Experimental APs - why not one going to Level 20?


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James Jacobs wrote:
Well... hearing more and more feedback from folks who DO enjoy mythic content certainly helps. There just didn't seem to be a lot of that love associated with Wrath, alas. Either because people are more prone to post when they're angry than they are when they're happy, because I take the negative comments to heart more quickly than the positive ones, or more likely due to a combination of the two.

There are other possibilities. For example, it is quite possible that a lot of people love Mythic but not Wrath of the Righteous.

I love the mythic rules. Aside from MA, I have three hardcover mythic rulebooks that I helped fund via kickstarter. I recently backed a KS for a mythic adventure path (which I assume you already knew about, seeing as "James Jacobs writes a section" was a stretch goal:) ). I have an abundance of smaller PDF mythic supplements. And I've been playing with

But I couldn't stand WotR. There are essentially three areas in which it falls short:

Firstly, the CR/ELs are way off. Mythic Adventures asserts that one mythic tier is worth approximately half a character level. That assertion is wrong. A mythic tier gives significantly more of a power boost than half a level. The first mythic tier is also worth more than subsequent tiers, but Mythic Adventures values all of them the same. The encounters in Wrath are built around this faulty assumption.
Chapter six of the Mythic Heroes Handbook contains a lot of optional rules which can make that assumption accurate, by giving mythic monsters more durability and toning down aspects of mythic characters that were overestimated originally. I think you can also purchase that chapter separately, for those who don't want the entire MHH (EDIT: Yep, found it.) If you want encounters to challenge Mythic PCs, you either need to implement some of the optional rules in the MHH, or you need to use higher CR monsters than Mythic Adventures would have you believe are appropriate. WotR did neither of these things.

Secondly, you overestimated non-mythic monsters. In Mythic there are a lot of abilities of the form

Generic Mythic Ability wrote:
This ability does X. However, if your enemy is non-mythic, this ability does Y, and Y is insanely powerful and can't be blocked by anything except by being Mythic.

When abilities like that one come in to play, the status of being mythic is more important than the actual abilities granted by a Mythic tier or rank! A party of Mythic PCs can steamroll encounters of all non-mythic creatures, even those way above their challenge rating, by using abilities which are extremely potent against non-mythic foes.

When I first started GMing mythic, I struggled trying to figure out how to challenge the party with non-mythic foes. I combed over the monsters' builds to make them as resilient as possible. I gave them powerful templates. I used monsters way above the party's level. But the non-mythic monsters always ended up trivialized by the mythic PCs.
Eventually I realized I had been approaching things from the wrong direction. I shouldn't have been trying to make non-mythic monsters and NPCs a challenge on their own. Instead, every encounter should either involve a mix of mythic and non-mythic foes, or should involve only mythic enemies. You don't need to go full-out with mythic-izing monsters. Just give them a mythic simple template. Or, for even less, give them the mythic subtype so that they count as mythic, but don't give any other benefits. It increases their ability to challenge the PCs tremendously.

Lastly, I personally found the story in WotR abysmally dull. It is entirely a matter of preference and has absolutely nothing to do with the Mythic rules.
Amusingly, in the first sentence of the preceding paragraph, I typed "abyssally dull" several times before getting it right. Looks like the Worldwound's influence is spreading to my keyboard:)


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I could get into a "if even mythic monsters get popped like zits, what makes them mythic to begin with?" rant, but it would be a derail and also I really try to not talk about mythic anymore.

Although that rant also applies to player characters overdeveloped damage capabilities and the monsters lack of ability to take said damage outside of mythic gameplay and so surely has been brought up in other threads already.


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I read this thread in two pieces with a large gap of time between them, so I apologize if this suggestion has already be addressed in the early half.

The premise of the thread is that one of the experimental AP themes should be that the AP goes to level 20. I think this is subtly off; the experimental aspect shouldn't be that the AP goes to 20, it should be that the AP is significantly harder than a typical AP.

Like most of the experimental AP themes, this will alienate a portion of the audience (people who don't want an extremely difficult gaming experience) while being the best thing ever for another slice (some people really like hard games; I am one of these people. See the success of the Dark Souls series as an example). If you design all the encounters at APL + 1 through APL + 5, a natural consequence of the increased difficulty will be that PCs level up much faster per page of adventure than is typical, which should help get them to level 20 without inflating the number of pages.

