Making an assasination mission difficult


Advice


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So my player (Rogue 3/Sorcerer 3) is performing assassinations for badly-needed money at the moment, and so far they've mostly been too easy. The last one was difficult because his target was two levels higher than him and heard him hiding under his bed when he came home. Generally (obviously) the formula is wait until they're asleep and kill them.

His next target is an alchemist/merchant who probably shouldn't be high level. His shop will have a guard, but I'm not sure how realistic it is for him to have guards at his home too?

Other than that I'm looking for mundane ways (not alarm spells, etc) to make getting into/around his house a challenge and would appreciate any ideas.


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Guard dogs are a classic bit of mundane security. Your stealth score or invis doesn't amount to a hill of beans when the pooches can smell you.

Another classic are beaded curtains dividing rooms, which generally raise a bit of a ruckus as you move through them.

Another thing you can do is take advantage of the fact the guy's an alchemist. Maybe he's got tons of noxious smelling brews cooking at home that sickens/obscures sight (but not him, he's naturally used to it). Or maybe he's a hoarder and his house is just full of piles of alchemical items that need to be carefully maneuvered around lest they fall and alert everyone/explode violently.

Sky's the limit.


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There are alot of ways to increase the challenge of an assassination encounter.

1) create tension by adding a deadline. "you must kill the ship captain before he sails on the high tide."
2) add mundane traps and obstacles. locked doors, bells hanging from door knobs, spiked plants poisonous plants around windows,
3) dogs, golems, familiars, trained parrots. more eyes to avoid.
4) introduce an investigator or team of elites hunting the assassin.


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A wealthy person having a bodyguard who also acts as a servant is almost a stereotype. Make the servant/bodyguard a monk so that he does not need to carry a weapon. The fact the monk is a wisdom based class with perception as a class skill will mean his perception roll is pretty high. Most people don’t even realize his servant is anything but an ordinary servant.

Maybe the target has insomnia. Since he is an alchemist he creates an alchemical remedy to help him sleep. But instead of a potion he uses incense. Every night before going to bed he lights a stick of incense that makes anyone who smells it for any length of time fall asleep. So the target gets in bed and lights the incense. Now the assassin has to make a fortitude save or fall asleep. Considering that both sorcerers and rogues have bad fortitude there is a good chance of him failing. Because the alchemist has been using it for a while he has developed some resistance to it so uses a more potent than normal mixture. This allows him to throw more easily resist it so he is awake when the assassin falls asleep.


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Collision.
Make the assassin bring back a specific object such as a signet ring, a wizard's bonded item, the target's nose or whatever. Either as proof, or because the employer just happens to be weird. Easy pickings: the target is probably a level 6 expert or something like that.

Then have another assassin (hired by someone else) appear at the scene of the crime, and try to get the same object. Only one can get the spoils; no sharing. Were either of them prepared to fight each other? Bonus points if the target is not dead yet, and attempts to flee while the assassins are fighting each other. Extra points if you leave the competing assassin dead on the scene without leaving evidence of your own visit.

Shared target.
Unknown to the employer (or perhaps the employer just didn't tell you), the target is under observation of the city watch, a criminal gang, intellect devourers looking for a host, or whatever.

When the your player suddenly inhumes the poor NPC, a stake-out team gets very angry that all their hard work is suddenly wasted. Fortunately for them, there is a black-clad PC for them to interrogate, liquidate, or use as a corpsemobile. Cue chase.

Infection.
The target has a dangerous disease. For some reason he cannot be cured or the infection cannot be publicized (perhaps the target is the head of the local church, and nobody can know that he has fallen from grace and can no longer cure himself), and has to be eliminated swiftly. Killing is easy, being infected may cause some complications. This is relatively easy to counter with access to healing magic, though.

This ploy is only useful if the backstory is sensible. Depending on the local access to healing, players may think it is absolute nonsense.


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another angle to increase the drama is to add a moral or personal element. Even evil assassin characters have lines they don't want to cross. Perhaps the target is someone from the assassins past such as mentor or childhood friend. Or perhaps an innocent, someone not in the 'game'. Perhaps killing the victim will increase the power of a feared or hated rival but to refuse to take the job will incur the wrath of the thieves or assassins guild.


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The title wrote:
Making an assasination mission difficult

Make sure he has levels in the Assassin PrC! Hey-o, shots fired!


Jokes aside, with no judgement involved:

1) how are you handling the moral/ethical considerations of assassination

2) what is the end-goal of this character, and why has he fallen into this lifestyle? (Money, obviously, but why?)

