8-14 To Seal The Shadow GM Thread


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Silver Crusade 5/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Pennsylvania—Pittsburgh aka Terminalmancer

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I played in rknop's game, and he did pretty well. We had a good time! The other table we ran did pretty well, too, from what I hear.

That said, I'm more than a little disappointed in the scenario. The verbal duel rules aren't a great fit for PFS already, and the text describing the system is poorly-written and organized, making it even harder to grok than it needs to be. (Once you get the system, it seems like a good fit for a primarily social campaign where you want to spice up the social interactions. I'm... not sure that's PFS?)

This could still work with a good GM and some players who know their characters well. Introducing these rules in a 1-5 where we usually have our rookie GMs cut their teeth--and then having the party need to LOSE the duel on purpose? That's crazy.

3/5 ⦵⦵ Venture-Agent, California—San Francisco Bay Area North & East

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It breaks my lawful little heart to say this, but I also left out the part with the audience. I felt like I was loading so many new rules onto my players, I just couldn't do one more. Since it's phrased as "the PCs have a chance to...", it didn't seem like the end of the world to leave it out.

I feel like the scenario went well (low tier: Magus 3, Cavalier 1, Samurai 1, Paladin 1, Sorcerer 1, and Alchemist 1), and my players seemed to have fun. I actually started with the worksheets that GreySector made before going through the verbal duel rules. After crossing out all the skills you don't have, calculating new bonuses, and assigning each trained skill to only one tactic, each player had only a few available tactics to even use. I then verbally explained the basic rules of the duel, and then they had a chance to read the handouts. Since they already knew which tactics they had available, they didn't have to read the whole thing. That process took about 15 minutes or so, and then the debate went pretty smoothly. There were not enough rounds for each player to get a chance to speak, so I was glad that each player succeeded at performing their hero's tactic during the fight.

They actually completed their sixth skill check for the ritual in the same round that they took Eynemb down (the third round), so they didn't actually fight the shadow dire wolf. It might have been better if the shadow creature got loose a round or two earlier.

The scenario ran short for me as well (~3 hours), and I wished I had stretched out the role-playing at the beginning a little more. All the players got tattoos, and I thought it was super fun that there was a boon related to that. We had two wayangs in the party who were happy to learn more about their culture.

4/5 Venture-Agent, Minnesota—St. Louis Park aka BretI

I had restricted the players to one skill check per round in order to prevent them from completing the ritual before fight B2. Although not called out in the scenario, I think this is a reasonable restriction. I did have to tell them a couple of times that for the ritual it was alright to repeat skills -- lots of things have had penalties for repeating skills, but I didn't see that in the ritual section here.

I did use the rules for seeding since that allowed people to pick up edge. At least once, edge was used to reroll since the initial skill roll was a natural 20 on a skill that PC was good at.

I think the background fluff on this is very strong, the story suffers mechanically, and the changes to the verbal duel tactics were a mistake. I did tell everyone up front it was just one encounter that used the verbal duel, which helped all the people with negative Charisma modfiers feel better.

A good GM can make this fun. I think there will be some players that will seek it out just for the third boon because they will like the idea of the body art.

Overall, I think it is a disappointment.

Sovereign Court 4/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

I also think you shouldn't be able to progress the ritual more than once per round. While playing, we expected there to be bad consequences for any round that passed without a successful check. That's a mechanic I've seen used in some other scenarios. That can lead to a vicious cycle though as people abandon the ritual to save fallen allies and such.

But yeah, Eynemb doesn't really seem to have a solid plan to "win" the fight that I noticed, so it's a fairly easy fight. But it might drag out a few rounds due to Mirror Image. It's entirely possible that a party decides to just hold off his monsters and complete the ritual, missing the hound completely.

What bothered me about the description of the scene is that Eynemb is presented as being vital to completing the ritual; without him doing his half, it can't be finished. We were told he was irreplacable. But apparently the PCs' doing their thing seems sufficient.

I suggest the following: after his public betrayal, or earlier if the PCs discuss their doubts with the wayangs, the wayangs arrange for a backup puppeteer to do the wayang side of the ritual. Eynemb starts off closer to the PCs so the NPCs puppeteers don't face attack. It's pure fluff, but it plugs a logic hole.


I don't think Eynemb needs a way to 'win' the fight. His goal is to disrupt the ritual long enough to show the Wayang that nothing disastrous will happen. Alas...

I concur with the reading that only one check per round can be attempted. That way, after three rounds the shadow beast always shows up. The group always has the option to fight it (or to hold it off while they complete the ritual, if they choose to focus on that.)


Quentin Coldwater wrote:
I don't think my GM cheated and ignored rules.

...and...

Quentin Coldwater wrote:
What he did do was ignore certain parts of the rules

...this just makes me twitch uncontrollably.

4/5 Venture-Agent, Netherlands—Utrecht aka Quentin Coldwater

outshyn wrote:
Quentin Coldwater wrote:
I don't think my GM cheated and ignored rules.

...and...

Quentin Coldwater wrote:
What he did do was ignore certain parts of the rules
...this just makes me twitch uncontrollably.