If I was going to try and make this work, I would probably recommend the use of 25 point buy, to give a stronger than baseline starting point for the PCs, and include some valid story specific reason for raise dead/resurrection to be available early on, as you are more likely than usual to kill PCs. I am sure there are other tricks that could be done to try and design for that experience, but they require different choices in campaign design, hence why it would be the experimental theme.

While it is true that any campaign can be adjusted up or down in difficulty, it becomes much harder with a full AP, especially if you stick to using XP (and correspondingly get to higher levels). The greater XP and loot from added enemies means your encounters have to increasingly diverge from what is printed the further you get into the AP, because the players are both several level higher than expected and need the challenge increased even more from there. That makes it very helpful to have the whole AP designed to be hard from the start.

Now, the downside is that if you go with "really hard" as your experimental AP theme, it is probably less new player friendly than most of the other experimental APs. How much more or less so than something like Iron Gods, I can't really say, because it is differentiating on a mechanical vs. thematic preference. I do think there is a market for a really hard AP though, and while it probably isn't the core audience, that is kind of the point of doing the experimental AP lines.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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Hmmmm....

Making a "HARD MODE" AP that has the PCs facing tough encounters the whole time... that's actually very very very intriguing. I don't know why this possible solution didn't occur to me before... but I'm VERY intrigued.

Shadow Lodge

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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber
James Jacobs wrote:

Hmmmm....

Making a "HARD MODE" AP that has the PCs facing tough encounters the whole time... that's actually very very very intriguing. I don't know why this possible solution didn't occur to me before... but I'm VERY intrigued.

As a player and subscriberror I like this idea as well. :-)

Scarab Sages

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James Jacobs wrote:

Hmmmm....

Making a "HARD MODE" AP that has the PCs facing tough encounters the whole time... that's actually very very very intriguing. I don't know why this possible solution didn't occur to me before... but I'm VERY intrigued.

My group are strong enough players that in the normal APs, I just par for the course max hitpoints and arbitrarily add a bunch of enemies, etc. So I'd definitely be interested in seeing a hard mode.

Sovereign Court

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James Jacobs wrote:

Hmmmm....

Making a "HARD MODE" AP that has the PCs facing tough encounters the whole time... that's actually very very very intriguing. I don't know why this possible solution didn't occur to me before... but I'm VERY intrigued.

I'd like to see what you do with hard mode - I usually have to spruce up encounters.

Shadow Lodge

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Count me in with the group who'd be willing to give a shot to a tougher AP. I likewise have to amp up my monsters at least a bit, even at low levels. At high I usually have to completely rebuild/replace them.


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But that's going to happen no matter what, I say let Pett, Logue, Frasier, Groves and Co. Inflate their death tolls.

Shadow Lodge

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What WOULD be the optimal lineup for a grueling AP like this, anyway? Pett and Logue are obvious, Vaughan maybe if he's available, Hitchcock perhaps, Groves possibly, Hodges we haven't seen much from in the past couple of APs and would be good for a return...?


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A "hard mode" AP?! Scotty, consider the word given.


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Pett, Logue, Frasier, Hodges, Wes and James.

Vaughan seems really busy these days so I'm not sure he could be counted on, although it would be a treat if he did.

*Mike Shel and Hitchcock are alternates in case James or Wes are too busy.

Sovereign Court

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James Jacobs wrote:

Hmmmm....

Making a "HARD MODE" AP that has the PCs facing tough encounters the whole time... that's actually very very very intriguing. I don't know why this possible solution didn't occur to me before... but I'm VERY intrigued.

They start naked in a Galt prison... level 20 but no spellbooks, items, powerless (monk is drugged to STR 0 to prevent shenanigans). They fight a couple of CR 15-18 encounters naked to gain their gear back! :)

[cue to the life-saving bathtub filled with water... AP name: "NAKED TRUTH: FURNITURE RISING!" ?]

PS: he said "HARD MODE"... ;)


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Tammy will beat anyone on Hard Mode, with her hands tied behind her back


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Purple Dragon Knight wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:

Hmmmm....

Making a "HARD MODE" AP that has the PCs facing tough encounters the whole time... that's actually very very very intriguing. I don't know why this possible solution didn't occur to me before... but I'm VERY intrigued.

