On NobodysHome suggestion, I'm gonna go ahead and give this campaign journal thing a shot. This topic is going to contain spoilers galore, so be warned. I better not catch any of my players in here, either! *doom glare all around*
Some background: We're two sessions in as of this writing. Our sessions don't tend to be long, as the only time we can play is after work - oftentimes three hours is the best we get at a stretch, and frequently less. I run my games with a lot of house rules, a list that is often changing as we work with the Pathfinder system. Our group is notorious for not making it very far in campaigns before they end, although we have two new players this time around that seem to be giving us a lot of longevity - or more than usual, anyway. I think I'm a pretty okay DM, but my biggest weaknesses are lack of prep time, being a little too lenient with party shenanigans (I don't think this is bad, but I've been told I let too much go), and my difficulty sticking with one thing for any length of time. This is why I decided to try running an AP - in hopes that it will teach me the patience to finish a campaign.
First up: Our current set of house rules.
1. We do not play with absolute alignment. Alignment is for suggestions and guidelines, and there for mechanical purposes, but nothing more. Characters do not need to select an alignment.
2. Use 25 point-buy for character stats.
3. 3rd party content (including Dungeons and Dragons 3.0/3.5) is welcome, but please run it past me first, and I reserve the right to ban it (or anything else, including Paizo material) at will.
4. If your character uses unusual or unconventional mechanics, please take the time to discuss them with me to ensure we both fully understand the rules at play.
5. I reserve the right to audit character sheets at any time.
6. Critical hits are automatically confirmed. Critical fumbles are not.
7. When converting non-Pathfinder material for game use, ignore any XP costs from the original content.
1. Gestalt characters are welcome with GM approval.
2. Rogues gain full BAB progression.
3. Monks use d10 hit dice, gain full BAB progression, and are automatically proficient with all monk weapons.
4. While paladins no longer possess an alignment, all paladin characters must possess a code of conduct numbering a minimum of five items. Violation of this code still indicates the paladin falls.
5. Clerics may use Wis or Cha for channeling.
6. Witches now cast off of Wis instead of Int.
7. All classes that normally gain 2+Int mod skill points per level now gain 6+Int mod skill points per level. All other classes gain two additional skill points per level.
1. Dispel magic and similar effects do not, in fact, negate a permanency effect. It only suppresses the effect for 24 hours.
2. There are standard wands (50 charges over a lifetime) and eternal wands (3/day). These types of wands are the same price.
3. All spells that are currently in the Conjuration (healing) subschool are also considered as being in a [new] Necromancy (life) subschool.
4. Touch attacks use Dex for attack rolls, not Str.
5. 0-level damaging spells dealing damage two dice higher (i.e. 1d3 becomes 1d6). 1st level damaging spells deal damage one dice higher (i.e. 1d4 becomes 1d6).
1. Knowledge skills are no longer “trained-only”.
2. Intimidate skill checks use your Str or Cha mod, whichever is higher.
3. Climb skill checks use your Dex or Str mod, whichever is higher.
1. You may draw a weapon as either part of a move action or as part of an attack action using that weapon.
2. Gestalt characters gain bonus feats at 1st level, 2rd level, and every three levels thereafter.
3. For Reflex saves, use the greater of your Dex or Int; for Will saves, use the greater of your Cha or Wis. Fortitude saves still only use Con.
4. You may take your standard action at any point during your move action. This does not allow you to make more than a single 5-foot step per round.
5. Standing up from prone takes only half your movement.
6. Any weapon with the finesse special property uses Dex for attack and damage rolls.
7. The Combat Expertise feat no longer has an Int prerequisite.
8. Spears (not longspears, only spears) can be used one-handed as a martial weapon.
9. Taking Two-Weapon Fighting grants you Improved Two-Weapon Fighting at BAB +11 and Greater Two-Weapon Fighting at +16.
10. All combat maneuvers that force movement remove the rules text prohibiting moving the foe into a dangerous square.
11. If you roll a one or two when rolling for hit points you may reroll.
12. Healing potions may be used as splash weapons against undead.
13. Classes with limited numbers of spells known (sorcerers, oracles, etc) may retrain a number of spells equal to their casting stat modifier at each level-up.
As you can see, games I run tend to be a bit on the high end of the power scale due to house rules. That being said, none of my players are experienced enough or willing to munchkin/powergame/excessively optimize, so it isn't nearly the problem I would suspect it would be in most groups.
