Got TPK'd. Now what?


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So, first time occurrence for my group. We managed to get TPK'd, and at level 2 we have no possible way of coming back. Early on in the first book of strange aeons. So spoiler warning

Spoiler:
New GM decided he wanted to run strange aeons. Looks fun, party was a witch, warpriest, fighter, far-strike monk, and paladin.

At level two proceeding through the asylum when we come across a courtyard covered in the dreaded yellow fog. We also saw a narrow path that appeared clear of fog skirting the courtyard.

This is where things went south immediately. On our second round skirting around the edge something darted forward, grappled two of our party members and dragged them screaming about 50 feet away into the fog(I'm not sure what the creature is. None of us ever could see it through the fog even while being grappled)

From there it proceed to cycle through grappling us and throwing us against the walls of the courtyard for massive damage. Due to some feature of the fog or the creature itself we were disoriented and could not find our way back towards one of the companions who was standing in the doorway calling for us to return.

At this point four of us were wandering around the fog in random directions and taking a swing a the creature whenever we saw one of our companions being constricted by the mist creature. This went on for quite some time with us getting dragged back into the fog whenever we found the clear path.

Due to the nature of the "fight" our GM didn't have us on a specific map since we had no idea where we were, but using a few landmarks the creature appeared to have incredible reach. At one point in time, I'd moderately certain it grappled me and another party member who were on opposite sides of the courtyard. I asked for clarification that it was only one monster and this was confirmed.

One of our party members ends up on the other side of the courtyard with a door. Hoping to escape as she was badly wounded she stepped into the next room. Apparently she got 5 feet farther into the room than she should have and was hit by something massive for 24 damage and swallowed whole. She was dead instantly and I am told the creature was CR17.

Long story short. We all died one by one being constricted to death. On the few times one of us rolled extremely high on the cmb/escape artist check we just got attack of opportunity grappled as we tried to escape. Eventually it had killed all of us except the monk who was still standing in the doorway yelling for us to get back. He of course got dragged into the fog and killed the same way immediately afterwords.

From the looks of things we could have run immediately and sacrificed the fighter and paladin who got grappled first. The monk in the party was advocating for just that solution. In retrospect I suppose it would have been the right call, but not a solution I'm particularly happy with.

If somehow we had managed to win this fight though the next room still had an auto death monster waiting for the first person who walked in. I'm not sure if the entire campaign is like this but most of the players really aren't too excited to make new characters for the next TPK.

I'm going to speak to the GM and see what he envisions for future sessions if any but I'm not sure what we could have/should have really done there.


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Based on just this. My advice = get a new GM.

Grand Lodge

I have the adventure and I can confirm that your GM just added impossibly difficult monsters to kill you off.

In fact, there's no CR 17 monster for you to fight in the first book of any AP.


i agree with Quark, either your gm is new in which case they should stick to ap's as written until they have an actual understanding of the system.

or said gm is a dick who killed you on purpose


Jurassic Pratt wrote:

I have the adventure and I can confirm that your GM just added random impossibly difficult monsters to kill you off.

In fact, there's no CR 17 monster for you to fight in the first book of any AP.

I might be miss-remembering the number 17 specifically. But some gigantic creature behind the courtyard door that would have basically 1-hit any of us with "low damage"


out of curiosity what was th gm's reaction to the tpk?


Sounds like the DM screwed the pooch somewhere to tell the truth. He either didnt read the scenario beforehand, or didn't realize it was way outside the abilities of your group. Then when the poop hut the fan wasn't competent enough to adjust on the fly.

Tpk happens for a few reasons. Probably more ill miss.

1. Grp does something monumentaly dumb. Which doesnt sound the case here
2. Inexperienced DM doesn't properly guage scenario difficulty.
3. Just plain bad luck
4. Killer DM, as long as the players understand the dm is going to make it tough this is fine.

Given the description you gave, this had certain effects which ramped up the CR. The equivalent of invis, super long reach, high grapple, high dmg. At lvl 2 these are somewhat hard to get through.

As to what to do. Not sure if you can talk to DM without giving offense. You might just need to rotate DM'S If your lucky enough to have that kind of grp dynamic.. also since game is trashed anyways, why not ask him how he would have gotten past it. Maybe that will give you some insight into what his thought processes were. If the designers made it rediculous, maybe suggest not using their material in the future.


(I'm another player in that group.)

The GM seemed to think that we shouldn't have gone through the door in the first place, basically - that we were warned that the fog was dangerous, and should've known it was a death sentence even though there was a clear path through and the other time we walked on a path through the fog, nothing happened. He mentioned afterwards that he wasn't expecting to TPK us, but that he had a great time/thought it was a fun session.

I will mention this is his first time really GMing (we rotate GMs a lot in our group), so I'm not sure how much it was us being stupid, the AP being super deadly, him wanting to kill us, or him not knowing the rules well enough to run it properly. It did seem like the creature was doing some impossible things, but since I'm not going to buy the book to look up the stats (lol) I have no idea how much of that was intended.

