Should Rise of the Runelords be this much of a meat-grinder? [Spoilers]


Rise of the Runelords

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All this because of my one and only coup de grace which I reffered to without cause^^
Maybe we should move this discussion somewhere else!? It doesnt feel so RotR anymore:P


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Yossarian wrote:
Butch A. wrote:


Then there's "My GM isn't gunning for me or pulling punches." If every fight, even if you win, you feel like you COULD have lost; If every major bad guys seems like he COULD have beat you, even if he didn't; if every big challenge feels like you COULD fail, even if you don't, I think that's a trust in your GM.
This is great! I'm curious what techniques / tips you (and others) have for creating this sense of danger.

Well, this is short, so as not to derail a CDG derailed thread, but:

I try to keep every monster alive long enough to 'show off' every ability it has. I never thought about this in a formal way, until 4e, when each monster basically has one ability to use each round until its expected to die in round 5, but I've done it for a long time without identifying it formally.

I will fudge rolls (or monkey with tactics, etc.) so that the PCs get to see what the bad guys/monsters can do. What's the point of introducing some new baddie if he does one thing and then gets critted into oblivion?

If the opposition has some 'amazing' power, I try to make sure that it works, at least once. If the dragon has a massive blast of flame, reknown for frying the opposition, and I roll a bunch of ones, I will probably not tell the PCs that.

I tend to fudge rolls back towards the norm. If the BBEG misses with a roll of 8, he misses. If he misses with a roll of 2, I might fudge it. Same with damage. If the PC is going to go down to an average damage roll, I might not fudge it. If he rolls 30 points of damage on 4d8, I might tone that down a bit.

Recurring opposition gets a lot less fudging that special characters. You will run into dozens of goblins. If some of them miss horribly, and others crit you, eh, so what? You'll still get a good general picture of what goblins can usually do. If, on the other hand, this is the one time you'll get to fight a tentamort, ever, then darnit, the tentamort will entangle you with one tentacle and poison somebody with the other one. I don't want the PC's war story to be: "We fought one of those once. It flailed around for a while and we crushed it."

Fudge sparingly, and cover it with a lot of honesty. I really do very seldom fudge rolls. And even though I do fudge rolls, I tell my players what a lot of my rolls were. I even show them sometimes (the screen does move, you know). If sometimes, I show them the critical hit they just took, or the '1' that the EHP just whiffed with, it's more likely that they'll believe all the other rolls too.

Keep track of when you might need to fudge. If I know somebody's got 2 HP, a fudge is going to be pretty obvious to keep them alive. I might want to change tactics. If, on the other hand, somebody has 12, then a normal damage roll might just knock them out, but a crit might END them. Plausible fudging is a lot better than miracles.

If a fight is tough and nail-biting, then almost no one will suspect the fix is in. I have to admit, this is where 4e has a place in my heart. I loved the mechanics for death checks. A good 4e fight was where someone either had to make a death check, or the PCs rushed to heal someone before their turn came and they had to make a death check. Without that particular rule, a good fight is one where the party, as a group, has to at least make a desperate action or use some non-trivial resource.

Consider giving the players some plot control. Things like Hero Points are great, because they reduce my need for fudging. Players can swing their dramatic moments themselves, and protect themselves (and each other) with Hero Points as well.


If I throw in a deadly encounter that could potentially kill one or more characters, I'll always try to allude to it beforehand so that that is some forewarning.


wakedown wrote:
I'll give one more example. :)

"Wakdown goes into example but I will cut it down to make room to answer his questions

Quote:


Now, you as the GM have a very personal decision to make.

Do you have all 3 ghouls perform coup-de-gras actions against John?

In 20 minutes, when John's character is dead - is he going to think you're a better GM because you did so?

It depends on John. I have known a few Johns that would be upset or at least less than happy if I allows them to live so I can YES to this question. The John's you play with may thank you for allowing them to live. In short it will vary by player.

Quote:


John will know this is a personal decision you made. The ghouls absolutely did not have to kill his character. One could've dragged his ass back to the barn while the others shambled ahead to attack the rest of the party.

It is not personal at all, and ghouls are smart, or at least no dumb. Why do people keep forgetting that?

If they try to drag him off his buddies will lose action economy, and they might die. The his "food's" friends will most likely kill him before he enjoys his meal. It is more logical to kill all of the PC's except one, and once they paralyze the last one, they can eat him alive. :)

Quote:


Trust me, John's nervous as hell. If the John at your table says "dude, kill my character with a couple CdGs, I crave the danger" ... you shouldn't hold back.

My john's do for the most part, and when I am John I except my PC's fate with no hard feelings. Now it is not that I don't care about my PC, but I know that victory and a long life are far from a given, and that any day on the field of battle may be his last. In the end my sacrifice will have most likely saved many others. Hopefully someone else(the new PC) can step into my shoes and continue the fight. Having died with valor, while staring evil in the face is an end that one would rather endure, but it is not something any PC of mine will ever be ashamed of.

Quote:


But I've seen enough Johns come to forums and ask questions like "would a group of ghouls perform CdGs while there are other characters actively threatening them?"
I'd suggest the folks asking these questions aren't playing with a GM they've known 20 years, because... well, folks who have been gaming together for 20 years don't usually second-guess their GM.

Most people are surprised to know that ghouls are more intelligent than the average person. I first came across this exact question over 5 years ago in the WotC forums. I was surprised myself, but upon checking the ghoul's stats Int 13, Wis 14, Cha 14, I had to say the wisdom alone, which accounts for awareness would support the coup de grace, so it is not a question of questioning a GM. It is a question of "would NPC X realistically do _____".

Quote:


My point is I'd hesitate on the ghoul pack CdG unless you personally know the player very well and are confident he prefers that over the alternative.

The best games are about trust, this is one of the things that *could* erode trust, so it's a topic that deserves pause.

My advice is really for GMs early in their career more than anything. If you barely know your players, I'd think it's better to err away from the CdG than towards it. Those of you playing 20+ years who have a group that has acknowledged they want "hardcore mode" aren't really in a "need advice" category and should be well acquainted with high mortality rates.