Yeah, I should've worded that differently. I saw what I'd typed and thought, "eh, people will get what I mean." I'll rephrase:

I don't think my GM cheated and ignored rules. He simply left out rules that weren't necessary for the full understanding of the verbal duel.
"Ignoring rules" implies either making up your own rules or leaving out huge chunks of rules. "Leaving out rules that weren't necessary" implies leaving most of the rules intact, but trimming the fat, so to speak. We knew everything we needed to know to actually participate in the duel, and audience participation was left out because it has very little effect on the actual duel.

3/5 ⦵⦵ Venture-Agent, California—San Francisco Bay Area North & East

Ah, Bret and Lau are totally right! "[O]nly one PC can attempt these checks in a round." That does make the timeline make way more sense. Now I know if I run it a second time.

Sovereign Court 4/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

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Ivo van der Werff wrote:
I don't think Eynemb needs a way to 'win' the fight. His goal is to disrupt the ritual long enough to show the Wayang that nothing disastrous will happen. Alas...

It bugs me when you have NPCs with no plausible plan to win a fight they pick with PCs; who for example spend a lot of time "controlling" but have no way to finish it. They tend to be maniac cult leaders sitting in a basement waiting for the PCs to come and end them.

Maybe the best way to present him is as an unhappy intellectual - clearly not all that skilled at combat, sending in a shadow monster that's normally meant for stage displays, and he's just trying to screw with the players' performance of the ritual.

I think that story makes more dramatic sense. He's still an idiot, but an idiot who belongs in this story. Feel free to describe how awkward he is about the whole combat, make him geeky. Perhaps he needs a stack of one-liners about how their people are shackled by superstition, so that he has a line to spout every round. He's got a message, he shouldn't go into "silent focused battle mode" after his initial outcry.

By focusing so much attention on his message, you make it clear that he's not a mortal enemy trying to kill the PCs, he's just trying to stop them from perpetuating an ancient superstition. That he does actually have a plan to "win": hinder the PCs enough.

4/5 Venture-Agent, Minnesota—St. Louis Park aka BretI

That is sort of the direction I took him as well, Lau.

The thing is you should also bring out how extreme he is. He is willing to endanger people's lives to prove he is right. He was perfectly willing to have people die in Encounter A.

I had the other NPCs express their feelings that although some think the festival a waste of time and money, they didn't think anyone would be willing to kill to disrupt it. The innkeeper saw the festival as an excellent business opportunity. The mayor saw it as a way to show off the town. Still haven't got a good handle on the NPC guide character and how much she knows. Treated her sort of as a traditionalist -- we always hold this festival and this is what it celebrates.

If I run this again, I will spend some time coming up with a brief paragraph on what each of the NPCs know about the ritual and how they feel about it. At that point, I think I would also come up with names for the poor brawlers and a couple of random NPCs. I am not good at creating NPC names on the fly.

Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Captain, Arizona—Phoenix aka TriOmegaZero

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I really like this scenario's story.

I hate the mechanical hoops I have to jump through to enjoy it.

Silver Crusade 3/5

Could someone point to the exact page and line where it says that the verbal duel skills need to be trained to be used at all? Because for the life of me I cannot find anything like that.

Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Captain, Arizona—Phoenix aka TriOmegaZero

I believe people have been mistaking this part of the verbal duel rules as requiring ranks.

Tactics wrote:
For the purpose of a verbal duel, a character calculates her associated skill bonus by adding her ranks in the skill (including the +3 bonus for having ranks in the skill if it is a class skill) and her Charisma modifier (regardless of which skill she chooses, unless she has the Ironclad Logic feat). If she has other modifiers to the skill, they grant her edges (see above).

Reading it myself, it seems you CAN assign a skill in which you have no ranks to a tactic, you just only get to use your Charisma bonus on that check.

3/5 ⦵⦵ Venture-Agent, California—San Francisco Bay Area North & East

I don't have the scenario in front of me to find the wording, but my recollection is that the trained-only part is not a general rule of verbal duels, but rather one of the specific limitations added so that you don't look like you are obviously throwing the duel.

Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Captain, Arizona—Phoenix aka TriOmegaZero

It is not.

Limitations:
The need for the PCs to appear to be attempting
to win imposes the following limitations: when assigning
skills to tactics, they must choose the associated skill with
the highest bonus; they can only use tactics to which they
have assigned skills; they can’t concede the duel; they must
counter exchange openings; they must counter whenever
the current exchange’s ante is 1 or less; and no PC who has
won an exchange can contribute to an exchange unless each
other PC has won an equal number of exchanges.

3/5 ⦵⦵ Venture-Agent, California—San Francisco Bay Area North & East

So it isn't.

I think I actually misread the second clause of that part as "can only use skills to which they have assigned ranks." I'm actually still not clear what that clause adds, since you already can't use a tactic without a skill assigned, right?

Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Captain, Arizona—Phoenix aka TriOmegaZero

I'm honestly not even sure why you wouldn't assign a skill to a tactic, unless you did not want to be able to use that tactic at all. The lack of any actual rule requiring ranks in the skill assigned is a curious omission.

4/5

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Steven Schopmeyer wrote:
I'm honestly not even sure why you wouldn't assign a skill to a tactic, unless you did not want to be able to use that tactic at all. The lack of any actual rule requiring ranks in the skill assigned is a curious omission.

Well there is also a rule that you can only assign a skill to one tactic and many of the skills involved have restrictions on untrained use (unclear how the DC 10 rule for untrained knowledge skills interacts with the verbal duel rules if you allowed anyone to assign an untrained knowledge skill to a verbal duel tactic. One of many places where I expect there is a lot of table variation (I didn't allow PCs to use any skills they didn't have trained when assigning skills to tactics). I think as well the goal is to have each PC only have a limited number of tactics they can use - however the rules of dueling aren't written well for how a group interacts with them anyway.