Jurassic Pratt wrote:

I have the adventure and I can confirm that your GM just added impossibly difficult monsters to kill you off.

In fact, there's no CR 17 monster for you to fight in the first book of any AP.

So there's no crazy death worm lurking in the basement? It seemed weird - I've played enough APs to think that if there was a CR17 monster anywhere on the map, it would have been telegraphed and locked behind a door - but I didn't think he'd actually added it in just to screw us over harder when we were already doomed.


Sounds like the DM just wanted to screw you to me.


Frankly, regardless of the TPK, it sounds like your GM did at least two things wrong. Action economy sounds like it was pretty well disregarded by them. If it was grappling and taking AoOs at the same time (which it sounds like it may have with its grappling of multiple people), that's another error. And additionally, the mere fact that you were even able to escape this grapple monster through CMB (outside of 20s) and Escape Artist at level 2 with how much reach it apparently had makes this thing sounds like some pretty serious BS on your GM's part.

Grand Lodge

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Guess what time it is! Dream/Nightmare Sequence Time! Yup, your GM screwed the pooch. [As one GM'ing Strange Aeons for a home group]

Your group waking up from a slaughter nightmare would be very thematic for the first book. Talk to your GM about continuing the AP with your original characters, waking up in a fatigued/shaken state after said nightmare.

The GM should have had the PC's in the Chapel tell you about the unsettling/inescapable nature Yellow Fog before you ventured out. And even then, out in the Fog, the GM should have been hammering home the foreboding nature in the Fog- and even within the Fog, a path to the chapel should have been visible.

Talk to your GM. It is entirely within the scope of the first book for your party to wake up from a slaughter- like the one in the very beginning. ;)


Isn't there a terrible thing sleeping beneath the asylum that the players are not intended to encounter at that level (or at all)? It's simply that its presence is behind some of the terrible things that are going on there. The particular monster I'm thinking of is a CR17 CN Colossal Magical Beast that is first detailed in Pathfinder Adventure Path #65.

It's possible that the GM simply misunderstood that, terribly, read the notes to the GM that explained what is going on behind the scenes, looked up the monster, and then made a series of terrible decisions.

Like "In his house at R'lyeh dead Cthulhu waits dreaming" (or "ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" if you prefer) presupposes that Cthulhu isn't awake and ready to wreck your stuff at first. Cosmic Lovecraftian horrors are supposed to be waiting in the wings, not center stage in act 1.


the only high cr cratures ive seen in a 1st book of an adventure path are suposta be either your boss or an ally maybe a premade cinimatic type thing were the ally fights off a really tough enemy to give your party time to escape but never a senario were the party fights a high cr thing exept for

way of the wicked:
were if you dont agree to work for the baron it results in fighting a cr 15 creature


You're not supposed to leave the asylum. If you step out the door, the GM is supposed to intimidate the players to stay inside by constantly spawning monsters and describing the fog as impenetrable and filled with unthinkable monsters. The GM should probably be more explicit with their warnings next time.


Spastic Puma wrote:
You're not supposed to leave the asylum. If you step out the door, the GM is supposed to intimidate the players to stay inside by constantly spawning monsters and describing the fog as impenetrable and filled with unthinkable monsters. The GM should probably be more explicit with their warnings next time.

We hadn't attempted to leave the asylum. We were trying to find a small outside clearing so we could make a funeral pyre to put the various dead to rest and preform last rites. According to this map: https://static2.paizo.com/image/content/Blog/20160826-Map.jpg

We were in the top zone with the trees. Although I don't know if there were actually trees in the area. We had safely used the path on the very top right at one point previously to shortcut between rooms and as the GM had said it seems semi safe on the path.

In this case we had gotten about 30 feet down the path before we started getting dragged off it into the fog.

The death worm was apparently in that 2x4 room containing a staircase that is attached to the courtyard.


It's very far down and supposed to be asleep.


Lady-J wrote:
the only high cr cratures ive seen in a 1st book of an adventure path are suposta be either your boss or an ally maybe a premade cinimatic type thing were the ally fights off a really tough enemy to give your party time to escape but never a senario were the party fights a high cr thing exept for ** spoiler omitted **

The final boss of Book 1 of Carrion Crown is a level 8 Ghost Wizard. His CR is reduced to 6 due to certain circumstances though.

Grand Lodge

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Typically these encounters should be prefaced with lots of warnings, dead bodies and will saves to not run screaming away. I will almost always have some NPC or other creature get 1 shot in front of the players maybe muttering "Mmm so a roll of 7 plus 24 equals..." and then drop all my dice on the table for 'damage' noise.

Maybe your GM isn't experienced with this sort of thing, try talking to them.


I mean, I can get a GM being inexperienced and accidentally doing something wrong.

But inexperience doesn't really explain making up a bunch of absurdly overpowered monsters for the express purpose of killing off the party. That's just malicious.


Pathfinder Lost Omens Subscriber
swoosh wrote:

I mean, I can get a GM being inexperienced and accidentally doing something wrong.

But inexperience doesn't really explain making up a bunch of absurdly overpowered monsters for the express purpose of killing off the party. That's just malicious.

