NobodysHome's Silly Serpent's Skull Moments [***Spoilers***]


Serpent's Skull

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NobodysHome wrote:
He approached her cautiously, asking Malek to soothe her. As always, Malek failed...

So, they really are married now.


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The Sideromancer wrote:
Wait, fortresses usually have walls. Are you sure the party can hold up?

I give it thirty minutes for us to figure out how to get inside the fortress.


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Dawning Aegis wrote:
The Sideromancer wrote:
Wait, fortresses usually have walls. Are you sure the party can hold up?
I give it thirty minutes hours for us to figure out how to get inside the fortress.

FIFY


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This campaign's always interesting, but things like Bara suddenly learning 22 languages are what make it great. Bravo!


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Is It a Swift or a Standard Action to Resign Oneself to Death?, played 28-Feb-2018

Ah, Mr. Stereotype, way to brighten our evening with the best question of the night!

So, this was a rather dull session from the points of view of those looking for silliness:

  • The party actually spent time carefully planning their approach to the fortress, and discussing what the serpentfolk might already know about them! *GASP!* Am I actually... teaching them, or was it a fluke?
  • From the safety of Izod's stronghold, an Invisible, Flying Kwai Chang scouted the serpentfolk stronghold and reported four entryways into the serpent-shaped tower: The serpent's mouth, 180' in the air, the serpent's tail, right at the water level and blocked by a strong iron portcullis, the main entrance, right across from the bridge, and a huge, gaping hole in the side of the serpent, about 20' off the water.
  • Abandoning any pretense of sense, the party first swam through the lake to get to the chasm separating serpentfolk territory from urdefhan territory. I gave them a 50% chance of encountering 3d6 piscodaemons, since that's what's listed as living in the lake and if I haven't taught them to stay out of the water yet, I really have failed. Unfortunately, they rolled high and encountered nothing.
  • Next they made Bara invisible, gave her a potion of Fly, and flew to the tail entrance. They made excellent perception checks and heard a lot of movement a couple hundred feet in.
  • Completely ignoring, "You hear a lot of movement" = "Bad way to sneak in", they moved offshore, buffed, and then had Bara try to rip the portcullis upwards. Needless to say, this made noise. Noise that the +16 to their Perception roll "alert" guards easily heard.
  • We went to initiatives, and the party scrambled about aimlessly as the serpentfolk guards closed in. Many, many guards. More than a dozen guards. Narlock made a massive Knowledge: Nature check and knew that serpentfolk are telepathic, so they had just alerted the entire fortress of their presence.
  • At this point Mr. Stereotype asked his question.
  • So we only just started combat, but Malek chose to run ahead just as FIFTEEN serpentfolk guards poured out. They easily hit him for 88 points of damage, and we're now at the question, "Will Malek succeed on his withdrawal attempt, or will the last undying member of the party finally perish?"

    Stay tuned 'til next week, folks!


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    NobodysHome wrote:


  • Next they made Bara invisible, gave her a potion of Fly, and flew to the tail entrance. They made excellent perception checks and heard a lot of movement a couple hundred feet in.
  • Completely ignoring, "You hear a lot of movement" = "Bad way to sneak in", they moved offshore, buffed, and then had Bara try to rip the portcullis upwards. Needless to say, this made noise. Noise that the +16 to their Perception roll "alert" guards easily heard.
  • Y'know, if I had an ancient fortress that had a chunk of wall missing, I'd at least post a sentry to alert someone if there were enemies teleporting in or something. But NOPE, there was apparently supposed to be no one there.

    I have an actual complaint about this being inconsistent with the logic and strategy behind every other enemy we have faced up to this point, but we also stayed in the place where we could hear people running through the halls.

    I think our logic was that we were already where we were, and I have no more 3rd level spells after using a bunch of Dimension Doors. I am also vehement about saving our resources(we have two scrolls of greater teleport to get back to the surface just in case).


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    Dawning Aegis wrote:
    NobodysHome wrote:


  • Next they made Bara invisible, gave her a potion of Fly, and flew to the tail entrance. They made excellent perception checks and heard a lot of movement a couple hundred feet in.
  • Completely ignoring, "You hear a lot of movement" = "Bad way to sneak in", they moved offshore, buffed, and then had Bara try to rip the portcullis upwards. Needless to say, this made noise. Noise that the +16 to their Perception roll "alert" guards easily heard.
  • Y'know, if I had an ancient fortress that had a chunk of wall missing, I'd at least post a sentry to alert someone if there were enemies teleporting in or something. But NOPE, there was apparently supposed to be no one there.

    I have an actual complaint about this being inconsistent with the logic and strategy behind every other enemy we have faced up to this point, but we also stayed in the place where we could hear people running through the halls.

    I think our logic was that we were already where we were, and I have no more 3rd level spells after using a bunch of Dimension Doors. I am also vehement about saving our resources(we have two scrolls of greater teleport to get back to the surface just in case).

    A couple of minor quibbles:

  • It was not so much, "We hear things, but we go in anyway," but, "We have seen 4 entrances. The first 2 we checked are populated. Ah, well, let's go in #2 anyway..."
    Recall that you had been planning to use a bunch of Dimension Doors, but because Bara's flight lasted long enough you haven't yet used a single one. If you marked off spells you never used, we need to get that fixed.
  • I never said the other entrances were unguarded. I was just surprised that, with almost resources intact and Invisibility Sphere still going, the party chose not to scout out the other two entrances.