Overall I think it is a poor rule set to begin with further unnecessarily complicated by unique rules exceptions for this scenario.

Silver Crusade 5/5 ⦵⦵⦵ RPG Superstar 2013 Top 8 aka GreySector

Steven Schopmeyer wrote:

I believe people have been mistaking this part of the verbal duel rules as requiring ranks.

Tactics wrote:
For the purpose of a verbal duel, a character calculates her associated skill bonus by adding her ranks in the skill (including the +3 bonus for having ranks in the skill if it is a class skill) and her Charisma modifier (regardless of which skill she chooses, unless she has the Ironclad Logic feat). If she has other modifiers to the skill, they grant her edges (see above).
Reading it myself, it seems you CAN assign a skill in which you have no ranks to a tactic, you just only get to use your Charisma bonus on that check.

Thank you. I posted here that training was not required, but I was told I was wrong and I didn't have the time or energy to fight that battle.

Sovereign Court 4/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

I think in the normal UI rules you can use skills without ranks, but in the scenario there is an additional rule against it. To force players to use only the skills they're good at, because otherwise it'd be easier to lose the debate fast.

I really think this would have worked soooo much better if the PCs were just told "This is the part of the story were the wayangs tried to convince the outsiders to help them. Initially the outsiders didn't want to help, but were eventually swayed. So we need you guys to play hard to get, but eventually give in. Try to last a while in the debate, but make sure you don't accidentally win."

By just telling the players that they're not supposed to concede as fast as possible because the audience wants to see a good debate, you can convey the meaning of the whole scene, without saddling people with a lot more (childish) rules on top of the UI rules.

It feels like the scenario rule-writer just didn't trust the players to play in good faith without straightjacketing them.

Liberty's Edge 5/5

Starfinder Superscriber

I think that people misread "they can only use tactics to which they
have assigned skills" to mean that PCs have to have ranks in the skills they assign to tactics. I know I did. But, it having been pointed out in this thread, I don't think that's actually what that means.

Honestly, I'm not sure what that statement is for, since I believe by the rules you have to assign skills to tactics anyway.

4/5 Venture-Agent, Minnesota—St. Louis Park aka BretI

Assuming that the normal rules for skills apply (can't fully use knowledge skills without ranks or special), there are tactics where you may not have a skill you can use. It is a combination of not having access to knowledge skills and the same skills being available for multiple tactics.

I would have to review the sheet out on PFSPrep again, but certain tactics call for much the same skills.

Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Captain, Arizona—Phoenix aka TriOmegaZero

Lau Bannenberg wrote:
I think in the normal UI rules you can use skills without ranks, but in the scenario there is an additional rule against it.

If you can point me to it, that will greatly help my prep. About the only thing I see possible at this point are the trained only skills like Knowledges.

Sovereign Court 4/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

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It all appears to be centered on page 10:

Quote:
The need for the PCs to appear to be attempting to win imposes the following limitations: when assigning skills to tactics, they must choose the associated skill with the highest bonus; they can only use tactics to which they have assigned skills; they can’t concede the duel; they must counter exchange openings; they must counter whenever the current exchange’s ante is 1 or less; and no PC who has won an exchange can contribute to an exchange unless each other PC has won an equal number of exchanges.

I don't see anything specifically requiring skill ranks. However, that doesn't matter all that much because you're forced to "choose the skill with the highest bonus", and that will almost always be a skill in which you put ranks.

While it's easy to see if the skill you assign to one particular tactic is the best one still on offer, there's a complication because tactics compete for skills. Proving that someone's total skill allocation maximizes the bonus over all tactics is a variation of the knapsack problem. And it's not okay to inflict NP-hard problems on people in the 1-5 tier :P

Shadow Lodge

this is so confusing

so for Determination ...
its the average of all 3 Mental stats + HD

is this for 1 PC or all PC's?
is it added up or averaged

Skills - is this made for each PC or as a group ?

and what effect does the fact that they are supposed to loose have on determination
what about the fact that the other group is trying to loose


So many GMs in this thread are saying that they've changed the social combat rules, or "accidentally" omitted rules, or just deliberately dropped certain aspects/requirements... isn't that illegal in PFS?

I mean, not "police officer arrests you" illegal, but isn't this violating the "all tables must run the same way and adhere to the same limitations" rule? We're waaaaaayyyy into table variation now, and it's starting to sound pretty unfair that some groups got to have a wildly better/easier/positive experience.

Are you guys not worried about Venture Captains & Lieutenants coming down on you? You're not worried about Tonya or others in leadership issuing some kind of hard-core clamp-down because we're all sorta flaunting the rules?

Shadow Lodge 5/5

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber
aboyd wrote:
Are you guys not worried about Venture Captains & Lieutenants coming down on you? You're not worried about Tonya or others in leadership issuing some kind of hard-core clamp-down because we're all sorta flaunting the rules?

As a former VC, the answer is "no".

PFS is about making games that are fun. It's about getting people to come back and play again and again, not run games like a legion of robots. Every single game, even those with really obvious straightforward rules always involve some level of interpretation and I can assure you that the variation is always there. In a scenario like this one there will always be some level of GM interpretation as the rules are already not fully fleshed out.

