Adventure Paths and high level play


Pathfinder Adventure Path General Discussion

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The Exchange

Tangent101 wrote:

There is always pre-testing an encounter with the party. I've done that when rewriting Reign of Winter for a higher-level party. I started doing that after three medium Ice Elementals almost killed the 3rd and 4th level party I'm running (due to two being stunned by a Shout trap in the previous round).

For instance, I found that an encounter I was planning in which everyone who escaped the party was used to attack them in the camp ambush... along with an extra air elemental and both air elementals being Medium (and all enemies having extra class levels)... well, it was too much for the group. I'd have found out the hard way if I didn't pre-test the encounter.

Of course sometimes the party can surprise you even with pre-testing. But that's part of the fun for us GMs. :)

I'd never heard of this pre-testing an encounter before this thread, I guess I am little confused as to how it works. I've been GM-ing for almost 2 years now and it sounds like it might be a worth-while tool to add to my GM-tool box just wondering a little more about it.

On topic though, I strongly agree with Luz here in that sometimes adding more monsters just adds more time to an encounter and can really lead to a boring fight. Especially if its just adding more "mooks" because its just fluff rounds of the adventurers wading through more "mooks" instead of feeling like they are accomplishing something with every action. I really like Luz's idea with undead or creatures immune to fire or what not of including more trap-type effects.

In regards to enemies not being prepared, I imagine at this level adventurers and enemies are both prepared to be attacked at almost every moment. Whether the adventurers are sitting down to eat some morning porridge or setting up camp for the night. I imagine the enemies are also always in a state of semi-readiness to be attacked or be forced to defend themselves.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Zhangar wrote:
As mentioned earlier, the size of your party is going to mean that you should escalate up your encounters, or accept that the party will walk all over them. APs and modules are meant to completable by a non-optimized group of four 15 point characters. It's up to the DM to adjust if his group requires a stiffer challenge.

Not exactly news for me and I've done so in the past when I only had five players. Hell, that sounds like a more manageable scenario, but I still had to combine five high-level encounters into one in the last module of CotCT and the party just walked all over that.

The problem I alluded to in the title and in the OP was that adventure paths don't challenge high-level parties enough. That I have problems with an oversized party is just an extreme of it, but the main problems I talked about (attack bonuses and AC's on monsters don't scale enough with player power) are endemic to even four-player 15 point parties.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Luz wrote:

Like magnuskn, verisimilitude matters to me. In order to maintain it, monsters/enemies should act or react according to their nature and not tailor-fitted to respond to invading PCs (unless, as mentioned, they are already aware of the PCs). The only way to handle this is to play monsters to their strengths. I prefer to exploit a bad guy's immunities: if it is immune to fire then there will typically be a fire hazard/trap in its vicinity. Undead are great opponents for this tactic. Toxic gases and airborne diseases all make good, debilitating defenses. My personal favorite is to give an undead boss a pinch of dust of sneezing and choking to use against the party. Terrain altering abilities like control water or control weather also do wonders to make encounters more challenging without necessarily increasing the number of enemies. Swarms are also a good alternative, against any character class.

Its trial and error, not all carefully prepared monster lairs work out at high level and hours of...

That sounds like an interesting approach. I'll have to look into that, although it sounds like something for the next campaign mostly. Storming an imperial palace doesn't give that much space for toxic vapors and airborne diseases. ^^ Although the party will be traveling through areas held by different evil outsiders before that, hmmm. ^^

Tangent101 wrote:

There is always pre-testing an encounter with the party. I've done that when rewriting Reign of Winter for a higher-level party. I started doing that after three medium Ice Elementals almost killed the 3rd and 4th level party I'm running (due to two being stunned by a Shout trap in the previous round).

For instance, I found that an encounter I was planning in which everyone who escaped the party was used to attack them in the camp ambush... along with an extra air elemental and both air elementals being Medium (and all enemies having extra class levels)... well, it was too much for the group. I'd have found out the hard way if I didn't pre-test the encounter.

Of course sometimes the party can surprise you even with pre-testing. But that's part of the fun for us GMs. :)

I imagine that this pre-testing takes a few hours. I'll see if I can do it for the final encounter to see how to beef it up accordingly.


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

i've pre-tested encounters before, mostly because i'm new to GMing, it works great for lower levels:)it also helps that i have all the character sheets right there:)


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

It depends on the encounter. Most encounters shouldn't take more than an hour, though a large number of bodies on the ground can affect things.

BTW, pre-testing also works quite well when working through new rules, so when doing the large-scale combat in Ultimate Campaign, you might want to try running a couple scenarios by yourself first to get a better grasp on the rules.

Sovereign Court

We get just crushed on the later part of most adventure paths so it will vary by your group.


My players aren't only notorious optimizers, they also have amazing system mastery and are really good at playing off each others strength. In almost every Campaign I have played 9 out of ten times after level five or so my players would just wipe the floor with most opposition as stated in the AP.

In our Jade regent Campaign I tried to increase the challenge of most encounters so I added more hit points and the advanced template to most normal monsters and increased the levels and hit dice of all boss type and solo creatures. It helped and three out of my four players thought the encounters were more fun when they actually posed a challenge, but it was a lot of work for me as a GM as I basically had to re-imagine all of the combat encounters in the AP. Unfortunately my fourth player thought I was being unfair by tweaking the encounters (as he quickly realized being a GM himself). Shortly after that I decided to end the Campaign since it was just frustrating having to tweak everything only to have one of my players lose interest when I had done a lot of hard work to make the game more challenging and fun for everyone.

The main issue I have with high level play is the fact that encounters rarely take action economy and buffs into consideration. My before mentioned Jade regent group managed to constantly defeat encounters 3 or even four ECL higher than their level and even the toughest bosses rarely lasted more than 3 or 4 rounds, barely being allowed to show off any of their tricks.

I have had kind of a Pathfinder burnout lately somewhat related to my frustration with high level gaming in Pathfinder, but the WotR AP has sparked my interest again even though I am highly skeptical of the Mythic rules and how it affects high level play.