This questions aside, there are quite a number of "mundane" methods of making things harder, but they all depend on the nature of the target.

One of the easiest, of course, is to make the target slovenly. Crumbs all over the floor, stale bread crusts, weird goop that was left behind since who knows when... all sorts of stuff. While this might not skeeve your player out, the character might be horrified by this; plus, the more slightly hardened crumbs, the more of a crunching sound (or, barring that, sweeping/scraping sound as the PC moves it aside); the NPC doesn't care, but that detritus makes it hard for the player to successfully stealth, as would poorly-kept hinges, weakening floorboards, and the like. Heck, a bunch of flour/fine dust in one room the NPC never goes in might leave a trail or footprints.

Beyond that, a simple house with a sharply pointed roof, and a superior lock on the other side of a heavy door (able to be opened by someone on the inside), with iron bars over the windows means that the house requires: climbing, stealth, time, lots of material hacking or lock-picking, and luck. This is especially true of the house is in a busy part of town or a nieghborhood.

Now, I'm guessing, as a sorcerer into assassinations, he has knock. If so, place not one, but five on the outer door. This... isn't even all that uncommon (see ~1:27), in fantasy, or real life.

Sure, he can get through it - it's within his spells/day quota. But it's most (if not all) of his spells per day, just to get past the front door of a low-level old commoner. The rest of the house could be filled with various valuable trinkets. Trinkets he obsessively polishes and arranges to be perfect for the memory of his dead wife. So anything missing will be instantly noticed. Any of those shiny, valuable, useful trinkets that would go a long way towards paying off any debts...

Anyway, the thread is already full of good ideas. These are just a few extra ones. Hope that helps!


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High profile or paranoid targets could gave their wooden floors rigged to squeak. Shogun used to do this in their fortresses to deter assassins.

Another option is dummies. High profile targets might use stuffed dummies or living body doubles. Ancient Central American tribes used to create dummy guards that were filled with hornet nests. At night attackers would strike the duties and release swarms of angry hornets that would attack back.


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There might possibly be consequences to being an assassin. Like people hiring adventurers to hunt you down, kill you and take your stuff, if the local law can't handle that.


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A Homunculus or two as unsleeping early warning systems? Or maybe a tumour familiar?

Constructs/Alchemical simulacrum bodyguards?

Heck with shape simulacrum, lesser simulacrum and maybe a charm spell, he might have a concubine who is also a bodyguard...and is capable of kicking ass.

Say he started with an Annis Hag... (shape simulacrum makes it human sized and pretty). 25 strength = +7 to hit & damage, 9 pts of natural armor, 3 attacks, 4d10 hd + can = 4*5.5+4*4 = 38 hp. Your pc might be in deadly trouble if he thinks the concubine is "normal".


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Unusual locations, behaviors, or morality issues could increase difficulty.
I really liked the Elder scrolls assassins quests, they had bonuses for making some look like accidents, or leaving bodies in certain places (or disappear forever), for sending messages (or planting false evidence against another), or making the player doubt their mission.

-The mentioned ship captain either on his ship full of wake and sleeping crew (unalert generally), or in the local tavern that is never quiet and full of prying eyes (maybe with a prostitute sleeping beside him who cannot be woken/killed).
-Maybe they are an elf, they never sleep but take meditative walks around town (crossing patrol routes).
-A Vanara merchant who has a hammock on the ceiling and climbs 15ft to get up to bed (easily), but is not easily reached for coup de grace (need climb, fly, or a ranged shot).
-A drunken Barbarian famous for his alcoholism who never sleeps in the same bed twice (seduce?, poison drink, challenge to a fight, etc).
-A paranoid Fetchling underling who traverses to the shadow plane during the day, so he must be slain awake (Lure, follow, traverse planes).
-A single catfolk mother with her several cubs around her constantly who lives in a rundown cabin on some prized land (hence the reason for assassination) (this one can be very sad if the family is as loving and as poor as possible).
-A prisoner who is threatening to talk once the magistrate arrives in town (Magistrate or the prisoner must be assassinated).
-One guard who has accrued a large gambling debt and knows he is likely marked so sleeps in the barracks among trusted guards and never patrols alone (Disguise as a guard, preemptively remove partner, sneak into barracks).
-Twins, one of which will inherit the land, the other of which will not, their younger sister wants ONE dead not the other (choose the correct one or receive nothing) (Need intel gathering).
-Huge home with many servants, a pittance of guards, and you must kill the wife while avoiding the husband and his staff, but he is working late nights against the client and few know the house layout (Sam Fisher style pattern checking and possibly divination/mirror tools).
-Kill a poaching ranger and his animal companion, they live in a cave outside of town with pit traps, snares, bear traps, tar paper, and bait animal cages (trap avoidance, scent avoidance).
-A lazy halfling bard who lives in a community hall and performs regularly in public with her recorder, client wants a public death.
-A dock overseer who sleeps in a mini fortress with 4 loyal guards (Thugs), a single heavy door in and out (guarded externally whenever he is home). He does daily walks along the pier, does regular shakedowns, and handles employee payments/cash counts in his tower (poison money, kill on dock, hide in tower, fight way through door).
- A famous wizard who lives in a fine manor, with an imp familiar running around, and a trove of scrolls/books/precious gems that contain sepia snake symbol spells on them, various symbols of x, or are in mimic chests. The Wizard has 5 beds, 4 of which are alarmed traps with an illusion inside.