They start naked in a Galt prison... level 20 but no spellbooks, items, powerless (monk is drugged to STR 0 to prevent shenanigans). They fight a couple of CR 15-18 encounters naked to gain their gear back! :)

And then of course, two obligatory sections where the players play in 'flashback mode' -- gear half of WBL value, limited resources, and they get their *real* gear upon completion of those two flashbacks so it *means more to them*...


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If such a hypothetical AP is to be created, there would have to be disclaimers about it -- not so much to warn off players from purchasing it at all, but to let them know that this is a bit more difficult than the 'average' adventure path.

That way, when it is played the reaction isn't the polar extremes of 'OMG We're all dead' nor 'HAHAHA ROFLSTOMP!'.

Done up right, basic, intermediate, and advanced players could all look at the path with a bit of dread but an extreme sense of accomplishment upon completion.

Contributor

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Hard Mode?! Count me in!

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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Wei Ji the Learner wrote:


If such a hypothetical AP is to be created, there would have to be disclaimers about it -- not so much to warn off players from purchasing it at all, but to let them know that this is a bit more difficult than the 'average' adventure path.

That way, when it is played the reaction isn't the polar extremes of 'OMG We're all dead' nor 'HAHAHA ROFLSTOMP!'.

Done up right, basic, intermediate, and advanced players could all look at the path with a bit of dread but an extreme sense of accomplishment upon completion.

Of course there would. It should go without saying.

Just as there's disclaimers for Iron Gods (Don't play this if you don't like mixing sci-fi and fantasy) or Skull & Shackles (Don't play this if you don't wanna be a pirate) or Hell's Vengeance (Don't play this if you don't wanna be evil) and so on. Nothing new there. We've been putting disclaimers on our Adventure Paths from the start. That's one of the primary purposes of the free Player's Guides—to let prospective players know what they're getting into with any AP we publish.

Scarab Sages

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James Jacobs wrote:
Wei Ji the Learner wrote:


If such a hypothetical AP is to be created, there would have to be disclaimers about it -- not so much to warn off players from purchasing it at all, but to let them know that this is a bit more difficult than the 'average' adventure path.

That way, when it is played the reaction isn't the polar extremes of 'OMG We're all dead' nor 'HAHAHA ROFLSTOMP!'.

Done up right, basic, intermediate, and advanced players could all look at the path with a bit of dread but an extreme sense of accomplishment upon completion.

Of course there would. It should go without saying.

Just as there's disclaimers for Iron Gods (Don't play this if you don't like mixing sci-fi and fantasy) or Skull & Shackles (Don't play this if you don't wanna be a pirate) or Hell's Vengeance (Don't play this if you don't wanna be evil) and so on. Nothing new there. We've been putting disclaimers on our Adventure Paths from the start. That's one of the primary purposes of the free Player's Guides—to let prospective players know what they're getting into with any AP we publish.

James, I know this is all speculative, and you have APs planned out a couple years in advance, but do you think you'd do this for any AP, or would there be a specific sort of story that you'd want to fit a hard mode AP onto?


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You wake up dead! Now ... you have to survive long enough to get a raise dead in order to exact your vengeance.

Scarab Sages

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Turin the Mad wrote:
You wake up dead! Now ... you have to survive long enough to get a raise dead in order to exact your vengeance.

There's actually a fantastic 3pp (Kaidan) adventure that is almost exactly that. Up From Below. Very creative mechanics and an interesting story.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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Duiker wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
Wei Ji the Learner wrote:


If such a hypothetical AP is to be created, there would have to be disclaimers about it -- not so much to warn off players from purchasing it at all, but to let them know that this is a bit more difficult than the 'average' adventure path.

That way, when it is played the reaction isn't the polar extremes of 'OMG We're all dead' nor 'HAHAHA ROFLSTOMP!'.

Done up right, basic, intermediate, and advanced players could all look at the path with a bit of dread but an extreme sense of accomplishment upon completion.

Of course there would. It should go without saying.

Just as there's disclaimers for Iron Gods (Don't play this if you don't like mixing sci-fi and fantasy) or Skull & Shackles (Don't play this if you don't wanna be a pirate) or Hell's Vengeance (Don't play this if you don't wanna be evil) and so on. Nothing new there. We've been putting disclaimers on our Adventure Paths from the start. That's one of the primary purposes of the free Player's Guides—to let prospective players know what they're getting into with any AP we publish.

