feet with a total of 30 distance makes sense.

Also, even though it is a low level ability, we went with the bonded item teleporting back as soon as concentration was broken, because its not so much that the wizard is creating a teleportation effect, but that its his bonded item, and its attuned to him. Other than getting the item back, it really doesn't cause any gameplay issues that I can see.

Next session, here are the characters that were available for the next session:

Human Paladin 1st Level

Half-elf Wizard 1st Level

Half-orc Fighter 1st Level

Most of the session involved investigation, knowledge checks, and diplomacy checks, mostly with DCs of 10 to 15, and most of them went pretty well except for a simple diplomacy check that the Half-elf blew asking for scrolls (DC 16, check of 9, failed by more than five).

The one combat of the night was against a demonic boar (template from Green Ronin's website, pretty similar to a fiendish boar).

The PCs got warhorses from Aldern Foxglove. I did this instead of riding horses because they are getting close to a level, and they aren't quite on par with wealth, so I didn't mind the extra gold for the horses.

Thus I ran into an interesting situation.

The Ride Skill

PCs with a warhorse have it much easier than I would have thought. Ride is a skill that can be used untrained. Every function. It never came up much before, because most PCs that had warhorses had the ride skill.

The DCs are all fairly low, and for about half of their wealth at 1st going into 2nd level, they get another couple of attacks, a faster movement rate, and if they are fighting something low to the ground, a +1 bonus to hit.

Granted, mounts aren't going to come up in every environment, but for an outdoor, overland travel, I never quite realized how much of an aid a warhorse would be for a low level character that isn't even trained in riding anything.

The Combat

The boar, with the template applied, is a CR 3 creature. This makes this encounter a Hard encounter, according to the encounter rules in the PFRPG.

The boar got the drop on the PCs, and it charges the paladin and smites him, knocking him down to 1 hit point on the first hit. Pretty scary for something that isn't injured yet.

The wizard summons his hand of the apprentice, and moves the quarterstaff toward the boar (standard action to summon it, move action to make it move 15 feet).

The paladin guides the horse, and gets it to attack, and the horse hammers the boar. The paladin then smites the boar, and his charisma bonus from the smite cancels out the negatives from the monkey gripped large earth breaker, and then some.

The charisma bonus to hit in this case is much more valuable than the meager +1 damage bonus, but when he does contact with the hammer, wow. The paladin drops the boar to -9.

The half-orc with the boar spear that he was hunting with misses the boar.

Now for another interesting point.


Boars have ferocity. Normally this means they can go to -10 hit points as long as they keep fighting. However, if the death and dying rules are consistently applied, then the boar now can survive to -17, which, for its CR, means that its probably surviving one, maybe two more solid hits than it would before.

I'm not sure its a problem, but it is kind of a drastic shift for the creature's lethality, as it does fairly good damage and would have perhaps an extra round or two to do it in to low level characters.

But, not to be outdone, the wizard came up with another idea, which I let him run with, for now.

Hand of the Apprentice Trick

The Hand of the Apprentice was moved by the wizard, with his move action, ten feet toward the boar, in range to hit with it, and then . . . he ordered it to go five feet up in the air, and then swung down with a +1 "higher ground" bonus.

The hand was still in 30 feet of the wizard. There isn't anything that says how high off the ground the item stays. Again, in some environments, this won't even be an option. Lots of dungeons are too tight to allow the staff to go five feet up in the air, but in open caverns or the wilderness.

Not sure if the extra +1 to hit is a big problem, or if this is going to be something that needs to be addressed, but it was an interesting thought on the part of my wizard player.

End of the Fight

The staff dropped the boar to -17, making sure it left the realm of "mostly dead," and the fight ended.


I'm not sure how well this came up as a "hard" fight. The paladin was at 1 hit point, and without a healer, he was in trouble (the halfling was not present, but I did allow him to ride behind the boar to provide a flanking bonus).

On the other hand, the horse had an easy time doing some serious damage, and despite needing to take the boar down to -17, the fight was done in two rounds.

It may just be that the monkey grip with large earthbreaker is a killer combo at low levels, especially when the paladin gets a boost to hit from his smite. It will be interesting to see how this plays out further.

For this current session, we had the following characters for the adventure:

Human Paladin, 1st Level

Half-elf Wizard, 1st Level

Gnome Druid, 1st Level

Now, for the opening session commentary:

I had a new player, who made a gnome druid. He hadn't played a druid since 1st edition, and wanted to give the "current" version a run, and he liked the suggested combination of gnome and druid from the PFRPG Beta.