You are assuming we don't know the players well enough. With that aside I don't have to know you well in order to allow your PC to die. Now I generally don't do that on the first session, but I do try to give an impression of how combat can go at times. That way you know the words in my GM campaign guide about allowing you to die are not just words. From there you(the player) can decide if this is a game you want to play in. I know my games are not for everyone, but neither are games where the GM holds back. I have played under a GM that refused to allow anyone to die, and while I think he was a nice guy, it was a boring series of sessions. I specifically game him permission to kill my character, even if he allowed the others to live, but he just couldn't do it.

It is neither better or worse to coup de grace. It is better to game with those of a like-mind however so the coup de grace, and other SoD affects don't cause an issue.

PS:Now if a group really insisted on no SoD affects then I might take them off the table completely.


Tangent101 wrote:
Arnwyn wrote:
Tangent101 wrote:
Going around and brutally killing characters "because it's the smart thing for the villain to do" does not make for a fun game for the players.
Be careful of overgeneralizing, and be careful of pretending that what you say applies to anyone outside of your particular group (or experience).
Do you honestly need me to hold your hand and put a damn "in my opinion" on every bloody thing I say?

There are some who sprout there opinion as facts there so if you word it as a fact, then it will be viewed that way.

So now you have 2 options, you can stop wording your opinions as facts or you can accept that every time you do someone will take it as you stating a fact and speak against it.


vikingson wrote:

having only played in the original Runelords, yes, it was pretty deadly. we suffered painfully (no big need for Coup de Grace then), and stopped playing the AP after issue #4 for something more interesting. And yes, IMHO the new version has been significantly updated in deadliness.

As for CdG..... I am not fond of it, and usually, most of my NPCs will "full attack"" helpless NPCs (being unaware of the rules concept - you know, that seems a bit Meta )......

It has nothing to do with being aware of the rules than knowing the effort a full attack takes. The coup de grace is nothing more than a carefully lined up shot to a vital area. It makes sense that it would take more time than a standard swing, and also increase the chance of death.

If I take 3 swings at you with an dagger or I line up one shot to try to cut an artery, the one shot is more likely to kill you.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber
wraithstrike wrote:
Tangent101 wrote:
Arnwyn wrote:
Tangent101 wrote:
Going around and brutally killing characters "because it's the smart thing for the villain to do" does not make for a fun game for the players.
Be careful of overgeneralizing, and be careful of pretending that what you say applies to anyone outside of your particular group (or experience).
Do you honestly need me to hold your hand and put a damn "in my opinion" on every bloody thing I say?

There are some who sprout there opinion as facts there so if you word it as a fact, then it will be viewed that way.

So now you have 2 options, you can stop wording your opinions as facts or you can accept that every time you do someone will take it as you stating a fact and speak against it.

I don't see how it is my fault if someone takes my words as "fact" given that there is nothing in my profile stating I work for Paizo (I don't) or the like. Likewise I do not see the need for me to pussyfoot and alter my wording constantly for fear that someone might read my statements and attribute them to being The Truth.

However. If a young GM decides that what I'm saying is Fact and thus decides against blithely killing off his buddy's characters and thus destroying what could be hours of character generation and backstory? Then I do not see how that is a bad thing. And if you don't like what I say? You don't have to attribute any significance to it. I very much doubt you'll be in a game where I "brainwashed" someone with my "vile" opinions supporting a gaming environment where players are not screwed with because a GM is feeling bloodthirsty.


Tangent101 wrote:
wraithstrike wrote:
Tangent101 wrote:
Arnwyn wrote:
Tangent101 wrote:
Going around and brutally killing characters "because it's the smart thing for the villain to do" does not make for a fun game for the players.
Be careful of overgeneralizing, and be careful of pretending that what you say applies to anyone outside of your particular group (or experience).
Do you honestly need me to hold your hand and put a damn "in my opinion" on every bloody thing I say?

There are some who sprout there opinion as facts there so if you word it as a fact, then it will be viewed that way.

So now you have 2 options, you can stop wording your opinions as facts or you can accept that every time you do someone will take it as you stating a fact and speak against it.

I don't see how it is my fault if someone takes my words as "fact" given that there is nothing in my profile stating I work for Paizo (I don't) or the like.

You completely missed my point. The point is that others do state their opinion as facts, so if you use a similar writing style others will assume you are doing the same.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber
wraithstrike wrote:
Tangent101 wrote:
wraithstrike wrote:
Tangent101 wrote:
Arnwyn wrote:
Tangent101 wrote:
Going around and brutally killing characters "because it's the smart thing for the villain to do" does not make for a fun game for the players.
Be careful of overgeneralizing, and be careful of pretending that what you say applies to anyone outside of your particular group (or experience).
Do you honestly need me to hold your hand and put a damn "in my opinion" on every bloody thing I say?

There are some who sprout there opinion as facts there so if you word it as a fact, then it will be viewed that way.

So now you have 2 options, you can stop wording your opinions as facts or you can accept that every time you do someone will take it as you stating a fact and speak against it.

I don't see how it is my fault if someone takes my words as "fact" given that there is nothing in my profile stating I work for Paizo (I don't) or the like.
You completely missed my point. The point is that others do state their opinion as facts, so if you use a similar writing style others will assume you are doing the same.

Well. There is a simple solution. If you don't like the way I write, set me to ignore. Or if you don't have that capability, just don't bother reading what I say.


Tangent101 wrote:
wraithstrike wrote:
Tangent101 wrote:
wraithstrike wrote:
Tangent101 wrote:
Arnwyn wrote:
Tangent101 wrote:
Going around and brutally killing characters "because it's the smart thing for the villain to do" does not make for a fun game for the players.
Be careful of overgeneralizing, and be careful of pretending that what you say applies to anyone outside of your particular group (or experience).
Do you honestly need me to hold your hand and put a damn "in my opinion" on every bloody thing I say?

There are some who sprout there opinion as facts there so if you word it as a fact, then it will be viewed that way.

So now you have 2 options, you can stop wording your opinions as facts or you can accept that every time you do someone will take it as you stating a fact and speak against it.

I don't see how it is my fault if someone takes my words as "fact" given that there is nothing in my profile stating I work for Paizo (I don't) or the like.
You completely missed my point. The point is that others do state their opinion as facts, so if you use a similar writing style others will assume you are doing the same.
Well. There is a simple solution. If you don't like the way I write, set me to ignore. Or if you don't have that capability, just don't bother reading what I say.