I am considering dropping mythic ranks for the PC's or reduce them but I have to wait to see how the rules work and how the AP has taken them into consideration in terms of balance.

Grand Lodge

Archers... I swear. I have a paladin archer in my Carrion Crown game who I swear is capable at maxing out at over 100 damage in a round and he is only level 7. Ever since the game began I have had trouble with archer PC's. Someone suggested giving a lot of my monsters tower shields. I'm not sure what to do. I can't imagine how it's going to be when we get to the later parts of the AP.

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magnuskn wrote:
That sounds like an interesting approach. I'll have to look into that, although it sounds like something for the next campaign mostly. Storming an imperial palace doesn't give that much space for toxic vapors and airborne diseases. ^^ Although the party will be traveling through areas held by different evil outsiders before that, hmmm. ^^

magnuskn, you mentioned your group is in book 6 of the Jade Regent AP, correct? At what part have they reached? There is a lot you can do with some of those high level encounters (I'm sure you already have). With your okay, I can offer a few suggestions - either on this thread or PM.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Jade Regent:
Basically they have done all the tasks put before them to rouse the population of the city (liberating food supplies, stopping Hatsue's execution, having Ameiko reveal herself to the population and, yes, even liberating the abducted noblewomen in a night raid on the palace. Very well done, the last of those, with clever use of Gaseous Form, Teleportation and Wind Walk). Next they will be off to the Shrine of the Heavenly Sovereigns and after that they'll go directly for the Jade Regent. Probably with a little side-trek to the vaults to get the other seals.


I had a similar experience in Jade Regent.
Maybe I was too generous when allowing them to shop for themselves. "You've got teleport and plenty of time so you can get what you want."
I should probably have said no to any item that would allow them to go around with an AC of 40+.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Oh, JR definitely adds the additional factor of a ton of crafting time, but I am not that much an enemy of buying their stuff at full price. In fact, my houserules for magic item crafting take out the money making factor almost entirely but make the actual crafting process easier and faster. So, for once, WBL ain't the problem factor.


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magnuskn wrote:
Lord Snow wrote:
Tangent101 wrote:
Use Improved Sunder on their weapons.
Don't.
Concurred. I've been using a "we both don't use Sunder" detente strategy on that since I started GM'ing 3.x games.

I dunno, a well-timed Sunder can go a long way. If you know a character is looking to get a certain weapon, you can have a recurring NPC sunder their older weapon shortly before giving them the one they really want.

Also, a sundered weapon can be fixed. So if you break their beloved weapon right at the end of an adventure, it gives them(or you) a good excuse for some extra downtime to get it repaired and do some other things (and maybe for you to plan further ahead).

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Jade Regent Spoilers:
The Imperial Shrine is a good place to start. Shizuru's Temple doesn't have much in the way to challenge the party (especially a party of six) and I expect they will steam roll Kiyomi. But she is a pretty cool monster and if she escapes could be a decent thorn in the party's side throughout this part of the adventure. The first thing I would do to is give her a few helpers, maybe bestowed to her by the Jade Regent to assist her with guarding the island. Something small and non-threatening - a couple of pugwampi gremlins, charmed by Kyomi and re-skinned (or polymorphed, if you prefer) into something with a more eastern flair like a housefly or small bird. These critters serve only to make the party's life miserable with their unluck auras and nothing else. Kyomi has charmed them to always remain 20' distance from her, but never leave the shrine without her.

Second, in order to make her a bit more of a threat, I'd change a few things. Give her the advanced template, this will give her a pretty impressive AC and hp. Also, I'd make her nightfall aura a 20' radius and create deeper darkness effect instead of darkness. Some of her spells could also use swapping.

B1. On the artistic tapestries, plant one or two symbols of persuasion, triggered by anything looking at them (attuned to Kyomi's pugwampi so they do not trigger them). The symbols should have magic aura cast on them as well to foil any detect spells. Have one of the pugwampi/houseflies in the room, placed (or hidden) in a strategic location so as to affect as many as possible in its aura. This area is a precaution Kyomi has taken in preparation of any intruders, not specifically the PCs. She is here as a guardian against any remaining imperial scions, after all. Remember too that unless the party identifies the symbols, they should have no knowledge that some of them may have been charmed. Maybe roll their Will saves secretly?

B3. If combat occurs here, the party will take her out. Action economy demands it. Kyomi needs to bide her time with some (hopefully) charmed PCs and maybe a dimension door spell (swapped for one of her other 4th level spells) to escape with one or two of them, thus separating the party. She's smart enough to realize she can't win a fight with a large group in this room. If she can manage this, the encounter suddenly takes on an entirely different look. There are countless things she can do with one or more charmed PCs, maybe lead them to C2. Yua's Last Act or C3. Shadowy Crossing. She also has very good disguise and bluff skills and could potentially infiltrate the party later as one of the PCs she abducted. It would take some work but its possible.

This is just to make the encounter a little more interesting. I doubt Kyomi will give the party a run for their money but she can make their lives a little more difficult. The bigger threats lie ahead on the isle and I'll throw some ideas your way when I have some more time.

If the party does end up fighting Emperor Shigure's ghost, one thing you can do to make him a lot more dangerous is swap one of his feats for Vital Strike on his corrupting touch attack (28d6 damage). I saw this done in Tomb of the Iron Medusa and it makes a ghost very deadly.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
SAMAS wrote:
magnuskn wrote:
Lord Snow wrote:
Tangent101 wrote:
Use Improved Sunder on their weapons.
Don't.
Concurred. I've been using a "we both don't use Sunder" detente strategy on that since I started GM'ing 3.x games.
I dunno, a well-timed Sunder can go a long way. If you know a character is looking to get a certain weapon, you can have a recurring NPC sunder their older weapon shortly before giving them the one they really want.

And... that has what advantage? Being a dick to the player so that he can't sell his old weapon?

SAMAS wrote:
Also, a sundered weapon can be fixed. So if you break their beloved weapon right at the end of an adventure, it gives them(or you) a good excuse for some extra downtime to get it repaired and do some other things (and maybe for you to plan further ahead).