Spoiler:
The AP says the characters cannot get out of the asylum. Being inexperienced he probably took that in a literal sense and proceeded to kill them off. With a tiny bit of experience more he could have them awaken in the exact same situation they were when the AP begun. Basically brought back in time but with an extra derangement point for "dying".

The Archive wrote:
Frankly, regardless of the TPK, it sounds like your GM did at least two things wrong. Action economy sounds like it was pretty well disregarded by them. If it was grappling and taking AoOs at the same time (which it sounds like it may have with its grappling of multiple people), that's another error...

Can you not take attacks of opportunity while grappling? - maybe I've been playing it wrong


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magispitt wrote:

Can you not take attacks of opportunity while grappling? - maybe I've been playing it wrong

If it's the monster I'm thinking of, it's got the "Swallow Whole" extraordinary ability, which gives things the grappled condition but once you've been swallowed the monster can do other things with the rest of it's anatomy that isn't its digestive track.


Ah, okay - slight derail but if I had something that had the grab ability, how would that work then?

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

A monster with the Grab ability can take a -20 to its grapple check and not gain the grappled condition, which means that it can take AoOs, as the grappled condition is what limits your AoOs.


The rule is that a creature with the grappled condition cannot make attacks of opportunity, this is pretty clearly stated under "Grappled".

Per the universal monster rules, Grab says

Quote:
The creature has the option to conduct the grapple normally, or simply use the part of its body it used in the grab to hold the opponent. If it chooses to do the latter, it takes a –20 penalty on its CMB check to make and maintain the grapple, but does not gain the grappled condition itself.

Usually grappling gives the grappled condition to both participants, which prevents anybody from making AoOs. Things like Grab and Swallow Whole which can apply "grappled" to the target without also applying it to the user will spell this out specifically.


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Leitner wrote:
Jurassic Pratt wrote:

I have the adventure and I can confirm that your GM just added random impossibly difficult monsters to kill you off.

In fact, there's no CR 17 monster for you to fight in the first book of any AP.

I might be miss-remembering the number 17 specifically. But some gigantic creature behind the courtyard door that would have basically 1-hit any of us with "low damage"

The area with the CR17 says "It is not depicted on the

map, as it is beyond the scope of the adventure." Also it is "locked in temporal stasis", so it can't attack anyone.

As to the fog monster, I don't see how it could grab and drag someone off in the same round. From a special ability it has I can see how a new DM might think it could.

Basically the DM messed up. I like the, It was all a dream solution.


Rogar Valertis wrote:
** spoiler omitted **

Yeah, but per the map the OP linked and the description given they weren't trying to do that. They were on the grounds, walking along a path explicitly described by the GM as clear that they had walked on before without incident.


Leitner wrote:

So, first time occurrence for my group. We managed to get TPK'd, and at level 2 we have no possible way of coming back. Early on in the first book of strange aeons. So spoiler warning

** spoiler omitted **...

Yeah, that GM did that fight all kinds of wrong, and I haven't even ran or played that AP.

For starters, grappling a creature is a standard action, or as part of an attack in the case of possessing the Grab feature, and even then you'd be limited by the number of limbs/attacks you possess; trying to exceed that would require letting go of one of your currently grappled foes.

Second, a creature can't be thrown towards a wall or similar structure unless the creature possesses a special ability to do so. To rule otherwise would be GM FIAT (which he is certainly in the realm of being able to do, but isn't RAW, nor would it occur in a PFS scenario), in which case you're getting screwed either way.

Third, you cannot grapple as an Attack of Opportunity, because as I've noted above, grappling is a specific standard action, which cannot be done in place of an attack, compared to things like Sunder, Disarm, and so on. Sure, if you had the Grab ability, and your attack lets you Grab, then you can, but that doesn't bypass the "Can't make Attacks of Opportunity" rule when under the Grappled condition (which would've happened when it first grapples a PC). If the Grab ability lets him ignore that, that's a -20 penalty on the original grapple check (he can't adhoc it after the fact), something which by no means is an easy task, even for a CR 17 creature against level 2 PCs.

So, long-story-short, your GM can't run Grapple rules worth a damn.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Yeah, the monster in the courtyard, from what I remember at least, is very good at swooping down and grappling an individual person, but shouldn't be able to give the whole group trouble. In the one I ran, it swooped down, grabbed the occultist, and flew off with her before anyone else could react. Since nobody could see it, but they could hear that character dying, they sorta just...moved on with their day and never went outside ever again.

It did seem like it was a hard encounter to get out of without any deaths, but with what you described, it sounds like the DM misread something.


Wow.. alright, couple clarifications.

The CR17 creature wasn't the one grappling us. It was whatever the fog monster was(could someone please link me to the thing?) Our group has unanimously decided since I posted this thread that we don't want to continue adventure so it won't be a spoiler(hence me looking up the map)) CR17 only showed up 1 round when our fighter managed to get chucked across the courtyard next to a door and tried to escape and then got 1-hit.