So if a group has a wildly better/easier/positive experience, sounds like to me like they're having a better experience. The point of these kinds of GM threads is to make it so other GMs who are struggling can provide that same level of entertainment to their tables.

So no, not too worried.

4/5 RPG Superstar 2013 Top 4 aka Matt Duval

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I feel like I'd be so delighted at getting personal interaction with leadership, even negative, they'd get the wrong result. ;)

I found some instructions for building a simple shadow puppet theater here. My players seemed to really like it as an extra prop for the last encounter. I bought a bunch of Disney stickers with good outlines and put them on toothpicks and it worked pretty well.

Liberty's Edge 5/5

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Starfinder Superscriber
aboyd wrote:

So many GMs in this thread are saying that they've changed the social combat rules, or "accidentally" omitted rules, or just deliberately dropped certain aspects/requirements... isn't that illegal in PFS?

I mean, not "police officer arrests you" illegal, but isn't this violating the "all tables must run the same way and adhere to the same limitations" rule? We're waaaaaayyyy into table variation now, and it's starting to sound pretty unfair that some groups got to have a wildly better/easier/positive experience.

Are you guys not worried about Venture Captains & Lieutenants coming down on you? You're not worried about Tonya or others in leadership issuing some kind of hard-core clamp-down because we're all sorta flaunting the rules?

I'm a little worried about it.... On the other hand, I told my local VC and VL what I was going to do before I did it. My changes weren't huge, and I really think they made a pretty big difference in making the thing flow smoothly. All the tactics were still in place; I just reduced the amount of setup to get started by a lot, and hid the details of the rules from the players. Yes, it did play a little differently as a result, but I doubt most players would really notice.

I considered the system as-is untenable. Lots of GMs will call a fight when it's clear that the PCs are going to win soon, it'll just take several more rounds to mop everything up; they especially do this if the session is running short on time. Technically, this is a violation of the "RAW" rule. However, it's an entirely reasonable thing to do that only makes things better when used judiciously. I consider simplification of the verbal duel rules to be in the same category.

Sovereign Court 4/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

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aboyd wrote:

So many GMs in this thread are saying that they've changed the social combat rules, or "accidentally" omitted rules, or just deliberately dropped certain aspects/requirements... isn't that illegal in PFS?

I mean, not "police officer arrests you" illegal, but isn't this violating the "all tables must run the same way and adhere to the same limitations" rule? We're waaaaaayyyy into table variation now, and it's starting to sound pretty unfair that some groups got to have a wildly better/easier/positive experience.

Are you guys not worried about Venture Captains & Lieutenants coming down on you? You're not worried about Tonya or others in leadership issuing some kind of hard-core clamp-down because we're all sorta flaunting the rules?

It's a fair question.

When I said that it's likely that nobody executes these rules 100% correctly, I wasn't just talking about "accidentally on purpose" - the rules are really messy.

There's a GM appendix that the GM is supposed to explain to the players. There's a Player Handout that sort of explains the rules in reverse order. There's "losing in a sporting way" modifications that aren't on the PC handout. And then the NPC tactics are in yet another section. All that is a recipe for stuff to fall through the cracks.

Furthermore there's ambiguous paragraphs that require very careful parsing to figure out how they're supposed to be interpreted, like the "do you need to assign trained skills" bit upthread. Highly experienced GMs and VOs have trouble with these rules. So it's likely not every game will execute them the same way.

---

So much for doing things wrong by accident. As long as no PCs die horribly because of that or paladins fall in unusual ways, nobody's going to bring down the house on you if you don't achieve 100% accuracy there.

But how about the "accidentally on purpose" part? The debate rules are full of finicky little things that have relatively little impact, but do increase the amount of learning players need to do. Like the "seeding the audience" rules. Once you tell players about this option they may feel duty-bound to try to us them, but all it's going to accomplish is a lot of wasted time and confusion.

Now consider that this is a 1-5 scenario, that actually has few metaplot connections. Storywise it would be a good candidate as a scenario with which to recruit new players to PFS. After all, it's fairly easy, it's got flavor, RP and some semi-intelligent combats in it. However, presenting new players with hyper-complicated debate rules isn't a good move. So a GM may feel the need to simplify them and keep things moving. Would the VO team be upset? Probably not - we have on multiple occasions been told by the leadership that it's more important to give new players a good time so they come back, than to follow the scenario to the last letter. In other words, bending the rules a bit, but not breaking them outright. There's particular leeway here when it comes to "fragile" situations, like new tryout players and children.

Lastly, let's consider the ultimate objectives of "run as written". Those are as I understand it, threefold.

1) A requirement of having a global campaign where you can take your character from table to table, is that there's global fairness. It's not okay if things are much easier if you play a scenario at one GM's table than at another.

2) Not all GMs are really good enough at changing mechanics to do it well. They may think they're increasing the challenge to make things interesting, and overshoot. If the GM doesn't know the PCs, it can be even more dangerous because he may overestimate what they're prepared for. A particular area of frustration is enemy tactics. Sometimes authors want to use an epic enemy, but don't want a TPK fight. So they give the BBEG sub-optimal tactics. GMs shouldn't be "improving" those tactics. Another part of this is that GMs who "do it wrong" may think they're a much better judge of rules and difficulty than they actually are.