This may work for the lowest levels, but soon you need someone even able to cast Make Whole at double the caster level of the weapon. So, as soon as you have a player with a +3 weapon, you need a 18th level caster to repair it. +4 weapon? Impossible to repair with Make Whole, unless you want to wake up the Whispering Tyrant or something like that.

And another important reason for both sides not engaging in sundering is that it is way, waaay too easy, if you optimize your character for it. I'd rather have big bads who want to use weapons, instead of having to rely on ones which are not. If a big part of their effectiveness is bound up in their weapon of choice, having it sundered neuters said big bad very much. At least for disarm you got locked gauntlets.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Luz wrote:
** spoiler omitted **...

Jade Regent:
Yeah, some problems with your ideas, which are endemic to my group of players. I have one player who maximises his Sense Motive and asks to roll it very often. Having some lonely woman in robes which conceal her face and hands ask to accompany them will induce several requests to Sense Motive what she is asking the party, especially after she has lead them into the first one or two traps.

Secondly, I can add two advanced templates on top of each other and the archer fighter will still hit her on a rolled two with most of his attacks. Which do about 40 damage per hit. And that is just the one very combat capable member of the party, the Kitsune Ninja will shred the rest into kibbles.

As for Emperor Shigure's ghost, aside from 28d6 being perfectly enough to kill some players instantly per hit, it is very likely that the party, once again well min-maxed in that regard, will make all their diplomacy checks. And I think the "Vorpal Touch" is enough to threaten a kill.

I am much more prone to implement your ideas about disease laden areas into the daemon area of the Well. I'd love to incorporate some poison in the demon and devil areas, too, but given that the only inhaled poisons are incredibly expensive, I fear that may only lead to the Ninja's getting free poison doses for their own use from those rooms.

Good idea on the polymorphed Pugwampi's, though. I may well put those in.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

You say "Sunder weapon" is being a "dick" to the player. But you complain the game isn't tough enough for the player. Destroying a player's weapon and forcing him or her to scramble for a backup weapon or for those players who are stupid enough to only have one weapon be rendered powerless is a perfectly valid method of increasing the game's difficulty. And hey, it's not like what I used to do with broken magical items: wild magic surge that can cause immense damage (one opened a portal to the Elemental Plane of Fire, another turned a character into a Rust Monster, and so forth).


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i remember back in the day when we got up to high levels in 1st edition we started to steam roll thru encounters too, i'm not sure your problem is limited to 3rd edition and beyond. throw more encounters at them in a day so they use their resources, also giant fiendish advanced Rust monsters and disenchanters work great for equalizing things:) same with powerful creatures like Balor, Water Yai, Pit Fiends, Qlippoth all work great, and are thematic enough for the AP if anything throw wave after wave of Oni at them. challenging people at high levels has as much to do with burning resources as big giant angry minions:)


I haven't found too much of problem with high level and easy encounters but then we run 3-4 character of with higher stats. I find they can be tough be the action economy keeps things in balance. I can see how 6 character would be a problem, that 50% more actions.

When I run the AP I don't use XP and level characters up when it says they should be that level. That way I can amp an encounter with out worry about dumping too much XP on the characters.


magnuskn wrote:
SAMAS wrote:
magnuskn wrote:
Lord Snow wrote:
Tangent101 wrote:
Use Improved Sunder on their weapons.
Don't.
Concurred. I've been using a "we both don't use Sunder" detente strategy on that since I started GM'ing 3.x games.
I dunno, a well-timed Sunder can go a long way. If you know a character is looking to get a certain weapon, you can have a recurring NPC sunder their older weapon shortly before giving them the one they really want.
And... that has what advantage? Being a dick to the player so that he can't sell his old weapon?

I was thinking more along the lines of story. Making things personal between the Enemy and the PC who got his then-favorite weapon broken. If the money is really that big a deal, you can always recompense with more treasure.


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Tangent101 wrote:
You say "Sunder weapon" is being a "dick" to the player. But you complain the game isn't tough enough for the player. Destroying a player's weapon and forcing him or her to scramble for a backup weapon or for those players who are stupid enough to only have one weapon be rendered powerless is a perfectly valid method of increasing the game's difficulty. And hey, it's not like what I used to do with broken magical items: wild magic surge that can cause immense damage (one opened a portal to the Elemental Plane of Fire, another turned a character into a Rust Monster, and so forth).

No, what I said is sundering the old weapon of the player who plans to get an entirely new one, so as to deny him the monetary value of selling his old weapon, is a dick move.

Sundering items in general is just... stupid. It's stupid for the GM, because he then needs to get his players back on track in regards to their WBL and needs to insert casters of ludicrously high level to repair those items (seriously, what was the deal when designing Make Whole, Paizo devs?). It is stupid for players, because they are destroying their own loot. And it is stupid for both sides, because it just destroys the fun of one character, be it now PC or NPC. If you want to get rid of an overpowered weapon, there is always the disarm feat chain.

Sundering ranks in my regard just a tiny bit above the old AD&D GM staple of "I've messed up, hurp durp", the antimagic zone which just made every magic item non-magical permanently.

Sorry, sundering items in general just gets my goat.


Mortagon wrote:
The main issue I have with high level play is the fact that encounters rarely take action economy and buffs into consideration. My before mentioned Jade regent group managed to constantly defeat encounters 3 or even four ECL higher than their level and even the toughest bosses rarely lasted more than 3 or 4 rounds, barely being allowed to show off any of their tricks.

I've had a similar experience. Not all of my players are optimizers, but all of them are veterans with decades of experience. They're very good at working together and know all the tricks. They can demolish encounters with ruthless efficiency and manage their resources extremely well. I've made the comparison to a fantasy version of a black ops team in the past.

Mortagon wrote:

I have had kind of a Pathfinder burnout lately somewhat related to my frustration with high level gaming in Pathfinder, but the WotR AP has sparked my interest again even though I am highly skeptical of the Mythic rules and how it affects high level play.

I'm pretty skeptical of the Mythic rules myself. Things are bad enough that I really can't see how Mythic can do anything BUT make things worse.