Second, in the first round it swooped out from no where(fog I guess), grappled people, and then dragged them about 50 feet away somewhere I couldn't reach with a double move. I figured this was probably not within the rules but sometimes monsters have special abilities.

Does the monster in question have grab or grapple? I was under the impression grab required hitting the player first. He never rolled anything but a grapple check(which apparently required a crit fail to fail on every member of the party). Our fighter had very high AC and should have been able to avoid getting chain grabbed at least somewhat well. Myself(warpriest) and the paladin were also pretty good.

Monster allegedly had the ability to grapple multiple enemies at a time and the constrict ability(I specifically asked about this because we were taking damage when it was simply maintaining the grapple and GM said it was there).

On the attack of opportunity issue. *most* of the time, only one player was grappled(other usually thrown against a wall). In this instance grappled player would make cmb/escape artist check. If they succeeded they would try to run, procing the new AOO. I think this might actually be legal. But not sure which is why I am here asking you guys.


Leitner wrote:

Wow.. alright, couple clarifications.

The CR17 creature wasn't the one grappling us. It was whatever the fog monster was(could someone please link me to the thing?) Our group has unanimously decided since I posted this thread that we don't want to continue adventure so it won't be a spoiler(hence me looking up the map)) CR17 only showed up 1 round when our fighter managed to get chucked across the courtyard next to a door and tried to escape and then got 1-hit.

Second, in the first round it swooped out from no where(fog I guess), grappled people, and then dragged them about 50 feet away somewhere I couldn't reach with a double move. I figured this was probably not within the rules but sometimes monsters have special abilities.

Does the monster in question have grab or grapple? I was under the impression grab required hitting the player first. He never rolled anything but a grapple check(which apparently required a crit fail to fail on every member of the party). Our fighter had very high AC and should have been able to avoid getting chain grabbed at least somewhat well. Myself(warpriest) and the paladin were also pretty good.

Monster allegedly had the ability to grapple multiple enemies at a time and the constrict ability(I specifically asked about this because we were taking damage when it was simply maintaining the grapple and GM said it was there).

On the attack of opportunity issue. *most* of the time, only one player was grappled(other usually thrown against a wall). In this instance grappled player would make cmb/escape artist check. If they succeeded they would try to run, procing the new AOO. I think this might actually be legal. But not sure which is why I am here asking you guys.

Well, most creatures have a Fly speed of 60 feet, and it's not unreasonable to expect them to take Fly-By Attack as a feat, especially since hit-and-run tactics are stupidly broken for creatures who can't properly counter. It's perhaps the #1 thing I've realized with low level APs, and why I see TPKs with low level AP characters all the time; because they're pitching enemies like this against a party who lacks important resources to reliably deal with such enemies.

However, even with that sort of combination, that tactic would be impossible, since as I've stated, Grapple is a Standard Action, and cannot be done in place of an attack (such as the one granted from Fly-By Attack); you have to do it specifically as the action unless you possess a special ability (such as Grab) that lets you do otherwise.

Hell, even with special abilities like Grab in conjunction with Fly-By Attack, it still doesn't change my point: Your GM can't run Grapple rules worth a damn. And your party basically got owned because of it.

His homework before he next runs for GMing is to get the Combat Maneuver rules down-pat.


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Darksol the Painbringer wrote:
Grapple is a Standard Action, and cannot be done in place of an attack (such as the one granted from Fly-By Attack)

Actually, Flyby Attack gives you a generic standard action in the middle of your move that can be used for anything it normally could: melee attack, ranged attack, combat maneuver, aid another, spellcasting, channel energy, whatever. It's much more permissive than either Ride-by Attack or Spring Attack.

Flyby Attack wrote:
When flying, the creature can take a move action and another standard action at any point during the move. The creature cannot take a second move action during a round when it makes a flyby attack.

But you're right about the rest of that combat having serious issues.


Game over. Start a new adventure. His turn to GM is over.


Ciaran Barnes wrote:
Game over. Start a new adventure. His turn to GM is over.

Sigh.... quite frankly, that is what we have come to terms with. However, I am the usual GM for the group with my wife as a secondary. I really wanted a break from GMing so we could play as a team for a bit. Guess it isn't meant to be.


Avoron wrote:
Darksol the Painbringer wrote:
Grapple is a Standard Action, and cannot be done in place of an attack (such as the one granted from Fly-By Attack)

Actually, Flyby Attack gives you a generic standard action in the middle of your move that can be used for anything it normally could: melee attack, ranged attack, combat maneuver, aid another, spellcasting, channel energy, whatever. It's much more permissive than either Ride-by Attack or Spring Attack.

Flyby Attack wrote:
When flying, the creature can take a move action and another standard action at any point during the move. The creature cannot take a second move action during a round when it makes a flyby attack.
But you're right about the rest of that combat having serious issues.

Huh. Thought it was basically Spring Attack, but without all the dumb pre-reqs. Good to know...


what you are looking for.:
http://paizo.com/pathfinderRPG/prd/bestiary4/nightgaunt.html#nightgaunt


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
Leitner wrote:

Wow.. alright, couple clarifications.