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    And that, overall, is really the group's next item on the "Learning Agenda": You've learned to make a plan, buff, and attempt to follow the plan. The issues are:

  • Refusing to change the plan once new information comes to light.
    "You hear lots of voices down the hall."
    "Oh, well, stick with the plan!"
  • Paying no attention whatsoever to last scene's buffs.
    "We use Invisibility Sphere and Fly to get to the island unseen."
    "OK. Let me bring up a map so you can place yourselves where you want to be."
    Brings up the map.
    Group lays themselves out across a 50-foot spread, as if everyone in the group is suffering from extreme body odor.
    <GM thinks to himself: "Wow. I guess they really didn't care about that Invisibility Sphere all that much after all, did they?">
  • EDIT: Tactical "brain farts". Fickle Winds had all of you immune to arrow fire, so a single Blade Barrier from Athelya would have rewritten the combat, as ALL of the serpentfolk would have had to pass through it just to get to the combat. Instead, she chose to ponder her own mortality...

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    Honestly, I think it's just my frustration bubbling over that the casters in your group continue to avoid battlefield control like it's the Devil, when this entire section of the AP is pretty much, "You're facing over 100 12th-level fighters. Use battlefield control or die."

    I'm very likely to kill either Malek or Bara next session; they're just in tactically-untenable positions. Yet if Athelya had Communal Air Walk, or Voren had prepared a set of Fly extractions, you guys could cheerfully fly out of their reach, Fickle Winds preventing them from shooting you, while you rained destruction on them. Something like Grease, Black Tentacles, or Web would have prevented the entire swarm from arriving at once and surrounding Malek. Even a simple Blade Barrier or Holy Smite would have been enough to break things up.

    As it was, I gave the party 3 full rounds to prepare. Not a single battlefield control spell got cast. Now you're in melee with a horde of 12th-level fighters.

    It's... not good.

    EDIT: Keep in mind that the charau-ka disaster was three full levels ago. Your casters need to be looking more at battlefield control and less at, "What goes boom?"


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    Unless it's a dazing fireball, which both goes boom and screws with NH's ability to keep track of which ones saved and which ones didn't...

    Oh...Hi NH! Sorry.

    But seriously, NH is spot on there. Spell selection is critical, and as much fun as it is to rip a lightning bolt through a bunch of people in a hallway, or hit a big bad with a disintegrate, when you have a lot of minions coming your way, and you have time, and you have a flying invisible monk scout...you need to pick your battles and shape your battlefield to your own advantage. They aren't necessarily sexy, and sometimes they limit your party as much as they limit the foes, but battlefield control to funnel a limited number of foes to a single point is far better for you than to allow all of them to surround whoever they want.

    Additional food for thought...I have a house rule that eliminates the -5 penalty for iterative attacks. So, a 12th level lizardman fighter will have three attacks, minimum, at +12/+12/+12 BAB, not +12/+7/+2. (Hey, martials are supposed to be physical death machines, so let them be physical death machines.) As a roughly 13-14th level character in my campaigns, getting surrounded on all sides by 12th level fighters is going to end your day on a sour note.


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    Vanykrye wrote:
    Unless it's a dazing fireball, which both goes boom and screws with NH's ability to keep track of which ones saved and which ones didn't...

    There's a reason I use Roll20 for my bad guys.

    They all get color-coded and marked with their disabilities. I don't know how I'd manage a horde without them.

    But yeah, the kids are facing 15 CR 8 degenerate serpentfolk fighters who belie that low CR with +21/+16 attacks with 1d10+15/17-20 damage. With Malek at only AC 26 and flanked on all sides, he either succeeds at his withdraw (they all plan on trying to trip him as he tries to escape) or he gets beaten to death in a round. Add the 6 CR 12 commanders who haven't gotten there yet, and it's technically a CR 19 encounter. With the favored terrain for the kids, it's only CR 18, and with 6 14th-level PCs and a CR 15 Bara, I'd say they're only at APL+2, or maybe APL+3.

    Seriously, Black Tentacles would end this combat in a round, but they don't have it. Pits, or grease, or spikes, or anything might help. My hope is that Kwai Chang sacrifices himself to trip a whole slew of them so the party can retreat and come up with a better plan than, "Send Malek and Bara in and see what happens when they hit a horde of hard-hitting mooks".

    But a bunch of CR 8 fighters should barely be a speed bump for a 14th-level party. I think they're going to kill some PCs.


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    NobodysHome wrote:

    Seriously, Black Tentacles would end this combat in a round, but they don't have it. Pits, or grease, or spikes, or anything might help. My hope is that Kwai Chang sacrifices himself to trip a whole slew of them so the party can retreat and come up with a better plan than, "Send Malek and Bara in and see what happens when they hit a horde of hard-hitting mooks".

    But a bunch of CR 8 fighters should barely be a speed bump for a 14th-level party. I think they're going to kill some PCs.

    Can we send Voren and Athelya to their death and out of nowhere have a wizard and a cleric replace them?


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    Dawning Aegis wrote:
    NobodysHome wrote:

    Seriously, Black Tentacles would end this combat in a round, but they don't have it. Pits, or grease, or spikes, or anything might help. My hope is that Kwai Chang sacrifices himself to trip a whole slew of them so the party can retreat and come up with a better plan than, "Send Malek and Bara in and see what happens when they hit a horde of hard-hitting mooks".