I have my own frustration with high level play in Pathfinder (d20 in general, really). I have to admit, I've been gazing longingly at my HarnMaster books lately. :)

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magnuskn wrote:
Yeah, some problems with your ideas, which are endemic to my group of players. I have one player who maximises his Sense Motive and asks to roll it very often.

Ah, the paranoid player....yes, I have one of those as well. Like I said, I don't expect much from that encounter. Just trying to spruce it up a little.

Let's move forward, shall we?

Jade Regent Spoilers:
The Well of Demons, area G2. Fiendish Pool. I'd scrap the demon fever hazard, been there done that. I'd actually make the pool perfectly safe (aside from its occupants and being somewhat murky.) However, the convergence of the Eternal Spring and the lower planes has made the air in this chamber highly caustic, an invisible gas which burns the eyes and throat. Treat this as smoke effects (CR, pg.444); PCs must make a Fortitude save each round spent in the chamber (DC15, +1 per previous check)or spend the round coughing and choking. Burning eyes obscures vision, giving concealment to creatures within it. Since this is a result of a goddess's power and abyssal energy, I'd rule its a supernatural hazard and endure elements wont cut it here. Acid immunity, resist energy (acid) or protection from energy (acid) should suffice tho, your call. I'd also consider bumping up the DC to 18 or 20.

The omox demons lurk in the pool, taking 10 on their Stealth. Anyone using Perception checks should suffer penalties from the burning eyes unless they're protected from its effects. Maybe put one in G3 (I would definitely lower G3 to be close to water level, with a muddy, wet floor). Anyway, if they detect intrusion one uses control water to raise the water level 24 feet deep to submerge any nearby PCs. The others telepathically alert each other and their master in G6. To make this area a little more conducive to their tactics you could have the water already filling most of the chamber, say 20 feet from the ceiling. The other omoxes try to grab/grapple/smother/drown any opponents they can get a hold of.

To make things tougher, add two or three aquatic variant tick swarms (I call them "mud ticks"). Maybe add the fiendish template for flavor (meh...), but I might be tempted to use one or two tick swarms with the apocalypse swarm template if the party is having an easy time. These little critters synchronize very well with drowning as they suck Constitution.

Anyways, just some more thoughts.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Some very nice tactics, Luz. I'll probably keep the disease effect, because I wouldn't know where that had been done before, but the rest sounds excellent.

Liberty's Edge

Sunder is not as bad as it once was, and a high level party should be keeping a scroll of make whole with them. If someone sunders the party fighters favorite sword it will usually take more than one hit. He shoukd swap fast.

The Exchange

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By the way, disarm works almost as well as sunder in a fight, often forcing the disarmed PC to invest an entire turn and take a n attack of opportunity to retrieve the weapon.

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magnuskn wrote:
Some very nice tactics, Luz. I'll probably keep the disease effect, because I wouldn't know where that had been done before, but the rest sounds excellent.

Its a tough encounter. I ran one very similar to that against six 14th level characters and TPK'd them. Granted, the party made some bad decisions in combat and responded poorly to the aquatic environment so that was a big factor. Still, the monsters here are tenacious and will feast on the ill-prepared, you might want to hold off on that second template I mentioned. You know the PCs better than I do. Good luck with it, I hope it provides more challenge for your group.


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

i like Lord Snows idea, disarm will frustrate PCs without making them angry that their favorite toy/weapon is lying in a pile of wreckage and they got to fork over the dough to fix it while also having the same effect as sunder in that you have to waste an action getting a new weapon out or picking up the other one.


I'd argue Disarm's actually better than Sunder, since it only needs to work once. Depending on the person's weapon, a Sunder may need 2 to 4 successes to actually break something. Sadly, enemies rarely have disarm.

Now, I'll use Sunder if it's called out as something for a critter to do, like nightwalkers (who can attempt to sunder 1/round as a swift action).

The Exchange

Greater disarm can be a nasty feat as it allows the one disarming to flick the weapon up to 15 feet away. Can be a good asset to add a few Disarming mooks to a fight.

The greater disarm can be pretty debilitating as the player would have to run over to it, probably provoking and then pick it up which could provoke. A smart disarm-er would flick it into a pile of enemies, let an ally pick it up and charge the party. At this point it isn't just about removing their weapon it also can be taking them out of the fight for a round or two.

Silver Crusade

If you feel, that destroying a weapon with sunder seems overly harsh, just inflict the "broken" contition. It is pretty damn hard to rectify that in the middle of combat.
Even better, if you don't mind that WoW gave me the idea, sunder their armor, again you don't have to destroy them. A "broken" armor is pretty terrible for the player.

Aside from that magnuskn, would you mind posting your current group setup, in rather broad strokes?

To be fair, and so everyone can share my pain, here is my Kingmaker group. I they are in adventure 6, and will soon "leave" the stolen lands for "greener" areas.

-primary damage dealer: elven ranger 12,13,14 it actually doesn't matter. I have none to blame but myself, I wrote the damn character with the player (since he isn't all that experienced with pathfinder). The character started with weapon finesse and point blank shot, but after about level 4 the melee weapon wasn't used unless I made using a bow utter lunacy.
Once spellcasting became available, the character start to deal way more damage than the other characters, I blame the APG for that one. While I agree, that the ranger spells in the CRB are nothing to write home about, spells like gravity bow, aspect of the falcon and others have increased the rangers damage output dramatically.
With rapid shot, manyshot (I can't describe the joy, that they stack in pathfinder) and cluster shot, he pretty much kills everything in 1-2 rounds. Unless I use spells like windwall, and frankly it gets old really fast.
The character isn't terribly tough, but with a mithral breastplate, and a ring of friendship (the other one is worn by the part cleric) he isn't exactly a glass cannon.

-secondary damage dealer: human ninja with weapon finesse and the two weapon fighting feats, nothing special really. Vanish wasn't all that usefull in the early levels, and his hit chance suffered due to use of two weapons. Other ninja powers are sometimes useful, like the ability to see invisible creatures, but nothing game breaking.
The only reason why I mention him, is that once he can use his ki to "cast" improved invisibility, the manure tends to hit the windmill.
It is really quite surprising how few encounters could deal with an invisible ninja...