While he realized that the persistent animal companion for the druid would be more powerful, he liked the idea of being able to shift the animal companion on the fly, so he could have an animal companion, of a sort, that he could customize as he needed.

Because of this, he chose the animal domain for the druid instead of an animal companion.

The half-elf player is kind of bored with Hand of the Apprentice, and wanted to know if he can switch this ability out. I told him at 2nd level I'll let him "specialize" and try out another ability.

His main reason for wanting to change isn't that the ability isn't powerful, but that he doesn't like summoning the hand, moving it, and then attacking. He would rather his default, at will ability was more automatic, like the evoker's energy ray.

His opinion is that, he doesn't mind doing something like this if he casts a spell, but as his default, fall back ability that he can do all of the time, he wants something with fewer steps to it, no matter how powerful it might be.

Skill Checks

Not a lot to report here. The gnome player, being new to PFRPG, pointed out that there are a lot of skills he's not really going to improve, as he pretty much as a "proficiency level" understanding of a skill if he gets the +3 bonus to the skill.

Most of the players are getting used to "gather information" or "spot" being specific functions of a larger skill at this point.

The paladin did miss a DC 15 climb check and take 1d6 points of damage, but most checks in trained skills did not fall outside of the "safe" range of 5 or more less than was needed for the check.


The only combat that came up was against the "Monster in the Closet" encounter. I changed this a bit to make the goblin a feral creature goblin (from Savage Species).

The goblin then was a CR 2 creature, which is a Challenging encounter for a 1st level party.

In combat, the wizard acted first, and the goblin saved against the sleep spell cast by the wizard. The druid's summoned wolf, via the animal domain, did a good bit of damage to the goblin, but failed its CMB roll for its free trip attempt.

The paladin missed by quite a bit swinging on the goblin, and the feral goblin did well over half the wolf's hit points with his attacks.

The wizard used his bonded object to cast sleep again, and this time the goblin went down.

Side Note: The wizard asked if he could tell that the goblin resisted the sleep spell due to his hit dice or due to him saving against the effect, and I allowed a spellcraft check at DC 15 + spell level to determine what happened. I know this isn't spelled out in the rules, but I thought I'd throw this out there.

Getting to reuse sleep when he had a good idea that it might work was appreciated by the wizard, and made him more likely to try something like sleep to capture the goblin rather than to just give up and go for straight damage again.

After Combat: The party wanted to tie up the goblin after they captured him, so we used the new binding rules. I was a bit confused at first, since I read the rules that the DC of the bindings was set by the CMB of the character binding, and I thought that meant that they rolled a CMB roll.

This set off a bit of a discussion on how illogical it would be for a character to roll low on what amounts to a grapple check to bind something, especially something that is immobilized.

After rereading the passage, I think I understood this better that there is no rolling, but the binding is based on the CMB of the binder, meaning that the paladin's binding DC for the ropes would be DC 15 + 5 (for pinned) + his normal CMB bonus.

While the PCs were much happier with this number as a DC to escape, this still seems strange, because it means that the better you are with weapons, or the stronger you are, the better you are at tying knots, automatically. Still, its effective, but I think there might need to be a bit more fleshed out (feats related to binding or something).

Characters for this session:

Human Paladin, 1st Level

Half-orc Figher, 1st Level

Gnome Druid, 1st Level

Half-orc Rogue, 1st Level

First Up, New Character Creation

The half-orc rogue was a new party member, and he wanted to make a "thug" rogue, and was pretty sure he could do so with the PFRPG rules.

Using the 20 point buy, he left me to start the character, and in keeping with "thuggery" I gave him a 20 strength and a 7 charisma, and kept everything else more or less average.

We didn't go with a low intelligence because of skill points. For his feat, we went with Open Minded so he had plenty of skills to work with, since he didn't have many ability boosts.

Side Note: Open Minded On one hand, I think a feat to get extra skill points really should be in the game. It makes so much sense. I did notice, however, that using this feat, as it, with the current Pathfinder rules, especially with a rogue, gives them a ton of +4 skills (well, five) before boosts. Its effectively 20 skill points under the old system, if all of the skills taken are class skills.

So, my comment would be that Open Minded should really be in the game, but it might need to be paired down to providing two or three skill ranks instead of five. Still, we'll see how this develops with the character over time.

Straight Into the Fire

The PCs left off last session just about ready to go into the Glassworks for the goblin attack, and the paladin and the wizard had rather loudly broken down the door.