    But a bunch of CR 8 fighters should barely be a speed bump for a 14th-level party. I think they're going to kill some PCs.

    Can we send Voren and Athelya to their death and out of nowhere have a wizard and a cleric replace them?

    You guys need a wizard SOOOOOO much it's not even funny.

    But seriously -- if Mr. Stereotype plays a cleric he's just going to choose the same set of ineffective "boom spells".

    This fortress is going to be a hard, painful learning curve as you hit creatures your party just isn't equipped to deal with. There will likely be deaths or captures. But at the end of it all, you'll go up to 15th level with a strong sense of, "Hoo, boy! We need to do THIS!"


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    Even some well placed Wall spells would be a good thing if the situation allows. Besides the obvious "take to the air" tactics the party should have available, if you have to stay on the ground set up two walls that funnel into a blade barrier. With a pit spell or a black tentacles on the other side once the baddies cross the blades. Or something. And summoned creatures can at least delay some of the baddies from surrounding characters.

    As a party they've come a long way from what they were doing in the beginning for long term survival. Just need to put it all together more consistently.


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    NobodysHome wrote:
    "Will Malek succeed on his withdrawal attempt, or will the last undying member of the party finally perish?"

    NOOOO! NOT MALEK!


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    Drejk wrote:
    NobodysHome wrote:
    "Will Malek succeed on his withdrawal attempt, or will the last undying member of the party finally perish?"
    NOOOO! NOT MALEK!

    There's nothing to fear! The (arguably) best 5th-level Bard spell is here!


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    Well, unfortunately, life has yet again trumped gaming and so we need to wait another week to find out.

    It's just kind of interesting to watch the different families and their different approaches to college. One family is the uber-aggressive, "You're a sophomore and you haven't picked a college yet?!?!?! What's WRONG with you?!?!?", another is, "Well, he's a junior now so we need to start thinking about college," and I'm pretty much, "Impus Major will tell me when he wants to start preparing."

    So the SATs are this Saturday, and one of my group is taking them as a junior. I remember it as standard practice back in my day, too -- take it as a junior, then if you don't do well enough re-take it as a senior. It makes sense... if you're trying to get into one of the ultra-competitive colleges out there.

    After years in acamedia and then many more on hiring committees, my whole reaction to Impus Major's declaration that he'd rather do two years of community college first is pretty much, "Good on you! You'll learn just as much at 1/10th the price!"
    But I know that parents care deeply about such things, and if other parents insist that their kids get into prestigious 4-year schools, I'm sure as heck not going to disparage them. If it's right for them, good on them!


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    Dawning Aegis wrote:
    Drejk wrote:
    NobodysHome wrote:
    "Will Malek succeed on his withdrawal attempt, or will the last undying member of the party finally perish?"
    NOOOO! NOT MALEK!
    There's nothing to fear! The (arguably) best 5th-level Bard spell is here!

    Yeah, if Narlock has the spell slots, she can easily save Malek and Bara. But yet another retreat from yet another horde of ground-bound mishmash is a good indicator that the casters aren't choosing their spells very well...


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    I usually gauge my battlefield control spells by how dirty I feel about casting it. If it makes me feel at least moderately dirty, it is likely the right choice for the moment. ;)


    Here’s hoping that frothy luck keeps going!!


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    Kudo's for how underhandedly dirty that good luck was Tac, color me impressed.

    Will Bara espouse about her frothy, milky, bubbly love for Malak...have to continue watching to know...or maybe not watch THAT close on second thought.


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    NobodysHome wrote:

    Well, unfortunately, life has yet again trumped gaming and so we need to wait another week to find out.

    It's just kind of interesting to watch the different families and their different approaches to college. One family is the uber-aggressive, "You're a sophomore and you haven't picked a college yet?!?!?! What's WRONG with you?!?!?", another is, "Well, he's a junior now so we need to start thinking about college," and I'm pretty much, "Impus Major will tell me when he wants to start preparing."

    So the SATs are this Saturday, and one of my group is taking them as a junior. I remember it as standard practice back in my day, too -- take it as a junior, then if you don't do well enough re-take it as a senior. It makes sense... if you're trying to get into one of the ultra-competitive colleges out there.

    After years in acamedia and then many more on hiring committees, my whole reaction to Impus Major's declaration that he'd rather do two years of community college first is pretty much, "Good on you! You'll learn just as much at 1/10th the price!"
    But I know that parents care deeply about such things, and if other parents insist that their kids get into prestigious 4-year schools, I'm sure as heck not going to disparage them. If it's right for them, good on them!

    I went to a freshman orientation with all the parents in tow for my first day at Illinois Wesleyan. The university president was saying a lot of things. I remember four things about his speech:

    1) His tie dove into his shirt between buttons, then came back out two buttons lower.

    2) His fly was unzipped.

    3) His hair appeared to be a live parakeet attached to his head.

    4) "How many of you have declared majors? Let's see...call it 75-80%. The rest of you are undecided? Ok. Parents. What this means is that 75-80% of these kids don't realize that they are actually undecided. That's normal. That's ok."


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    LOL


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    Well, I have to admit, there's a certain joy and sadness in watching the clueless 'consequences be damned' optimism of Mr. Stereotype, whose cardinal sin is not thinking out the logical reactions and repercussions of his actions, and the fatalistic, 'All APs are out to screw us' pessimism of Talky, whose cardinal sin is to refuse to even consider the obvious; "There are two main gates, an aerial gate, and a big gaping unguarded hole in the wall. The hole is obviously a trap! Let's try one of the main gates!"