The CR17 creature wasn't the one grappling us. It was whatever the fog monster was(could someone please link me to the thing?)

Ninja'ed by Valandil Ancalime with the link to the creature

Um, yeah. Things definitely didn't get played according to the rules and info set out in the adventure. Grab is in play but flyby attack is not. The things pretty good at grappling, but it sounds like the GM really didn't understand those rules.


Yeah... I figured it was something like that.

Guess I gotta get my GM hat ready.


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Make one of the other slackers players in the group take a turn. Nobody's going to like a game you feel obligated to run when you don't want to.

It's not like GMing an AP is that hard, all things considered.

Grand Lodge

Leitner wrote:

We hadn't attempted to leave the asylum. We were trying to find a small outside clearing so we could make a funeral pyre to put the various dead to rest and preform last rites. According to this map: https://static2.paizo.com/image/content/Blog/20160826-Map.jpg

We were in the top zone with the trees. Although I don't know if there were actually trees in the area. We had safely used the path on the very top right at one point previously to shortcut between rooms and as the GM had said it seems semi safe on the path.

In this case we had gotten about 30 feet down the path before we started getting dragged off it into the fog.

The death worm was apparently in that 2x4 room containing a staircase that is attached to the courtyard.

The "deathworm" is a Bhole, and you should not have even interact with it, or it with you. The GM should have told you "You see a squirming mass that resembled a giant wurm. It is beyond your abilities to even contest this monster, good thing it appears to not notice you."

It's a COLOSSAL monster, after all.

Also, if you were looking for a place to create a pyre for the dead, why not the clearing right by the chapel? [unless you decided to climb through the furnace rather than over the corpses]

Also, looking that the enemy you encountered in the area- I'm beginning to think the GM played it a bit too harshly- the enemy does not have Flyby Attack.
What should have happened:
Enemy swoops in, attacks PC.
Does it hit?
1a> Yes. Grab. *roll to grapple* Does X grapple?
1a.1> PC and Monster are grappled. /end turn.
1b> No. /end turn.
1a.2> No. *roll damage* /end turn.
*enemy is still within range of attacks.*

You and your teammates should have had a chance to hit, or atleast tried to restrain the monster itself.
There is one tactic that is often over looked: counter-grappling, your PC's can still grapple when being grappled. what's the point? Well, this monster can still fly at normal speeds while it's grappling you. If you are the grappler, it'd have to make a fly/escape artist check to try to get away from you.
it's a tactic.

As for the "clear path", it is just that- once you clear the threat in that area. it IS the only external part of the Asylum that is clear of the Yellow Fog- it's still there, but you can safely traverse this area.

Scarab Sages

Leitner wrote:
So, first time occurrence for my group. We managed to get TPK'd, and at level 2 we have no possible way of coming back.

Just have the party wake up without any flesh. Some Wandering Necromancer tried to make them into undead, but wasn't expecting them to retain their individuality. Give the players each the "Skeleton Champion" template (B1, page 252, ignore the evil alignment requirement), and give the players a surprise round to hack up the necromancer. Then continue.

At higher levels, players can use resurection on themselves, to restore their flesh, if they want. Could also add some random item drop or NPC at the end of the encounter, that can restore them.

Not exactly a PFS legal solution, but a good homebrew option to counter TPK. Makes the PCs a bit more durable, too.


Leitner wrote:


On the attack of opportunity issue. *most* of the time, only one player was grappled(other usually thrown against a wall). In this instance grappled player would make cmb/escape artist check. If they succeeded they would try to run, procing the new AOO. I think this might actually be legal. But not sure which is why I am here asking you guys.

Well, if that's the case and no AoOs were done while the creature was actively grappling, this part at least was done fine. They should provoke from moving out of a threatened space, like usual, even after escaping a grapple. Once the grapple is broken and the grappled condition is off the two in the grapple, AoOs can be taken by both of them again.


Leitner wrote:
Ciaran Barnes wrote:
Game over. Start a new adventure. His turn to GM is over.
Sigh.... quite frankly, that is what we have come to terms with. However, I am the usual GM for the group with my wife as a secondary. I really wanted a break from GMing so we could play as a team for a bit. Guess it isn't meant to be.

That's rough, and I feel your pain. Could you ask another player to step up into GM position? It doesn't have to be a campaign or adventure path. A three level adventure is acceptable. Are you willing to give the TPK GM another shot if there was a good conversation?


The Archive wrote:
Leitner wrote:


On the attack of opportunity issue. *most* of the time, only one player was grappled(other usually thrown against a wall). In this instance grappled player would make cmb/escape artist check. If they succeeded they would try to run, procing the new AOO. I think this might actually be legal. But not sure which is why I am here asking you guys.
Well, if that's the case and no AoOs were done while the creature was actively grappling, this part at least was done fine. They should provoke from moving out of a threatened space, like usual, even after escaping a grapple. Once the grapple is broken and the grappled condition is off the two in the grapple, AoOs can be taken by both of them again.