- the unwilling support: human cleric of Gozreh, usually heals the group when I manage to hurt them a bit. The player is not happy with the character, he complains, that he never has the time to buff properly before combat... that is caused by the ranger and the summoners eidolon. Their to-hit bonus is so good, that I had to increase the AC across the board, sometimes with the advanced template thrown in, sometimes with liberal applications of mage armor and ablative barrier.
So yeah, most of the time he just buffs and complains.

- the tank/buffer - the summoner in my group is easily the most experienced in D20/Pathfinder player (well besides me) he rarely summoned anything other than his eidolon, so all those prepared stat blocks with augment summoning didn't see a lot of use. While his large eidolon, with the corresponding large flaming greatsword and power attack the "thing" isn't all that threatening.
Of course the most useful thing the summoner does, is haste and black tentacles.
My greatest complaint is that, even without mage armor, npcs really didn't hit him unless they rolled a natural 20.

I stopped doing random encounters with that group, unless they were spellcasters, random encouter didn't really deplete any resources other than time.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

You know, the more I hear about how broken Multishot and Rapid Shot are together, the more I'm tempted to not allow it. You can either Multishot, or Rapid Shot. Not both.

Yes, it's a house rule. But GMs can do things like that. ;)


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Luz wrote:
magnuskn wrote:
Some very nice tactics, Luz. I'll probably keep the disease effect, because I wouldn't know where that had been done before, but the rest sounds excellent.
Its a tough encounter. I ran one very similar to that against six 14th level characters and TPK'd them. Granted, the party made some bad decisions in combat and responded poorly to the aquatic environment so that was a big factor. Still, the monsters here are tenacious and will feast on the ill-prepared, you might want to hold off on that second template I mentioned. You know the PCs better than I do. Good luck with it, I hope it provides more challenge for your group.

Jade Regent:
Well, I implemented your suggestions for Kiyomi and it worked almost perfectly. <evil grin> She led them into every danger before the bridge and her bluff checks were off the chart, additional to having charmed one of the Ninja's and the Fighter. The Cleric had to spend five channel energy already to combat the haunt and kill off the Greater Shadows (the latter having gotten the jump on the party and drained two characters to Strength 3). Quite pleasing, quite pleasing. :)

But at the bridge the players got a bit too crafty and managed to discover the Greater Glyph of Warding, dispelling it afterwards. Kiyomi, who had been waiting for them to get zapped, decided that caution was the better part of valor and simply departed. I'm not sure if I even should bring her back, her treasure is irrelevant and she should not be delusional enough to think that she could take on the party, after seeing the archer destroy single-handedly the Gravebound Warden in one round.

I'll take your sage advice on not overdoing it with the Omox Demons to heart. :)


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Sebastian Hirsch wrote:
Aside from that magnuskn, would you mind posting your current group setup, in rather broad strokes?

But of course.

Brajakh Kar: Beastbrood Tiefling Wizard 1/Ninja 13 - Skill Monkey with the assassinate trick, Hide in Plain Sight and an extreme stealth check. Mostly ineffective in combat, but lives for trying to set up opportunities to assassinate or poison people. Loves Drow Poison, too.

Chidori Hikari: Kitsune Ninja 14 - Shredding machine with a +10/+10 Kusari-Gama. Yes, it is an extreme weapon, but basically a +3 bonus on both ends is wasted for frivolous stuff. She got the weapon because the party won the Ruby Phoenix Tournament (which replaced Munasakuru's Penance). One of the primary damage dealers, especially when she gets her sneak damage on. With Invisible Blade, that is pretty often, although there's a lot of See Invisibility or incorporeal opponents around lately.

Toshiro Kurosawa: Human Fighter 1/Wizard 5/Eldritch Knight 8 - The arcane dude, pretty effective and knows most utility stuff, but the player seems to prefer the flashy spells which make things go boom. Not one of the problems of the party. Uses Suishen.

Falk: Human Fighter 14 - Basically the main problem I am facing in regards to combat. Falk is an archer and he gets buffs from all sides, because he deals damage most effectively in the party. He easily has an output of 160+ points of damage per round, which will kill one opponent or put him into the range where fleeing seems to be the only sane option. And he isn't even optimized, his stat enhancer is at the moment a +4 Strength booster. He just took the feats every archer fighter ever would take and got himself a good bow (+5 Bane Outsiders: Oni), Gloves of Dueling and Bracers of Archery. And, yes, I know Fickle Winds / Wind Walls can really hamper him, but I really can't throw those at him every fight, can't I?

Dario Nevara: Aasimar Oracle of Lore 1/Priest of Saranrae 13 - Yep, a third party class, but one of the less egregious ones, IMO. He mainly is built to heal and buff, and can throw a few Fireballs every now and then. And he has skills out the wazoo, including very high Sense Motive and Perception. He is one part of the equation in regards to the buff synergy.

Kazumi Kaijitsu: Human Lotus Geisha Bard 14 - And Kazumi is the other part of that equation. Aside from buffing the party, she is specialized in Holding/Dominating the opposition and being a skill monkey, with Sense Motive, Diplomacy and other social skills also pushed very high.

The party generally is also very defensive minded and has worked on getting their saves up to values which are difficult to bypass by the standard DC's the AP gives you.

Lastly, they are accompanied constantly by Ameiko, who has been reworked by me into my home-built Swashbuckler class. She is doing decent damage, but can't hold really a candle to Falk or Chidori.

Spoiler:
The other NPC's are at the moment doing hit-and-run strikes on the Jade Regent's forces in Kasai, who are, after the successful night raid on the palace to free the kidnapped noble daughters, snatching people off the street seemingly at random to execute publicly.


What level do you have Ameiko at? I don't think it matters much. I'm just curious.

I know you're an experienced DM, and you have a few APs under your belt, but I really wonder how an AP might play out for you with a lower point buy and without hero points. You may be surprised.

You have six players (and some NPCs for a slight contribution) who know how to build a good party and use good tactics. It shouldn't be too surprising that they rock most encounters.

I'm also curious if the archer's damage output is before or after buffs?

