Backing Your Adventure with the Rules


Pathfinder First Edition General Discussion

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James Jacobs wrote:
Monkeygod wrote:

Hey James,

I and some of my friends have always felt that the Undead raising Necromancer has never really gotten much love. Is there any plan to help fix this in the foreseeable future? also, is there any chance that some spells will be created that help raise a massive army of undead, as opposed to needing to cast many spells over and over and over again?

The best way to have a necromancer that controls a lot of undead is to just write an adventure with him and give him lots of undead. You don't have to justify every tiny thing with spells and abilities.

Now I'm curious. How many of y'all as GMs actually go through the rules to verify your major NPCs and, especially, the BB, can actually do major plot scenes like the above (or transform into a dragon or summon/conjure hordes of minions with a swift action as she makes her escape, etc....)


Half and Half.

Things on the battlemat are by the book. Things off the battlemat are based on game/story requirements.


rules every step of the way, the players tend to appreciate it more when they are traveling in a world that has the same limitations they do.

The thousand year old necro deserves an army of at least a 100 soldiers you say? Well the PC lich can't so why should he


Shadow_of_death wrote:

rules every step of the way, the players tend to appreciate it more when they are traveling in a world that has the same limitations they do.

The thousand year old necro deserves an army of at least a 100 soldiers you say? Well the PC lich can't so why should he

Or you can turn it around... the thousand year old necro has a spell that lets him raise and control an entire nation worth of undead? Weeeell, the PC lich could try to get his hands on that spell too.

I don't mind NPCs having access to abilities that are 'off the rules'. But they should be (at least theoretically) available to players too.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Shadow_of_death wrote:

rules every step of the way, the players tend to appreciate it more when they are traveling in a world that has the same limitations they do.

The thousand year old necro deserves an army of at least a 100 soldiers you say? Well the PC lich can't so why should he

It can be done if he control some of the intelligent undead that can control lesser undead.

The necromancer or lich will not be in direct control of every undead in the army, but he will be in control of the generals, that will control the captains that will control the sergeant that will control the rank and file mindless soldiers.

Very similar to how a live army will work. It is called a chain of command.


Shadow_of_death wrote:

rules every step of the way, the players tend to appreciate it more when they are traveling in a world that has the same limitations they do.

The thousand year old necro deserves an army of at least a 100 soldiers you say? Well the PC lich can't so why should he

I am with Jake on this one, but the story should provide the reason. "Just because", is not good enough.


Slaunyeh wrote:


Or you can turn it around... the thousand year old necro has a spell that lets him raise and control an entire nation worth of undead? Weeeell, the PC lich could try to get his hands on that spell too.

I don't mind NPCs having access to abilities that are 'off the rules'. But they should be (at least theoretically) available to players too.

That kinda sounds okay, but look at it this way, if the PC had originally come up with the idea it would have sounded stupidly overpowered. Players are far more dangerous with things like that then most npc's are.

besides, you don't need to have control of them to have an army of undead. The ones you control are like elite bodyguards and the rest roam around killing the living. Still sounds like objective achieved to me

Edit: diego I like


Shadow_of_death wrote:


That kinda sounds okay, but look at it this way, if the PC had originally come up with the idea it would have sounded stupidly overpowered. Players are far more dangerous with things like that then most npc's are.

That was exactly my point.

Also, it might take a thousand years to learn that particular NPC ability, so it might be out of scope of a campaign in question for a PC to learn it, but I don't think NPCs should have access to unique abilities that aren't at least theoretically available to players as well.

This also forces the GM to think twice about whether he really want to introduce a particular ability to his campaign.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Slaunyeh wrote:


Or you can turn it around... the thousand year old necro has a spell that lets him raise and control an entire nation worth of undead? Weeeell, the PC lich could try to get his hands on that spell too.

I don't mind NPCs having access to abilities that are 'off the rules'. But they should be (at least theoretically) available to players too.

Shadow_of_death wrote:


That kinda sounds okay, but look at it this way, if the PC had originally come up with the idea it would have sounded stupidly overpowered. Players are far more dangerous with things like that then most npc's are.

besides, you don't need to have control of them to have an army of undead. The ones you control are like elite bodyguards and the rest roam around killing the living. Still sounds like objective achieved to me

Edit: diego I like

If you don't mind stealing an idea from a book, in Lord of Light by Zelazny [great book] Nirriti as as an army of "Soulless Ones" [almost mindless clones] that are commanded through drummers.

It could be a good plot device, you will have low level minions commanding companies of undeads through the use of drums, with the capacity to give reasonably complex orders but not very specific orders like: advance, turn left, charge, hold, form a file, column and so on, but not "attack the guy with the funny hat lobbing fireballs". Armies have used similar systems for transmitting orders for thousand of years.

The risk for abuse by PC is fairly low: no one will like to play the drummer and be locked in the role for a entire playing sessions while the other are having fun.
If you give them to a henchmen of follower it has better having plenty of hp and protections, as he will be a obvious target.


Slaunyeh wrote:
Shadow_of_death wrote:


That kinda sounds okay, but look at it this way, if the PC had originally come up with the idea it would have sounded stupidly overpowered. Players are far more dangerous with things like that then most npc's are.

That was exactly my point.

Also, it might take a thousand years to learn that particular NPC ability, so it might be out of scope of a campaign in question for a PC to learn it, but I don't think NPCs should have access to unique abilities that aren't at least theoretically available to players as well.

This also forces the GM to think twice about whether he really want to introduce a particular ability to his campaign.

but there's one important factor. Players have access to some things per the rules that NPC's dont. Take hero points for instance, ofc i give my BBEG villain points, but thats not per the rules. plus most BBEG have lackies to where players have a whole rounded party. having an equal rounded enemy party isn't the same as a BBEG. Plus NPC's controlled by most GM's are able to be kept in line and the GM can manage his own abuse, he can't manage the players or force them to keep them in character or tactics. when most players are pushed they fight back with what ever they can to win. Most campaigns i've played in BBEGs are usually played to the hilt in character and often have flaws they stick too. I personally dont feel BBEG's MUST conform to ALL the rules if done right and for good reason. often times its difficult to provide a good challenge when the GM of one mind is sparring with a party of 4-7 individual minds and abilities. Plus in most stories, movies, and books, the BBEG ALWAYS has it up on the heroes in power and resources. Thats what makes the whole climatic battle and story so heroic and worthy of legend. Most stories heros are always the underdogs its overcoming these challenges even against overwhelming odds that make them heroes in the first place.


joela wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
Monkeygod wrote:

Hey James,

I and some of my friends have always felt that the Undead raising Necromancer has never really gotten much love. Is there any plan to help fix this in the foreseeable future? also, is there any chance that some spells will be created that help raise a massive army of undead, as opposed to needing to cast many spells over and over and over again?

The best way to have a necromancer that controls a lot of undead is to just write an adventure with him and give him lots of undead. You don't have to justify every tiny thing with spells and abilities.

Now I'm curious. How many of y'all as GMs actually go through the rules to verify your major NPCs and, especially, the BB, can actually do major plot scenes like the above (or transform into a dragon or summon/conjure hordes of minions with a swift action as she makes her escape, etc....)

If James was my GM, I would like to ask him for an army of undead for my 5th level cleric necromancer. Why should I have to justify every tiny thing with spells and abilities, right? :P

Seriously though; as a GM, I do stuff by the book. If there's nothing in the book for it, then I write something new for it under the assumption that is will be newly available material for my group. You won't catch me making NPC-only feats for example. What's good for the goose is for the gander, they say.