What action is it to throw someone against the wall? I see no special ability in the nightgaunt to perform such a maneuver.


@salvaxri
To be quite honest, we'd forgotten about that other clearing. Seeing it on the map I do recall us coming across it during the first session. At the time we got attacked by some wind or something, so promptly shut the door and apparently forgot about it. In retrospect it would have certainly made a better pyre location.

@Ciaran Barnes
I'll be talking to him tomorrow at work to see his perspective. I might be willing to give him another chance, although a lot of the party is worried we'll simply die to some other seemingly unwinnable fights. I do share their misgivings.

Okay.. so looking at the creature stats I am even more confused as far as this encounter went. Can someone clarify/confirm the following points?

1. can someone explain the fog mechanics. I see that the creature itself does not have any sort of disorient ability and our GM was ruling that we were getting disoriented and thus all the stumbling around in the fog. We could hear our party members yelling, but not discern their direction and were usually rolling a d8 to determine which direction we ran to help/flee. Furthermore, the fog was apparently so thick off the path that we never actually got vision of the creature even while grappled. Only real times we got any hits off were when it was grappling us and then at least we didn't have miss chance to find it.

2. The creature does not appear to have any reach or the previous mentioned flyby attack. Without a map I can't be 100% but I'm fairly sure the thing was hitting us on opposite sides of the courtyard in a single round. At least once or twice two players managed to find the path, but apparently were not visibly in range of each other and got dragged back in simultaneously.

3. On the opening round of combat the nightgaunt swooped down on us, grapple two of us and then proceeded to fly what I am pretty sure is more than it's initial movespeed in the first place. Only way this would be possible is with some effect like mythic haste, right?

4. Relatedly if it does attack twice, it can't take any movement in excess of a 5-foot-shift?

5. With the grab ability I'm pretty sure it should have had to hit us before making a grapple check. GM was only rolling 1-die per grapple check(could have been rolling for both I guess) And in 0 instances did it actually miss/fail to grapple us. Entire party that was in fog had 16-20 AC.

6. I see the standard tactics are apparently to drop people from a large height, it does have the clutches ability to fly at full speed while grappling, however, should have still moved slower carrying us with typical weight of about 200 lbs?

EDIT: 7. As for the wall thing, I have no idea. Although that specifically doesn't seem to unreasonable to me conceptually. I've no idea what DCs or rolls GM was using to determine amount of damage, distance thrown, etc. And looking at the map it is possible we were actually hitting trees. I didn't know about the trees in the courtyard when I made my initial post.

8. Doesn't really seem to be much point addressing the bhole. PFSRD won't let me see the stats right now, but at CR 17 they are likely irrelevant. Although, I do suspect it probably couldn't have reached up the narrow staircase depicted on the map and swallowed our fighter.


Pathfinder Adventure, Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Strange Aeons is a Cthulhu-themed AP. That information, on its own, is enough to explain a TPK. The notion that frail mortals encounter something totally beyond their control and die horribly is totally in-theme.

Typically, in a Cthulhu-themed horror adventure, after a TPK, you begin again, playing the cousin/friend/colleague/vague acquaintance of one of the previous characters, and start over with a few extra clues that one of the TPKed characters managed to leave for you.

This said, Pathfinder doesn't typically deal well with TPK events. When you create a character, you operate on the premise that you are a hero who can overcome great adversity, and continue on even when you fail.

If I were DMing this situation, I would have you all awaken from a horrible dream of death and mutilation. If your DM doesn't want to go this route, then you have few options:
- roll up all new characters and start again.
- change DMs and begin a new adventure.
- convince your DM to resort to the dream-sequence scenario.

I suspect your DM was particularly cruel to you, but frankly, any Cthulhu-themed adventure is just asking for this. If you don't like it, dont play any Cthulhu-themed adventures.


Leitner wrote:

Okay.. so looking at the creature stats I am even more confused as far as this encounter went. Can someone clarify/confirm the following points?

1. can someone explain the fog mechanics. I see that the creature itself does not have any sort of disorient ability and our GM was ruling that we were getting disoriented and thus all the stumbling around in the fog. We could hear our party members yelling, but not discern their direction and were usually rolling a d8 to determine which direction we ran to help/flee. Furthermore, the fog was apparently so thick off the path that we never actually got vision of the creature even while grappled. Only real times we got any hits off were when it was grappling us and then at least we didn't have miss chance to find it.

2. The creature does not appear to have any reach or the previous mentioned flyby attack. Without a map I can't be 100% but I'm fairly sure the thing was hitting us on opposite sides of the courtyard in a single round. At least once or twice two players managed to find the path, but apparently were not visibly in range of each other and got dragged back in simultaneously.

3. On the opening round of combat the nightgaunt swooped down on us, grapple two of us and then proceeded to fly what I am pretty sure is more than it's initial movespeed in the first place. Only way this would be possible is with some effect like mythic haste, right?