Once again you miss the point. It is not about liking or not disliking what you write. I am just telling you how things are viewed around here.

So YOU have two choices. Adapt by not writing the way you do, or just accept that as long as you write like that SOMEONE will complain.

Personally,I don't care. Since you are new, I am just telling you how things are.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

For someone who doesn't care, wraithstrike, you're doing a lot of complaining about my "tone" and writing style.

I've been on the Internet since 1988. I think I can handle a little bit of internet drama.


Tangent101 wrote:

For someone who doesn't care, wraithstrike, you're doing a lot of complaining about my "tone" and writing style.

I've been on the Internet since 1988. I think I can handle a little bit of internet drama.

I am NOT complaining. I was just giving you information.

If you go back a few post someone else tried to explain it, but you tried to be a smart ass. So then I tried to explain it. I guess you want to argue though. If so we can do that, but I rather not.

Now you know how things work around here. You can handle it however you wish but not more crying when someone accuses of you of stating your opinion as fact, and yeah you sounded like you were crying when Arnwyn tried to give you some advice.

If you don't like advice it is not hard to say "Hey nobody give me advice about how this forum works." <---How hard is that? <---That is a rethorical question.

For someone who has been online since 1988 you are bad at reading the difference between advice and someone actually caring. Do I need to put disclaimer in all of my post so you know the difference?<---Not a rhetorical question.

Now are we going to be civil or not?<--also not a rhetorical question.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

Considering this discussion has not descended into name-calling, vulgarity, or the like, I do believe it has been civil.


Tangent101 wrote:
Arnwyn wrote:
Tangent101 wrote:
Going around and brutally killing characters "because it's the smart thing for the villain to do" does not make for a fun game for the players.
Be careful of overgeneralizing, and be careful of pretending that what you say applies to anyone outside of your particular group (or experience).
Do you honestly need me to hold your hand and put a damn "in my opinion" on every bloody thing I say?

A "damn" 'in my opinion' on every "bloody" thing you say? Nah. It just depends on the context of the rest of the post, wording, and writing style.

If nothing else, consider my comment to be nothing more than a friendly warning. I don't know you, so I can only comment on what I see.

But thanks for the offer to "hold my hand"!


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

Well, when Foxglove Manor is played up with proper atmosphere, including mood music, tone of voice, and the like, I suppose it can get a tad spooky. (Especially when you use a thunderstorm to "illuminate" rooms at dramatic moments.) So don't worry about the offer. ;)


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Here's something I learned, the hard way... I was running another adventure path and I accidentally TPK'd the party. The group was notably upset, and when we went to make new characters and pick up where we left off, the players had lost their enthusiasm. Their fire was gone, their interest waned and the game died out. I had inadvertently killed my campaign.

So after this debacle, and several months of free time, I was still kicking myself for killing my campaign and I came to the conclusion that I should have played it differently. Like most of us, I exercise my love for fantasy and action-genre with both RPG's and movies. And in most of the movies about our beloved genre, the villains don't kill the heroes... if they do, it's either a minor character, or if a main character dies it's almost never arbitrary. And that's the mistake I made. You see, in our particular campaign, the party had gotten both front-line fighters paralyzed with some bad rolls and the rest of the party was too occupied and too far away to prevent their coup-de-grace the following round while helpless. After the main muscle had succumbed, the support characters lacked the power to stand up to the remaining foes and soon fell as well. At the time, it seemed a logical choice by the villain to finish the heroes off once and for all while they lay helpless but really... in the movies, in the stories, that would never have happened. I should have gloated.

Gloating is a cinematic staple and employed correctly can prolong fights long enough for the hero to make a quick recovery and a desperate comeback. Think about it... Zod doesn't melt Superman's eyes and give him a heat-vision lobotomy while Supes is busy holding up a crumbling building... instead, Zod gloats and brags how Superman is so inferior to his own evil genius. Joker can't just slice Batman's throat while he's tied up... instead the Clown Prince of Crime has to brag about his latest zany scheme, giving Batman time to escape his bonds and turn the tables. James Bond isn't shot in the head after he's knocked unconscious... no, that isn't Evil Genius etiquette. Instead Mr. Bond has to be strapped to the mastermind's rocket/bomb/atomic-laser, watching the timer countdown while the villain gloats at having defeated his noble foe, then goes to get himself a Cappuccino while Bond disarms the bomb and gets away.

So... instead of having Xanesha blow up the heroes of Sandpoint at the top of the clocktower, have her use her spells to shock/stun/incapacitate them, and then while they lay helpless, have her brag about it... let her tantalizingly wrap one of her prey in her coils while tracing her claws lightly across his face while she teases him with disclosure of her leadership of the Brothers of Seven and how foolish the heroes were for stopping her evil plans... this may give the heroes time to stabilize, chug a potion or two, maybe even get off a healing burst or quick Cure Wounds spell and then make a heroic last stand. Or if the Skinsaw Man has his prey paralyzed and bleeding out and all seems lost... have His Lordship brag about his ascension to undead status and then exclaim how the party could never understand his pure unholy motives. A few rounds of his boasting could give the party time to recover or un-paralyze and give them a second chance to fight back.

I'm not saying that bad dice rolls don't happen, 'cuz obviously they do. But don't miss the opportunity to give the party a good fighting chance to recover from being helpless, should it happen. And don't miss the chance to let the villains gloat... it makes a much better story than "You failed your save, so I guess you're dead."


That's good.

I also happen to get NPC reinforcement (most often someone they already met) to the players when they are in a very bad shape like that 2 paralyzed warriors situation, letting disabled characters play the reinfocement for the fight.


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Logain wrote:

That's good.

I also happen to get NPC reinforcement (most often someone they already met) to the players when they are in a very bad shape like that 2 paralyzed warriors situation, letting disabled characters play the reinfocement for the fight.

Careful with that one. I'd read books I and II, and learned all about Xanesha's tendency to TPK non-optimized parties (let's just cite as an example that my group gave away over 50% of the gold they 'earned' in Book I to victims of the horrors).