One of my favorite things about 3.x/Pathfinder is the huge amount of resources that GMs have to draw on for detailing our worlds without having to go "'cause I said so, now drop it" (a very dirty thing for a GM). I feel that the greatest strength of my GMing comes from this by-the-book mentality, and the idea that all things should be equal.

It also builds a lot of trust and improves verisimilitude. Honestly, saying "you're the GM, ignore the rules" is the biggest cop-out that there is, and I say that as both a GM and an independent designer.


RunebladeX wrote:


Plus in most stories, movies, and books, the BBEG ALWAYS has it up on the heroes in power and resources. Thats what makes the whole climatic battle and story so heroic and worthy of legend. Most stories heros are always the underdogs its overcoming these challenges even against overwhelming odds that make them heroes in the first place.

But that's not the point I was trying to make though.

You can invent abilities that don't follow the current rules to your hearts desire, but there has to be In-game consistency. If your necromancer commands a vast army of undead, he's obviously not using animate dead to control all of them. So how does he do it? Maybe he's favoured by the God of Undeath? Maybe he has an artifact (that could get destroyed or, knowing PCs, stolen). Maybe he spent 500 years researching a spell that he alone knows. And once you've established how this ability is accomplished, it becomes (theoretically) available to other NPCs and players alike. That doesn't mean it's a practical possibility (spending 500 years building an undead army is probably outside the scope of most campaigns). Heck, trying to mimic a BBEG's trick could become the focusing point for a PC's entire career and might not come to any conclusion before he's ready to retire at 20.

I just think the answer should be deeper than 'just because'.


This is a much bigger issue than "I can completely reproduce everything with the rules" and "Screw the rules, I do what I want."

For example, show me the class ability, feat or skill "Become ruler". Show me "Amass army". Show me "Build extraplanar outpost on inhospitable plane and gather around like-minded creatures that want to serve you."

Not everything is covered by class abilities or other rules parts. That would be impossible. You use what is there and extrapolate. Add some common sense and some "that's what my story is supposed to be", and you have yourself a story.

Doesn't mean the players can't, or couldn't, do the same given time. In most campaigns, they just don't have the time.

Kingmaker is different, you get to have a kingdom, cities, and armies there. The "I have lived for 10000 years and have epic levels, and over the years I have gathered a lot of stuff" thing is still beyond that story.

"Mynameisjake" probably has the best solution: The encounters themselves should be by the book, with no fancy "I want him to be able to enervate all of you so now I invent something even though he's a mundane human wizard and not even high-level" (the GM still gets to fudge rolls of course, or exchange spells, feats and the like on the spot, of course ;-).

But while designing adventures, you don't really have to look up every idea to see whether it's possible by the rules we are given.

How did the guy get a skull-shaped castle made out of obsidian? Well, he just did. He let his people work on it. Or he used some magic. You don't have to look up all the possibilities and decide on one.

How can the necromancer have hordes of undead? Maybe some ritual he researched, or he and his necromancer buddies (which he later ate) raised or called them all and they are commanded only when he needs them to (most of the time, it will be enough to put some living flesh in sight of them and they need no extra commands or encouragement to party).

I think the only time you really need to have verifiable and repeatable methods for all these things is if you run a Dungeon Keeper style campaign where the players build the unholy sanctum and the NPC heroes come to slay them.

And there is a really good reason for this apparent disconnect between player characters and their enemies: The players only need to take care of their one character. They create him from the rules according to their character idea.
The GM, on the other hand, has to create a whole plot, including NPCs (either from scratch, or at least select the proper critter from the Bestiary or NPC gallery).
That is a time-consuming endeavour. If you have them audit their adventures for 100% rules consistency, it will become a couple of full-time jobs all rolled into one.

I'm not saying that they should do stuff that is obviously and outright impossible, like a low-level human who can dominate angels to do his assassinations for you. Or if they do, they really should have an explanation for that ability. But they shouldn't have to overdo this.

Sovereign Court

There is actually a let-NPCs-do-anything-you-want button in the rules.

Evil artefacts.

Lets the NPC do X, but only works for evil people who can cast level 9 spells and drains 10 levels from good characters who touch it. Etc.

Dark Archive

joela wrote:
Now I'm curious. How many of y'all as GMs actually go through the rules to verify your major NPCs and, especially, the BB, can actually do major plot scenes like the above (or transform into a dragon or summon/conjure hordes of minions with a swift action as she makes her escape, etc....)

I usually stay within the rules own limitations and possibilities. When these hopelessly collide with the concept I developed, I use the one-shot, one of a kind, unmovable or unusable (by anyone else) magic item, recovered somehow by the BBEG.

However this is the exeption rather than the norm.


KaeYoss wrote:
This is a much bigger issue than "I can completely reproduce everything with the rules" and "Screw the rules, I do what I want."...

This!

I come from the "old" idea of rules being there for players, not for NPCs.

This is also my biggest gripe with the Adventure Paths - the main villains stay too close to the rules for my tastes. So while Paizo often tries to introduce some minor gimmics to make NPCs a little special I prefer the over the top aproach of being totally special screw the reproductability.

But,to be fair, I usually allow the players their share of "not in the rules" abilities/influence if they want this (many don't) as long as it doesn't unbalance my game.


I still don't get why people act like the rules were the basic physical laws of the game world. The rules exist for game balance and the build of a character only approximates the "real" character.
I see many threads that say "Oh, hey, this rule has a hole, I can build da uber immortal destroyer!", if a DM would allow this, he probably shouldn't dm. Same here. The rules are made for adventuring heroes. They aren't made for any cloistered mage or 1000 year old lich.
For example, Kyonin hides it's cities with illusive magic. I don't regard this as simply "Create Wondrous Items", it's the product of a large scale ritual. Players don't get to cast such a ritual since the guys who do could be a group of overspecialized mages who spent their life doing nothing except learning how to perform such a ritual. A PC could try to achieve this but why write down rules for such a thing? Homebrew that.
On the other hand, a DM should stick to the rules in regard to common battles since the heroes specialized in estimating the strength of their enemies and the rules make that possible (causes the problem of the all-knowing player but oh well).


Ksorkrax wrote:
I still don't get why people act like the rules were the basic physical laws of the game world. The rules exist for game balance and the build of a character only approximates the "real" character.

It depends on your outlook for the game.

Are you more gamist or simulationist?

A gamist sees only the table top game. If it balances out then who cares? Fourth edition is based upon this line of thinking.

A simulationist sees the rules as giving a neutral framework for PC and NPC-alike. Immersed in a game you could not tell the two groups from one another. To such a person the 4e PCs are creatures from a different universe when compared to the 4e NPCs.

For a simulationist the rules don't only exist for game balance. Rather they are the laws of physics (so to speak) for the game world. Some things certainly are approximations (turn based combat, combat grid, etc) but they should be minimalistic in their impact on the simulation.

A DM that's more story driven and 'gamist' when faced with something that he wants to tell that doesn't fit into the framework of his world doesn't think anything of shattering that framework. For the 'simulationists' in that group it is shattering their immersion.

Seeing as the game is played by both kinds of people it would behoove you to see if you are going to disrupt anyone's otherwise good experience with this careless disregard. It may not mean anything to you, but just because you're the DM doesn't mean you're the only one in the game. DMs that consistently ignore this tend to become the only ones in their game.

-James

The Exchange

Diego Rossi wrote:
Shadow_of_death wrote:

rules every step of the way, the players tend to appreciate it more when they are traveling in a world that has the same limitations they do.

The thousand year old necro deserves an army of at least a 100 soldiers you say? Well the PC lich can't so why should he

It can be done if he control some of the intelligent undead that can control lesser undead.