4. Relatedly if it...

1. At best, it handles akin to Fog Cloud or Obscuring Mist, in that if it's adjacent, it has concealment, and if it's any further, it's total concealment (in which case, you can't see it at all, most likely). Even when it's not their turn, I'm sure PC can shout out that they're being grabbed or something, and the other PCs can make a Perception check to denote which square they're in, move toward that square at reduced movement (similar to moving blindly), and see the creature in question.

2. It's medium-sized, so it'd have to be adjacent to affect anyone with a maneuver (and if it's on one side of the courtyard, it has to fly), and it's fly speed is only 40 feet (whereas most fly speeds are 60 feet). Of course, if it's adjacent, a PC would get a Perception check to notice it (and thereby not be caught flat-footed). No Fly-By means it can't move and grapple and move again. I'll explain further in the next point.

3. There would be a surprise round before there would be an opening round of combat, because you're not aware of the creature, and the creature would act on you with the element of surprise. In this case, it only gets a Standard Action (or Move Action), where it would either fly next to a PC, or if it's already next to a PC and succeeds a Stealth V.S. Perception, would initiate a Grapple. If it fails, then the PC would notice, not get caught flat-footed (and also be able to act in the surprise round). If the PC warned the others, then combat would begin as normal, and everyone would roll Initiative. If the PC doesn't get a warning off (i.e. he is caught by surprise), then only the PC involved and the enemy would roll Initiative, the others being clueless as to what's happening.

4. A Full Attack would only warrant a 5-foot step, yes. But if it maintains a grapple (a Standard Action), it has a special ability allowing it full movement with a grappled foe, and that's in conjunction with any Move Actions it decides to take.

5. Correct; Grab ability lets you make a Grapple check as a Free Action on a hit (which also works on Attacks of Opportunity based on a FAQ). The only time you would only roll once for a check would be feats like Tripping Strike, or Shield Slam, where the attack roll counts for both your attack and relevant combat maneuver. And that's because it specifically says; otherwise, you roll separately. Of course, with it having a +17 to the Grapple check, with no Improved/Greater Grapple feats, it's still pretty easy for it to snatch you on a hit.

6. I don't think carrying capacity and such matters in the case of grappling a foe. It only matters for things like carrying objects on your person, such as equipment and other valuables. Even if it is, the Clutches ability would supersede that reduction, since it says you always move full speed with a grappled creature.

7. GM Adhoc'd some BS in there, as the creature doesn't have constrict damage, for starters, and secondly, there are no rules for throwing enemies into walls or on the ground except in special cases, such as a specific chain of Rage Powers for Barbarians, and even that has explicit restrictions. If he wants to GM again, advise him against stuff like that, especially when he isn't using an existing precedent from some other legal feature.

I will point out that if the creature used Tickle on the PC in the surprise round (because it can still take Swift and Immediate and Free Actions as normal), and the PC failed the save, that PC wouldn't be able to shout for help or anything based on the recent Nauseated FAQ. Quite frankly, a slew of bad rolls for a creature and scenario such as this would've resulted in a PC death regardless.


... You went out into the mist? I feel like your DM failed to convey how dangerous it was to go outside for you. I can confirm that we didn't have to. We avoided it like the plague (especially after looking out through the windows).

That said, your DM really - REALLY - shouldn't have pulled out a TPK this early. It's "okay" if the players royally f!*# up on multiple occasions.


Leitner wrote:


Okay.. so looking at the creature stats I am even more confused as far as this encounter went. Can someone clarify/confirm the following points?

I've GM'ed this book before so maybe I can give a bit of insight on where your GM may have gotten confused.

Leitner wrote:


1. can someone explain the fog mechanics.

The fog comes from the environment, though the disorienting fog OUTSIDE of the Asylum is there to keep PCs from leaving the Asylum. When outside it's supposed to be as another poster said in that everything should be suggested that the PCs should return and not stay in the fog, as it's thick and disorienting. This is to discourage leaving through the front doors, windows, or any collapsed walls. The interior courtyards are not like this, just the fog covering the sky. Different weather effects come into play to enhance the creepiness factor but even with a GM-introduced full obscuring mist in effect, nothing should disorient players on its own.

HOWEVER, if the creature was picking up PCs and dropping them within the courtyard, I can see that a PC wouldn't really know what they were seeing landmark wise or where to go so that could be fair. The GM discretion which turned this into a much higher CR encounter was ruling the courtyard fog was obscuring mist.

Leitner wrote:


2. The creature does not appear to have any reach or the previous mentioned flyby attack.

Reach and flyby aren't available attacks. It's rough enough as is even if you could all see it. This dramatically increased CR as it gave the monster increased action economy and safety from readied actions.

Leitner wrote:


3. On the opening round of combat the nightgaunt swooped down on us, grapple two of us and then proceeded to fly what I am pretty sure is more than it's initial movespeed in the first place. Only way this would be possible is with some effect like mythic haste, right?

It could only grapple one of you and not take the grappled condition itself unless it took a -20 on its grab attack, which is unlikely. this is a mechanics issue that many experienced GMs seem to forget. It would also run into encumbrance issues as over 100lbs or so it would become encumbered lowering its fly speed. I doubt it could hold two medium humanoids and still maintain decent fly checks though someone else can do the math for me on that one.