So for nearly two months of real time, I foreshadowed that someone or something was following the party. It was the paladin's 12th-level mentor, and if Xanesha TPK'ed the party, as expected, he was going to arrive in the nick of time and prevent it.

Xanesha fumbled horrifically, the party carved her up with only one PC death, and I had the mentor arrive after the fight was over just to close the loop.

My group still gives me crap about following them with a 'baby sitter'. Of course, now they know that if they *do* get in serious trouble, nobody's coming to help...

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Of course, now your group has the 12th level paladin, so it all evens out. ;)

Shadow Lodge

Maveric28 wrote:
Here's something I learned, the hard way... I was running another adventure path and I accidentally TPK'd the party. The group was notably upset, and when we went to make new characters and pick up where we left off, the players had lost their enthusiasm. Their fire was gone, their interest waned and the game died out. I had inadvertently killed my campaign.

This is what I was referring to earlier in the thread: assuming you have built a reason to care about the outcome of the AP, care should go into preserving it.

But I have since realized that some of this 'debate' is really nothing more than 'rollplay vs roleplay' in a different skin. Some groups of players would rather start a fresh story than suspend disbelief enough to sub in a litany of replacement characters. Other groups care far less about the story making sense than they do the mechanics being executed properly and to their maximum effect.

I can only hope our hobby matures to accommodate both play styles equally and in degrees.

But yeah, good stuff.


I have run 2 groups through Burnt Offerings and 1 through the rest 0f RotRL. while there are some tough fights, "meat grinder"...no.

Skedak wrote:
As a player it feels very unfair to fight most of these big-bad monsters sometimes. When we fought Eryllium, she simply flew up higher than we could hit her and started raising zombies, which resulted in the entire party fleeing the dungeon and walling it up; her regeneration made it even more of a painful chore to fight, too.

-Is she higher in the Anniversary Edition, because in my copy she shouldn't be raising zombies. Maybe he meant Sinspawn. In the games I have run, they managed to get her down after a long drawn out battle. Once you deal with her summons and Sinspawn, she does very little damage. Most healers should be able to keep up with it until the rest of the group can get her down (once with a lasso, once with a tanglefoot bag and clever roleplay).

Skedak wrote:


Along with that, it seems that even some simple things are just decimating us; while in the fields with the ghouls, we got ambushed by four of them, and they paralysed and mauled every single party member with ease. We've had to homerule that creatures can't outright coup-de-gras someone with natural weapons because otherwise we'd have been TPK'd.

Ghouls can be nasty and if you get a little unlucky they can kill pcs.

Xanesha has TPK as her middle name, 'nuff said.

I am guessing they never got to (or decided not to) face Malfeshnekor.

Gogmurt, Nualia, Foxglove Manor and Justice Ironbriar surprise me. Their inclusion leads me to think "NobodysHome" has it right;

NobodysHome wrote:

(1) Lack of preparedness

.
.
.
4) GM using optimal tactics
There are some encounters and areas where as a GM you think, "Wow! The tactics as-written are just silly against my party. If I really want to mess them up, I should do THIS instead!"
Guess what? It's a good way to kill parties. Yes, it gets frustrating when some of the BBEGs have tactics so poorly-optimized that they deserve to die (a certain spellcaster comes to mind, but I don't want to spoiler anything for the players), but if you play them optimally, they can kill half the party easily (that same spellcaster figures prominently in the obits).

This is so true. Play the monsters as CHARACTERS, not as pc killing machines. Eryllium, for example, is supposed to be a little (or a lot) insane. She shouldn't be using genre-savvy TPK tactics. But it also sounds like maybe the players aren't doing their parts. In both games both sets of players figured out that they were going to face a quasit and took precautions, and they still had combats that lasted 15 rounds.

kenmckinney wrote:

Monsters are not all waiting in squads at full alert. They have lives. They don't all become ready instantly at the first sign of danger. Use this fact to buy PCs time to react.

Once the fight has begun, don't play your monsters smarter than they are.
A gang of ogres doesn't possess the tactical or strategic ability of a mind flayer.

True.


Since this thread has returned, I'll point out that I'm living through an example of PC tactics vs. APs right now:

- In RotRL, the 4-person, tactics-heavy, "We're always prepared," team is stomping through some of the nastier encounters with ease, not because of individual PC optimization, but because they take preparation and tactics very, very seriously. I almost never take them by surprise. When I do, the fights are incredibly hard for them, so it's clearly tactics rather than optimization that's driving their success.

- In Carrion Crown, we had a 6-person party and the GM didn't increase the monsters at all because our tactics were poor. Two players left, and a third is only showing up about half the time. The 3-person party consists of the most tactically-savvy team members, and we're doing BETTER with a 3-person party because we seriously tightened up our tactics as our group shrank, and now we proceed with extreme caution and discuss how we're going to react to situations. Notice that both smaller parties use "caution" as their middle names. It's a HUGE point.

- In Second Darkness, we have a 9-person party(!!) and the tactics are so bad the GM has nearly TPK'ed us with encounters designed for 4. The fighters all want to run off and go one-on-one with enemies on the flanks, leaving the casters exposed and themselves well out of range of the healers. Every person wants his or her "own" enemy instead of teaming up to drop enemies, rendering the healers' Channel Energies useless as they heal enemies as well as allies, even with Selective Channeling. I swear, the gamers play like a video game instead of an RPG, in spite of the fact that 7 of 9 of them have been gaming for decades.
The best example: In a fight with 8 thugs, our GM noted that damage was evenly-distributed between all of the thugs for the entire fight. My "epically-bad" quote of the fight? "I hit the one that's least injured!"

I came up with a test for veteran gamers based on that one: Name ONE game ever made where hitting the least-injured enemy is tactically sound. (Our ultra-veteran points out things like damaging everyone a little bit so a fireball will take them all out at once, or playing Champions with a code versus killing so you don't want to hit anyone too hard, but I feel he's stretching to find specific situations where it works, and that's being too generous.)

Dark Archive

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Legend of the Five Rings, as the game has wound penalties. The more injured you are, the more difficult it is to successfully do anything, including attack. One strategy is that going first and spreading out the damage over the bad guys to give them all penalties means you'll come through with fewer casualties than if you focus fire.