The necromancer or lich will not be in direct control of every undead in the army, but he will be in control of the generals, that will control the captains that will control the sergeant that will control the rank and file mindless soldiers.

Very similar to how a live army will work. It is called a chain of command.

+1

And as for the ability that lets you control kingdoms etc. it's a few skills - diplomacy, intimidate, sense motive & bluff. And usually some gold.

It works much as it does for the undead - control the leaders, that control lesser leaders, that control lesser leaders etc.

The PC's could get there, if that was their focus - but they tend to want to adventure and stuff, and that gets in the way of ruling and keeping a tight rein on your underlings. And ruling is tedious. I don't want to play a ruler - I want to play an adventurer. Sitting in a throne and slaying writs of passage isn't my idea of fun. Just saying.

Owner - House of Books and Games LLC

From my point of view, the most important thing is that the game world feel real to the players.

For this to happen, there has to be consistency, and the easiest way for me to maintain consistency is to use the rules as given. Now, the current campaign (a 3.5e campaign) has been running for a few years, and I have a wall full of 3.5e and Pathfinder books and issues of The Dragon and Dungeon (I use very little, if any, 3PP stuff other than Tome of Horrors and Green Ronin's Advanced Bestiary), which makes it easy for me to find rules for what I want to do.

Only twice in all that time have I made a creature from scratch, rather than adding templates or class levels, and in both cases the thing in question was meant to be more plot device than combatant (ironically, both got fought).

In any case, my point is that if you use existing rules, it's easy to stay consistent and (in my opinion) your world will feel more real, since things will behave the same way whenever the players encounter them. Furthermore, there's tons of rules out there, which let you do pretty much anything. Consider the mythal rules from Lost Empires of Faerun, for example. There's virtually nothing you can't do in terms of location design using those.

That's just my way of dealing with it - and besides - why make something up when you can use something that already exists? (Which is ironic considering that I always build my campaign worlds from scratch :)


MicMan wrote:
KaeYoss wrote:
This is a much bigger issue than "I can completely reproduce everything with the rules" and "Screw the rules, I do what I want."...

This!

I come from the "old" idea of rules being there for players, not for NPCs.

I come from the sensible idea of "Rules are there for players, not GMs. This is fine, it works great and everyone can just pretend it doesn't happen like that even though it does and have great fun with that - as long as the GM isn't being a complete tosser and goes on a power trip"

MicMan wrote:


This is also my biggest gripe with the Adventure Paths - the main villains stay too close to the rules for my tastes. So while Paizo often tries to introduce some minor gimmics to make NPCs a little special I prefer the over the top aproach of being totally special screw the reproductability.

But,to be fair, I usually allow the players their share of "not in the rules" abilities/influence if they want this (many don't) as long as it doesn't unbalance my game.

And that last point you made is exactly the point: Sure, the main villains are special - but so are the PCs!

Since you let your players and their characters walk off the beaten path, it's OK that the villains get to do that, too.

But the APs need to work under the assumption that this isn't the case. They're published and need to assume that all standard rules are used - GMs allowing other stuff need to accommodate for that.

So while I don't mind if there is stuff going on that can't be explained with the core rulebook, like a weird magical effect in some area where the villain has his lair, or an army of undead the rules don't tell you to amass, the villains themselves shouldn't blatantly disregard the rules, since the standard assumption is that the PCs can't do that, either.

And if I were to create my own adventures or rewrite a villain to better suit my game (the former hasn't happened since before Pathfinder, but I'll do the latter if I feel the final boss would just be torn to shreds by the party), I wouldn't throw the rulebook away and go mad, either.

Especially since the rules already allow for a lot of really cool stuff, and that goes double for non-human(oid) enemies.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Ashiel wrote:

If James was my GM, I would like to ask him for an army of undead for my 5th level cleric necromancer. Why should I have to justify every tiny thing with spells and abilities, right? :P

Seriously though; as a GM, I do stuff by the book. If there's nothing in the book for it, then I write something new for it under the assumption that is will be newly available material for my group. You won't catch me making NPC-only feats for example. What's good for the goose is for the gander, they say.

One of my favorite things about 3.x/Pathfinder is the huge amount of resources that GMs have to draw on for detailing our worlds without having to go "'cause I said so, now drop it" (a very dirty thing for a GM). I feel that the greatest strength of my GMing comes from this by-the-book mentality, and the idea that all things should be equal.

It also builds a lot of trust and improves verisimilitude. Honestly, saying "you're the GM, ignore the rules" is the biggest cop-out that there is, and I say that as both a GM and an independent designer.

If I was your GM, I'd probably not let you get an army of undead since I generally don't like running parties with evil characters.

That said... I probably should have been a bit more exact with my wording. A powerful necromancer can treat with undead the same way a powerful general can treat with people—he can simply "hire" or "recruit" intelligent undead to join his army. The "make it up" part comes from making up logical story elements as to what a necromancer has to offer his armies of ghouls or skeletal champions or wights or whatever. And if, in the end, you can't use the rules to justify what you want to do with the story—THEN you make it up as you go. But you SHOULD justify what you make up with new rules elements, even if it's as hand-wavy as "this guy has a magic artifact that lets him command an undead army" or "Orcus gave this necromancer a zombie army to use as he wills."

I don't see using that type of adventure design as a cop-out at at all. What would be a cop-out would be to say "This necromancer has an undead army just becasue I wanted it to be that way." The GM gets to make all of the stuff up... but he DOES have to justify what he makes up—be that justification by rules (either existing rules or new ones he makes up just for that situation) or by cool storyline.

Note that this is mostly me talking as a GM for a home game. For an Adventure Path or a module, I always try to stick to the rules as much as possible. This often causes some weirdness, when a story's needs clash with the rules, and those are cases that spawn NEW rules as supplements to an adventure. Such as Pathfinder 33's...

Spoiler:
... lich who's got a caster level below 11th—this is why I came up with rules for atrophied liches...

... or Pathfinder 36's...

Spoiler:
... weird manifestations of the First World bleeding into reality, or a lot of the strange "mutations" the First World denizens possess.


Ksorkrax wrote:
I still don't get why people act like the rules were the basic physical laws of the game world.

But they are, in that they provide the baseline for all of the characters' assumptions. Of course, by "rules" I mean the rules that are actually used, which does include house rules.

But what I mainly want to say is that the rules should be known to everyone beforehand, and shouldn't be changed on a whim. It totally sucks to build a master jumper character (just to pick some example regardless on whether that would make sense), skinny but flexible, with many, many ranks in Acrobatics and high dex (but low strength) - only to learn that the GM decides to bring back the old Jump skill and its key ability Str.

Ksorkrax wrote:


I see many threads that say "Oh, hey, this rule has a hole, I can build da uber immortal destroyer!", if a DM would allow this, he probably shouldn't dm.

I agree on this. It boils down to this: The GM does trump the rules, and the rules shouldn't get in the way of common sense unless there's a really, really good reason for that.

And I think that trying to use loopholes to create unbeatable characters that win against common sense is a crime punishable by Crotch Soccer.

Still, it doesn't mean that the rules are to be ignored, either. Those rulebooks are far too expensive to ignore them after you have bought them.

Ksorkrax wrote:


Same here. The rules are made for adventuring heroes. They aren't made for any cloistered mage or 1000 year old lich.

Yes they are, because the players should be able to do the same things the NPCs can, provided they fulfil the requirements.

In this case, the requirements are "become a lich and unlive a thousand years".

And the rules actually support the millennium lich's special stuff, because there are rules for researching things, or stuff that takes time.