The new half-orc rogue just happened upon the open door, and used stealth to get into the room. Without a dex bonus, he had a +4 from being trained and having no penalty, and got a 19, so no one in the room picked up on his sliding into the room.

Side Note: Passive Skills I've been trying not to change too much in the playtest, but it seems to me that having a passive score for things like stealth versus perception, especially when someone decides to sneak into a battle where he isn't sure if he wants anyone in the fight to see him.

So, I'm using a passive perception (10 + skill check bonus for perception) to determine stealth in situations like this. This tends to make things run a bit faster, and I'm hoping doesn't skew the results of the playtest too much. It made it a lot easier than trying to figure out each PCs and each goblin's chance to catch the sneaking character.

The gnome and the half-orc rogue used stealth to get into the room in the corner, and the paladin and the half-orc charged toward the goblins in the room. The gnome sent the wolf to charge in with the two warriors in the fight.

The paladin took a fairly serious hit from a goblin right off the bat, as it hit with its dogslicer and with its follow up molten glass loaded tongs.

Side Note: Modifications: I admit it, I can't always help but tinker a bit. I didn't change the goblins from 3.5 to PFRPG, but I did swap out their feat for the weapon and torch style feat from Dungeonscape.

So, if the goblins have a pair of tongs with molten glass on them, if they hit with their dogslicer, they can do 1d6 fire damage afterwards. However, the glass then cools, and unlike a torch, they don't still have the "fire" attack unless they spend a move action to grab more glass on the tongs.

The half-orc fighter overturns a table to create a choke point for the goblins, so that they could only come through one goblin at a time. One of the goblins already managed to get through, though, and the other half-orc, using his Acrobatics skill, jumps up on a table to gain a +1 from higher ground, and rolls a 1 to hit.

Side Note: Lots of Class Skills Yes, the half-orc with no dex bonus had a fairly good chance to make some of these checks. He only wears leather armor, so he has his full +4 bonus from a trained skill. I just wanted to track all of the skills that he managed to get trained before, and what they allow him to do.

The wolf tore into one of the goblins that got through, and the paladin, with his penalties due to his monkey grip large earth breaker, misses against the goblins. He then gets hit again by another goblin, taking dogslicer damage and fire damage.

At the far end of the room, Tsuto enters, and fires at the half-orc on the table, doing arrow and skirmish damage.

Side Note: More Changes Tsuto's tactics seemed perfect for a scout, so I swapped out his levels to being a Monk/Scout. Yeah, the players had to stick to PFRPG classes, but hey, I wanted to see how well it worked together.

After Tsuto hits the half-orc rogue, he gets hit again by a goblin with glass tongs, and he drops below zero, but does get in a last shot before he falls over due to orc ferocity.

Side Note: Orc Ferocity I have noticed that the half-orc players, even if they happen to be the victim of bad rolls, still have a chance to do something, instead of going down after one bad round.

So, at this point, both the paladin and the half-orc rogue are down. The wizard (an NPC that can only perform simple actions this week, due to the player being gone) administers a potion to the paladin and revives him.

While the paladin is down, a few more goblins slip through, and the wolf takes down another goblin, but the half-orc fighter misses, and the gnome hits, but only does one point of damage.

The gnome and the goblin swing back and forth at each other, but once the wizard gets in flanking position for the gnome, he whittles the goblin down.

Tsuto fires on the half-orc several times, but since he has cover, none of his shots connect to the fighter.

Side Note: Cover I'm really, really glad that cover is still fairly simple to figure out. I like having cover as an option, but I'm glad I don't have to spend time figuring out how much cover something provides. I think that its a fair trade off of simulation an ease of use, and still keeps things like turning over a table for cover a viable tactic and allows PCs to still use terrain in their tactics.

When Tsuto got near the half-orc fighter, he bull rushed him into a corner. I was going to assign penalties for him pushing the table between them, but the half-orc rolled a 20 on his bull rush attempt, and shoved Tsuto back into the corner.

I did forget to allow Tsuto an AoO for the bull rush, because I forgot about his unarmed attacked from his monk levels, and did remember that he had a bow in his hand.

The paladin, back in action, tried a smite, but missed. Still, the new paladin bonus to armor class meant that when the goblin in front of him attacked him, it missed due to his +3 bonus to armor class.

The next round the paladin splattered the goblin with the large earthbreaker.