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32

A few thoughts regarding Kyomi:

Jade Regent Spoilers:
magnuskn wrote:
Well, I implemented your suggestions for Kiyomi and it worked almost perfectly. <evil grin> She led them into every danger before the bridge and her bluff checks were off the chart, additional to having charmed one of the Ninja's and the Fighter. The Cleric had to spend five channel energy already to combat the haunt and kill off the Greater Shadows (the latter having gotten the jump on the party and drained two characters to Strength 3). Quite pleasing, quite pleasing. :)

That is awesome! You must have a damn straight poker face to pull that one past your players for that long. I tip my hat.

magnuskn wrote:
But at the bridge the players got a bit too crafty and managed to discover the Greater Glyph of Warding, dispelling it afterwards. Kiyomi, who had been waiting for them to get zapped, decided that caution was the better part of valor and simply departed. I'm not sure if I even should bring her back, her treasure is irrelevant and she should not be delusional enough to think that she could take on the party, after seeing the archer destroy single-handedly the Gravebound Warden in one round.

Fair enough, but you are in a wonderful position here. You have the luxury of bringing her back into the game at any time while the PCs are on the island, if the opportunity presents itself. Better yet, now that she has established a rapport with the party (and charmed a couple of them), she has a lot of options to choose:

1. Stalk: Kyomi's stealth is quite good and she could very well follow the party (with her polymorphed pugwampi to mess with their opposed Perceptions), striking when the moment is more in her favour. Or perhaps, to really mess with the PCs, she shows up to help them out of a bad situation in order to solidify their trust, only to betray them later.

2. Sire offspring: Her charm lasts for 12 hours. Assuming it has not expired, she could persuade one (or both) of her charmed captives to mate with her. Its a little trickier to pull off, but your players will never forget it.

3. Torment: This one requires a little backtracking on your part. When she was with the party, she discreetly requested a single hair from her charmed captives. You know..."something to remember you by" or other sweet talk. Now she has some ammo to soften them up with her nightmare spells. If she knows where the party is when they sleep, she could send her pugwampi minions to the area to make their saves more difficult. If the pugwampi are near the party, I'd have her cast a nightmare spell on each member (she can cast it up to 6/day).

4. Sow dissension: You say she charmed the fighter and one of the ninjas? That would be the killer archer fighter? Have her use bluff on them to plant seeds of betrayal. Are there any schisms or small party disputes she can exploit here?

You could have a lot of fun with this and I highly recommend it. Your players have trampled everything you've thrown at them, time to throw them a curve ball. I noticed only two members of the party have darkvision. If she ambushed them under the right circumstances (as they are emerging from the Well of Demons, perhaps?), her nightfall aura will blind everyone but the tiefling and the aasimar. The rest of the party wont know what hit them and she can focus her attacks on the other two. And remember that the aura will shut down all spells with verbal components. She'd probably target the Dawnflower priest first, maybe hit him with a 20-ft. reach touch of idiocy and go from there.

Keep the charm and dominate tactic in your back pocket at this level, it is one of the best weapons in a GM's arsenal, especially against weak-willed fighters and rogues.

magnuskn wrote:
I'll take your sage advice on not overdoing it with the Omox Demons to heart. :)

Especially if you decide to have Kyomi waiting outside the Well when they retreat with tick swarms attached to them! ;)


magnuskn wrote:


Brajakh Kar: Beastbrood Tiefling Wizard 1/Ninja 13

Chidori Hikari: Kitsune Ninja 14

Toshiro Kurosawa: Human Fighter 1/Wizard 5/Eldritch Knight 8

Falk: Human Fighter 14

Dario Nevara: Aasimar Oracle of Lore 1/Priest of Saranrae 13

Kazumi Kaijitsu: Human Lotus Geisha Bard 14

Ameiko

Ok, you have 7 Characters running around not six... but I'm kind of surprised you are having trouble putting these guys on their asses. They have only 2.5 casters, one of whom prefers the flashy damage spells, and another of whom is a bard.

Consider thee Omox demons encounter, it should stack up a body count if you change the tactics...As Luz noted, control water lets an Omox raise the water level 24 ft over a an area 120x120 ft - which is the entire G2 encounter area. Edit the area so the ceiling is only 10-15 ft up.

read all of this, carefully :
http://www.d20pfsrd.com/gamemastering/environment/wilderness/terrain/aquati c-terrain#TOC-Underwater-Combat

http://www.d20pfsrd.com/gamemastering/environment/environmental-rules#TOC-D rowning

http://www.d20pfsrd.com/skills/swim

How many of your pc's have swim as a skill? Note that you can't hold your breath and cast anything with verbal components..and this may also limit the bard, depending on their choice of perform skills. The ranged fighter has a) to make his perception checks to shoot at someone and b) is at -2 per 5 ft of range underwater. Invisibility/HiPS effects are a lot less effective underwater: " Invisibility: An invisible creature displaces water and leaves a visible, body-shaped “bubble” where the water was displaced. "

Your party can't see the omoxes until they close ("How far you can see underwater depends on the water's clarity. As a guideline, creatures can see ... 1d8 × 10 feet if it's murky." ) Also, the omoxes have 120ft darkvision - your pc's appear to top out at 60...

Let them get into area, about 1/2 way to G11. Meanwhile the omoxes use telepathy to co-ordinate and alert the demons in G5 ang G6. Raise the water level - immediately they are all simultaneously drowning/holding breath - there is nowhere to get air. Add Acid Fog, which works fine underwater - No save, no Sr, 1/2 move to slow down their escape (on top of their reduced swim speeds), and dmg of course. Leave one or two party members outside the effect and concentrate on them with spring attack grabs, and then the Omox swift action dimension door itself and its victim away as a swift action - taking the victim someplace well separated from the party - either just the other end of G2 (near G4, where the demons from G5/G6 will be gathering, remember telepathy) - where no perception check will give the rest of the party any idea of how to get to them, or if you're cruel, G13, and let the Hydrodaemons join the party/massacre...

If your really nasty, let Kiyomi warn the demons ahead of time... Some equipment and a bit of planning could make for a really nasty ambush.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Gray wrote:

What level do you have Ameiko at? I don't think it matters much. I'm just curious.