    I mean, he's right; logically if the hole led anywhere useful it would be guarded. But choosing a full frontal assault without even checking was... interesting.

    So tonight we continue with the repercussions of a cheerful, "I think the second main entrance sounds great!", followed up by, "What about the hole in the wall," and, "That hole is obviously a trap!"


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    Yay! An obit is coming! An obit is coming!!!


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    Ooooh. This is gonna be good/terrible.


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    Ugh. Woke up ridiculously late (for me), at 6:06 am (who sleep in THAT late?) so the obit and writeup'll have to wait 'til after work.

    But all in all, the inability to fly really did the party in. They barely escaped with their lives.


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    And it's up.


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    And yeah, it's really sad. I'm writing it up in some detail, but the kids pretty much decided to go straight in to one of the main fortress entrances with no crowd control and no way to avoid the melee grunts.

    In the post-mortem, Impus Major noted that even Arkwhal, his sword-n-board fighter from Crimson Throne, would have turned that fight around just by being able to block off the hallway. (AC 45, Combat Reflexes, and Stand Still can really block up a hallway.) This party doesn't have a single spell or PC who can do anything like that, except for Narlock's Grease. And if you're relying on a 1st-level spell for your crowd control at 14th level, you know you have issues...


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    Bara: Monster, Lover, Hero, played 14-Mar-2018

    There's a point in APs, when the PCs reach 13th or 14th level, where as a GM, you say, "Whelp, here we go..." The encounters cease being challenging. No matter how cool your bad guy looks, you know for a fact that he's going to get curb-stomped by a set of well-prepared PCs. Crowds of mooks become meaningless as crowd-control spells go from "inconvenient" to "devastating" in an instant. Waves of Ecstasy (divine) and Waves of Exhaustion (arcane) are both 7th-level spells where even if you save (and only WoE even grants a save) you're debilitated for a round. And Holy Word ends fights with mooks entirely.

    Then there are the kids, with a general approach of, "If it doesn't list 'd6s of damage' in the spell description, it's not worth taking." That "13th or 14th level renders fights meaningless" has gone in the opposite direction for the kids. In our 6-person Crimson Throne game, I've had to up the CR of all creatures by 2, give them max hit points, and multiply mooks by 50%, and the party is still only rarely challenged. With the kids' group, there's no, "Up the CR by 2". Max HP mooks are a devastating force for them. It's all about crowd control and debilitating effects, and the kids focused on buffs and booms. It's a natural approach, and they're learning that it was a bad one, but the fortress is going to be a nightmare for them.

    So anyway, on to the fight itself. We left off with Malek out ahead surrounded by hard-hitting serpentfolk who wiped out 2/3 of his hit points on their very first round. Voren declared that he was going to Haste everyone the moment Narlock came into "view". (She was invisible, but Voren had Arcane Sight up, so our ruling is that you know what square the person is in, but still have the 50% miss chance. Since Haste isn't a "roll to hit" spell, no problems.) Everyone else delayed for Voren's Haste to kick in. Then came Bara's turn. Sometimes it just isn't fair having to play against yourself. Now that Bara is "intelligent", I took over running her. She took one look at the situation, where nobody had done anything about poor Malek about to get pummeled to death by a bunch of serpentfolk grunts, used her 15' reach to grapple him and pull him to her (no AoO's from a grapple, silly serpentfolk!), then used her move action to put him behind everyone else. Narlock cast Shadow Bard and moved into Voren's range, and Voren Hasted the party, for all the good it would do them. Hooken, being Hooken, continued to kill at least one serpentfolk a round. At least somebody had their eyes on prize! Kwai Chang ran up and tried unsuccessfully to trip a serpentfolk. Athelya put up a Blade Barrier between the party and the serpentfolk, but, interestingly enough, chose a path that did not hit a single serpentfolk.

    After all this nonsense, the serpentfolk were displeased. They ran right through the Blade Barrier (many of them taking the full 51 points of damage), surrounded Bara, and took to beating her to death. The grand total was 288 points of damage, enough to annihilate any ordinary froghemoth. But Bara was no normal froghemoth, and she barely survived the onslaught. (If we were doing catastrophic damage she would have keeled over for sure.) As the party looked on in horror, the serpentfolk officers arrived. If the regular serpentfolk were bad, how much worse were the officers? (I'll give you a hint, kids: The serpentfolk guards are CR 8 with no special abilities. The serpentfolk officers are CR 12 with no special abilities.) There were a few querulous calls for retreat, but no general consensus, nor any kind of plan. In fact, speaking of lack of planning, the next round was a fantastic example of the kind of non-communication practiced by the party.

    I forget the order, but Voren, Kwai Chang, and Hooken focused on getting some of the serpentfolk off Bara, right before Narlock ran up and Bard's Escaped her to safety behind a pillar. Athelya Healed Bara while Malek ran away from the party to the other side of Bara, protecting her flank but leaving the rest of the party standing there, within a single move of all of the serpentfolk, with nothing between the serpentfolk and the squishies. In a bit of, "Oh, how can this possibly get any worse?" news, two of the serpentfolk started administering healing potions to their fallen comrades, another group engaged the squishies, and a third group proved Malek's prescience correct by going around the pillar to finish off Bara, only to be met by her raging lover. The officers, still some distance away, chose to go around Athelya's Blade Barrier (she had intentionally left a square open for just that purpose, figuring that somehow the party would have been there to stop them, but no such luck...).