The half-orc rogue was still down, the gnome finished off the one goblin he had been fighting, and the paladin and wolf polished off several goblins. The wolf ended up with a grand total of four of the goblin kills, but did badly wound itself with a critical fumble bite.

Remembering now that Tsuto can fight unarmed, Tsuto kicks the half-orc fighter, and the fighter retaliates. The paladin comes in to flank him, and the wolf and the gnome close in as well. Tsuto kicks the half-orc fighter one more time, and drops him exactly to zero, allowing him one more hit to take Tsuto down.

Fight Evaluation: As near as I can tell, since I'm still not sure if fractional CR creatures are fully explained yet in the new encounter system, this should have been an Epic (CR + 3) encounter.

By the end of the fight, one character was disabled (at 0), one was stable at negatives, one had been at negatives, and the druid's wolf was almost dead as well.

Fifteen Minute Adventure Day Evaluation: The PCs had run into the Monster in the Closet encounter earlier in the same day. The gnome had healed his wolf just in case he needed it before an hour was up (he has the animal domain, not an animal companion), and used up his spells at that time.

So the druid was out of spells, the wizard had cast sleep and used his extra spell from his bonded item, the paladin, half-orc fighter, and half-orc rogue had all gone down, and the party used a healing potion to revive the paladin before the day was over.

At the end of this fight, the paladin was almost ready to drop again, and the wolf was nearly dead as well.

More Skill Checks: The half-orc fighter and the half-orc rogue decided to kill Tsuto to cover up information about the Sczarni, and the half-orc rogue, with only a +2 bonus to his bluff check, gets a 21 on his bluff check to get the guards to leave them alone.

The Druid and His Domain: The gnome description only mentions that the gnome can cast speak with animal, so the gnome uses this to direct his animals from his animal domain. He likes this, and the ability to swap out animals based on what they are good at, over having a set animal companion.

So, I guess for a druid that is going to direct his summoned animals, gnomes are a handy choice. At any rate, the gnome prefers this set up for versatility, over what would be a more robust companion (though at first level, the difference isn't nearly as pronounced).

Searching and Exploring: There was some confusion about taking 10 and 20, since some of the players couldn't find these sections spelled out in the rules, but I pointed out that in several places in the rules, taking 10 and 20 are both mentioned, so I allowed the gnome to take 20 to search for Ameiko and later on for the hidden door in the basement.

The Big Crafting Wall: Several players in the group like the idea of crafting, and wanted to be able to make their own arms and equipment.

Then we looked up how much time it takes to make a masterwork item. Wow, they would have only needed a few months off to make up some items of their own.

On the fly, I decided to use a modified version of the craft point rules from Unearthed Arcana, modification being that:

1. You have to have at least a day of downtime to use the system, so no items "appearing" in the middle of a dungeon or the wilderness.

2. No requirement to have a separate feat for masterwork item creation.

Since they were already taking some time off, but not enough to make masterwork items, this system worked out fine for them. I may fine tune this a bit, but it seemed to help bridge the gap between them wanting craft skills and actually having time to use them.

For the Sake of Consolidation: I'm posting the links to my earlier playtests, since much of what we playtested hasn't changed too much from the Alpha to now, but some classes have shifted.

KnightErrantJR's Playtest Thread Alpha 1

KnightErrantJR's Playtest Thread Alpha 2

KnightErrantJR's Playtest Thread Alpha 3

Interesting New Player Trend

I'm not sure if its just the guys that hang out at the FLGS, or what, but the person that is going to take my last slot (to bring the party up to six) in my campaign wanted to play a half-orc cleric.

I nixed the idea, since we already had two half orcs, and he's going with a dwarf cleric now, but I thought it was worth noting that the half-orc has been pretty popular with Pathfinder so far.

KnightErrantJR wrote:

Interesting New Player Trend

I'm not sure if its just the guys that hang out at the FLGS, or what, but the person that is going to take my last slot (to bring the party up to six) in my campaign wanted to play a half-orc cleric.

I nixed the idea, since we already had two half orcs, and he's going with a dwarf cleric now, but I thought it was worth noting that the half-orc has been pretty popular with Pathfinder so far.

The bonus to strength is very appealing to anyone that wants to hit things. (Throw in dark vision, and the chance to be faster than a dwarf when in light and no armour, and it feels like Christmas...) I suspect the favourite (most frequently used) non-human race for pathfinder will be the half-orc.

Its definitely a turn around from previous campaigns where only people that have story reasons to play them would do so. It will be interesting to see if the changes bring half-orcs in line with other races, or bump them past them.