Here's a brief run through of the characters (and their players, for a bit of perspective):
Tiberius Resuvius, aka "The Love Doctor": A human inquisitor-gestalt-phalanx fighter of Shelyn. Through his choice of inquisitions, he has quite a silver tongue and is a big fan of the ladies. He makes it his duty to ensure that love is faithful and true, and to spread his message to the masses. He runs (lumbers?) about clad in fullplate armor (a gift from his church patron) with a tower shield, and when he hits level three will be using a lucerne hammer as his polearm with his tower shield. He is from Magnimar and was sent as a goodwill offering to observe and give his blessings to the new cathedral in Sandpoint after its consecration before returning to his duties in that city. His player, "Geoff", is experienced in tabletops, though some of his past groups have been... unpleasant experiences. We've played together for about two years now, although mostly in 4E. He isn't as up on Pathfinder's mechanics as I am, but he tends to know things that I forget so he's a good reference in that department. Geoff is well-known for three things: his characters tend to be the ones to suggest wise plans of action that are summarily ignored by the rest of the party; his characters having a tendency to do things by the "rule of awesome" instead of the "rule of wisdom"; and he has awful, awful luck with rolling dice except when doing something that could generously be called "the rule of awesome", more safely called "what in the serious hell are you doing?".
Nasheera the Storyteller: A female samsaran savant. Nasheera is a Varisian loyalist to Desna, a tale-spinner who even now travels with the caravans throughout Varisia. Though her origins are clouded in mystery, her earliest memories are of the wagons. She gathers stories and information wherever she goes and shares these pieces of lore in the form of beautiful, captivating stories that make her very dangerous in combat. Unbeknownst to her, she is actually a powerfully ancient outer dragon, a time dragon, that has been trapped in the cycling mortal form of a Samsaran since trapped in that form by the evil Runelord Karzoug before the fall of Thassilon (In my campaign, Karzoug was so taken by greed that he briefly turned his attentions towards ripping holes in time-space that he could seize the riches of other worlds and other times. Nasheera and several other greater time dragons attempted to stop him, and succeeded, but only at great cost. The player is aware, but her character is not - and neither is anyone else, in or out of character.). Nasheera's player, "Amie", is actually currently running Legacy of Fire the night after Runelords. Her roleplaying is top-notch - when she's having an on night. She tends to work long hours and is often tired by the time we sit down to play. Even so, the savant's storytelling mechanic seems to have really engaged her interest. Amie is known with glee from fellow players and terror from the DM (and vice versa when the positions are swapped) for one awful, AWFUL trait she's had as long as she's played tabletop RPGs: the most unholy luck with dice. When playing she always rolls in the open, as does everyone else, and she consistently uses a couple dozen different sets of dice, including other people's, so it's all on the up-and-up, but she fails rolls maybe (MAYBE) twice a session, usually once and on something relatively trivial. I can't remember the last time she went a session without critting at least twice. Keep this GMing handicap in mind when I'm relating our stories! XD
Jezebella: A half-Shoanti/half-Varisian barbarian-gestalt-oracle. Jezebella is a suli, although she passes for human until prompted to displays of emotion. She grew up in Sandpoint from about the time she was three or four years of age, raised by Madame Mvashti. She is now Madame Mvashti's caretaker in the fortune teller's old age. She has a somewhat tense relationship with Sheriff Hemlock as her temper has something of a reputation, but she is fundamentally a good person who cares for those around her and helps wherever she can, particularly in her beloved hometown. Nualia was her best friend growing up, and the aasimar girl's death during the Late Unpleasantness five years ago was quite hard on her - especially since during the last few years of her life Nualia had become withdrawn and was very rarely seen outside the church. Jezebella's player, "Jeremiah", is an experienced roleplayer, though Amie's Legacy of Fire campaign was his introduction to Pathfinder's system. He gets very into character when he plays, which encourages everyone else to as well. He is also the only player who really went in and hard-researched the area, cultures, and town to create a character perfectly tailored to the region.
Freddy: Freddy is a male kitsune fey sorcerer. He specializes in enchantment spells, particularly sleep and color spray. Sound familiar? It would almost be predictable, except that "Trevor", his player, has never touched an RPG book before starting Legacy of Fire a month or two ago and hasn't the foggiest idea of what constitutes a powerful character option vs one that just sounds fun. I love that. He found the race, liked the spells, and went with it, not giving a little finger about the synergy involved. The best part about Freddy is his backstory. He was raised in Sandpoint, got a little involved here and there with the Szcarni criminals growing up. He straightened out as he got older, and due to the fact that they were both very different people who were quickly judged and treated as outsiders by the people around them, became romantically entwined with a 16-year-old Nualia four years before the events of the Late Unpleasantness. He told her he wanted to marry her, and that he needed to make a brief camping trip to clear his head before telling her adopted father, Tobyn. He wasn't seen again - until he walked back into Sandpoint the day of the Swallowtail Festival, looking exactly like the handsome 18-year-old man who left for a camping trip nine years ago. His world fell apart around his head when the week he'd been gone camping had somehow turned into nine years - and worst of all, his betrothed, the love of his life, had horribly burned to death in a fire thinking she'd been abandoned by the only person she'd loved. Neither he, nor his player, is aware of this, but before he left, he'd conceived a child with Nualia. Sound familiar? ;)
Session One summary will be forthcoming. This turned into a much longer post than I anticipated.