Ksorkrax wrote:


For example, Kyonin hides it's cities with illusive magic. I don't regard this as simply "Create Wondrous Items", it's the product of a large scale ritual. Players don't get to cast such a ritual since the guys who do could be a group of overspecialized mages who spent their life doing nothing except learning how to perform such a ritual.

Actually, the elves are too few in number to have overspecialised illusion-crafters who will learn nothing else.

I do concede that you will need a certain level of expertise to participate in those rituals, and maybe some special skills, too.

But why shouldn't the PCs be able to learn these skills and then do the ritual themselves? They might not get the opportunity because they need months, years, or even decades to do the training, prepare the ritual and then actually go through with it (as well as two dozen more participants with the right skills), but it should not be an outright "This is something you will never be able to do because I reserve it for NPCs. HA!"

It should be: "If you can convince the elves to teach you their techniques - and the way you rendered them such a big service, your chances aren't bad - you will be able to participate in these rituals or even get them to do the same in your home town. However that is beyond the scope of our campaign."

Ksorkrax wrote:


A PC could try to achieve this but why write down rules for such a thing? Homebrew that.

Just because it's not written down in a book doesn't mean the players are excluded out of general principle.

Ksorkrax wrote:


On the other hand, a DM should stick to the rules in regard to common battles since the heroes specialized in estimating the strength of their enemies and the rules make that possible (causes the problem of the all-knowing player but oh well).

That's a loaded statement. You imply that GMs being fair in a fight is bad because some people are meta gaming.

It's not hard to have a character (usually a wizard or bard) who is quite knowledgeable in creature lore, and the general capabilities of characters of certain classes are common knowledge among adventurers.

That means that they should have a general idea of the enemy's power. Not know everything perfectly, of course, since you won't get the critters' complete stat blocks, but a level 10 wizard who recognises a balor should know he's screwed.


joela wrote:
Now I'm curious. How many of y'all as GMs actually go through the rules to verify your major NPCs and, especially, the BB, can actually do major plot scenes like the above (or transform into a dragon or summon/conjure hordes of minions with a swift action as she makes her escape, etc....)

As GM, I use the rules where necessary. If the rules don't let me do what the story demands, I make up new rules, bend rules, et cetera, as required. I'm the GM. I'm not limited to the same rules the other players are because RPGs aren't the kind of game that requires such GM limitations.


James Jacobs wrote:
If I was your GM, I'd probably not let you get an army of undead since I generally don't like running parties with evil characters.

That's cool, but a neutral cleric can do that too. :P

Quote:

That said... I probably should have been a bit more exact with my wording. A powerful necromancer can treat with undead the same way a powerful general can treat with people—he can simply "hire" or "recruit" intelligent undead to join his army. The "make it up" part comes from making up logical story elements as to what a necromancer has to offer his armies of ghouls or skeletal champions or wights or whatever. And if, in the end, you can't use the rules to justify what you want to do with the story—THEN you make it up as you go. But you SHOULD justify what you make up with new rules elements, even if it's as hand-wavy as "this guy has a magic artifact that lets him command an undead army" or "Orcus gave this necromancer a zombie army to use as he wills."

I don't see using that type of adventure design as a cop-out at at all. What would be a cop-out would be to say "This necromancer has an undead army just becasue I wanted it to be that way." The GM gets to make all of the stuff up... but he DOES have to justify what he makes up—be that justification by rules (either existing rules or new ones he makes up just for that situation) or by cool storyline.

Note that this is mostly me talking as a GM for a home game. For an Adventure Path or a module, I always try to stick to the rules as much as possible. This often causes some weirdness, when a story's needs clash with the rules, and those are cases that spawn NEW rules as supplements to an adventure.

Thanks for the clarification, as this makes a lot more sense. Before it sounded a lot like this (:P). The idea that this lone necromancer seemed to arbitrarily break the HD limit of undead for no reason other than to control a massive army of undead. However, if there's a legitimate reason, then it's all good from where I'm sitting as well.

I guess in many ways it's not what you say but how you say it, hm? ^_^

Random Thoughts: That being said, an army of undead is actually very easy to do within the rules. Leadership can get you a lot of it without trouble or loyalty issues, and gold can get you the rest of the way. All you need to actually command an army of undead is 1st level adepts (because animate dead is on their spell list) and use magic items to actually cast the spell.

A wand (or other spell-trigger item) of animate dead that has been crafted as a 1/day item would cost 7,250 gp including materials, and would make for a great orb or similarly themed wand that produced 20 HD worth of undead per day (with a maximum HD of 5 on a single creature since it's a CL 5 wand). This would allow each adept you have under your command to animate up to 20 HD of undead minions over two days. The army cannot spring up overnight, but while you are building your army, the undead are put to work taking 10 on profession or craft checks to produce materials for the army (if you remember the scene from Lord of the Rings where the orcs are deforesting stuff to fund their army's construction, this may sound familiar to you).

Thus for every adept you have under your command, you have up to 20 more skeletons to do your bidding. It's a pyramid from top to bottom. The beauty of this is that you can weaken the army, possibly incite rebellion, bribe people, and engage in some tactical espionage action (sounds familiar). Much, much better than "This guy has 1,000,000 HD worth of undead 'cause I say he does". :P


I do actually see value in the 4e approach to NPC/monster design. Monsters and NPC are basically front-facing constructs that the PCs interact with. It makes them light-years easier to work with than high level 3.x NPCs. Creating high level NPCs can be a chore.

However, one of the things I really liked about 3.x was that monsters and PCs used the same game physics which was a distinct shift in design logic from the 1e-2e model. From a simulationist standpoint this was awesome. However in many cases the rule of everything is the same under the game rules conflicts with good storytelling and the rule of cool.

In those cases I like keeping battlefield abilities roughly in-line with PC capabilities. The immortal necromancer-king might be CR 20+ but he's still built using essentially the same rules as the PCs. However he's got a lot of time on his hands and given enough time can essentially create plot device level effects such as the aforementioned army of zombies.

Just because ritual magic isn't implicitly included in the base ruleset doesn't mean that it doesn't exist. In Greyhawk powerful casters were able to generate the Rain of Colorless Fire and the Invoked Devastation. Yes it seems that artifact level devices were used in conjunction but there is currently no magic in 3.x that allows you to turn a vast nation into a parched desert. By a similar token there is nothing within the rules that allows for divine ascension but it's obviously possible in many settings.

So in the event of a good story conflicting with the rules I'm always going to side with the good storyline. If that means giving the immortal necromancer king 100,000 zombies that actually march like an army then I'm going to do that.

Maybe he sacrificed the inhabitants of an entire city in an necromantic ritual and that gives him the ability to "command" the corpses. Maybe he's got a powerful artifact that the PCs can steal/destroy depriving him of power/maybe he's functioning as the avatar of a god/demonlord of the undead.

Monsters often have SLAs that make sense thematically but can't be "built" using the rules. The efreet are relatively low CR but can generate Wish level effects. I don't really see a problem with NPCs having unique effects that the PCs can't easily replicate.

Breaking out of the NPCs must behave like PCs straightjacket can be extremely liberating. I can generate completely over the top effects for NPCs to do and I can in good conscience make a 12 year old level 1 aristocrat in charge of a vast empire. Just because an effect isn't level appropriate for a PC (although a game where a level 1 character is the new king of a country might be a ton of fun) does not mean that it's not appropriate for an NPC to use.

I don't want the level 8 fighter to be able to be able to generate massive AoE effect in combat vs the PCs but if he's a general in charge of a fleet of airships I don't mind if those airships have something like the wave motion gun that can do tremendous amounts of structural damage. Basically if the ability can be used in a combat encounter = bad, if it's something that happens during a cutscene for lack of a better term = good.