James, I know this is all speculative, and you have APs planned out a couple years in advance, but do you think you'd do this for any AP, or would there be a specific sort of story that you'd want to fit a hard mode AP onto?

While I could do this for any AP... there IS one in particular I've got in mind, yes.


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Duiker wrote:
Turin the Mad wrote:
You wake up dead! Now ... you have to survive long enough to get a raise dead in order to exact your vengeance.
There's actually a fantastic 3pp (Kaidan) adventure that is almost exactly that. Up From Below. Very creative mechanics and an interesting story.

I had no idea. Awesome. :)


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James Jacobs wrote:
Duiker wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
Wei Ji the Learner wrote:


If such a hypothetical AP is to be created, there would have to be disclaimers about it -- not so much to warn off players from purchasing it at all, but to let them know that this is a bit more difficult than the 'average' adventure path.

That way, when it is played the reaction isn't the polar extremes of 'OMG We're all dead' nor 'HAHAHA ROFLSTOMP!'.

Done up right, basic, intermediate, and advanced players could all look at the path with a bit of dread but an extreme sense of accomplishment upon completion.

Of course there would. It should go without saying.

Just as there's disclaimers for Iron Gods (Don't play this if you don't like mixing sci-fi and fantasy) or Skull & Shackles (Don't play this if you don't wanna be a pirate) or Hell's Vengeance (Don't play this if you don't wanna be evil) and so on. Nothing new there. We've been putting disclaimers on our Adventure Paths from the start. That's one of the primary purposes of the free Player's Guides—to let prospective players know what they're getting into with any AP we publish.

James, I know this is all speculative, and you have APs planned out a couple years in advance, but do you think you'd do this for any AP, or would there be a specific sort of story that you'd want to fit a hard mode AP onto?
While I could do this for any AP... there IS one in particular I've got in mind, yes.

I say go for it. Let those freaky nasty stat blocks loose!


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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

*indicates his relative newbish nature by not knowing of either of those! Awesome!*

Cry 'HAVOC!' And let slip the Mode of Hard!!

*coughs*


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Strange Aeons would be appropo to make as Hard Mode. ;)


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Kieviel wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:

Hmmmm....

Making a "HARD MODE" AP that has the PCs facing tough encounters the whole time... that's actually very very very intriguing. I don't know why this possible solution didn't occur to me before... but I'm VERY intrigued.

As a player and subscriberror I like this idea as well. :-)

Subsscriberror? I thought that was supposed to be for Microsoft products . . . .

Anyway, the idea of a hard mode AP is pretty good, athough since most of the PbPs on these boards start with point buy 5 higher and party size 1 or 2 higher than recommended for standard APs, a hard mode AP might actually just end up being a normal mode AP in practice This is not necessarily a bad thing . . .

Another possibility is to design an AP with frequent sidebars for difficulty adjustment.


Count me in on this one! I'd love a hard mode AP!


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James Jacobs wrote:
While I could do this for any AP... there IS one in particular I've got in mind, yes.

I'm all for this idea.

That said, one suggestion I'd have is to make sure there is a logical in-character method for replacement characters to be introduced. Meat-grinders are great, but it's easy for a plot to become so personal that replacements make no sense. For instance, Wrath after the first couple books really feels story-linked to the original PCs, making walk-on replacements awkward. Worse, in a TPK circumstance having a new party enter at say... 13th level kind of defies belief.

Stuff like Rubber Glove of Doom - which I'm currently playing for the second time - isn't bad. Meatgrinder, but being woodsy, it's reasonable for random competent adventurers to show up mid-story and pick up where others failed.

It's all about the story.

Contributor

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I'm liking the way this thread is heading, a super tough AP has lots and lots of plus points, heh heh...

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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Turin the Mad wrote:
Strange Aeons would be appropo to make as Hard Mode. ;)

Perhaps... but that AP is already well into design with most of the authors finishing up the adventures this month or next month... so too late for that one, pretty much.


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James Jacobs wrote:
Turin the Mad wrote:
Strange Aeons would be appropo to make as Hard Mode. ;)
Perhaps... but that AP is already well into design with most of the authors finishing up the adventures this month or next month... so too late for that one, pretty much.