-Conditions help as well - Make it look like an accident, leave no clue that they are dead (hide/destroy/animate and walk the body out of town), mutilate the corpse to leave a message, kill and retrieve a special object/document, kill using a special means (poison, arrow, enchanted blade, etc), make certain they die in public, return a particular body part.

For the Alchemist in particular, give them a workshop basement to descend into with; jars, contained oozes, plenty of glowing reagents, half living body parts, a blast crater room, gases, bubbling liquids inside a fragile stand, mysterious noises that can startle the assassin, and a sand timer that wakes him hourly to move reagents around the tubes as part of some creation (so the assassin must be quick or wait). The house, the basement, and the workshop should all have locks.


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If you real want to give him a hard time make his target a Reincarnated Druid they are hard to find and they can keep coming back. Or a Beast-bond Witch 10 level with a Rakshasa, Raktavarna for a Familiar.


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LucyG92 wrote:
Other than that I'm looking for mundane ways (not alarm spells, etc) to make getting into/around his house a challenge and would appreciate any ideas.

You could always fill it with water.


One "catch-22" to the whole thing, might be that the assassination is secretly about ownership of a dog (or other animal that serves as both guardian and companion). The complication arises when the assassin is forced to kill the man, make it look like an accident, and don't harm the guardian creature (on pain of no payment).


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with 3 levels in sorcerer they should alredy be difficult


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Maybe make it difficult decision-wise. Perhaps the alchemist has a clone they just finished working on. That way the Assassin could kill that one and take credit for it while the actual alchemist goes on living. Could create problems down the line but it definitely mixes the mission up and gives an interesting choice.


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The target is secretly a simulacrum of a significantly more powerful sorcerer.

Simulacrum, the original LMD.


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Lady-J wrote:
with 3 levels in sorcerer they should alredy be difficult

This is very true, but, despite my quip about the assassin PrC, earlier, even that class could do well, under this paradigm. Basically, it seems the guy sneaks in, waits silently until the target is asleep, and then offs him. I'm guessing the sorcerer levels are for knock and invisibility, though vanish and sleep and color spray could be useful. I'm also guessing he's bucking for the arcane trickster PrC. Those are actually pretty solid talents for an assassin of any stripe, and would go a long way toward making even an Assassin PrC viable in this game.

(The Assassin PrC is still pretty terrible, though, from a power/viability perspective, in a general sense.)

EDIT: actually, no: with a sorcerer, he wouldn't have access to second level spells, yet, would he? Welp. :I

As an aside, I think many of us are forgetting something the OP specified:

LucyG92, the OP wrote:
Other than that I'm looking for mundane ways (not alarm spells, etc) to make getting into/around his house a challenge and would appreciate any ideas.

In addition to other things, something simple, like not making the bed a raised device, and instead making it something that rests solidly on the floor. More like this (less kidsy, but maybe with drawers still under it) or this or this and less like this or this; though we typically think of the latter two as "normal" bed styles, that's not really true. Heck, having the dude sleep in an indoor hammock leads to trouble with the "under the bed" scenario, and suggests and interesting NPC.

Effectively, though, this is just one of many steps that are part of the same goal: eliminate hiding places.