Ashiel wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
If I was your GM, I'd probably not let you get an army of undead since I generally don't like running parties with evil characters.
That's cool, but a neutral cleric can do that too. :P

I'd say he can't. Creating undead is an evil act. While you might get away with a few of them, once you're into the undead army business, you're firmly in evil territory.


KaeYoss wrote:
Ashiel wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
If I was your GM, I'd probably not let you get an army of undead since I generally don't like running parties with evil characters.
That's cool, but a neutral cleric can do that too. :P
I'd say he can't. Creating undead is an evil act. While you might get away with a few of them, once you're into the undead army business, you're firmly in evil territory.

Oh god can we not have the making undead = evil debate yet again. Or at least can that be the topic for a separate thread. I'd rather not derail this thread (which is interesting) with yet another one of the ongoing alignment debates (which is less interesting).

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Ashiel wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
If I was your GM, I'd probably not let you get an army of undead since I generally don't like running parties with evil characters.

That's cool, but a neutral cleric can do that too. :P

Not if he/she wants to STAY neutral.


joela wrote:
Now I'm curious. How many of y'all as GMs actually go through the rules to verify your major NPCs and, especially, the BB

I very much do. I'm a pretty firm beliver that there's three vetoes in the game for how a story goes - Writer/GM for what the NPCs do, Players for what their PCs do, the dice, and the rules.

For one thing, I want my players to be able to make judgements based on an interally consistent world. Just making stuff up robs them of that.

But the other thing is - if you're going to hand wave stuff despite the rules, why bother with hundreds of pages of rules in the first place?

The whole selling point of a game like pathfinder over a Savage Worlds or some indi game, or even 1st edition, is the granularity of a comprehensive ruleset. If when push comes to shove you're not going to have the rules be rules, then you'd be better off sticking with a simple rule set and just figuing it all out by common sense as you go, the way it was done old school.

Having said that - I'm still all for house rules, tinkering with the rules to get the rule set that works for your game, but I make sure that the knowledge is available, either by going over houserules before hand, or at a minimum using knowledge checks to make it at least possible for the PCs to know anything they'd invest stats into knowing.


James Jacobs wrote:
Ashiel wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
If I was your GM, I'd probably not let you get an army of undead since I generally don't like running parties with evil characters.

That's cool, but a neutral cleric can do that too. :P

Not if he/she wants to STAY neutral.

Doesn't that kind of fall into the antihero archtype? You cast a single spell and create between 20-100 HD worth of undead, and then go preform heroic acts of goodness?

EDIT: To give an example. The comic book character Venom from Spiderman fame started out pretty evil. He was motivated by revenge, was all about killing the hero spiderman, etc, etc. He had a few taboos and wouldn't harm anyone he deemed "innocent" (people like children, civilians, etc).

Later on, he reconciled (and worked) with spiderman to a point, and kind of became a superhero. He became more like the punisher. He was a vigilante who would use unsavory means to overcome unsavory individuals (whereas spiderman might web you up and leave you for the cops, if venom got you the cops may never find all the pieces). As his character evolved, he became more and more "good", including heroically acting to rescue spiderman from a shared nemesis of theirs during a period where Venom was on trial (even after his lawyer explained acting out in the courtroom, even for heroic acts, would only get him into more trouble - but "If I don't, spiderman will die"; and the rest is history).

Venom's a great anti-hero. The punisher is a great anti-hero. The necromancer from Diablo II is a great anti-hero (he literally wields undead, necromancy, and magical poisons against the denizens of the underworld to save the world).

Or does casting animate dead mean you're instantly and irrevocably evil? 'Cause I didn't catch that in the manual...

Shadow Lodge

I'm in the storyline school here.

Currently I have an evil army that has effectively destroyed an elven town. The leader is an 8th level oracle, they have "raised" an evil treant that tore down the defensive stone tower in the centre of the town following the main assult on the less defended "woody" bits.

This creates a good CR8 encounter with some story line. The treant could have been with the army all along, requiring no rules, but I like the idea of the ritual, and the narrative I can provide. It might even have some gore inspired description of friends of the party hanging from the branches of the animated tree, remenants of the ritual.

The fact is I want a CR 8 encounter with feeling. I could think of a rules compliant route, but it doesn't fit my story. The army has moved on, the treant is there as the encounter, standing over the tower it was raised to destroy. If the PC's want access to the tower they have to bypass/ kill the treant. If they want the bodies of their fallen comrades back they have to take down the treant...

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Whether or not spamming animate dead turns you evil depends 100% on your GM.

When I'm the GM, I say it does. And when I'm developing adventures for print for Pazio, I say it does.

Whether or not it works that way in anyone else's game, including when they run a Paizo adventure set in Golarion, depends on that GM's preferences.

Anyway, I'm done arguing about it, since I don't really see this as deserving of an argument, any more than "which is better, cats or dogs?"

(PS: Obviously, the answer to that is cats.)


Ashiel wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
Ashiel wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
If I was your GM, I'd probably not let you get an army of undead since I generally don't like running parties with evil characters.

That's cool, but a neutral cleric can do that too. :P

Not if he/she wants to STAY neutral.

Doesn't that kind of fall into the antihero archtype? You cast a single spell and create between 20-100 HD worth of undead, and then go preform heroic acts of goodness?

EDIT: To give an example. The comic book character Venom from Spiderman fame started out pretty evil. He was motivated by revenge, was all about killing the hero spiderman, etc, etc. He had a few taboos and wouldn't harm anyone he deemed "innocent" (people like children, civilians, etc).

Later on, he reconciled (and worked) with spiderman to a point, and kind of became a superhero. He became more like the punisher. He was a vigilante who would use unsavory means to overcome unsavory individuals (whereas spiderman might web you up and leave you for the cops, if venom got you the cops may never find all the pieces). As his character evolved, he became more and more "good", including heroically acting to rescue spiderman from a shared nemesis of theirs during a period where Venom was on trial (even after his lawyer explained acting out in the courtroom, even for heroic acts, would only get him into more trouble - but "If I don't, spiderman will die"; and the rest is history).

Venom's a great anti-hero. The punisher is a great anti-hero. The necromancer from Diablo II is a great anti-hero (he literally wields undead, necromancy, and magical poisons against the denizens of the underworld to save the world).

Or does casting animate dead mean you're instantly and irrevocably evil? 'Cause I didn't catch that in the manual...

He was talking about constant casting, and by the book evil is evil. If I raise undead to save a kingdom it is still an evil act. The book is black and white on the issue to avoid arguments at the table since what is good to one person is evil to another in real life.

Now at my table I take the reasons into account, but strictly speaking(rules only) it will always be evil.


James Jacobs wrote:
(PS: Obviously, the answer to that is cats.)

+1.


wraithstrike wrote:
Ashiel wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
The book is black and white on the issue to avoid arguments at the table since what is good to one person is evil to another in real life.

+1

There is an old saying about some road and being paved with good intentions...
Thankfully the devs made a standard.


James Jacobs wrote:

Whether or not spamming animate dead turns you evil depends 100% on your GM.

When I'm the GM, I say it does. And when I'm developing adventures for print for Pazio, I say it does.

Spamming?

Quote:

Whether or not it works that way in anyone else's game, including when they run a Paizo adventure set in Golarion, depends on that GM's preferences.

Anyway, I'm done arguing about it, since I don't really see this as deserving of an argument, any more than "which is better, cats or dogs?"

Arguing? I thought we were just talking about something interesting. I was just talking to my younger brother about how cool it was that you can talk and share ideas with the designers on this board.

Quote:
(PS: Obviously, the answer to that is cats.)