    Then it got silly. Voren sounded the general retreat and ran away. Nobody else listened so he ended up off on his own outside the portcullis. Malek and Bara laid waste to the serpentfolk on their side of the pillar; watching them work was heartwarming. Narlock laid down a strip of Grease to slow down the officers, Hooken kept shooting and backing up, Kwai Chang used Spring Attack to trip one of the officers.

    Unfortunately for Narlock, the Grease wasn't quite enough. It stopped one of the officers, but three others moved up to her. A crit-hit-crit combo by the three of them killed her outright (150 of her 123 hit points). Fortunately for her, intitiative order was on her side. Athelya went immediately after the officers, and Breath of Lifed Narlock back to the land of the living. Bara went next, and spent her round picking up the prone Narlock and moving her to safety so she could retreat.

    The next few rounds were just smokescreens and getting away. Voren laid down a bunch of Stinking Bombs, but the serpentfolks' immunity to poison meant it just gave them an escape opportunity. Athelya put down another Blade Barrier to cover their backs, and then... I kid you not, they had no way to get off the fort!
    Eventually, Voren had to burn a scoll of Greater Teleport to get half the party away, and Narlock had to use multiple Dimension Doors to get the other half of the party to safety.

    All told, they believe they killed 12 serpentfolk. Of the hundreds in the fortress.

    They are re-thinking their plans.


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    Oog. Speaking of poor spell choices, apparently Athelya's choice of 7th-level spell was Greater Restoration, the big, bad, "I'm going to cost you 5,000 gold pieces for what Heal and Restoration do for a lot less."

    A really, really, REALLY terrible spell choice. The kind of choice you wouldn't make if you'd TALK TO YOUR GM ABOUT YOUR CHOICES.

    Wow... I remember being pretty ticked off that my life oracle got Greater Restoration as her free spell at 14th level. And yes, in spite of her carrying around 22,000 gold pieces' worth of diamond dust, she never once cast it in the entire campaign. It is an utterly useless spell, IMHO.

    EDIT: Ok, let's see... it comes in handy when:

  • You were silly enough to accept and then break that Geas
  • You're willing to pay 5000 gold instead of hiring someone to cast Remove Curse
  • After that critter drained you of 10 levels, instead of casting Restoration immediately, you decided to gamble and lost... badly

  • I mean, even trying to cheap out with Raise Dead and Greater Restoration instead of Resurrection and Restoration saves you all of 1,000 gp and a week's wait.

    I just don't see any fundamental use cases for it that a GM doesn't write in explicitly just to reward you for having taken it...
    ...and I'll continue to argue that an oracle should never have taken such a "once in a blue moon" spell...

    Grand Lodge

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    Looks like we're getting reruns of Charu-ka fights, but without Malek dominated all the time.


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    Mangenorn wrote:
    Looks like we're getting reruns of Charu-ka fights, but without Malek dominated all the time.

    To be honest, I think there's something everyone in our group needs to work on. Some are more obvious, like Athelya's spell choice, but I know I trash talk all the time(ranging from the other players to the AP itself). It might be good to have another revisit of, "What can everyone improve on?" since we've just been having fiasco after fiasco.


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    Dawning Aegis wrote:
    Mangenorn wrote:
    Looks like we're getting reruns of Charu-ka fights, but without Malek dominated all the time.
    To be honest, I think there's something everyone in our group needs to work on. Some are more obvious, like Athelya's spell choice, but I know I trash talk all the time(ranging from the other players to the AP itself). It might be good to have another revisit of, "What can everyone improve on?" since we've just been having fiasco after fiasco.

    Well, there's a LOT of grar from one player in particular and we know who that is. But your comment is extremely insightful:

    Overall, you're a very poorly-built group for high-level play: You have no high-level arcane spellcaster at all, and a spontaneous divine spellcaster who's been spending all her time trying to be a boomer instead of a buffer. This leads more experienced players (such as the Impii) to either ignore everyone's requests and advice (Impus Minor), or roleplay in such a way as to make life more difficult for the group (Impus Major), since they're acting out of frustration towards the dysfunction of the group.

    What you guys really need is a party leader with a talking stick. Before going in to a situation, make each player's role clear. "You will be doing xxx." The problem is, you're still at the point that you're focusing on specific actions, "In round 3, Voren will cast Haste," when it should be something far more general: "Voren's primary goal will be to cast appropriate buffs on the party as the combat progresses, but if any one PC starts getting overwhelmed by enemies he should shift to bombs to help free up that PC."

    As I e-mailed another player from a different campaign who spends WAAAAAY too much time planning: No plan survives first contact with the enemy. You should be thinking about what roles your party members can play: Tank, DPS, buffs, debuffs, movement, and battlefield control.

    The problem is, unless you buff the living daylights out of Malek, you don't have a tank. Because of spell choices, you don't have debuffs or battlefield control (except for Voren's extremely-useful Dispelling Bombs). And only the bard has movement spells, which is Just Not Right. Not being able to get the fighters where they need to be is going to be a major issue for the rest of the AP. Yes, Narlock has Bard's Escape and used it very effectively, but at 3 casts per day, that lasts you at most 3 combats. And you're party's large enough to render Dimension Door less effective until you figure out the roles of each player. Not everybody needs to be moved. Move the ones that need to go, and leave the rest to their own devices.

