Advice for Skull and Shackles AP


Advice


Ok so me and two others are going to be playing the AP Skull and Shackles. Now we are round robin style playing the DM. I will be taking first module. So my character is gonna be a DMPC, but next module I will be just a normal player while another of the three of us play the role of GM.

But we don't know what characters would be the best suited for the game. Can you give any advice, without spoiling the AP for us, because as of yet I have not read the path, I tend to read from the book as we go so I can actually enjoy it a bit in being surprised.


Harrow of Hightower wrote:

Ok so me and two others are going to be playing the AP Skull and Shackles. Now we are round robin style playing the DM. I will be taking first module. So my character is gonna be a DMPC, but next module I will be just a normal player while another of the three of us play the role of GM.

But we don't know what characters would be the best suited for the game. Can you give any advice, without spoiling the AP for us, because as of yet I have not read the path, I tend to read from the book as we go so I can actually enjoy it a bit in being surprised.

DMPC, not a good idea. Kinda like hiding your own Easter Eggs.

As for characters to play, reading the players guide is the way to go. I would try a swashbuckler, they fit.


Well tell me this, can two players do alright on their own? These two have no eye for optimizing in the least. Mostly one plays a Rogue or Healbot Cleric/Oracle and the other a Fighter or Barbarian.

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

They can do alright if you make them mythic, but not sure that you are familiar with that set of rules.


I have 0 familiarity with Mythic rules and how that is run.
I could probably talk them into Swashbuckler and Buccaneer Gunslinger classes. But unless I drop a NPC who is just a mindless healbot they will likely not do well alone.

Grand Lodge

First off it is alot of sand box style after book 1. Your playing a pirate.

Light armor does better on the sea. Someone mentioned swashbuckler. Yes they are good.

Anything will work other then a paladin. Look to play chaotic. But i would enforce no PvP. Just to stay on track and story.

Honestly you deal with a lot of humans so enchantment magics are good here. Lots of downtime for crafting.

I ran it as a magus with a friend playing a mystic theuge and we 2 man stomped the AP. You almost are fine pick whatever. The ap gives lots of npcs as well so you could pick one and level them up.

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Don't need him to go all out dmpc then. Just make a healbot npc and let the players actually lead the game. Biggest issue you might run into, because it is a pirate AP, your players alignment/personality might not make them able to just accept the npc as part of their group.


And what of the issue in book 2 when I am no longer the DM. Introducing a character into the game, only to have them drop out in book 4 so I can DM again

The Exchange

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

Bard, bard, bard, bard...lot's of humanoids a controller can have a field day, trust me my gnome prankster bard owned bones!


DMPC is fine just don't cheat. Roll your dice for that character so the party can see them. I would go with Cha based classes since you will need keep the crew happy and willing to sail with you. To be noted there should be a captain and it should be a one of the 3 of you. Leadership might be a very good idea. I would go Oracle or Sorcerer for your magical options (Life Oracle if you want the healing), Swashbuckler or Chevalier with the Daring Champion archetype for your martial damage, and Bard for knowledge rolls and buffing both are very important. Though an Alchemist would be good if you really need more fire power and these to let you pick locks.


I don't cheat. Remember we are all gonna be DMPC at least well twice (6 parts right and 3 of us).

We roll at the table top, we live together and we all use each others dice and well.. one of my fiance and one is her brother and going to be my best man. I think it's safe to say we trust one another.

Fiance normally plays Rogues or Healers, but the Swashbuckler is something she would love to play after I told her about it. Brother in law tried to play a Chevalier in another module but it was a crypt crawl and he very well couldn't use the horse much indoors (We didn't know about undersized mount, or nimble form (or whatever its called) at that time.)

He is likely going to go Buccaneer though as he does like gunslinger.

Bard is my favorite class, is there any Archetypes that suit the sea better then most?

Because they are not optimized I will not being do much to optimize my own characters and I will assist in what I can for them.
But fiance asked if Gestalting would be a good idea considering it is just the three of us.
Bard//Buccaneer
Swashbuckler//Buccaneer
Buccaneer//Daring Champion Chevalier
or would this be a little too powerful?

Sovereign Court

Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Not really that powerful, mostly because of the action economy, since it doesn't change the numbers of action that you have every rounds.

As for bard archetypes:
Watersinger (Undine racial archetype) is very fitting.

Sea Singer obviously works in the Skull and Shackles AP.

Voice of the Wild , granting you access to ranger and druid spells can come in handy with the sea/aquatic spells that barely ever get any uses most of the time, become quite handy in this AP.