Another session has come and gone, as has one of my players. I no longer have an arcane caster in the group, and the current makeup of the party, and the last session's participants, were:

Human Paladin, 2nd Level

Half-orc Fighter, 2nd Level

Gnome Druid, 2nd Level (Animal Domain)

Half-orc Rogue, 2nd Level

Halfling Cleric, 1st Level (Magic, Trickery Domains)

The party was exploring the Catacombs of Wrath from Burt Offerings, and the following events came about:

Fight Number One: Sinspawn

Since I had already assigned the half-orcs points of wrath to "mark" them later in the campaign due to their shoving of Tsuto into the furnace at the glassworks, I ruled that, since the half-orcs were in the front row of the party, that they were not attacked by the sinspawn since they smelled wrath on them.

The half-orc rogue spotted the sinspawn, and he managed to use his dungeoneering to identify them as aberrations, telling this to the rest of the party.

The half-orc spun around behind the sinspawn, and the paladin flanked for him. The halfling already had his hand of the acolyte ready and holding the bladed scarf, and moved it to attack one of the sinspawn.

Side Note: Unresolved Issues with Hand of the Acolyte: Until I hear otherwise, I allowed the halfling to use Hand of the Acolyte to do Combat Maneuvers, because no one has said yet that you can't, at least that I have noticed, and using his wisdom bonus for his CMB rolls. Thus, the tripped sinspawn using the bladed scarf.

The half-orc rogue used his rogue talent to pickup his one combat feat, and used it to gain overhand chop. Given that he was built as a brute with a 20 strength, this was a big deal.

The half-orc did his overhand chop great axe damage against the sinspawn, and the paladin followed up with his earth breaker, meaning the sinspawn never really had a chance.

The party moved to the second sinspawn, and given their AC, they were hit fairly easily. The sinspawn did roll a natural twenty, but failed to confirm a critical on the half-orc fighter, but dis infect him with wrath, which didn't stop him from killing the sinspawn.

Encounter Summary: This encounter was two CR 2 creatures, meaning that, according to page 291, this is a CR 4 encounter, two above the party average of 2nd level, meaning this should be a hard encounter.

This was not a hard encounter. One character was bitten, and no limited resources were used. This may be due in part to the fact that I didn't have the Sinspawn attack the half-orcs outright, but even with that, the low armor class of the creatures didn't cause any problems for the paladin despite his monkey grip, and the half-orc rogue was never going to have any problems with it given his overhand chop feat and his 20 strength.

Finally, the sinspawn had a really low initiative count, which meant that the PCs could act and get into position quickly.

Encounter Number Two: Vargouilles

The half-orc really carefully tried to sneak into the room with these creatures in it, and rolled a stealth check. The Vargouilles didn't pick up on him, and he picked up on them with his perception check.

In the surprise round, he rolled an attack with a dart (!) and killed one of the creatures with his sneak attack damage. He got initiative on the second one, and it hadn't acted yet in combat, so he got his sneak attack damage on his second dart, and killed the second one.

Encounter Summary: Once again, this was a "Hard" encounter that wasn't by a long shot. I will concede, given another adventure I ran recently, that vargouilles are glass cannons. They have nasty abilities, but they have so few hit points that they don't live long enough to inspire fear.

That having been said, I allowed the half-orc to have Open Minded, giving him five more trained skills, and at this level, that means he has most of the rogue suite of skills at +4, without a dex or int bonus. He's been pretty good at sneaking and the like, giving him his sneak attack often.

Again, Open Minded is SRD, but not specifically in Pathfinder Beta, and while I really do think that this feat should be in Pathfinder (for all of those people that don't think their class has enough skills), I'm not sure five, under the current skill system, is the right number of skill ranks to give a character taking the feat. The half-orc brute rogue with almost all 10 except for his 12 wisdom, 7 charisma, and his 20 strength, has better bonuses to his spread of rogue skills than better int or dex rogues I've seen not geared towards being a thug.

Encounter Three: More Sinspawn

The Sinspawn in the dungeon area of the Catacombs of Wrath were the next encounter. The half-orc rogue, once again, used stealth to get into the room, spotted the sinspawn, threw a dart and got sneak attack on it, and warned the rest of the PCs.

The PCs positioned themselves to wait for the sinspawn coming up the stairs, and the half-orc rogue jumped off the platform, using acrobatics, to land without taking damage, and ran behind the back sinspawn.