    (Hooken, Bara, and Kwai Chang all fall into the, "You should never have to move these guys," category, except when Bara got left hung out to dry last fight you did well to save her.)

    EDIT: And just to hammer that "movement" point home: The only reason the party was able to escape with everyone alive was that Bara was using her tentacles to get people safely out of bad positioning. Considering it's a full-round action for her to get one person out of a bad position, that's a really ineffective use of a creature that could be grappling up to 6 enemies a turn...


    4 people marked this as a favorite.

    Going a bit more into the "GM Grar" side of things, there is definitely GM Grar, and I see it as coming from three sources:

  • The, "What? We're doing this again?" disbelief. Throughout the AP, the party has suffered every single time they've tried to do something Big and Loud in the wide wide open. How many PCs have died because the party set off a Fireball at an inopportune moment? Or set off the alarm, heard hordes of enemies approaching, and decided to stay and fight anyway?
    So with the serpentfolks' fortress, question 1 should have been, "Is this a stealth mission or a 'kick in the front door and kill everybody' mission?" If you haven't decided, you're going to end up with a situation like you did: In a 'kick in the front door' fight with no one tactically prepared for that kind of a fight.
    So, if it's a stealth mission (which I thought you'd all decided on), the Bara had NO business being there. I know that one particular player is particularly insistent that Bara come along on every mission, but that player is going to get you guys TPKed. If it's a stealth mission, get rid of Bara.
    If it's a 'kick in the front door' mission, then don't leave Heron behind, and make sure you set up the necessary bottleneck where Heron and Bara are using reach over Malek and another tank to greatest effect.
    There's no concrete, "We are going to plan this mission for xxx," so you end up ill-prepared for all types of missions.
    When my PCs encounter something they can't get past (e.g., a 40' wall), their immediate reaction is to go buy something (e.g., a grappling hook and a 50' rope) so that that particular impediment will no longer be a problem.
    This group is very much a, "Well, we couldn't get past that, so someone else needs to adjust their PC to fix it" group, and that never works well, because no one ever does.
  • The, "What? This AP is doing this to me again" grar. While the older APs had authors who understood how games run, the newer APs seem to have authors who haven't played an RPG since the 1970s' attitude of, "Put a monster in every room and have them stay there, no matter what, until the PCs open the door."
    The serpentfolk by the back gate are a great example. The author put THREE guard rooms within easy hearing distance of the gate (i.e., if the serpentfolk are TAKING ZERO ON PERCEPTION they hear an attack on the gate), and feels that all of those guards should just sit there, quietly in their rooms until the PCs actually approach them. I won't play that way. If the guards hear an attack on their base and they don't have a good reason to stay put, they move!
    I really liked the way the authors of Jade Regent did it: The author of Book 5, knowing that the PCs would be assaulting the main castle of a major country in Book 6, took pains to have them spend an entire book setting up a distraction that would empty most of the castle. The author of Book 6 put the bad guys at critical choke points, and pointed out that none of them could move without exposing a portion of the castle. It worked beautifully, and showed a bit of thought. (I'm still peeved at the Book 6 author for using nearly 50 of the exact same creature, but at least his tactical acumen was there.)
    So anyway, yes there's GM grar in that if there are creatures on the map who can hear you while taking 0 on their Perception roll, and they are not guarding a key juncture or passage, they're going to come. This has led to the massive fights you've gotten into because Athelya never casts Silence. (In our RotRL game, Round 1 would always be, "The bard casts Silence on the hall behind the fight so that other troops won't hear it.)
  • It's also just one of four games I run, so sometimes I'm tired and cranky. For this third one, I DO apologize.

  • 3 people marked this as a favorite.

    I operate much the same way - if there are people within earshot of a combat and they don't have a good reason to stay out of it, then at the very least people are coming around to see what the noise is or they are running away to warn others/sound the alarm.

    And I'm running 3 games (been asked to do at least one other one that I declined), so I can attest to the difficulty in keeping them all straight in your head, keeping them prepared, keeping everything interesting, etc, etc, etc. There are days you just don't want to run a game because you're feeling wiped out, but it's on the schedule and everyone is coming over to the house...For me at least it can make me want to revert to "hermit-mode".

    RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32

    3 people marked this as a favorite.

    Feel for you, running like 4 games myself and there are a lot of situations like that in the APs.


    3 people marked this as a favorite.

    Well, from Books 2 to 3 to 4, it was a joy to watch the kids learn what worked and what didn't, which tactics were successful and which weren't, and so forth.

    I don't know what it was about Book 4, but the wheels fell off and now the kids are actively, destructively interfering with each other.

    Last session was a prime example:
    Voren: I declare that when Narlock moves into range, I Haste everybody.
    Narlock: Why would I move over there?
    Voren: C'mon, I need you there if I'm going to Haste everyone.
    Narlock: Fine!