Drat. :) More than a few are looking forward to 'Hard Mode'. Mr. Pett may need help with the stat blocks though. ;)

Contributor

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I always need help with those pesky things Turin:)


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Richard Pett wrote:
I always need help with those pesky things Turin:)

You may recall one in particular, (Sir) Pett. And the standing offer of assistance. ^____^


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I remember when Turin helped me create an army of Fungus Leshies for my Wrath of the Hippies Kingmaker campaign back in the day. :-)


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Anguish wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
While I could do this for any AP... there IS one in particular I've got in mind, yes.

I'm all for this idea.

That said, one suggestion I'd have is to make sure there is a logical in-character method for replacement characters to be introduced. Meat-grinders are great, but it's easy for a plot to become so personal that replacements make no sense. For instance, Wrath after the first couple books really feels story-linked to the original PCs, making walk-on replacements awkward. Worse, in a TPK circumstance having a new party enter at say... 13th level kind of defies belief.

Stuff like Rubber Glove of Doom - which I'm currently playing for the second time - isn't bad. Meatgrinder, but being woodsy, it's reasonable for random competent adventurers to show up mid-story and pick up where others failed.

It's all about the story.

I think this would be an important point to address. I bet there are a lot of interesting ways you could address this, too. Just thinking about some possibilities, as they might apply to Way of the Wicked as an example (since I am currently running it).

You could have the story written in such a way that there is a good reason for raise dead to be available, even in the event of a TPK, such that death means more a failure to attain a particular goal and less a total loss.

Way of the Wicked:
WotW is actually written this way, even though it chose not to do this by default. The players start out acting as agents of a high level cleric, who is strongly invested in their success. It would not have been a big stretch to have him raise a failed team, although the default assumption is that the player's patron isn't that invested in them.

You could have the players create two sets of characters at the start of the campaign; one to play, one to act as a related team of NPCs that does other missions in the background related to the plot, but is able to cut over and take over the main storyline if the primary PCs die.

Way of the Wicked:
This could easily be done in Way of the Wicked by writing one of the other 9 knots into this role; similar to the 7th knot, where the PCs are aware of the NPC team's actions, but to act as a backup group instead of a rival group. By mentioning them throughout the story and by having the PCs design them, it would keep them tied more closely to the plot and make it smoother to introduce a new team in the event of a TPK.

There are probably other good ways to design for this, I think it has the possibility to be very interesting.


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captain yesterday wrote:
I remember when Turin helped me create an army of Fungus Leshies for my Wrath of the Hippies Kingmaker campaign back in the day. :-)

The ganja leshies were especially sought after I hear. :)

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Turin the Mad wrote:
Richard Pett wrote:
I always need help with those pesky things Turin:)
You may recall one in particular, (Sir) Pett. And the standing offer of assistance. ^____^

Blimey, a blast from the long ago past if I recall correctly, Mad. Mnaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

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captain yesterday wrote:
I remember when Turin helped me create an army of Fungus Leshies for my Wrath of the Hippies Kingmaker campaign back in the day. :-)

The image is both haunting and disturbing...

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Much like the hellish wraith-pixie alliance from Hordes of the Things from radio so long ago I've not got a good enough memory to recall it...


Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I would be very interested in a level 1-20 none mythic campaign with difficult encounters. I like high level play and tend to have to rebuild most AP encounters for my group probably because I am generous at character design.
However after putting up with Tier 10 mythic I would not want another game where the players gain significant mythic tiers despite liking the plot of WrotR the ridiculous power of the pc's killed the fun of gming for me at about the end of book 5.


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Richard Pett wrote:
Turin the Mad wrote:
Richard Pett wrote:
I always need help with those pesky things Turin:)
You may recall one in particular, (Sir) Pett. And the standing offer of assistance. ^____^
Blimey, a blast from the long ago past if I recall correctly, Mad. Mnaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

You do recall correctly, all the way back to The Styes.

Contributor

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Ah, then I must be very careful not to hijack this fine thread at a fine moment and mention the forthcoming blight city guide and ap beyond pointing you here and then slithering humbly away to let this fine thread continue...


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To keep a hard AP viable, it probably should deal differently with death and TPK, making it less of a setback but more of a chance. Why? Because once death causes less frustration (probably even fun), you can more easily go overboard with challenges.


^Of course, if you really wanted that, you could go the Paranoia route . .. . .


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens Subscriber

Re: A "Hard Mode" AP...

Just run a standard AP straight (from the GM's perspective), with PCs using 10-point buy and the Slow advancement track.

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