Still, dead is the ultimate wound penalty, so it's not perfect. I think Shadowrun has a similar system, but since I abhor that system, I don't recall.

Liberty's Edge

Oh, Lady X, what an enigma you are.

RotRL Spoiler:
I was worried about the potential TPK that could occur, so I decided to play her tactics strictly by what was described: she had her pre-battle buffs ready, she cast major image of a demon (a vrolikai demon, to be exact, which REALLY got their attention especially since their knowledge roll indicated that these types of demons tended to be generals of demon armies), but once the battle started, she stuck with melee attacks.

I had it set up that her first attack was going to be a power-attacked vital strike from invisibility with sneak attack, plus the additional effects that her weapon provided, against the party's sorcerer.

She rolled a natural 1. FML.

On a future round, she did hit with her melee weapon, but I forgot to activate the special effect. She did crit a touch attack against the cleric for 6 WIS drain at one point...hooray!

In hindsight, I should have cast deep slumber at some point in the latter half of the battle to try to make it more exciting. Oh well.


Misroi wrote:

Legend of the Five Rings, as the game has wound penalties. The more injured you are, the more difficult it is to successfully do anything, including attack. One strategy is that going first and spreading out the damage over the bad guys to give them all penalties means you'll come through with fewer casualties than if you focus fire.

Still, dead is the ultimate wound penalty, so it's not perfect. I think Shadowrun has a similar system, but since I abhor that system, I don't recall.

I was really hoping someone would come up with SOME example! I just recall Shiro's player and I gaping at each other in open-mouthed astonishment when we heard the player (not one of our RotRL regulars) declare that.

Thanks! Now I have an example!

(Shadowrun doesn't work -- Shiro's player is the "ultra veteran" and has run a lot of Shadowrun, and he didn't bring that up as an example.)


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

You know, NH, I've seen that in the RoW game I'm running - due to delays, I chose to run the combat we'd started (at the Winter Portal) via e-mail and phone for each turn so we'd not be stuck in combat for an hour at the start of the game.

Now, admittedly the Paladin attacking two separate Fae was understandable due to the nature of the Cleave feat - the enemies have to be within five feet of each other, and those were the only two foes in his reach.

The Rogue? She went after the wounded Fae, and took it to 0 hit points. (I was being kind and ruled that she counted as flanking - seeing creatures with a reach of 0 have to enter an enemy's square to attack them, I figure that hitting a tiny-sized critter in an ally's square should be a flank (and thus sneak) attack.) It was a tactically-wise move.

The Ranger? Not only did she choose not to use her cold-iron arrows (though saving them for a more significant foe makes some sense) but with her Rapid Shot, she targeted two separate Fae rather than focus everything on one.

The one tactical "attack the unwounded one" bit was when the wizard/priest used magic missile on the spellcasting Atomie who was casting a summoning spell. (It succeeded in disrupting the spell as well.)

So really it depends on the players. Focusing attacks to take down one foe can happen. And I suspect as the fights continue, the Players might start learning this (especially as one of the players finally decided to take the "party leader" role - now if only he'd stop trying to split the party for flanking maneuvers in difficult terrain).


Oh, my favorite moment was 8 of us on 4 spread-out enemies with a terrain advantage:

Party: 2 barbarians, 2 wizards, 2 rogues, 1 ranger, 1 life oracle

Events:
- Barbarian #1 took a tactically-strong position in the middle of the battlefield, giving us an excellent point to set up our defenses
- Wizard #1 and Life Oracle, taking the hint, lined up behind Barbarian #1 and started casting
- Rogue #1 ran off on her own to engage one of the enemies way off on the flanks
- Barbarian #2, Wizard #2, Rogue #2, and Ranger all decided that they'd rather stay back and fire bows, so moved BACKWARDS, leaving the threesome who'd first set up completely exposed to being engaged one-on-one
- Barbarian #1, for reasons completely unknown, ran off to assist the rogue, leaving Wizard #1 and Life Oracle in the dead center of the battlefield with no protection

We came one square short of two dead PCs (the enemies couldn't QUITE reach the wizard and oracle in the difficult terrain), but everyone who had initially moved forward took a lot of damage for no sound reason.

THAT'S the kind of tactics that kill PCs, even if the enemies aren't "smart".

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

Another situation where attacking the least injured one makes sense:

You have an attack that does, say, 10hp damage on average.

Your enemies have 1hp, 2hp, 2hp and 7hp left.

Now, obviously the players don't know exactly how many hp enemies have left. But they will probably be making some sort of estimates inside their heads, and if they figure that a lot of their damage output would be wasted on downing a nearly-dead foe, they might want to attack a less injured foe to make optimal use of their damage output.

And *because* players usually don't know exactly how many hp enemies have, this motivation might come up more often than one might think, since they might misjudge situations to be like the one presented above, even when it's not. Players, I suspect, have a tendency to overestimate their own contribution to a battle, so they're going to think more often than is realistic that they're that 10hp guy against that 7hp foe.


Samy wrote:

Another situation where attacking the least injured one makes sense:

You have an attack that does, say, 10hp damage on average.

Your enemies have 1hp, 2hp, 2hp and 7hp left.

Now, obviously the players don't know exactly how many hp enemies have left. But they will probably be making some sort of estimates inside their heads, and if they figure that a lot of their damage output would be wasted on downing a nearly-dead foe, they might want to attack a less injured foe to make optimal use of their damage output.

And *because* players usually don't know exactly how many hp enemies have, this motivation might come up more often than one might think, since they might misjudge situations to be like the one presented above, even when it's not. Players, I suspect, have a tendency to overestimate their own contribution to a battle, so they're going to think more often than is realistic that they're that 10hp guy against that 7hp foe.

Nice idea, and well-thought-out, but no. We knew they had over 30 hp each. She knew her attack (even on a crit) maxed out at 16 hp. And she still chose to attack a healthy one, with a near-0% chance of dropping him.

So it's similar to "Shiro's" attempts: "Here's a very-specific situation where it makes more sense to attack the least wounded one."
Yes, you can come up with them, but they're very rare, very specific situations, and to have someone randomly declare that they're doing it WITHOUT such considerations is just plain bad tactics.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

Yeah I didn't mean to suggest that that's what happened in your specific case, I was just mentioning a general scenario where a player might attack the least injured one. Sorry for being unclear.