Agreed.

A Few Questions for James: If you'll indulge my curiosity a bit, I'd like to try to get a better idea of your gameplay style. How do you rate good/evil actions? I'm curious because wraithstrike mentioned that animate dead is called out as an evil action within the rules (which it does) and thus it must be evil to do that. Does casting [good] spells make you more good? What would you, as a GM, define as an act of good? How do you treat and handle Neutral characters?

The reason I'm asking is because I'm a bit confused. I asked does casting animate dead make you instantly and irrevocably evil, and you said spamming it does. What is "spamming it" in this case? Wouldn't a Neutral cleric by definition preform evil acts sometimes, even if they were for the greater good? Isn't that what makes them Neutral rather than Good?

This thread is about how GMs handle rules, so I think the question is relevant.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Without getting into the argument itself, I wanted to quote something from Monte Cook on his dungeonaday site. In this instance, he's talking about assumptions that you can make about the megadungeon at hand, but I think the statement is a pretty good one in any case.

Monte Cook wrote:

The rules exist to facilitate the dungeon, not the other way around. Basically, what this means is, if I have a cool idea for an encounter and present it in a way that forces me to bend the rules, I'll do it. If a monster needs an extra feat in order to fulfill its role, I'll just give it the feat.

I know that the rules were designed the way they were for good reasons. (I mean, c'mon. Consider my design credits.) One of those reasons, of course, is consistency. So I'm not going to throw the rulebook out. But I also know that the rules can't be expected to work in every situation. Rather than resign myself to accepting the occasional Encounter Level based on the formula that doesn't feel quite right, the value of a treasure that seems inappropriate to the specific situation, or the monster whose stats don't allow him to do what he needs to do in a given encounter, I'm going to change them. The key here is that the design needs to fit the specific situation, and the rules were written with general situations in mind. In this dungeon, DCs will fit the situation, even if they don't match the book 100% every time. Encounters will be designed to work the way they need to work for the most fun for all. This is why an actual human being serves as a game designer (or a DM) rather than a computer.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Ashiel wrote:

Spamming?

A Few Questions for James: If you'll indulge my curiosity a bit, I'd like to try to get a better idea of your gameplay style. How do you rate good/evil actions? I'm curious because wraithstrike mentioned that animate dead is called out as an evil action within the rules (which it does) and thus it must be evil to do that. Does casting [good] spells make you more good? What would you, as a GM, define as an act of good? How do you treat and handle Neutral characters?

The reason I'm asking is because I'm a bit confused. I asked does casting animate dead make you instantly and irrevocably evil, and you said spamming it does. What is "spamming it" in this case? Wouldn't a Neutral cleric by definition preform evil acts sometimes, even if they were for the greater good? Isn't that what makes them Neutral rather than Good?

This thread is about how GMs handle rules, so I think the question is relevant.

"Spamming" means doing something over and over again—aka, casting animate dead all the time.

I rate good/evil actions based on a combination of my own interpretations about what is good and evil and what is tagged with an "Evil" descriptor in the game. Casting lots of [good] spells WOULD make you start turning into good alignment. In theory, you could balance out these [evil] or [good] spells by doing a LOT of good or evil acts, but honestly? If you're doing lots of good or evil acts, and if you're roleplaying your character's intended alignment accurately, it won't ever become a problem, since you wont be casting [evil] or [good] spells in the first place.

In games I run, alignment is fluid. When a player makes his character, he gets to assign his character whatever alignment he wants. If, during the course of play, he is in my opinion playing a different kind of character, I'll inform the player "Dude, causing this much party strife and political unrest is chaotic. Keep it up and I'll shift your alignment from lawful neutral to chaotic neutral."

For many characters that's not a problem. It's only when alignment is closely tied to faith or character classes that it might cause a problem.

Getting back to the supposedly "neutral" cleric who casts lots of animate dead spells... in a game I'm running, that isn't a neutral cleric, despite what his player might say. He's an evil cleric. Probably neutral evil. A neutral cleric who casts animate dead to solve a problem once doesn't immediately become evil, ESPECIALLY if there wasn't much choice in the matter and he kinda had to cast animate dead to solve the problem. But if that character's always casting animate dead all the time? That's not neutral. That's evil. Because animate dead itself is evil, and it creates evil creatures. If he were trying to be GOOD, he'd use different spells—there's always options.

It's cut and dry, as far as I'm concerned.

Liberty's Edge

When I'm the GM, I don't say "Screw the Rules" so much as I say "Do the rules already get me what I want?"

If they don't, then I leave them behind. If they do, then I use them. I usually don't make character sheets for inconsequential encounter-characters but rather just give them basic stats based on what they "should" be able to do.

If an NPC does something that a PC isn't allowed to do, I try to make sure he's got a reason to contradict the rule. Consistency is important, but you need to surprise your players every now and again, too.

My players know that when I am sitting in the DM's chair, the rules will get bent. They also know that the rules can sometimes get bent in their favor, so if they have any ideas for new feats or cool abilities they'd like to have, my games are usually a good place to get them.

So yeah, those five identical, nondescript human warriors that the PC's are fighting? They don't have character sheets. They have a few stats, but those stats might change in order to make the encounter easier or harder, depending on whether I overestimate or underestimate the abilities of the PC's.

That trap I'm making you roll a reflex save for? I made it up myself. It's not in a book.

Oh, and the sixth-level spell that the wizard just cast, which combines area of effect damage with an emergency teleport? Yeah, he made it. It's in his spell book. You need to get it from him if you ever want to cast it.

Of course I try to keep consistent with the rules already in the book. But I don't take them to be as solid as the laws of physics. Which is good, because our current laws of physics aren't actually as solid as we usually think they are. :)


My philosophy has always been that any thing that uses class levels is bound to the same rules as the player characters and no non-player character should have options that are completely denied to a player. The rules of the game are the unbreakable (but not unbendable if need be) laws of the universe as far as I am concerned. As a player the unapologetic abuse of Rule Zero was one of my biggest agitations, so as a Dungeon Master I only use it when there is no other reasonable option and it has to be approved by group decision first.

That being said, yes I do sometimes pull out the Ancient Artifact of Ultimate Doom if need be. Yet these are never non-player character only items, so if the players can get their hands on them they are free to use and abuse them as their alignment dictates.

On a side note to the thread, I would think that balance one's alignment by using a mix of Good and Evil spells would be the same as balancing out murder by making lots of donations to charity. Of course I believe it much easier to fall than it is to fly.

Dark Archive

I prefer to use the rules, but am also willing to cheat by using Incantations/True Rituals or 'places of power' or similar McGuffins to explain away any abilities that wouldn't be strictly possible to the PCs.

[rambling example]

Spoiler:

One specific example was a Hollowfaust set game where an army of tens of thousands of skeletons attacked the city, because a high level cleric from a distant nation (Dunahnae?) had gathered together a dozen acolytes and traveled to a ruined city in the nearby desert and spent a week casting a 'True Ritual' that involved the crowned skull of a ruler, and animated the bodies of anyone within X hundreds of yards as a skeleton or zombie subject to the commands of the spellcaster who held the skull.

The players, even when they learned of the ritual (and they never even got a copy of the formula anyway), wouldn't have been able to replicate the 'endless undead army' spell without finding a ruined city fulla dead people, and severing the head of it's ruler, and spending a week casting said ritual, which also required X level spellcasters and XP sacrifice and other appropriate stuff. (I didn't go out of my way to make it impossible for them, but I didn't give plunk them into any scenarios where haring off to find a ruined city and spending a week raising an army of 10,000 skeletons would be worth the expenditure of time, money and XP.)