What I would do.:
I am in book 2 soon to be 3. If I knew another DM was taking over after the mutiny I would not introduce my PC until Bonewrack Island. That would prevent so DMNPC issues. As for if they can survive. Remember there are a lot of NPCs for them to befriend/be-enemy. I would fairly quickly add Sandara to the team as cleric. And add a 4th as needed. Depending on what role was needed be it Rosie, Conchobar or whatever. This would give them the feel that others are at their command early. Then later on I would put the character that will be my PC on Bonewrack and have the party rescue him in the from the stockade. Just have the undead attacking the Stockade your PC is simply a former chellish officer or prisoner and knows about the wreck of the infernus.

Grand Lodge

I feel gestalt would be too easy. For 3 players a 20 or 25 point buy and average or full hp would be plenty for this campaign.

Will be honest a vanilla bard would be just fine this campaign. Focused on enchantment will be super strong. I recommend a human.

Feats:
improved initiative, lingering performance
3- spell focus enchant
5-greater spell focus
7- persistent spell
9- spell penetration
11- Discordant voice.

Skills: Bluff- max, UMD- max, perform oratory & dance -max, perception- max, swim- 1 point, profession sailor- 1, spell craft 1 point, linguist-1 perform percussion (later levels 6+)

@ level 5 take masterpiece pageant of the peacock.

For versitile performance take: oratory, dance, and percussion.

By level 2 you have both diplomacy and bluff as your main face skills. At later levels you versitile performance gets intimadate. Intimidate is ok social but for demoralize purposes dirge of doom works better. You also grab sense motive with first versitile performance. Your great at facing for the party.

By level 5 you get pageant of the peacock. Now your in your power stride.
you can make all int based checks with your maxed bluff skill. This includes all know skills, profession sailor, linguistics, appraise, and spellcraft. You make wizards look stupid now wasting time reading books. You bluff your way into the right answers.


If you really want to make the game a LOT easier, play a creature with a swim speed. I can tell you right off book 1 is way easier as an Undine.


Well I just want to be sure we are not struggling. As far as just recruiting NPCs that might be good, but never played in a game that could do that.


I have a group of 3 that just finished book 1.

I'm kinda the opposite side of Fruian on this one...

3 party members and a 25 point buy are going to get murderized in book 1 unless everyone is playing something that hits like a truck.

Most parties of 4 get murderized by book 1 though. Its a meat grinder. It is notorious.

So especially if your players want to play 'colorful and interesting' characters instead of murderstompy death machines, party of 4 cannot be understated, even if that means one of the ship's npcs comes along for the ride.

Action economy deficit is probably the biggest problem here. You want that party of 4.

25 point buy on the fast xp track with a 33% xp boost to 'compensate for missing action economy' is BARELY going to be enough unless its a party of heavy hitters. Even gestalting isnt going to be enough to compensate for action economy problems.

If its 2 players and one gmpc I'd suggest the 2 players each play 2 characters. Then its a party of 4. You get all the variety of playing 2 classes without sacrificing action economy.


Yes one of them will be willing to play a second character, but at least my brother in law will not want too. He likes to focus play on 1 character. So that makes us 4 with me as a DMPC.


I wont deny I'd loooove to put my evolutionist summoner in my current group, and if we didn't have a 4th guy wanting to join the table with a full orc sea reaver barbarian and an earthbreaker, I'd probably have no choice.

There are essentially 4 things in the first book that will decimate parties:

Rum rations as written are designed to kill the entire crew.
Mosquito swarms on bonewrack isle against a party with no aoe is a nigh inescapable godhand partywipe
Moray eel guarding the wreck of the infernus is a chest sucking engine of death
Devilfish in the brinebrood cave is the same brand of death as the moray eel.
Latching on and sucking someone dry while the party watches in horror.

So yeah. Big hitters early are your friend.
Climb and swim and profession: sailor for skills.
For weird races we recommend grippili for the climb movement rate.
A clear favorite for working in the rigging.


I wasn't trying to imply that you would cheat. With a GMPC there can easily be accusations of cheating, favoring your PC, not attacking yourself, killing the foes to easily, ect. I have a GMPC more if you could the NPCS traveling with my group.

In this AP you can easily bring NPCs with you. And a swim speed is a good idea. We have a sorcerer sea elf and a barbarian mermaid. Oh and climb is a very important class skill to focus on for everyone. So is diplomacy or intimidate.

Grand Lodge

You always have options. I always throw 20 gold to an alchemist fire and so does another player in my group.

The rum rations are completely optional since you can try to slight of hand it or take the punishment and if you make nice with the cleric NPC she will fix your lashings....or get natural armor and do a whole. "Yes if you see master scourge tell him his grandmother was trying to work me over."

We did the entire campaign with 2 25 point characters. A Str magus and a mystic theuge. We didnt have a bit of trouble book 1 as color spray, sleep, and burning hands basically tore apart alot of the combat.