So, here's a method of doing exactly that, while making the thing a bear to get into:

- a single-room studio apartment (only a bed that either touches the ground or a hammock bed, a drawer set for his clothes, and a table
- five locks (including one that leaves an obvious "this is not on anymore" like a chain and/or padlock)
- hefty bars over the window (no curtains)
- a manservant (either who is always inside for the chain lock, or who follows the dude around; could be replaced by <magic thing> like simulacra or something, but that's less mundane)
- a guardian-pet (that can't be harmed for "reasons" that are unclear; this is mission-critical, though) {alt concept: it could be an "innocent" that should not be harmed, for reasons known only to the employer - there are tons of reasons, though, ranging from being the child or spouse to the target and by killing the target it frees the employer to move in, employer feels a compunction against afflicting such sights or evil on "innocents", or perhaps said individual is an experiment of some kind}
- have the area settled enough that there are nosy (and possibly loud) neighbors
- optional: add complications or bonuses, like, "make it look like an accident" (optional: "if possible") or lots of valuable chachkes around that could be sold for money, but taking them would endanger his mission for reasons

Under this paradigm, you're going to be forcing him to burn through his magic before he ever gets to the combat.

An average lock is going to be 1d4 to 2d4 rounds, and I recommend "good" locks. This either requires lots of time* or lots of spell-power** to avoid lots of undue attention (from those previously-mentioned nosy noisy neighbors; sure, he could kill the first dozen with little problem - they're commoners, after all, but that would cause the target to be super-alert to the weirdness of no neighbors, and a killing spree in a local neighborhood - which will be discovered by someone quickly - is going to bring lots of attention leading to a hunter-squad with crack investigators, inquisitors, and such in to crush some sort of bizarre mass-murderer), and then leave him with absolutely nowhere to hide in a small apartment inhabited by either a martial master or the creature what shouldn't be harmed "in any way" on pain of loss of payment.

None of this requires a high level NPC, and none of it requires any magical assistance at all.

* As he's got a maximum bonus of 11+Dex modifier+tools (~19, assumed maximum, with +4 Dex and Deft Hands), and a more-likely modifier of 6+Dex modifier+tools (~10 assumed maximum, with +2 Dex); either way, this means to hit that DC 30, he's got to roll very high (11 but more likely 20, based on guesstimates) - likely failing multiple times, each of which requires an average of 3 rounds; three of these (not an unlikely occurrence on a DC 30/have to roll a 20) will burn through one invisibility spell. Repeat this five times. Of course he could either take 20 or try hacking through those steel bars...
** As each lock will require a knock spell. Hence, five spells.

EDIT: So it's clear I've been over-estimating him. I was thinking of a 3rd level wizard, who actually has access to second level spells (and mentally conflating that with the Spells/day of a 4th level sorcerer with a moderate charisma - look, I'm sick and have been feverish!), so he's really not got much in terms of ways of getting in there without detection, as he can't use Stealth without concealment, and he can't gain concealment in or around the house, as-described. The scenario I posited above may be not-so-much difficult, as impossible for someone of his particular skill-set. He might have a high enough Bluff modifier to pull it off ("Oh, no, nosy, noisy, neighbors, I'm just here for totally legitimate reasons, that's for sure..."), but bear in mind Bluff modifiers make such scams less likely.

So... yeah. He might not be able to do this.

Maybe... don't make it as difficult as I posited? Otherwise he might just be forced to give up.


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Tacticslion wrote:
Lady-J wrote:
with 3 levels in sorcerer they should alredy be difficult

This is very true, but, despite my quip about the assassin PrC, earlier, even that class could do well, under this paradigm. Basically, it seems the guy sneaks in, waits silently until the target is asleep, and then offs him. I'm guessing the sorcerer levels are for knock and invisibility, though vanish and sleep and color spray could be useful. I'm also guessing he's bucking for the arcane trickster PrC. Those are actually pretty solid talents for an assassin of any stripe, and would go a long way toward making even an Assassin PrC viable in this game.

(The Assassin PrC is still pretty terrible, though, from a power/viability perspective, in a general sense.)

EDIT: actually, no: with a sorcerer, he wouldn't have access to second level spells, yet, would he? Welp. :I

As an aside, I think many of us are forgetting something the OP specified:

LucyG92, the OP wrote:
Other than that I'm looking for mundane ways (not alarm spells, etc) to make getting into/around his house a challenge and would appreciate any ideas.
In addition to other things, something simple, like not making the bed a raised device, and instead making it something that rests solidly on the floor. More like this (less kidsy, but maybe with drawers still under it) or this or this and less like this or...

as a full sorc yes they could do really well but with half sorc half slayer they are really limiting themselves on both regards and level 3 sorc only has 1st level spells and at the level they are with out 2 levels in oracle color spray will have very limited effects if they effect the target at all


Hah!

You ninja'd me while I was editing.