3) We don't want favoritism or anti-favoritism. Quite a few GMs have particular builds they wish weren't legal, for example.

So how does all that apply to this scenario?

Well, #1 shouldn't be a big problem. I think most parties will succeed in losing the debate; although in theory the stakes are high, in practice the situation is stacked so that almost every party can lose the debate.

#2 is a funny one. Given how complicated and messy the debate mechanics are, simplifying them has the potential to actually achieve more consistent and well-balanced results because then the GM and players will actually understand what they're doing.

#3 shouldn't really be an issue here I think since it's a party-wide thing.

---

TL;DR - I'm not going to advocate outright changing the mechanics. But as a GM when you run into unclear situations, you have the right and duty to make the most reasonable, fair and enjoyable judgement you can come up with.

Shadow Lodge

having now run it .. these mechanics make Mass battles Look Normal

a bit upthred I asked for some assistance in interpreting the Rules - and I have to say that when noone wants to assist with these rules and instead debate the merits and flaws of adhocing the rules as they are presented .. thats sort of indicative of a REAL problem

- note Im not complaining .. after seeing this in action I wouldn't want to touch them either ... in fact I wonder who signed off on this going live .. this is hands down the worst scenario I have ever run and so bad that I would honestly suggest removing this from circulation

not only are the rules in the scenario fuzzy ...but they dont fit into the one on one Verbal duel Rules OR the Team Duel Rules

were supposed to build debate as if it were a 1 on 1 ... but PC's can be targeted ? so is this really a 1 on 1 ... or is this a 1 on 4-6 where each PC assigns their own skills to a worksheet but share a determination pool .... scenario doesn't say or even hint at an answer

this is the only scenario I have felt physically angry at prepping .. and that is not a good thing

as far as everyone not running it as written ...
unfortunately that is absolutely against PFS Rules - yes I've had an accusation levied against me in the past for JUST this sort of thing (not following the Rules because it was more Fun)...

so yes ... PFS does Log these Actions and keeps note of them if they catch wind about it

As Such my only statement is - Dont Do it ... but with these rules as presented and how much of a charlie foxtrot they are especially with all the changes to the base Rules ... I cannot Blame the ones who are changing things for trying to clean it up ...

its an impossible situation and your Damned if you do Damned if you dont

Liberty's Edge 5/5

Starfinder Superscriber

Well -- I did it. If I run this scenario again (which I probably won't, exactly because of these rules), I'm going to use my modified verbal duel rules again. If it gets logged and recorded and I get told I can't PFS GM any more, I won't PFS GM any more. If running those verbal duel rules as written in a 1-5 scenario that needs to get squeezed into 4 hours is a necessary requirement for PFS GMs, then, well, it's not for me.

Grand Lodge 4/5 Venture-Captain, California—Sacramento aka FLite

Running the scenario, at a con, on 5 hours sleep, I ran the social rules as written, and we still finished in 3.5 hours. And that was with a whole s+*&-ton of scrolling back and forth because I didn't get time to build my tactics interactions cheat sheet.

The rules *really* are not that complex. The key to running it in the 4 hour time slot is keep it really simple when you explain it. At that tier only the diplo-monkeys and bards are going to have more than a few tactics. (And most of the PCs had 1, and one guy had none.)

So use the cheat sheet on pfsprep to let them pick their tactics. (Most of them picked the tactic their spirit wanted them to use.) And just give them the rules they need to use to use the tactics they picked (If I did this again, I would have multiple coppies of each tactic, but as it is they mostly tried to spread out and not duplicate tactics so they could cover their bases.

With regard to seeding, just keep your explanation very high level.

"As you mingle with the crowd, give me a sense motive check."
"You find the crowd seems to really dislike mockery, they think it is beneath the dignity of the occasion. You think that it would be relatively easy to push them toward siding with who was defending themselves against mockery."
"okay, give a diplomacy, bluff, etc check and tell me who you want to benefit from it."

It went really fast. And most of them seemed to enjoy the role play aspect, and the fact that they were trying to tank the duel. Especially since they got that their characters were essentially roleplaying the heroes, so they were roleplaying their PCs roleplaying other people...

Dark Archive 5/5

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I'm running this as a slot zero on Thursday for other GMs in the area, and I do think how you explain everything is going to be key to the players' enjoyment of this. Part of why we're doing the slot zero is so that we can all see how it plays out, and tweak our approach if needed before bringing it to the lodge at large. If done correctly, I don't anticipate the players ever realizing just how much prep the GM will have to put into the duel, and I plan on leaning heavily on pfsprep. This is not a scenario I would steer newer GM towards though, unless they're willing to put in the time and effort to untangle the duel rules (especially since this is not a straightforward Ultimate Intrigue duel).

Hopefully Thursday goes well; I'll report back if I have anything further to add to this thread!

Dark Archive 4/5

I have ran this scenario, and although the Verbal Dual is a mighty beast to prep/explain/do, it went pretty well. Of course, I had a group of players who really like roleplay, and the greatest disappointment for them was the fact that they were supposed to lose.

But I'll admit, I have not used the handouts given in the scenario at all, those are a complete mess in my opinion. I instead used the handouts and tents found on Pfsprep. A minor yet significant change I made to those handouts, was that I changed some of the jargon of the Verbal Dual system to their regular Pathfinder equivalent: not Determination, but your health - not an Edge, but a Reroll. This keeps it nice and simple, without having to translate it to them each time.