Action economy didnt mean anything after a good color spray.

At later levels invisibility allowed for easy wins in combats.

What I remember the most is the mystic every time he rolled touch attack for scorching ray he would roll nat 20s and decimate. I watched and it was like his lucky spell.

Also remember not all groups are the same level of players as well. I try to play with experienced players who know thier classes and dont show up without proper items and builds.


Fruian Thistlefoot wrote:

You always have options. I always throw 20 gold to an alchemist fire and so does another player in my group.

The rum rations are completely optional since you can try to slight of hand it or take the punishment and if you make nice with the cleric NPC she will fix your lashings....or get natural armor and do a whole. "Yes if you see master scourge tell him his grandmother was trying to work me over."

We did the entire campaign with 2 25 point characters. A Str magus and a mystic theuge. We didnt have a bit of trouble book 1 as color spray, sleep, and burning hands basically tore apart alot of the combat.

Action economy didnt mean anything after a good color spray.

At later levels invisibility allowed for easy wins in combats.

What I remember the most is the mystic every time he rolled touch attack for scorching ray he would roll nat 20s and decimate. I watched and it was like his lucky spell.

Also remember not all groups are the same level of players as well. I try to play with experienced players who know thier classes and dont show up without proper items and builds.

So what your saying is 2 or 3 optimized players will have no trouble but as I said we don't always optimize and I am the only one with a good grasp on optimizing.

Grand Lodge

Correct.

Get some info to your players. Send them zenith guides to read. Let them learn better basics and use this AP as a growing tool for your players.

All APs where designed for 4 man group with a 15 point buy. I've seen 3 man groups with higher buys do well in most APs. As long as you have your roles covered they can do fine.

Dark Archive

Vincent Takeda wrote:

I wont deny I'd loooove to put my evolutionist summoner in my current group, and if we didn't have a 4th guy wanting to join the table with a full orc sea reaver barbarian and an earthbreaker, I'd probably have no choice.

** spoiler omitted **

So yeah. Big hitters early are your friend.
Climb and swim and profession: sailor for skills.
For weird races we recommend grippili for the climb movement rate.
A clear favorite for working in the rigging.

Re: The second spoiler, we doused our 2 Tieflings in lamp oil, lit them up and had them run in to it waving their arms crazily... I think the GM was so amused he let it work for us (also, one of them was yelling "Theeere wiiill be nooooo survivors!" for extra points :))


Running this one myself with 2 full time players (a decidedly un-optimized bard & an ok witch) & 2 sometimes players (using Sandara Quinn & Caulky as printed respectively when present)

My advice:
1) you don't have to optimize to have fun in this adventure. But it'll help if the party has sea/ship/person-to-person oriented skills. And eventualy some water based magic like water breathing. Also if they don't have any qualms about being pirates (so paladins aren't too likely to enjoy themselves here).....

2) read the module. Invest time & effort into each of the NPCs - of which there are alot. Invest in unique minis for them & get yourself good copies of the ship maps. You'll be using them for quite a while.

3) Speaking of those NPCs.... 1 of them is a cleric of Besmara. After that there's about 20 more split between crew/officers to keep the DM quite busy. And that's on an understaffed boat. Once the pcs take control they should definitely be adding crew. So as the DM you'll never lack for something to play. When you switch to player mode? Just grab one of the NPCs.

xp) we're not tracking the xp per se. Instead we just level the entire crew, pc & npc alike, up at each chapter break within the modules. The exception being anybody who's all ready at or above the lv for the part were about to enter.

ship to ship combat: we found the stuff in the guide just awfull. Read it over as a group & discuss any changes since there's going to be multiple dms & you all need to be on the same page for this.

Dark Archive

Harrow of Hightower wrote:


So what your saying is 2 or 3 optimized players will have no trouble but as I said we don't always optimize and I am the only one with a good grasp on optimizing.

I wouldn't say 'no trouble', the first book is renowned for being brutally hard and causing many tpks, a 20-25pt build, optimised 3 man party might be okay but losing 25% of your groups action economy is rough. I think that perhaps, at least for book 1, adding one of the npc's, either GM controlled or letting whoever wants to control them (within reason) would probably be more likely to avoid a tpk. We had 5 players for book 1, 2 of which were optimised, 1 average and the other 2 definitely on the weak side and we found it rough going a few times with some fights very close to a tpk.


Since you'll apparently always have two players, why not just create 4 PCs collectively and let each of the players run two of them? I've never understood why people seem to consider DMPCs, NPC helpers, mythic tiers, massive point buys, gestalt frankencheese and optimizer's sleep away camp before anyone will ever consider letting a player run two characters.