    So, three major issues here:

  • WTF was Voren waiting to Haste the bard?!?!? Narlock already has Expeditious Retreat, Vanish, Jester's Jaunt, Dimension Door, and Bard's Escape. She doesn't need the extra movement. The +1 to her AC is utterly meaningless at this level. Going from 18 to 19 won't save her from being hit. So delaying to let the bard get Hasted was a waste of time. And Voren spends a lot of time standing around, waiting for everyone else to move into a position convenient to him so he can haste them.
  • Narlock's movement was indeed what eventually killed her. She was invisible on one side of the pillar. To satisfy Voren's request, she moved to the other, more dangerous side. So when she moved forward to rescue Bara and then moved back, she was on the wrong side of the pillar, letting the captains reach her, instead of a few regular grunts who would have had to deal with Malek first. So to satisfy Voren's pointless request, she put herself grossly out of position, and that mispositioning killed her.
  • There was no party leader to say, "No, that's a bad idea. Don't do that." The kids play in utter anarchy. Even the Crimson Throne game, which is my second-most-anarchic game, has a fundamental understanding: Impus Major puts Arkwhal (a real tank, at AC 45, DR 3/-, a permanent Magic Circle Against Evil, 50% Fortification, and oodles of AoOs with Stand Still) in a tactically-sound place. Impus Major is really, really, really good at that. The rest of the party understands this, and focuses on the outliers: If they're not trying to get past Arkwhal, they're under withering fire. The whole combat is, "Herd all the bad guys into Arkwhal." It's ludicrously successful.
    This group is just, "Well, I'm doing my own thing, and the rest of the party had better back me up!"
  • I was e-mailing Talky about it, and this was my conversation with Impus Major:
    NobodysHome: Impus Major, who is the best tactician in the group?
    Impus Major (without a pause): Either xxx or yyy.
    NH: And what happens when either of them propose an idea?
    IM: They get shot down.
    NH: So what ends up happening?
    IM: We go with Mr. Stereotype's plan.

    I love Mr. Stereotype and the way he plays, but sorry, man, you have NO concept of RPG tactics. It's an experience thing. We have one player who's in every game I run, who has a very keen sense of tactics, who's basically given up on both SS and CT as, "These people will never do anything reasonable" so he focuses on annihilating my bad guys with extreme prejudice in Jade Regent (the fights there are really, really, really pathetic... for the bad guys). We have another player who has a long history of tactical video games, and also shows a good sense of roles and tactics, and he gets shut down as well.

    So my good tacticians are getting shut down in favor of who can yell the loudest, and the whole group is getting really frustrated as a result.

    There will be some discussion tonight, I'm sure...


    4 people marked this as a favorite.

    Aw, my little guys are doing tactical planning! *SNIFF*

    I think there are going to be a lot of dead serpentfolk come April 11.

    (Yep, next two weeks are off 'cause NobodysHome's bein' his chaperonin' self.)


    2 people marked this as a favorite.

    My generous coop gamer side wants to throw some advice, but my cruel and chess loving GM side said 'NO! Sit back, enjoy their pain, drink it...DRINK IT ALL IN"

    LOL...I do stand by my other advice, about the dirty feeling meter for if the battlefield control spell is sufficient for the task. It really does not fail me. :)

    (Nobody's Home Chaperonin' stuff is in fact like robins coming to nest, it heralds spring, or so I am guessing.)


    2 people marked this as a favorite.

    So just so's people know:

  • Talky and I have to get together and do a 1-on-1 session as Narlock, with Invisibility Sphere, Zone of Silence, and Life Bubble, attempts to explore the fortress alone without getting captured or killed
    That session is tentatively planned for Monday, but my schedule is piling up rapidly as the high school trip approaches
  • Our next group session is April 11

  • So this thread will be dead for a while. Entertain yourselves!


    2 people marked this as a favorite.
    Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

    Oh man I've missed these. Kind of vanished from the forums because of poor time management, working, Tumblr, and the like.

    I will admit surprise you've not put your players on Hero Labs as well as the monsters. I use it to track buffs and the like... but you might be onto something because needing to add in all those buffs can take up an hour or more of my time. *ponders*

    Ah well. Once the group kills off Karzoug next week (and after Karzoug's Mythic Wish to eliminate all of the players' Mythic abilities got hit by Spell Reflection and Karzoug failed his save against his own Wish (and the players all made their saves), it seems probable he's going to die. It's just how long it will take. ;)

    It's fun watching your group of munchkins at work though. I'm sorry it's not always been fun but... it does sound like fun.


    2 people marked this as a favorite.
    Tangent101 wrote:

    Oh man I've missed these. Kind of vanished from the forums because of poor time management, working, Tumblr, and the like.

    I will admit surprise you've not put your players on Hero Labs as well as the monsters. I use it to track buffs and the like... but you might be onto something because needing to add in all those buffs can take up an hour or more of my time. *ponders*

    Ah well. Once the group kills off Karzoug next week (and after Karzoug's Mythic Wish to eliminate all of the players' Mythic abilities got hit by Spell Reflection and Karzoug failed his save against his own Wish (and the players all made their saves), it seems probable he's going to die. It's just how long it will take. ;)

    It's fun watching your group of munchkins at work though. I'm sorry it's not always been fun but... it does sound like fun.

    Wow! It's been a while! Good to see you back!

    Yeah, at least YOUR Karzoug didn't get a Smiting, Hasted paladin/barbarian duo Bard's Escaped into flanking position.

    Taking over 600 damage between two actions can... cramp a wizard's style...