[The PCs had to get the skull away from the clerics guarding it, forcing the boss to finally word of recall to safety and pounding on the lesser priests, while the army of skeletons turned away from the walls to chase them. The skull had been sovereign glued to a table, to prevent it from being carried away, and had DR 20, resulting in the party 1/2 orc hefting the table and running out ahead of the army of 10,000 skeletons, the party running behind him throwing magic missiles and stuff at the skull, attempting to break it before the skeleton army caught them... What I'd thought would be a pretty nail-biting final encounter turned into a Benny Hill sketch! Next time, I'm sovereign glue-ing the McGuffin to a two ton boulder!]

Sure, I *could* pull the old, 'the villain can do stuff you can't, cause he's an NPC and I said so,' but I like to think I'm rule-savvy enough to not have to resort to that sort of thing. It's kind of a challenge to think of a way, within the rules available in the setting or equally available to the players via the SRD, and without being all arbitary, to come up with something fun.

I still remember how much it frustrated me when mom would say that there were different rules for adults than for me. Now that I'm an adult, I choose to not perpetuate that sort of inequitable thinking. :)


Quote:
On a side note to the thread, I would think that balance one's alignment by using a mix of Good and Evil spells would be the same as balancing out murder by making lots of donations to charity. Of course I believe it much easier to fall than it is to fly.

I see casting both more as balancing murder by murdering murderers. PC's kill things all the time, including the party paladin, nobody falls because of this because it is balanced and reasonable.

Destroying the ultimate evil doesn't make you good in this game because it is balanced by you having to kill to do it. By the rules casting a good and evil spell should balance out. If the evil descriptor can turn you evil then it is an unfair ruling that the good descriptor can't turn you good. The neutral wizard can cast a dozen good spells to your one evil spell before it effects him. Which doesn't make sense.


Personally, I think a good campaign has a handful of things that are not strictly by the rules, but are still in line with how the rules present things. Having the BBEG have something that the PCs could in theory copy, if they were willing to put in the devotion/time/effort or whatever was required to mimic it, but that is unlikely they ever will due to the sheer amount of time and other resources required to do so, is fine. A DM doesn't even really have to come up with the specific requirements beyond "unless you plan on retiring from adventuring, and dedicating the rest of your life to this, it's not gonna happen." It still remains grounded in the world, but as something that requires a major investment in resources that adventurers use elsewhere, it is becomes either the focus for an entire campaign, or something that remains in the background to help ground the rest of the story, rather than something that becomes a PCs favorite toy. The BBEG is still following the same basic rules, but are choosing to bend and stretch them in different ways than adventurers do.

That being said, most of the NPCs should generally function under the same rules as the PCs. This does not mean that every NPC has to be fully statted out, or that they can't have some cool gimmick, but that generally anything that the PCs see should be able to be mimiced, provided that they are willing/able to go through the necessary steps to do so. Even supernatural and spell like abilities can in theory eventually be duplicated by the wish spell, and the rules really are flexible enough that it shouldn't be that hard to find a way to ground a really cool idea in ways that will either make it not ideal as an option a PC would actually want to use or make it usable by a PC eventually without it breaking the game.

Sovereign Court

One thing that I go to great lengths to do is NOT talk about the rules to my players. I doubt I'd be in a position where I somehow had to justify why some NPC can do what he does because I simply don't discuss the meta-game with the players.

To me, what blows up immersion is meta-game shop talk. I just don't engage in it and the players have learned they aren't going to get a meta-game breakdown of how or why anything is happening the way it is happening in the world, aside from it being applicable to their own character actions.

Behind the scenes... I use the rules as far as they go, not for my players, but I myself want a sense of simulationism through consistency. However, once the need arises, then the dramatist in my kicks in and I reshape the clay as I see fit to make sense with the world and the overarching plot that is guiding the campaign.

For my players, they get an consistent world because it is the world I describe to them that remains immersive and descriptive. The rules don't the describe the world, I the GM do. I'm just following my old school instincts.


Set wrote:
The PCs had to get the skull away from the clerics guarding it, forcing the boss to finally word of recall to safety and pounding on the lesser priests, while the army of skeletons turned away from the walls to chase them. The skull had been sovereign glued to a table, to prevent it from being carried away, and had DR 20, resulting in the party 1/2 orc hefting the table and running out ahead of the army of 10,000 skeletons, the party running behind him throwing magic missiles and stuff at the skull, attempting to break it before the skeleton army caught them... What I'd thought would be a pretty nail-biting final encounter turned into a Benny Hill sketch! Next time, I'm sovereign glue-ing the McGuffin to a two ton boulder!

Oh my god that's awesome. I would love to have been playing in that game, as it sounds tons of fun (seriously, a pile of undead chasing us while we try desperately to break the Mcguffen, the laughs and excitement would be worth some internets). :P

Likewise, I love the way you set up the reasoning behind the plot, and the fact the party COULD have done so makes it all the sweeter. I could very easily imagine my groups doing something like that for something. Heck, even Aragorn used an army of undead to fight the Dark Lord Sauron, right? I love it when my PCs begin taking the campaign into their hands

I might have to adapt some of these ideas to some of my own games (locations of power, ritual magics, etc). I really like the idea of it as well, from a player perspective as well. I mean, imagine how great it would be to build an academy or guild into a mythical ruin with mystic qualities.

*thumbs up*


On a side note, giving NPCs artifacts to make them stronger seems a little odd to me. Honestly, if the artifact is to make the NPC threatening, then the NPC isn't threatening to begin with. Xykon will help explain it.

It's not like NPCs really need the help. NPCs are already able to make use of things that aren't very attractive to PCs (a be they certain feats, magic items, and so forth) due to small differences in "screen-time" (a great example being the sudden metamagics from Complete Arcane, which were nice for players but nasty for NPCs. And though such doesn't exist in core pathfinder, there are many similar examples).

I once ran a D&D game for an acquaintance of mine by request. He set up a simple but fun adventure that was to be the conclusion for a series of mini-adventures he had been running for his main group over the past few months. He asked me to run the ending adventure (I think it was because he wanted to play a while and was tired of DMing). I asked for any relevant information such as NPCs, plot specifics, and stuff like that. He gave me a lot of freedom with it. The only thing that he wanted was a multi-story tower (he had 1 map that could be used for each floor of the tower) and a lich to be the final boss in the dungeon.

The party was between 13-15th level and was about 6-8 players strong (it's been a while, I just remember there was a bunch). He suggested that the lich be a 17th level wizard, and gave me a list of special benefits the lich could have; which included a few artifacts that only the lich could use (stuff that granted a huge spell resistance, +8 key casting stat, etc), with the justification of "So the lich can last more than one round"; and said I could do with the lich whatever I wanted but those were A-Ok. Also, the lich's stats involved multiple 18s prior to racial modifiers and level up adjustments and such.

I said sure, I'd try to make a balanced encounter. I then built the lich as a 13th level lich-wizard with standard NPC gear appropriate to her challenge rating, normal ability scores for a heroic NPC, and used material from core to keep things simple. To round out the encounter, I included two advanced allips as minions.

So when I sat down for the game, greeted everyone, and started it up, everyone was talking about how they were ready to completely stomp through this dungeon, and some complained about how over-optimized the party's beguiler/shadowcraft mage was (go-go backwards compatibility) and how she was just going to destroy everything like she usually does; etc, etc, etc. I smiled, 'cause I realized this was going to be a fun night with so many players and so many of them ready to bring their A game.