I know you're an experienced DM, and you have a few APs under your belt, but I really wonder how an AP might play out for you with a lower point buy and without hero points. You may be surprised.

You have six players (and some NPCs for a slight contribution) who know how to build a good party and use good tactics. It shouldn't be too surprising that they rock most encounters.

I'm also curious if the archer's damage output is before or after buffs?

Ameiko is at level 14, like the rest, the other NPC's are one level behind. I figure that Ameiko at least should be the ass-kicking person her background makes her out to be, thus the changes to her class.

If I had only four players, I would keep strictly to 15 points, like we do in my second group. Given that I have six players, the 5 additional points don't amount to too much, at least with this AP, nobody did the hyperoptimization of their stats like all those guides always recommend. As for hero points, in this group at least people hoard their points to avoid getting splattered over the landscape by a stray critical hit (like which almost happened with the wizard two weeks before, when the Fire Yai at the end of Tide of Honor hit him with a critical hit from his Tetsubo of the Titans).

The damage of the fighter I mentioned is after buffs, but he normally delays after at least the bard had taken her turn and her first action is always Inspire Courage/Haste. Before buffs, he already has very good damage, too. Just not as good as with the buffs.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Just saying, but I don't actually want to kill off the party. The goal of a GM is to challenge the party, not put "TPK" marks on his wall. I can always just drop ten great wyrm red dragons on their ass if I'd like to get rid of them.

As to the party really having seven members (with Ameiko), the module actually suggests that I should take all four NPC's with the party, which is why the encounters are beefed up in comparison to normal encounters. Not that I am noticing it too much. ^^ But, since obviously the group doesn't need the help, the other three NPC's are doing hit-and-run stuff in Kasai and only Ameiko, who is essential to the plot, is with the party.

Luz:
While I think your suggestions are great, I also want to wrap up the campaign in the near future, so making Kiyomi such a great nuisance at this point, when I really should focus on the endgame of Ameiko's story, seems excessive to me. She served her function and I think she'll make a good addition to either the final encounter with the Jade Regent or shore up a good encounter in the palace before that. That two characters will still be charmed at that point, including the archer, will be a big help there, too. At this particular point, however, I think she was pretty intimidated by the Gravebound Warden lasting one single round versus only one of the characters.


In LoF I had the same experience. I basically combined the entire final dungeon into a single combat in the final room. The PCs won. It felt epic. One PC died. BUT...had I not done that, and ran it as written, the whole 6th chapter would have been just as boring combat-wise as the whole 5th Chapter in Legacy of Fire was. I didn't even count up what the CR would have been for that fight, but it would have been ridiculously high. The only reason I think the PC that did die in that fight died, is because they'd been through a whole module dungeon crawl where they were untouchable and it was a case of overconfidence.

What no one has wanted to really admit about D&D 3.0-Pathfinder is that this game system just breaks down from a mathematical standpoint the higher the levels go. Some of this is option based.

There is a way to "win" Pathfinder.
There is a way to "break" Pathfinder.
Both of those sentences say the same thing. And it gets easier to do the higher levels PCs get, because....
1) The MATH starts to break down.
2) It's a peer game. Either play with a group that actively resists optimization as a WHOLE, or risk getting left behind by not making character option decisions that are somewhat optimized if not solely optimized (depending on the group).

I try every conceivable way to keep optimization to a minimum, especially with players at my table who like to optimize and have system mastery. And I like to think I have a mature group and everyone has the same goal that everyone has fun.

That doesn't change the fact that there's a point where the MATH of the system just breaks down. Where you have to as a player make a series of bad option decisions as you level up to not break the math. Most players just can't bring it to themselves to do that.

So when you say, even a moderately optimized high-level party causes high-level APs to break. I agree. The comeback is, well these are written for "average" parties. If an average party is someone who chooses feats, spells, stat boosts, skill ranks, etc. by shooting at a dart board, I would challenge you that an "average party" at high levels IS an optimized party. And in conclusion, high-level APs are certainly NOT written for the REAL "average" party.

EDIT: Hence why I'm staying as far away from Mythic rules as possible. Like the math needs anymore options to get more out of whack.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32

Riggler wrote:
EDIT: Hence why I'm staying as far away from Mythic rules as possible. Like the math needs anymore options to get more out of whack.

Precisely. While I enjoy the intricacies and challenge of designing high level encounters, I have no interest in stacking more stuff on top of the classes. Too much brain drain. As blasphemous as it might sound, D&D 5e simplifies the math in the game quite well (so far).


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Riggler wrote:

That doesn't change the fact that there's a point where the MATH of the system just breaks down. Where you have to as a player make a series of bad option decisions as you level up to not break the math. Most players just can't bring it to themselves to do that.

So when you say, even a moderately optimized high-level party causes high-level APs to break. I agree. The comeback is, well these are written for "average" parties. If an average party is someone who chooses feats, spells, stat boosts, skill ranks,...

The thing is, having a party of four characters which aren't optimized moderately can lead to TPK's at the lower levels. AP's can be pretty unforgiving in some parts (the vast majority at the early levels) and if you got the frontline fighter without hitpoints, the bard with the bad archetype, the witch under the delusion that she can be a frontline fighter and an elevated NPC (that is the second group I am running Jade Regent for, by the way), there is a good chance that they might not make it to the higher levels, even if you run the AP by the numbers. I am somewhat dreading the two or three big encounters in module three with them.

So, because difficulty can be very uneven in AP's, running a group of goofball characters at the stated limits is also counterproductive, leading to players seeing the need to optimize at least somewhat. Which then leads to the high levels being a cakewalk.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32

pad300 wrote:
Add Acid Fog, which works fine underwater

Really? I always thought acid fog functions like solid fog, which functions like fog cloud, which specifically states it doesn't work underwater.


magnuskn wrote:
Riggler wrote:

That doesn't change the fact that there's a point where the MATH of the system just breaks down. Where you have to as a player make a series of bad option decisions as you level up to not break the math. Most players just can't bring it to themselves to do that.