I handed them the fillable sheet before the game began, so they could recalculate their skills. I also told them that the forced Charisma modifier thing wasn't such a big problem, because the opponent had a similar problem (not exactly, but couldn't spoil to much). When the Dual was up, I explained it as a game of Ping Pong: he starts, and you have to bounce it back, setting the DC for each other. The ante was depicted with a dice on the table, and the first to "miss a swing" would take damage equal to the ante to their health. It was a simple analogy that they quickly picked up. And because they already had filled out their skill sheets, I could immediately start the Dual. Each of them (six players) also had the chance to do their heroic actions, with a wonderful Red Herring being played.

The only major gripe I had with the Verbal Dual, is that both GM and player need to be able to quickly think up a story to tell. Players are dependent on the GM for background information so that they can create proper arguments. But the GM doesn't really have a lot of specific information himself. The age of shadows, the age of ashes, the shadow plane, the heroes; they all get mentioned in the background, but no explanation or lore about them. Most of
this information can be found on the internet and stuff, I know. But for a scenario where a debate about events during those times is the scenario's major thing, such information should be present in the scenario to work with. If only to help the GM to prepare and steer the debate more fluently.

Grand Lodge

Yeah, the pfsprep documents were an absolute life-saver on this one. I too entirely ignored the default player handouts and used pfsprep resources instead. It made things muuuuuch smoother.

Dark Archive 5/5

So our slot zero went okay, and I'm glad we did it as there was some confusion when it came to the duel (I'll explain below) which I can hopefully now circumvent when I run this for the lodge. We started a little late (closer to 7pm than 6pm), but were still done just before 10pm. There were only two things about this run through worth mentioning:

The heroes - I thought players might want to know a little about the heroes before they chose which one they wanted, but no. They heard the ribbon colors, and immediately started picking based on that... Pathfinders!

The duel - Before I explained anything, I handed out the worksheets from pfsprep. This was actually the most confusing part for them, but now I have a better idea how to explain it. Initially, it was misunderstood that you can only assign and use a skill once, with the players thinking that it could be used once per tactic. I'll make sure to clarify that next time around. It also took a moment to understand how to calculate edges, and what applied (again, something I can easily explain next time now). Players were confused as to why they had to recalculate their skills, and couldn't just use it as appearing on their character sheet. Everyone did pick up on which tactic their hero preferred and assigned their best skill to that, so that part went well. Once we filled those in, we moved on to tactics.
I made two copies of the tactics section (one for each side of the table), and handed them out. Players at first thought each packet was multiple copies of a handout, not a single handout. When they realized this, there was much groaning. I think next time I'll just hand out the 'how the duel works' page, and not give them the tactics description until they digest that, as my players used the tactics descriptions as more of a reference to counter what their opponent used. ("He used which tactic? Let's see what's good against that." "Hey, that's my preferred tactic! I got this guys!")
Determination was also something that confused the players, with me needing to repeat the formula numerous times (we ended up defaulting to the scenario minimum as that was better). However, when I run this for the lodge, I can figure this part out on my own, and essentially 'hide' it from the players. I can also 'hide' the seeding of the crowd mechanics, using the suggestion Jared gives above.
Sadly, I rolled really well (lots of 17s and 18s on the die), so there wasn't much back and forth with the debate - only 4 of the 6 had a chance to speak before their determination ran out. They also never got the chance to use any of the edges they gained. :( Because this session was being run for other GMs, I wanted them to see all the mechanics, so that they would be better prepared for when they run it. It also helped that one of the players had used the verbal duel rules before in his Kingmaker campaign. The players all said they enjoyed themselves overall, but at least one said he never wants to see this run at a convention based on the complexity of the mechanics.

Overall, it took just as long to explain the duel as it did to actually run the duel. I do agree that more story background to go off of would have been nice, as players were at a loss of what to say (and I was grasping for anything meaningful to flesh out my arguments). I expect less experienced players will need some more guidance on setting up for the duel, but now that I've run through it once, I feel more confident with what I need to do to make this as painless as possible for them, and to ensure everyone has fun!

4/5 Venture-Agent, Minnesota—St. Louis Park aka BretI

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I made up a one page sheet with a summary of what tactics fit where in the duel.

Without the nice formatting, here it is:

Verbal Duel Tactics

Tactic
Good when
Bad when

Allegory
Opening an exchange
Countering a tactic

Baiting
Opponent isn’t good at Presence
Can’t be used to open

Emotional Appeal
Counter to Logic, Presence or Rhetoric.
None.

Flattery
Counter to Presence
Counter to Mockery

Logic
As an opener
Counter to Baiting, emotional appeal, mockery, red herring or wit.

Mockery
Counter a tactic with negative audience bias.
Counter logic, wit, or a tactic with positive audience bias.

Presence
Counter to baiting or mockery.
Counter to Allegory, Emotional Appeal, or Red Herring.

Red Herring
Counter with a bonus and succeed. See full text.
Can’t be used to open.

Rhetoric
None, although it is rare for an audience to have a negative bias to it.
None.

Wit
Bonus at a risk. See full text.
None.