The half-orc rogue easily dispatched the sinspawn with his overhand chop greataxe attack, and the half-orc fighter and paladin finished off the other one fairly easily, leaving the halfling and the gnome without much to do in the fight before it was over.

Encounter Summary: Once again, a hard encounter that wasn't, at all. I'm not sure if its just that the rogue was dominating this night, or if its just that 2nd level is a bit of a jump in power over 1st level, but the low AC on the enemies meant that the tanks had a pretty easy time sinking into the bad guys.

No limited resources used at all in this encounter.

Encounter Four: Koruvus and the Zombie Pits

The PCs ran into Koruvus' room. Koruvus was low in the initiative order, so the half-orc rogue had a chance to tumble past him to get into position as the rest of the PCs entered the room.

Koruvus did minimal damage to the half-orc fighter, and hit the half-orc rogue as he tumbled past him across his threatened space.

Once in place, the half-orc rogue rolled a 20, confirmed the crit, and did sixty some points of damage. After I finished sobbing, the rest of the PCs moved into the room to investigate the pits, and the halfling let loose a healing surge to heal the rogue and the fighter (who took minimal damage, but was also bitten by the sinspawn at the beginning of the caverns).

They then realized that there were zombies in the pits, and the paladin dove into one, failed his check to soften his fall, took some damage, and rolled a critical fumble which dazed him.

The halfling burned three more channel energy bursts, for a total of four, to destroy the rest of the zombies.

Encounter Summary: Again, this encounter was suppose to be hard. It wasn't. Depending on how you rate it, Koruvus was the only real challenge before it ended, and he was down quickly.

This was a bit confusing from my conversion standpoint. Koruvus has class levels, so its likely his CR is off, but he's also a mutated goblin, not just a goblin with class levels, so I'm not sure how all of that works.

In the end, the PCs burned their channel energy bursts because the paladin and the cleric were offended by the existence of the undead, not because it was strictly needed. Still, the halfling (with a whopping 20 Charisma), burned half of his positive energy channels in this room.

Overall Summary:

I felt like this session went way too easily, and this is also the first time I've not felt great about the new Pathfinder XP chart. I could have ruled that the zombies didn't count for XP purposes, but the cleric did have to burn his channel energies to pick them off the way he did. Still, the zombies alone yielded 550 XP!

I know Koruvus was probably off as well.

I think that the combination of Open Minded for the Half-orc and Overhand Chop led to him dominating this encounter a bit. As the levels ramp up, I don't think that these will permanently shift things toward the half-orc, but they certainly boost him at low levels.

The half-orc was rolling fairly high tonight, which is a variable.

I rolled very low for initiative for the bad guys in every encounter, which contributed to the half-orc rogue gaining sneak attack so often.

The halfling might have been more of a factor with the bladed scarf and the ranged CMB attacks, but at the same time, the halfling and especially the gnome hardly had to do anything this night. In fact, the gnome didn't do anything but aid another with skill rolls for the night.

Overall, the only resources used were the four channel energy bursts, and I felt that the night was way too easy and gave out way too much experience (which I probably could have fixed, but I was trying to do the minimum level of conversion).

Hooray, another session. I went through, and checked to see if any of the previously "slain" Sinspawn had stabilized after the PCs left them, found out three of them were still able to come back, and went from there.

The characters for this session were the following:

Gnome Druid, 2nd Level, Animal Domain

Half-orc Fighter, 2nd Level

Half-orc Rogue, 2nd Level

Human Paladin, 2nd Level

Halfling Cleric, 1st Level, Trickery and Magic Domains

Right off the bat, the PCs were surprised by the three sinspawn that they didn't manage to kill.

Even though I've done it several times now, its still a much simpler process to check stealth versus perception. This runs much better than the two skills versus two skills from the old days.

After the surprise round, the half-orc rogue tried to circle around the sinspawn. This caused the half-orc to try an acrobatics check to move through its threatened square.

The half-orc managed to get by, even with the new "15+BaB" DC for the "tumble" check.

Unlike the last few fights, the half-orc rogue went down against the sinspawn, and the paladin go to use his new swift action "lay on hands" in combat to keep him up against the sinspawn.

The tanks and the druid's wolf pretty much took care of the sinspawn this time, and the halfling used another channel positive energy to help out the half-orc rogue.

Encounter Summary:

According to the encounter rules, this should have been an "epic" fight, given that three CR 2 creatures are +3 to the base CR, bumping up to a EL 5 versus a 2nd level average party.