GM discretion in adding reach, maintain full speed, and not requiring -20 to grapple increased the CR well over what any party could handle at this stage.

Leitner wrote:


4. Relatedly if it does attack twice, it can't take any movement in excess of a 5-foot-shift?

Correct, even flyby attack doesn't allow that. Again another CR increase.

Leitner wrote:


5. With the grab ability I'm pretty sure it should have had to hit us before making a grapple check. GM was only rolling 1-die per grapple check(could have been rolling for both I guess) And in 0 instances did it actually miss/fail to grapple us. Entire party that was in fog had 16-20 AC.

It still has to hit first unless it was using the grapple standard action. GM was ruling it was similar to obscuring mist so it likely would have been coming in on a stealth roll and hitting flat-footed.

Leitner wrote:


6. I see the standard tactics are apparently to drop people from a large height, it does have the clutches ability to fly at full speed while grappling, however, should have still moved slower carrying us with typical weight of about 200 lbs?

Encumbrance should be an issue as stated above putting it under medium or heavy weight as appropriate which affects skill checks (fly) and move speed.

Leitner wrote:


EDIT: 7. As for the wall thing, I have no idea. Although that specifically doesn't seem to unreasonable to me conceptually. I've no idea what DCs or rolls GM was using to determine amount of damage, distance thrown, etc. And looking at the map it is possible we were actually hitting trees. I didn't know about the trees in the courtyard when I made my initial post.

I think this comes down to a fundamental misuse of the creature. The monster feeds on fear, even has a special tickling tail to make the flight even more uncomfortable for its passenger. Why drop a player until it has had its fill? Either way this is a GM call, adding momentum and fall damage to releasing players at an angle I can see happening, but it should be so the player survives, slowly and slowly coming to know the futility of escape, the fear and dread of the coming swoop and capture making the emotions more delicious. It shouldn't be first motivated to kill. This should be an exercise in terror and caution, not a hawk vs. 4 field mice.

If it wanted to kill it could just fly up 200ft and drop.

Although if you knew you were hitting a tree, you should have clutched that tree as it tried to pull you away, leading to a chance to delay its departure and for other players to find you or it leave for easier prey.

Leitner wrote:


8. Doesn't really seem to be much point addressing the bhole. PFSRD won't let me see the stats right now, but at CR 17 they are likely irrelevant. Although, I do suspect it probably couldn't have reached up the narrow staircase depicted on the map and swallowed our fighter.

Bhole is sleeping at the bottom of a crack in the isle leading up into that shack. It's unlikely players could even see that far down the hole, but if they were so curious, it should be there to show the risk of exploring the unknown and the danger of accidentally waking up such a beast. It's a metaphor of the Cthulhu-mythos type game. The PC should have seen a dark a foreboding deep hole with strange otherwordly sounds, not a slam to the face. The shack should actually have been a possible safe spot, for what it's worth. Safety in silence and in fear, unable to know what's worse, the unseen terror outside, the horrors in the hallway, or the great beast just below them; no where is safe and they have to get out of this asylum.

On the other hand, please note Call of Cthulhu is a game where you aren't expected to survive long term, you are a fish in very big sea and it's only a matter of time whether your mind or body is broken, the fun part is to see which one comes first. The players should know this going into the game if this was the type GM was trying to run, the difficulty you describe is not representative of this AP. This sounds like it may have been a bit of a mechanics misunderstanding which is correctable.

Please note that doing things like sanctifying bodies in a pyre in the middle of an insane asylum is a dangerous and wonderful thing that may happen in any other dungeon, but it shows the players may not have respected the danger they were really in being here. The GM is fair to introduce something to shock the players so they know it's never safe to take a casual minute outside the chapel. There shouldn't be an opportunity to have a solemn rite to mourn the dead. Sanity and safety is a convenience they don't have. The PCs should be left alive, however, so they can learn that lesson.


Alright, guess that answers all my questions. Thanks everyone for the feedback and information, puts my mind somewhat more at ease that the campaign isn't generally unwinnable. As a couple people have mentioned the lovecraft mythos is particular deadly and unforgiving. I'm not sure if this was the design goal from the GMs perspective, but I'll ask him about it tomorrow. All the other fights, short of the first one have mostly been standard combats.

As for our choice to go out in the fog, as I mentioned before hand we had taken a short tunnel at one point. On that occasion our GM specifically said "It seems like you should be safe if you stay on the path"

And perhaps laying the dead to rest wasn't necessarily in fitting with the campaign. It certainly was a terrible idea in retrospect. But we'd have probably tried to see what was beyond the courtyard at some point anyway since the path seemed to lead somewhere. As we were playing a particular pious group, The paladin, our monk worshipper of pharasma and I thought it would be appropriate to do what we could for the dead.

EDIT: Not terribly relevant, but the only time he used the tickle ability was on the first round against a PC that wasn't grappled. Afterwords it didn't come up again. He might have been trying to make it slightly less one-sided.

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