Silver Crusade 5/5

I'm not going to run it, at least for awhile, because I've a brand new player who would likely sign up. I can't imagine a worse low tier introduction to Pathfinder or PFS than this (playing a pregen in high tier Waking Rune or Sealed Gate would likely be worse :-) :-) )

3/5 Venture-Agent, Australia—VIC—Gippsland aka nemophles

After reading other people's experiences, I decided to go another route. Hopefully someone else can use my ideas.

I found that doing up a
card for each debate tactic made things much easier. I never handed out the debating rules.

Admittedly, my designs could use a revision. As I put them out (and as Harjandi gave the players a crash course at a pre-debate mixer) I gave a quick description of what each one was. This was important, as I found that not every player actually knows what an allegory is or what 'presence' is actually supposed to entail. Also that some tactics work better/worse after others, such as how mocking someone after they deliver a logical statement makes you seem childish.

Then I set forth a number of other cards, representing the skills used. Since each card had a set of colours they could match to, the players very quickly figured out what goes where, and how they'd like it configured. People are much better at matching colours than words.

I made Flattery blue, so that it would match the mask of Bu Lo Dama, the charming pirate. These cards have had a lot of use, so they got a little beat up.

While technically each player is supposed to set their own skills, it was never once an issue as even on a six player table, they didn't fight for space. You end up with 2 skills left over. More often, I wasleft with one player without a relevant skill, even one that they could think to use for logic.

This does have the added benefit of allowing one player to match up the cards or they can work communally. Players that struggle with bookwork don't actually have to do any. I never asked them to recalculate their modifiers at this point.

I drew the Ante, and both teams' determination in thermometers. As the debate went on I 'upped the ante'. This all provides a concrete representation of the debate mechanics, so I didn't really need to explain much. I just said that you trade ideas back and forth, and that the stakes, or 'ante' get raised, and then if you lose a point you lose clout. The bias and seeding was done through narrative, through shenanigans at the mixer and spying on Eynemb doing his seeding.

In the end, even though I didn't take them through details, and certainly didn't bring up player handouts #2 and #3, the concrete representations allowed my players to catch on very quickly. Even if they didn't pick up the word determination, they already have a concept of 'health' so they'll just use that instead; they won't have to battle the confusion that a whole lot of new terms brings.

The fun of the debate, and I think it is very amusing, comes from using all the different tactics to say all sorts of silly things. If you get chased into making an emotional appeal, this provides a role-play prompt, a seed for an idea, so you come up with: "As a mother... think of the children!"
I know some GMs might hide all the mechanics and let the players say whatever they normally would, but in doing this you lose the scaffold. You lose the prompts that make players come up with wacky ideas.

The cards give you something to put an Eynemb token and a Pathfinders token next to, so that the players can keep track.

Since players don't really know the specifics of the history, coming up with debate topics can get difficult. So I framed the debate as being about a much larger, vague issue. This is good for any debate, really. I had the mayor introduce both teams, and the topic as: Should the Minatans help the Wayangs close the portal, and by extension should we aim for a Cosmopolitan or Isolationist society. This gave the players a lot more to go on.

I only got my players to recalculate their skill bonuses as they used the tactics. I would ask if they had any bonuses like skill focus or class features, but they usually didn't so I never had to worry. Otherwise when they were using a skill based on wisdom or intelligence, it would be the same difference each time to change it into a charisma skill, which made converting it easy to do on my end.

The debate also takes a fair while, given that people need to be given a bit of time to think on what to say, so players are able to either recalculate or think up arguments. Just so long as the debate topic is set before people are left waiting with downtime.

After the games, those players who saw the normal rules agreed that this all went very smoothly using cards, tokens, and meters. I should stress that I in no way reduce the debate to a card game. The point is to deliver an understanding of the system in an efficient way

3/5 Venture-Agent, Australia—VIC—Gippsland aka nemophles

On later runnings, I gave my players masks to wear. I gave out the player handouts as well, but together with the name tents people clued in pretty quick to what each one was. It also made sure they remembered they had masks on, or at least on their forehead.

To bring the scenario to a close, I got them to write their report to the grand lodge with the prompt "What I learned from Wayangs is blankety blankety blank". Here is a random sample. I got varied responses, shuffled them up so they were anonymous, and then read them out for a laugh.

All my bits. Including my day schedule. I had Harjandi hand it over, and mention that she burned the edges so that it would look really old, because I like the absurdity, but also impress that Wayang are into old things, like silly traditions.

So there you go. That's how I made this my favourite scenario. Overall, the only thing actually taxing for the players was the RP during the debate, but that's something that might be true no matter what scenario for any newbie.

Grand Lodge 4/5 Venture-Agent, Utah—Lehi

I ran this tonight. Going into it I felt like I had a handle on the social conflict mechanic. Turns out, I didn't have it down nearly enough. Explaining it all to players and guiding them through potential tactics in a reasonable amount of time was just stupid and we weren't able to roleplay in places where I would have liked. We got through it, but it was not great. Worse so, since some of the possible neat tactics you could pursue that are inherent in the system seem to all vanish when you are trying to lose.

I like the social conflict mechanic, but not in a 4-hour time slot and not inverted.