I don't think this was quite an "epic" fight, but the paladin did have to spend a lay on hands and the cleric had to burn another couple of channel positive energy uses to bring the half-orc back.

Exploration Note: Hand of the Acolyte

The halfling has probably gotten more use of this "as mage hand, except," using this as a mage hand. I'm wondering if its not suppose to be unable to just pick items up if they aren't weapons, but I was running with the idea that it couldn't attack with the item unless the user is proficient.

At any rate, the halfling is using this a lot to pick up items out of reach or in dangerous places, such as plucking things like the items in the meditation room out of the room when the party opened the door.

I know it doesn't do any good . . . I know I've been here long enough to know better and that I should be doing more cutting and pasting and such . . . but man its a pain to try and post a fairly long playtest report and have it wink out when I try to preview it . . .


The Fight With Erylium

The PCs found Erylium, and her sinspawn and a summoned spider dropped the paladin to negatives, but the halfling used his last channel positive energy to bring the paladin back to positives, and the paladin used his last lay on hands to heal himself as he dropped the sinspawn.

Erylium was a pain more than anything, summoning a fiendish snake as well. The summoned snake didn't get to smite since the neutral characters engaged it.

The quasit went invisible twice, and the PCs had a really hard time pin pointing her. The half-orc fighter and the druid's wolf tried to jump to grab Erylium, and the gnome burned his last spell as a summon nature's ally to summon an eagle to herd Erylium to the other side of the room.

Erylium poisoned the half-orc rogue, and her poison ended up dropping the half-orc after he missed every save against it. Before that, he convinced Erylium that he was going to destroy the holy book of Lamashtu that the party found in the meditation chamber.

Side Note: Poison Conversion: I'm not sure if I converted Erylium's poison properly on the fly. I translated it into Dex 2 (5 rounds), Cure (1 save), but I don't know if I was right. It sure was effective on the half-orc rogue with a 10 dex though, as it dropped him to 0 dex after he missed every save.

Erylium went to retrieve the book when the half-orc rogue went down, and the half-orc fighter caught her and grappled her, then pinned her the next round.

While she was pinned, the halfling used his scarf to bind her, and with his poor strength, he set the escape DC at 19.

Erylium couldn't escape, and the PCs circled around to coup de grace her, and she failed her save against the attack.

Side Note: Binding, Helplessness, and Coup De Grace

A bound character is described as helpless, and a helpless character is vulnerable to coup de grace. I'm thinking that allowing a pinned character to be bound is pretty dangerous in the long run. For the cost of pinning a character and having another one ready with something to bind them, so long as the character can't break free, everyone can line up for a coup de grace. I'm thinking either I'm reading this wrong, or this could be a big problem.

Encounter Summary: If I read everything right, this was a EL 5 encounter, which would make this fight epic as well, according to the rules. Maybe this is a bit skewed due to the lower level of the AP. I do think that its an appropriate encounter, just not one that, by itself, would have taken up all of the PCs resources.

The PCs did use up a lay on hands, a two druid spells, a couple of cleric spells, and had two characters drop, one from hp loss and one from dexterity loss.

15 Minute Adventure Day Summary: Most of the PCs had most of their hit points at the end of the day, but every "X per day" ability and every spell they had they used by the end of the Catacombs of Wrath.

For the next session, we had the following characters in the party:

Half-orc fighter, 3rd Level

Half-orc rogue, 3rd Level

Halfling Cleric, 3rd level

Human Paladin, 3rd Level

Gnome Druid, 3rd Level

With the characters 3rd level and having an extra character, they might be a little overmatched for the standard ROTRL encounters at this point. I'm hoping that eventually this will even out, but for now, its a bit of an advantage for them.

After the Catacombs of Wrath, the PCs spent some time in town, trying to influence some people to do what they wanted.

Possibly Not A Big Deal Side Note: The shoanti paladin is trying to convince Belor to reconcile with his brother and marry Kaye, and the half-orc rogue is trying to convince the Sczarni that they should do something to discredit the Scarnettis. Instead of making these based on one check, I decided to run these as complex skill checks from Unearthed Arcana, with the characters not being able to make more than one check per session to influence these characters.

The PCs aren't sure that the impending goblin attack isn't a haox (long story), so they decided to take a fishing boat to scout out Thistletop to see if anything is going on.

Upon arriving, the decided to climb up the side of Thistletop instead of going by land, as they felt the bridge was a trap just waiting to happen (heh).