Liberty's Edge

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The CdG convo was really interesting, but not really on topic, so I started a thread for it here.

As for the meat grinder, I haven't played through the whole campaign, but I have been through Burnt Offerings, and I agree with everyone else who has said that system mastery and tactics make all the difference. If your players just can't get it together long enough to come up with even vaguely decent plans (or if they are so new to Pathfinder that it is kicking their butts) I'd strongly suggest toning down some of the campaign, and slowly returning things to "normal mode" as they get the hang of it.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Samy wrote:

Another situation where attacking the least injured one makes sense:

You have an attack that does, say, 10hp damage on average.

Your enemies have 1hp, 2hp, 2hp and 7hp left.

Now, obviously the players don't know exactly how many hp enemies have left. But they will probably be making some sort of estimates inside their heads, and if they figure that a lot of their damage output would be wasted on downing a nearly-dead foe, they might want to attack a less injured foe to make optimal use of their damage output.

And *because* players usually don't know exactly how many hp enemies have, this motivation might come up more often than one might think, since they might misjudge situations to be like the one presented above, even when it's not. Players, I suspect, have a tendency to overestimate their own contribution to a battle, so they're going to think more often than is realistic that they're that 10hp guy against that 7hp foe.

The only problem with that, Samy? The way PF works, targets fight as effectively at 1 hp as they do when they are completely full. You're right, players don't know how many HP the bad guys have. But your hypothetical 10 points of damage attack kills all four of your targets, so there's no real benefit to choosing one of them over the other. On the other hand, if they had 1, 2, 2 and 11 hp, then the 10 points of damage makes a much bigger difference. The 11 hp guy will get an attack, whereas attacking one of the others removes an attack.

Therefore, in this situation (and most others), you get the best results by piling on damage onto one guy until they die. Spreading out damage is a great way to lose combats.

RPG Superstar 2008 Top 32

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I have had to significantly [push up the opposition - partly because I'm playing with a hybrid 3.5/PF/homebrew system, and partly because I'm running for 8 players (most of whom are veterans).

As it was mentioned earlier in the thread: I always roll behind the screen. Dice are merely a random number generator used to provide variance to task resolution, they do not dictate the course of the game. Thus, the PCs do not need to see my dice rolls anymore than they need to know any other mechanics. (That said, both can and are often made known to them.) That said, given how lousy my dice rolls are (with occasional exceptions), as a player you will never know if I have done anything to them - so if you are in a pinch and the bad guys miss, it's probabl more likely than not it's just my terrible dice. But of course, I have perfected the art such that you will never ever know, because if you're losing, I'll be cackling like a madman anyway. To parphrase that wise scholar Megamind, the difference between a good DM and a great DM is presentation...!

In my opinion, if a character does not carry and ranged weapon, they deserve exactly what they get (which is their butt kicked by, or being helpless against, flying enemies). This is especially true in my own campaigns, were EVERYTHING that is capable of using weapons carries some sort of ranged weapon, even if it's only daggers or javelins. (I made that mistake ONCE when a PC had flight. Never again.) And in addition, that campaign world has a prevalance of flying enemies, many of which are capable of making ranged attacks. It's like spellcasters - EVERYTHING that is capable of loading it takes Dispel Magic, because it is so utterly crucial. I expect the PCs to be capable of combined arms fighting, because I absolutely garentee my monsters will! (It tends to mean the PCs have a slightly easier time in modules of APs - if, of course, I haven't supplemented the monsters with additional support...!)

The PCs have thus far shown a tendancy to wander into fights they probably really shouldn't not at full strength (the 15-minute advanturing day is not only something that is fairly common, but often actively expected, especially where boss fights are involved.) They blundered into Erylium at level 1, and ended up running away. They just did not have the resources at 1st level to tackle her (boosted as she was from even the 3.5 version, as assumed at level 2 opposition.) I did everything bar outright say to the PCs "you really don't want to in there yet...!", but what can you do! Still, in brought the message home that, while I frequently set my combats to be beatable, sometimes, you have to learn to run away!

They cleared out the rest of the dungeon, however (while she hid in the temple - for all her bravado, she was a bit concerned!), and then hit level 2. Then they went back fully rested and forearmed. It became something of a curb-stomp after she dropped down to slap the Druid, who was standing on the stairs to the raised area, with Inflict Moderate Wounds (which fracking hurts with my upgrades...!) and then the Rogue leaped out from the dias and grabbed her in mid-air. And once grappled (helped by the Dwarf Barbarian's pin) it was a long drawn out-execution (as she had, basically 48 hit points three times), but a foregone conclusion.

I have this adventure, knocked several characters into negatives (which is a rare enough occurance these days) in combats, but the PCs have otherwise managed quite well, though things have gotten a bit hairy at times, like when they kicked in the door to Ripnugget's throne room while the barracks was full of goblins, just after (not even time for the Wand of Lesser Vigour to finish working) a stiff fight against the exterior goblins (who had heard them kill the goblin dogs in the courtyard)...

Xanesha will be "fun" I expect. She might provide them with some challenge (as of, course, they'll be horribly more optimised by then with a few more levels) with her what, extra three of four blocks of hit points...!

(I remind you, there ARE eight of them, veteran, tactical players and wih a powerful, mid-to-high optimised party...)


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Read 90% of the answers in this thread but now they're getting tedious and off track.

I would say RotRL is NOT a meat grinder (honestly I have to wonder how even?). My players have breezed through encounters even though encounters have been adjusted with more minions, max hp and slightly more intelligent tactics. My players are first timers to pathfinder but through carefully planned teaching, they know they to use tactics, spells and equipment to get through encounters. Additionally Rolling in front of my players isn't a problem because the dice are unbiased, there's no arguing when the evidence is right there in the open. I've had plenty of fights end quickly because they landed a hold person and coup-de-graced the boss, there's nothing wrong with rewarding intelligent fighting.

There's also been plenty of times where my players have been dropped to negatives and even one occasion when all of the players were dropped but I kept them alive through a story twist instead.