So when you say, even a moderately optimized high-level party causes high-level APs to break. I agree. The comeback is, well these are written for "average" parties. Unless an average party is someone who chooses feats, spells, stat boosts, skill ranks,...

The thing is, having a party of four characters which aren't optimized moderately can lead to TPK's at the lower levels. AP's can be pretty unforgiving in some parts (the vast majority at the early levels) and if you got the frontline fighter without hitpoints, the bard with the bad archetype, the witch under the delusion that she can be a frontline fighter and an elevated NPC (that is the second group I am running Jade Regent for, by the way), there is a good chance that they might not make it to the higher levels, even if you run the AP by the numbers. I am somewhat dreading the two or three big encounters in module three with them.

So, because difficulty can be very uneven in AP's, running a group of goofball characters at the stated limits is also counterproductive, leading to players seeing the need to optimize at least somewhat. Which then leads to the high levels being a cakewalk.

I mean "unless" you run an average party that is randomly put together, then you are not running an average party. "If" should have been "Unless" in my above post.

There does seem to be a designed "killer" encounter usually in the second volume of APs, at least in the ones I've read. But the point I was making is that the "average" party these days is a "moderately optimized party." Unfortunately that eliminates about 50 percent of all rule options ever published for the game, but that's just how I see the game played -- even in my group that tries hard (by urging or coaching or self-awareness) to resist the urge.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 32

magnuskn wrote:
** spoiler omitted **

Very good. You have far better restraint than I, but your point makes sense and I hadn't thought about using her at the palace. Good idea and good luck with her.

Silver Crusade

magnuskn wrote:
Sebastian Hirsch wrote:
Aside from that magnuskn, would you mind posting your current group setup, in rather broad strokes?

But of course.

Brajakh Kar: Beastbrood Tiefling Wizard 1/Ninja 13 - Skill Monkey with the assassinate trick, Hide in Plain Sight and an extreme stealth check. Mostly ineffective in combat, but lives for trying to set up opportunities to assassinate or poison people. Loves Drow Poison, too.

Chidori Hikari: Kitsune Ninja 14 - Shredding machine with a +10/+10 Kusari-Gama. Yes, it is an extreme weapon, but basically a +3 bonus on both ends is wasted for frivolous stuff. She got the weapon because the party won the Ruby Phoenix Tournament (which replaced Munasakuru's Penance). One of the primary damage dealers, especially when she gets her sneak damage on. With Invisible Blade, that is pretty often, although there's a lot of See Invisibility or incorporeal opponents around lately.

Toshiro Kurosawa: Human Fighter 1/Wizard 5/Eldritch Knight 8 - The arcane dude, pretty effective and knows most utility stuff, but the player seems to prefer the flashy spells which make things go boom. Not one of the problems of the party. Uses Suishen.

Falk: Human Fighter 14 - Basically the main problem I am facing in regards to combat. Falk is an archer and he gets buffs from all sides, because he deals damage most effectively in the party. He easily has an output of 160+ points of damage per round, which will kill one opponent or put him into the range where fleeing seems to be the only sane option. And he isn't even optimized, his stat enhancer is at the moment a +4 Strength booster. He just took the feats every archer fighter ever would take and got himself a good bow (+5 Bane Outsiders: Oni), Gloves of Dueling and Bracers of Archery. And, yes, I know Fickle Winds / Wind Walls can really hamper him, but I really can't throw those at him every fight, can't I?

Dario Nevara: Aasimar Oracle of Lore 1/Priest of Saranrae 13 - Yep, a third party class,...

Oh now I can definitely feel your pain, but before I forget mixing the Ruby Phoenix Tournament is a very good idea. I did something similar with Kingmaker and added some, tournament challenges to the mix (and added some NPCs as some kind of commercial for the real deal).

Against that kind of group I would use the following tactics:

hit and run: enemies with spring attack, casters with teleportation and summoning. Maybe a master summoner or two, they are terribly effective when they nova summoned creatures. Touch attacks should be effective, particularly enervation should worry them.
One of the more secret weaknesses of archers, is that they usually do not have ready access to area of effect spells and similar abilities. Just give him more targets (maybe simulacrums or other cannon fodder) get some big bulky robes that cover their faces and give them dozens of targets. If at all possible add some miss chance, so that even if their AC isn't a challenge, your players will have to waste plenty of attacks on them.
And yeah, I would not bother with most enemies without supernatural abilities, even a high level fighters will get minced by such a group. But you know that already.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Thanks for the tips, Luz and Sebastian. Both are immensely helpful.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
magnuskn wrote:
Thanks for the tips, Luz and Sebastian. Both are immensely helpful.

Potions of Blur are an absolute must for obfuscating archers, they are relatively cheap and it doesn't take much to justify opponents carrying them. That's roughly a 20% reduction in damage against that target. The only issue is that it can slow down combat, so you'll want your archer to roll his miss chance with his attack dice.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Also a good idea, I'll place them where it is appropiate. Their low duration is a bit of a concern, though.


Magnuskin, I feel your pain. Our Legacy of Fire game ended because the Zen Archer Monk could almost solo any encounter, to the point that I even used bad guys employing Tower Shields, darkness, smokesticks, and Wind Walls. None of it worked; the monk would use his fast movement to re-position himself to get around the Shield Wall or Wind Wall or fire blind using hearing-based Perception rolls and Elven Accuracy to hit enemies with Total Concealment. It was gross, and by the end, the module I was running hardly resembled the module as written at all.

That noted, unless the Bow-Fighter has a really unusual build, his Perception score shouldn't be too high, meaning he shouldn't be able to 'Fire Blind' like a Zen Archer. Smokesticks are extremely cheap, easy to use, and can help setup areas of concealment.

-Original Post: I will say that having run 5 APs, its the player mix that determines the difficulty. In all the other ones, no one played a character that specialized in ranged attacks, and the APs played out roughly challenging, with highs and lows. With a dedicated ranged fighter, nothing stood a chance unless I specifically tweaked it to have a chance. I wish you luck, and not to turn this into a "Ranged Fighters are King thread," but I think the presence of that kind of character will make any AP easier.

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