    1 person marked this as a favorite.
    Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

    No, but he did get a Hasted, Prayered, Bardic Songed, Greater Invisiblitied Greater Heroismed, Stoneskinned Swashbuckling Arcane Trickster with an AC so high it takes natural 20s to hit her (and good luck going through her mirror images!) right next to him. And then burned his Standard Action to cast Wall of Force to trap her in the alcove behind him... ;)


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    Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

    You'll also find me in the 2nd Edition Playtest forums commenting on the latest blog posts. ^^;; That's what drew me back into the forums to be honest. I'm even considering holding off on my next campaign (Hell's Rebels) for the Skype group until the Playtest is underway at the very least, so not to require people to redo their characters a few games into the new campaign....


    2 people marked this as a favorite.
    NobodysHome wrote:

    So just so's people know:

  • Talky and I have to get together and do a 1-on-1 session as Narlock, with Invisibility Sphere, Zone of Silence, and Life Bubble, attempts to explore the fortress alone without getting captured or killed
    That session is tentatively planned for Monday, but my schedule is piling up rapidly as the high school trip approaches
  • Our next group session is April 11

  • So this thread will be dead for a while. Entertain yourselves!

    Man is it ever going to put a crimp in things if Narlock doesn't make it back...

    PS. Could we have an update on the characters ( and associated NPCs - e.g. Bara) stats/builds?


    1 person marked this as a favorite.
    pad300 wrote:
    NobodysHome wrote:

    So just so's people know:

  • Talky and I have to get together and do a 1-on-1 session as Narlock, with Invisibility Sphere, Zone of Silence, and Life Bubble, attempts to explore the fortress alone without getting captured or killed
    That session is tentatively planned for Monday, but my schedule is piling up rapidly as the high school trip approaches
  • Our next group session is April 11

  • So this thread will be dead for a while. Entertain yourselves!

    Man is it ever going to put a crimp in things if Narlock doesn't make it back...

    PS. Could we have an update on the characters ( and associated NPCs - e.g. Bara) stats/builds?

    Since I need to get them accumulated anyway, sure.

    (It's a major PITA -- we have 3 machines that run Hero Labs, plus multiple players who like to do their characters on their own, so I try to maintain one Google Drive "source of truth". But no one bothers with it, so after every level-up or shopping spree it's, "OK, which machine did you use? Where did you put it? Etc." or else they lose their character sheets and it's 15 minutes of tracking down the por)


    1 person marked this as a favorite.
    Tangent101 wrote:
    You'll also find me in the 2nd Edition Playtest forums commenting on the latest blog posts. ^^;; That's what drew me back into the forums to be honest. I'm even considering holding off on my next campaign (Hell's Rebels) for the Skype group until the Playtest is underway at the very least, so not to require people to redo their characters a few games into the new campaign....

    I've heard nothing about the changes that make me hopeful, so I'll likely drop all my subscriptions once they release the new version, but I know a lot of people really like the changes that I consider catastrophically horrible, so I look forward to seeing how it pans out, for better or for worse.

    A few things:
  • I've heard that they're trying to make it "more like 4e". The whole reason we're playing Pathfinder is that we found 4e unplayable
  • I've heard that they want to get rid of the whole idea of, "PC as everyman" and start the PCs off more powerful than their NPC counterparts. This goes fundamentally against the way we like to play
  • I've also heard "more like Unchained". Unchained is one of the few books we ban outright
  • "Less specificity, more storytelling". I don't need a ruleset to tell me how to tell stories. I need a ruleset for the tactical side of things. If we don't have a tactical side, then I'm just going to save myself some money and run Randomania. (We do one-offs where a GM just runs for a day with no rule set, making up the story as he goes along to go with what the characters are doing/want to do/think is happening. It's loads of fun and doesn't require any rules, so if PF is moving in that direction I don't need it.)

  • I am well aware that all I've heard is hearsay and Pathfinder 2 may be none of the above. But I am cautiously pessimistic.


    5 people marked this as a favorite.

    Mmmm .... I am cautiously optimistic at present, NBH.

    Spoiler:

    I like some of what they did in 5e DnD, which is what some elements of PF2 strike me as comparable to.

    From the blog posts it seems that a more concentrated effort is being paid to making a class pack several sets of "choose yours" class features currently under the tag of 'class feats', i.e., 'class feats' is shorthand for 'class feature'.

    I won't be pre-ordering any printed materials, but the freebie playtest PDFs drop ~2nd August to get the playtest up and running. Figure I'll hold off until those are perused before formulating any further thoughts.


    1 person marked this as a favorite.
    NobodysHome wrote:
    pad300 wrote:
    NobodysHome wrote:

    So just so's people know:

  • Talky and I have to get together and do a 1-on-1 session as Narlock, with Invisibility Sphere, Zone of Silence, and Life Bubble, attempts to explore the fortress alone without getting captured or killed
    That session is tentatively planned for Monday, but my schedule is piling up rapidly as the high school trip approaches
  • Our next group session is April 11

  • So this thread will be dead for a while. Entertain yourselves!

    Man is it ever going to put a crimp in things if Narlock doesn't make it back...

    PS. Could we have an update on the characters ( and associated NPCs - e.g. Bara) stats/builds?

    Since I need to get them accumulated anyway, sure.

    (It's a major PITA -- we have 3 machines that run Hero Labs, plus multiple players who like to do their characters on their own, so I try to maintain one Google Drive "source of truth". But no one bothers with it, so after every level-up or shopping spree it's, "OK, which machine did you use? Where did you put it? Etc." or else they lose their character sheets and it's 15 minutes of tracking down the por)

    Thank you

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