Harrow of Hightower wrote:

Ok so me and two others are going to be playing the AP Skull and Shackles. Now we are round robin style playing the DM. I will be taking first module. So my character is gonna be a DMPC, but next module I will be just a normal player while another of the three of us play the role of GM.

But we don't know what characters would be the best suited for the game. Can you give any advice, without spoiling the AP for us, because as of yet I have not read the path, I tend to read from the book as we go so I can actually enjoy it a bit in being surprised.

Absolutely fantastic AP for Bards. We ran it with a Seasinger Bard, a Knifemaster Rogue, an Invulnerable Rager Barbarian and a Master Summoner who only summoned elementals - each got the opportunity to really shine.

For role-play purposes I'd suggest a Bard. For combat effectiveness I'd suggest a Summoner or Master Summoner - having an eidolon, either as a scout or a combatant, that can fly and/or breathe underwater will be incredibly useful.

Its not a spoiler to suggest that at some point you're going to have a ship of your own, and someone is going to have to be the Captain. That'd probably be a good thing to iron out ahead of time, given how you're going to be running things.


Shaun wrote:
Since you'll apparently always have two players, why not just create 4 PCs collectively and let each of the players run two of them? I've never understood why people seem to consider DMPCs, NPC helpers, mythic tiers, massive point buys, gestalt frankencheese and optimizer's sleep away camp before anyone will ever consider letting a player run two characters.

While one of the players would be fine running two characters the other player does not want to play two characters at once. He feels it takes away from the individual character. I asked them this before.

Also I was considering something. What if I allowed races with a little more power then normal? For example races such as Goliath from 3.5 or just races that might otherwise have a traditional level adjust. And then run the NPCs as backup support for these two main liners? Would the +1 CR adjust help?

Because I know one has shown interest in Drow Noble before (Not too bad if you don't actively try to abuse its darkness powers... or that fighter archetype of theirs) and Goliath was a personal fave of both mine and his during our 3.5 days.

Or if they want to stay human, maybe a template to increase their CR to level?


Taking a ship is stupidly easy with AoE spells. Fireball (ice subbed) will kill most of the crew. My PCs are not using that kind of spell and as long as they don't I will keep it out enemy hands.

This AP makes in almost silly not to bring NPCs with you. My party recruited the ghouls and plans to make a ghoul crew. I would let the players control the NPCs in combat while you control them out of combat.

Grand Lodge

Lol wiggz.

Master summoner is a party himself. If your worried about this AP being 3 players then play a master summoner with a skill based Eidolon.

But master summoner is a freaking broken archetype.


IF played correctly and as written book 1 is DEADLY 2 players will not survive. Be warned! The time on the ship should be brutal. DO NOT leave out the rum ration, its there for a reason, the players should not feel at home, they should be beaten, whipped etc all through the first part. The rum ration is there to make life tougher! By the end of part 1 before the island the players should be ready to mutiny and should hate the 2 lead NPC's.

I have a storm druid, a wizard and a rogue, 20 point buy and use hero points. It was pretty deadly and almost lost 1 pc and they were down to minus HP a lot.

Shauns idea is good 2 players each. I would also use the NPC's a lot too, my group uses Rosie, Owlbear and Kroop pretty much as cohourts through the books, they are very useful.


Harrow of Hightower wrote:


While one of the players would be fine running two characters the other player does not want to play two characters at once. He feels it takes away from the individual character. I asked them this before.

Also I was considering something. What if I allowed races with a little more power then normal? For example races such as Goliath from 3.5 or just races that might otherwise have a traditional level adjust. And then run the NPCs as backup support for these two main liners? Would the +1 CR adjust help?

Because I know one has shown interest in Drow Noble before (Not too bad if you don't actively try to abuse its darkness powers... or that fighter archetype of theirs) and Goliath was a personal fave of both mine and his during our 3.5 days.

Or if they want to stay human, maybe a template to increase their CR to level?

That's too bad. It seems like it's always the GM who gets to take one for the team and have to make radical adjustments to how things are run.

As others have said upthread, the thing that makes a game easy or hard really is the number of actions a side can take in a round, or the action economy. You need numbers more then supermen for survivability, so failing 2 PCs each, DMPC or NPC followers are best. If you start finding the game too hard, add more helpers. That gives the enemies something else to chew on to spread the damage out from the players and not focus fire.


Pathfinder Maps, Pawns Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

There are a LOT of humanoid foes in this adventure. That means things like trip builds and black tentacles are much more effective than they might otherwise be with a big monsters game.

Through modules 3 and 4, there are also an inordinate amount of Will save attacks. Be ready for a TPK if your players have crappy Will saves.

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