Since they went the sea route, I decided to throw the Bunyip at them. This encounter wasn't nearly as tough as I thought it would be. The PCs saw it coming, and the druid summoned started summoning.

The half-orc fighter hit the bunyip for a tidy sum of damage, the druid summoned his dolphin to appear behind the bunyip, and the half-orc rogue hit it for his normal massive damage (20 str, overhand chop) plus sneak attack damage, and kills the bunyip before it gets to do anything.

Side Note: I'm not sure it needs to be spelled out, but in retrospect, I don't think that I should have allowed the dolphin flanking, but the half-orc was already going to do massive damage. I probably also should have forced the PCs to make balance checks given they were fighting on a fishing boat. All of that having been said, the half-orc rogue was built as a "thug rogue," but he's really dominating combat, even beyond the fighter. He was kind of built to push the rules a bit, but the point buy allowing the character to take his charisma down to gain more points really allows this character to be average at everything except for the extremes of Str and Cha. The fact that I allowed the character to use Open Minded to get more skill doesn't help, but I am loathe to get rid of a feat that allows for more skill points if that's what the PCs want to do with it. We'll keep an eye on the rogue versus the fighter as this goes on.

The PCs climbed the side of Thistletop, which, thanks to the half-orc rogue and his 20 str, wasn't a big deal, even with the fairly silly idea of tying the halfling's riding dog to a rope that the half-orc hauled up the cliff face.

The PCs are fairly lightly armored, and the managed to sneak into Thistletop without any encounters thus far.

Side Note (Stealth): The paladin and the half-orc fighter wear fairly light armor at this level, so I've noticed something interesting. With only one check to make, and with lighter armor, the whole party is sneaking a lot better than other parties that I've seen before, even without any points in stealth. I'm wondering if the fact that stealth is just one roll has been favoring the PCs in this regard.

The PCs found themselves in the pen with the horse and the goblin dogs. As a huge surprise to me, the party decided to release the horse and let it attack the goblin dogs, while the horse itself got torn to pieces, and the PCs finished up the goblin dogs themselves.

Their logic was that the horse rampage would look like it had just escaped, and killed the goblin dogs, and this wouldn't raise any alarms.

The goblin dogs weren't much of a challenge once the horse took out two of them, and the paladin, half-orc fighter, and half-orc rogue made short work of the two not killed by the horse. The horse was a fatality, however.

The half-orc rogue wanted to scout around more carefully, and the other characters looked around the other direction. The half-orc managed to wander into the throne room by himself, and got spotted, and the other PCs took a wrong turn exploring and got lost.

The half-orc made a bluff check trying to convince Ripnugget that he was a mercenary looking for work and allied to a band of orcs that might want to join up with him.

The other PCs found the goblin pickle thieves, and with them asleep, the gnome coup de graced one of them, and the half-orc fighter decides that he wants to drown one. The paladin complained about the cruel means of killing the goblin, the gnome agrees, and coup de graced the one that the half-orc was trying to kill. Sigh.

Side Note (Drowning): While the drowning rules seem to work fine, I'm kind of wondering, based on this admittedly strange situation, if a character that is helpless or unaware (such as a character that was asleep and is now bound) shouldn't skip the normal holding your breath equal to CON and go right to the actual drowning phase.

About the time that the half-orc rolled really high on his bluff and Ripnugget rolled fairly low on his sense motive roll, the rest of the PCs came charging into the throne room, but not before several goblin guards heard them and set off alarms all around Thistletop. This is where we ended the session for the evening.

And, going back to the Bunyip encounter, the CR 3 would work out to an "average" encounter, so I guess that doesn't seem too far off, especially at low levels where the PCs get to go first taking out an average challenge before it can do much to them.

I don't know your specifics, but to balance difficulty in my own game I've had to ramp up the enemies. I give them advantages similar to those the PC's get, like the extra hp at first hd and elite stat arrays. (The Beta gives a table for npc arrays in the npc chapter)

You might try this, especially for solo creatures. I find it gives the challenge a few more rounds, while usually not making it too lethal.

BTW... What's the "Earth Smasher" you're referring to? Is it just an oversized warhammer?

The earthbreaker is the Pathfinder name for a maul, a two handed hammer, but the paladin took monkey grip and got an oversized earthbreaker.

I was actually hoping to run the PCs through the early adventures as written and just let the lower XP even out the scenario, but as the are still in the low level range, I'm not sure how this will work out for them yet.

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