As a GM you have plenty of power and ability to shut down your players. Should you repeatedly exercise your power to kill off your players? The less invested players are into their characters the less story opportunities and potentially less fun they'll have.

If your players are playing badly then either teach them to play better or adjust tactics. Obviously killing them off isn't teaching them. Also change your dice if you roll crazy, you should be suspicious when dice don't roll randomly.


Haladir wrote:

My players are all in their 30s and 40s, and we've all been playing tabletop RPGs since we were kids. Avoiding TPKs is all about good battlefield tactics, resource management, and knowing when to run.

this part is nice and all of that but...

Quote:
Also-- as a GM with 30+ years of experience, I ALWAYS roll behind a screen. Of course, I'm the kind of GM who doesn't let dice rolls get in the way of a good story. I don't like to kill off a PC who was using sound tactics or trying to pull off something cinematic.

...this part is actually the key. If the GM isn't willing to kill the PC and fudge the rolls behind the screen, it doesn't matter if the party has 20 years experience or not. They are playing with safety net. We are also above 30, with 20 years of experience, and we TPK'd the other day versus Skinsaw. We were under the normal number of players (one couldn't come), so we were 3 vs Skinsaw and 4 ghasts. We failed our saves vs paralisys, and got coup-d'graced, and having experience didn't help that much. When you have to save vs DC 17, and you have +7 at best, it's a coin flip. If it goes tails, you roll a new character


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

Obviously I disagree. If you were playing using pregenerated characters in the back of the book (as were once included) and were not invested in these characters, then sure, a total party kill isn't a problem. But if you spent two hours working on this character, started working on having a family back in Sandpoint, developed friendships with your companions, and literally because of a couple bad die rolls everyone is paralyzed and killed, then why bother continuing? Why bother investing in a new character at all? Because of the "challenge" of it? Why not just play a console game in that case. Or an MMORPG.

One or two deaths is inevitable in most circumstances. Better is to have the characters look like they are about to die and manage to squeak out a victory at the last moment. But when you eliminate an entire party, it's like flipping a car. In all likelihood, even if you personally walk away without an injury, the car is a total loss.

And you, as GM, have wasted over $100 on an adventure path, or $60 in the case of the anniversary edition.

Yes, that sounds like a wonderful win to me.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Subscriber

for me TPKs are to be avoided, but i play with kids so they get mopre invested in their characters quicker, i don't buy RPGs to teach my kids about tragedy and death, thats what pets are for!
kidding aside, a death here or there is all good, but if the whole party goes down then as Tangent said its harder to find the motivation to pick it back up.
it happened to me with Kingmaker and i haven't gotten back to that campaign yet (and its my favorite so i really, really want to)


I have two suggestions;

One our DM converted all foes to only a X2 crit range. More crits, less PK in one hit.

Next, try moving towards Mythic a bit, give your PC's this Mythic ability: "Hard to Kill (Ex): Whenever you're below 0 hit points, you automatically stabilize without needing to attempt a Constitution check. If you have an ability that allows you to act while below 0 hit points, you still lose hit points for taking actions, as specified by that ability. Bleed damage still causes you to lose hit points when below 0 hit points. In addition, you don't die until your total number of negative hit points is equal to or greater than double your Constitution score."

RotRL is not a "meat grinder' but there can be a lot of unexpected PK's. This hurts continuity. Xanesha, esp the 3.5 version, can't be played at full tactics.

Scarab Sages

I’ve played through the first chapter with a group of 5 and we had 6 deaths and many more near misses. I don’t blame the campaign though, there were a few issues in the group:

New players
Out of 5 players, 2 were new to the system and 2 were new to roleplaying in general. One of the new players had 3 deaths (I don’t think she’s played Pathfinder since).

Odd Stats
Instead of normal rolling or point-buy, we had a large dicepool which we had to split between our 6 stats (I roll 2d6 for Str, 5d6 for Dex, 3d6 for Con, etc.). This meant we had less optimisation control over our characters.

Killer GM
Not a bad GM by any means, just the unremorseful kind that doesn’t hold anything back and plays the enemies tactically at 100% all the time. A lighter touch was needed for this group.

I still had fun despite the other players tearing their hair out. I think a group of experienced players and optimised characters would have a blast.


Macona wrote:

I’ve played through the first chapter with a group of 5 and we had 6 deaths and many more near misses. I don’t blame the campaign though, there were a few issues in the group:

Killer GM
Not a bad GM by any means, just the unremorseful kind that doesn’t hold anything back and plays the enemies tactically at 100% all the time. A lighter touch was needed for this group.

As I've mentioned previously in this thread and elsewhere, giving all the enemies 100% optimal tactics is a guaranteed TPK in a LOT of places throughout the books. On the other hand...

Macona wrote:
I still had fun despite the other players tearing their hair out. I think a group of experienced players and optimised characters would have a blast.

That's more important than my opinion. Every. Single. Time.


I've got a group of 6 experienced players (though only one of them had Pathfinder experience prior this this. The rest had played a lot of 2nd ed and at least some 3rd Ed or 3.5 before) with 20 point buy, Hero Points, an increased Death Threshold (better of your Con score or half your max hit points, with some modified Disabled/Dying rules meaning you don't automatically fall unconscious until you hit half your Death Threshold) and a modified Second Wind mechanic from 4th Ed (you can spend a Standard action to get half your max hp back once per day.) so they're got a whole lot going in their favor to make them survivable (though half the players eschewed using Hero Points in favor of having the extra feat). Even with max HP monsters, extra mooks, and boosted bosses, the party has thoroughly been shredding the opposition.

I try to play the tactics as close to as-written as possible in order to give individuals the right flavor, but I'll add in more efficient tactics where appropriate.

We just finished Chapter 2. (Where I pitted them against the original Xanesha, instead of the nerfed anniversary edition one.) The expanded Death Threshold rules have only come into play maybe three times, allowing someone to be Disabled instead of dying (and thus spend their Second Wind, rather than lying helpless waiting to be healed) and no one has taken enough damage where they would have died because they were dropped to -Con. They also had to spend Hero Points to act out of turn to save the human fighter because they left him squaring off against 3 ghouls by himself at the Hambley Farm and the second of the 3 managed to paralyze him, setting the third up to rip his throat out with a coup de grace. (The wizard and alchemist had to burn hero points to act out of turn to blast the offending ghoul before it could act.)