In the first encounter, I figured I'd start them off easy and see how well they were at dealing with things. The first encounter was literally flavor, as they were attacked by a group of shadows (the CR 3 kind). They were technically not even high enough in CR to warrant XP (hence it was going to be a quick way to grasp their strengths). The beguiler/shadowcraft mage ended up dying during this fight, and one of the players requested to use a magic item she had (I think it was a scroll of wish or limited wish or some-such) to try and stop the beguiler from turning into a shadow so they could raise her; which I OK'd since it seemed like a very fair request of the spell's power (they didn't even ask for it to raise her, just prevent her turning into a shadow, as the beguiler's player was panicking). The party managed to press through the encounter and I got a good gauge of how strong the party was, what their favorite tactics were, and how well they worked together.

I realized that 1) Most of them weren't as experienced as their level would suggest. 2) They lacked a certain party cohesion, and several of the players seemed a bit competitive. However, it also helped me pick out the two most experienced players in the group: The party's Paladin of freedom/something, and the party's cleric/sorcerer/silver-dragon-thingy (she was a full caster that also used a lot of stuff like positive energy breath weapons); as these two were stocked and ready to adapt to situations (they cast death ward on themselves and pretty much ignored the shadows while saving their friends).

So the encounters got progressively trickier. I had to imagine what the interior of the lich's tower would be like, and so I included an art room, a study, a trophy room, a small temple for the lich's religion, and so forth. Also, the party were quite the vandals, and ended up burning all the tapestries and such in the tower to spite the lich (which incidentally meant they ended up burning about a bajillion gold pieces worth of the adventure treasure >.>).

So anyway, the lich is more than aware that they are in her tower and has been speaking with them via a series of simple spells from her chamber, and asking if they would like to resolve this situation without the need for "petty violence" and that she was very much willing to meet and speak to them on fair terms and resolve their issues like civilized beings (there was pretty much an "&*$@ you and your civility you bony-@$$ed b!^<#" kind of response to that so Diplomacy was out). So the lich decided she would meet them on their own terms, and cast a few buff spells and got ready to meet them.

So the party arrived on the ground level of the tower (for fun, I had them go from the top of the tower down, and had them get into the top via a hot-air balloon). It was big and open, and was the perfect "dueling chamber". She was standing there in the center of it, with her two advanced allips there with her. What the party didn't realize was that she was making use of a very nice illusion spell, and she herself was ethereal at the time and no where to be seen (until the cleric popped a true seeing a bit later in the fight).

So this fight was absolutely devastating. The NPC wiped the floor with the party as the allips moaned and tried beating on people while the AoE control spells were being lobbed around, and all manner of retaliation against the lich being pretty much futile (gotta love throwing cannons at illusions, aye?). Several of the party members were downed in a couple of rounds, healed, and so forth. The party's bard/sorcerer/prestige-class-something-awesome was turned to stone TWICE during the fight. If not for the Paladin (whom I said seemed more experienced) thinking to invest in some break enchantment scrolls, she might have stayed that way.

About 11 rounds into the fight, several of the party members decided they had tangled with the wrath of god, and opted to flee. The first one out the door was in fact the party's druid/planar shepherd (yes, the planar shepherd fled the field), followed by the shadow-craft mage shortly thereafter. Not being ones to give up the other four members of the party continued battling, and couple had to leave a bit early to run some errands, leaving the sorcerer, paladin, and cleric to fight the rest of the way.

Sometime by round 22, the Paladin and Sorcerer decided that it was a lost cause, and decided they were expending too many resources trying to take her down (the paladin had been spamming break enchantment and similar heals via UMD regularly), and decided to flee. The cleric, however, decided to fight it to the last. I asked her if she (the cleric's player) wanted to pause the game or flee since it was now her vs the BBEG, and she said "No way, this the best fight ever!"; so she decided to fight 'till the end.

Sometime later (I forget what round it was) the two of them (the cleric and the lich) were both pretty much worn down. Both had very few spells left, had taken some pretty good damage, etc. Much to the surprise of the group, they agreed on a truce. The adventure actually ended with the cleric and the lich discussing their differences over a game of chess, while the lich explained her grand scheme to the cleric and the cleric expressed her concerns regarding her grand scheme, and the two came to a peaceful arrangement. She (the lich) noted that she was very pleased with the cleric's willingness to speak like civil people, and more impressed with her ability to put aside her own feelings about the lich to hear her out.

It resulted in the cleric being released from the tower, after being gifted with an intelligent longsword that was said to be blessed by the hand of Wee Jass (the Lawful Neutral goddess of death and magic) that had several special powers related to commanding or protecting against undead; which was gifted to the cleric as a symbol of her diplomacy and as a sign to the lich's minions that she was a friend (or at least not an enemy).

The lich ended up leaving the area and starting a necropolis nearby, under the suggestion of the cleric. The cleric, having resolved the problem peacefully, accepted that the lich was powerful and decided that she wanted to do whatever was in the best interest of the good people of their city (which was basically facilitate peace between the lich and her new city, and establish trade between the necropolis and the city to end a food shortage after a few catastrophes that had weakened the stability of their free-city.

Truly, I really enjoyed this game, and I got a lot of positive feedback on that game. It was fun, and it never stepped outside the limitations of the game rules. In fact, it embraced them. It was 100% fair and by the book in terms of NPCs, and it was awesome to GM. ^.^


Shadow_of_death wrote:
Quote:
On a side note to the thread, I would think that balance one's alignment by using a mix of Good and Evil spells would be the same as balancing out murder by making lots of donations to charity. Of course I believe it much easier to fall than it is to fly.

I see casting both more as balancing murder by murdering murderers. PC's kill things all the time, including the party paladin, nobody falls because of this because it is balanced and reasonable.

Destroying the ultimate evil doesn't make you good in this game because it is balanced by you having to kill to do it. By the rules casting a good and evil spell should balance out. If the evil descriptor can turn you evil then it is an unfair ruling that the good descriptor can't turn you good. The neutral wizard can cast a dozen good spells to your one evil spell before it effects him. Which doesn't make sense.

Heroes are held to a higher standard or at least those with a good alignment. Your character are not good because it is on your character sheet. You are good because you are not willing to use evil's methods to get the job done. When your actions start to mirror the enemies how can I really tell the difference?


Ashiel wrote:
Set wrote:
The PCs had to get the skull away from the clerics guarding it, forcing the boss to finally word of recall to safety and pounding on the lesser priests, while the army of skeletons turned away from the walls to chase them. The skull had been sovereign glued to a table, to prevent it from being carried away, and had DR 20, resulting in the party 1/2 orc hefting the table and running out ahead of the army of 10,000 skeletons, the party running behind him throwing magic missiles and stuff at the skull, attempting to break it before the skeleton army caught them... What I'd thought would be a pretty nail-biting final encounter turned into a Benny Hill sketch! Next time, I'm sovereign glue-ing the McGuffin to a two ton boulder!

Oh my god that's awesome. I would love to have been playing in that game, as it sounds tons of fun (seriously, a pile of undead chasing us while we try desperately to break the Mcguffen, the laughs and excitement would be worth some internets). :P

Likewise, I love the way you set up the reasoning behind the plot, and the fact the party COULD have done so makes it all the sweeter. I could very easily imagine my groups doing something like that for something. Heck, even Aragorn used an army of undead to fight the Dark Lord Sauron, right? I love it when my PCs begin taking the campaign into their hands

I might have to adapt some of these ideas to some of my own games (locations of power, ritual magics, etc). I really like the idea of it as well, from a player perspective as well. I mean, imagine how great it would be to build an academy or guild into a mythical ruin with mystic qualities.

*thumbs up*

I agree. My players would have done something like that.


Ashiel wrote:
Xykon

The link is not working. :(

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