Dark Archive 5/5

We ran two tables for the lodge yesterday, and my slot zero experience definitely payed off! I had almost no confusion with the debate, as players picked up on the explanations fairly quickly, and the few questions they had were more to make sure they were understanding correctly (they were). Using the order of worksheet -> duel mechanics handout -> tactics description handout, they were able to process it in pieces, and started looking forward to playing out the actual debate. They were able to seed the crowd without needing all the mechanics information, and I was able to figure out their determination while they filled out their worksheets. I didn't roll quite so high during the debate this time around, and so there was a fair amount of back and forth, which they enjoyed. I was impressed with some of their "arguments", and they even won a couple of exchanges. Afterwards, one of the players said he would be adding this to his GM roster of scenarios, as he really enjoyed it. :)

Oddly enough, the only "problem" my table had was with the fight, as the only frontliner in the party was an eidelon. They still stuck with non-lethal though, and eventually chipped away at the brawlers' HP. When it came to the masks, this time the table actually wanted the description of the heroes, and chose based on what best fit their characters.

Both of the tables started about 15 minutes late (in a four hour slot), and we were finished within 10 minutes of each other, right on time, without feeling like anyone was rushed through the story.

Now that I have a good handle on the debate mechanics, I actually really like this scenario, and would run it again. I still wish we were given more backstory to go off of for the debate, but I've become confident enough with the story in my head to come up with arguments on the fly.

4/5 Venture-Agent, Minnesota—St. Louis Park aka BretI

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I have finally put the Verbal Duel Tactics in a separate Google Doc and put together my GM notes for this scenario.

I have also put both these links out on PFS Prep.

I hope people find them useful!

4/5 Venture-Agent, Netherlands—Utrecht aka Quentin Coldwater

I just ran this after two hours of prep time. Everyone had a great time. The verbal duels took some time to wrap your head around, but went pretty smoothly. I had a player with a Resolve of 12 at level 2 (6 WIS, 2 INT/CHA, 2 HD), that was quite a bit, and allowed them to lose the fight easily and get their specific character actions in. When I played it, we had 5, and that was quite a struggle.
I'd say that's a big thing: It's pretty hard to get a decent amount of Resolve at the lower levels. This guy specialised in mental stats, but on this table and my own no one had more than 3 or 4 or so.

I might've faltered a bit on the actual debate, improv and bebates aren't my strongest suit. >_> Other than that, I cut down on some rules as it was an infodump already and more rules (seeding the audience, audience bias, some other small stuff) would've just bogged down the adventure.

People enjoyed the scenario and the interactions it offered. One player wanted to go talk to Eynemb as a joke, but then actually turned into genuine interest, which was fun development. Everyone saw the story coming, but the fact that the Eynemb is more misguided than actually evil was a nice touch. I liked it, at least.

Thanks to everyone who put stuff on the PFS Prep, especially Ivo van der Werff, his stuff helped me out a lot!

Dark Archive 5/5

Quentin Coldwater wrote:
I had a player with a Resolve of 12 at level 2 (6 WIS, 2 INT/CHA, 2 HD)

To determine the party's determination, you're supposed to average the mental stat modifiers, and then add HD. So instead of 12, this should have been 5. You really don't want too much determination, or it's easy to accidentally win!

Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Captain, Arizona—Phoenix aka TriOmegaZero

There was no chance of us accidentally winning. I don't think we managed to win a single opposed check.

4/5 Venture-Agent, Netherlands—Utrecht aka Quentin Coldwater

Alanya wrote:
Quentin Coldwater wrote:
I had a player with a Resolve of 12 at level 2 (6 WIS, 2 INT/CHA, 2 HD)
To determine the party's determination, you're supposed to average the mental stat modifiers, and then add HD. So instead of 12, this should have been 5. You really don't want too much determination, or it's easy to accidentally win!

Ergh, I knew I messed up somewhere. >_<

Grand Lodge 4/5 Venture-Captain, Tennessee—Knoxville aka tchrman35

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The best thing I did for this was to add an encounter at the beginning. (I know, but...just read.) This module is short, so doing so was no big deal.

The pathfinders meet in a bar in Absalom to discuss their upcoming adventure across the sea. While there, they learn that the bar, now apportioned in Andoran blue, is thinking of changing themes to an Ulfen setting, replete with nautical references, stuffed game heads, weaponry on the walls, etc..

A group of vocal individuals is trying to convince the bartender to stay with the current decor. You're tasked with convincing him that he should change the decor.

This "encounter" adds no threat and uses no resources. What it DOES is give the players a chance to assign their skills at the beginning, gives them a dry run at the mechanic, and lets you (the GM) have a dry run at running it.

I used the tier 1-2 stats in the back. I also didn't run it all the way to completion. Once we had it figured out, we moved on to the actual adventure.

I strongly encourage other GMs to do likewise. The scenario does too many things at once. It introduces a new mechanic AND it tells you to lose without looking like you're taking a dive. It's hard to lose without looking like you're losing when you KNOW the mechanic. Harder still when you're just learning.

My players had a great time. They really enjoyed it. One who had GMed it before said he wished he'd done a dry run first.

Is adding an "encounter" legal? Strictly speaking, no. But does this dry run carry any of the risks that a normal encounter carries (death, conditions, consumption of resources)? No. So I think it's a good practice, and I suggest it.

Sovereign Court 4/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

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@Stephen

If there are absolutely no mechanical consequences for the encounter I don't think it really breaks any rules. It's not so different from when players in a sandboxy scenario wander off to look over the city they're in, and you RP some local interactions.

"Run as written" is really just the completely un-nuanced distillate of what the Guide says on pages 11-12 about table variation. If you look at the whole text, none of what you do is a breach.

In other words, I like your idea :)

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