I have to say, Hero Points are probably the biggest difference maker. I've lost count of the number of times they've spent them to re-roll or pass saves that would have put their character out of the fight or killed them outright (some of the Misgivings Haunts are nasty.)

Smart tactics also helped, like when the human fighter was seriously wounded in the Nualia fight and surrounded by fiendish three-eyed jackals that Erylium had summoned (the quasit having escaped them earlier in the Catacombs of Wrath) the cleric hit him with a Protection from Evil, making them unable to touch the fighter.

At least I scared them a bit in the most recent session. They had already dispatched The Scarecrow previously (the party decided to camp out in Foxglove's Townhouse for several days while performing their investigations. Xanesha sent The Scarecrow and a couple of Cultists to eliminate the threat. Sadly, the Scarecrow didn't roll higher than an 8 the entire fight, only doing all of 13 points of damage to the Rogue after he failed his Acrobatics check to tumble past the Scarecrow.) so I decided to put a couple of Faceless Stalkers with Talented Rogue levels in its place. Vanishing Trick allowed for all sorts of fun, and resulted in both the wizard and the human fighter crying for a healer (with the fighter unable to retreat safely) before they finally took the stalkers down.

Xanesha, for her part didn't do much, other than stabbing the rogue down to 1 HP as she came out of invisibility after the party unloaded on the illusion of a succubus she had created (I missed the critical confirmation roll by 1. That would have been the first PC "death"; I use quotes as the rogue's player would have undoubtedly spent 2 Hero Points to cheat death.) and forcing the alchemist to burn a Hero Point to save against her Medusa's Mask. Of course, the party knew there was something really nasty living on top of the Shadow Clock and burned through all of the alchemist's infusions buffing themselves before climbing the last flight of stairs to the roof.


I was actually going to ask if this is considered an easy adventure path compared to others. Other than a near-death with some yeth hounds,(and having to tactically regroup against Erlyium), my rise of the runelords group has been in no real danger up till now as they start the misgivings. All except one is a new player, and they are more or less steamrolling. Of course they are three melee, so might be things will start getting a lot harder in the near future.

In contrast, I just had an optimized group in PFS play the traitor's lodge and we had two deaths (including mine) in the very first encounter. No bad rolls or huge tactical errors, just sheer brutality.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Wait until they get a load of Xanesha. They call her TPX for a reason.

Seriously, though, how many PCs do you have? How did you generate stats? The further you are away from a 4 PC table with a 15 point buy for stats, the easier the combats become. There's also a lot to be said for player experience, too. Smart players that exercise caution will go a lot further with fewer resources than players that don't think things through and kick down the door.


Four PCs, PFS stat generation. Dwarven Foehammer, human barbarian, halfling mad dog, and frost elemental bloodline sorcerer. And they are pretty much just kicking down doors and pillaging things at the moment. Any big nasty that gets close gets chopped down in a round of two.

Actually, they have a TINY bit of fear now. After the barbarian nearly murdered himself due to a suicide compulsion in foxglove manner they have been a bit more cautious in their explorations. But really, any combat situation they seem to be in no danger. The chances of the skinsaw man bringing someone down to even half is approximately 0.

Dark Archive

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Ah, I see what's going on now. They're definitely DPR focused, so yeah, things will fall pretty quickly at this level of play. They're lacking divine support, though, and their ranged capability seems to be focused around the sorcerer. Take him out, and their ability to deal with flying creatures goes down significantly. I wouldn't worry about it just yet. The AP will sort itself out. Let them enjoy their early successes. *steeples fingers and grins*


I've had 8 player deaths so far and my group is on the road to Foxglove Manor. Of our party of 6 only 2 have not lost their original characters. To be fair 2 were from people who had to leave the group and 1 was from causing conflict in the group. My favorite though was our Druid who turned his bag into an IED if anyone but him opened it. He went down and he was the only one with health potions.


My group is going through RotRL an have just started the hillbilly madness in book 3 .. The party comprises Druid,fighter with a dip of bard , wizard with a dip of fighter ... There has been 1 PC death and one near PC death that the use of hero point from another PC saved ( so yeah use hero points if your finding it hard going they help a lot) my players are experienced and they have just torn through this adventure with out to many dramas (they do have the 4d6 build and are above a 20 point buy ) I do not think RotRL is a meat grinder. Thou we have all been enjoying it greatly it's a very well written adventure

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber
gustavo iglesias wrote:
If the GM isn't willing to kill the PC and fudge the rolls behind the screen, it doesn't matter if the party has 20 years experience or not. They are playing with safety net.

This is true, of course. But that is not necessarily a bad thing. Some players can get *really* turned off by their character getting killed, so much so that losing a character could lose you a key player in the game and thus crash an entire campaign.

If your players can take it, then sure, don't pull any punches and let characters die. But remember that the ultimate goal of the game isn't to be as realistic as possible in portraying the danger -- it's to have fun. And if being realistic and killing characters isn't fun for the group -- don't do it.


For myself I don't find playing with people who will walk over a single character death to be fun. Least, the times that I've had players do that, I can't think of a single time where I was sad to watch them go. Different strokes and all.

That said...

I'm going to be rebooting my face to face RotR game as a roll20 game here soon, and looking to modify some stuff. The biggest thing right now is I'm changing ogre hooks to be...

Two handed martial
1d10 damage (for a medium creature), crit is 20x2, has the Trip, Drag, and Reach properties

The Drag property being new...and granting the user a +2 on drag attempts.

...with the hope that having less x3 crit weapons will help with the "surprise! you're dead" aspect of some of the later modules. Any thoughts on the stats would be appreciated.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

My group also just started the Billbilly Horror - er, Meet the Grauls adventure... and we had perhaps the most interesting incident yet (which I think might qualify for a Wrath point). The halfling priestess, who is normally compassionate and caring and very much on the up-and-up used Door Sight on the kitchen door and saw what was on the other side. She was so incensed that she wants to burn the entire house down without entering. She wants to coat everything with oil and let it burn, burn, burn.

The game ended with them still not having entered the actual building. I can only imagine how much worse it will get. heh heh heh.

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