Lady-J wrote:
as a full sorc yes they could do really well but with half sorc half slayer

Heh! We're making the same mistakes, and presuming the character has more skill/viability than he actually does (see bold).

If he was a slayer instead of rogue, he'd be much more viable, same as if he was a wizard instead of half-sorcerer. Heck, even a witch with the slumber hex would be better!

Lady-J wrote:
they are really limiting themselves on both regards and level 3 sorc only has 1st level spells and at the level they are with out 2 levels in oracle color spray will have very limited effects if they effect the target at all

This is true.

That said, at level six, and with low-level targets (as indicated), I assumed that color spray and sleep have been weight-lifters for him so far, despite their HD limit. They'll still be useful for some time, depending on his targets. A stunned creature is a very tasty target for a character with sneak attacks. Frankly, it's the only way I can envision him getting along so well.


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Tacticslion wrote:

Hah!

You ninja'd me while I was editing.

Lady-J wrote:
as a full sorc yes they could do really well but with half sorc half slayer

Heh! We're making the same mistakes, and presuming the character has more skill/viability than he actually does (see bold).

If he was a slayer instead of rogue, he'd be much more viable, same as if he was a wizard instead of half-sorcerer. Heck, even a witch with the slumber hex would be better!

Lady-J wrote:
they are really limiting themselves on both regards and level 3 sorc only has 1st level spells and at the level they are with out 2 levels in oracle color spray will have very limited effects if they effect the target at all

This is true.

That said, at level six, and with low-level targets (as indicated), I assumed that color spray and sleep have been weight-lifters for him so far, despite their HD limit. They'll still be useful for some time, depending on his targets. A stunned creature is a very tasty target for a character with sneak attacks. Frankly, it's the only way I can envision him getting along so well.

weird coulda sworn it said slayer instead of rogue


Tacticslion wrote:


That said, at level six, and with low-level targets (as indicated), I assumed that color spray and sleep have been weight-lifters for him so far, despite their HD limit. They'll still be useful for some time, depending on his targets. A stunned creature is a very tasty target for a character with sneak attacks. Frankly, it's the only way I can envision him getting along so well.

if you truly want a terifying color spray build play as an advanced half sucubus and have 2 levels in heavens oracle 1 level dip into cross bloodes sorc and some levels in mesmerist you can color spray things with arround 20 hit die if done right


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Thanks so much for all the great ideas!

Tacticslion -

Quote:

Jokes aside, with no judgement involved:

1) how are you handling the moral/ethical considerations of assassination

2) what is the end-goal of this character, and why has he fallen into this lifestyle? (Money, obviously, but why?)

1. Well, his character is Lawful Evil.

2. He's trying to raise the money required to resurrect his dead bodyguard (and remove negative levels) - after that, he's leaving the city and continuing with his normal goals. This is temporary work.

As for the assumption his character ought to be terrible at this because of the multiclassing... well, he just isn't. He's very inventive with how he uses his spells and makes a lot of use of Stealth and Bluff. It probably helps that he rolled really well for his ability scores, too. And maybe a bit of me being a new GM :)

(Does PRC mean prestige class?)


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LucyG92 wrote:
Thanks so much for all the great ideas!

Hope they help! "No good plan survives contact with a PC." as the saying goes*.

* Well, the adapted saying, anyway. :D

LucyG92 wrote:

Tacticslion -

Quote:

Jokes aside, with no judgement involved:

1) how are you handling the moral/ethical considerations of assassination

2) what is the end-goal of this character, and why has he fallen into this lifestyle? (Money, obviously, but why?)

1. Well, his character is Lawful Evil.

2. He's trying to raise the money required to resurrect his dead bodyguard (and remove negative levels) - after that, he's leaving the city and continuing with his normal goals. This is temporary work.

This is actually really cool. Phenomenal character motivation, and an excellent method of handling the moral/ethical debates.

Mostly, it was for my own curiosity, but knowing what his alignment, his goals, and his purposes are could help in giving more specific advice. In this particular case, I think most people covered most anything that I would have come up with based on this information, but it's really cool to know, and sounds like you're doing a great job as GM!

LucyG92 wrote:
As for the assumption his character ought to be terrible at this because of the multiclassing... well, he just isn't. He's very inventive with how he uses his spells and makes a lot of use of Stealth and Bluff. It probably helps that he rolled really well for his ability scores, too. And maybe a bit of me being a new GM :)

We all were new GMs at some point or another, and some of us still aren't that great at it.

Either way, it sounds like you're doing an excellent job!

We may well kibitz and argue about viability and relative power of various classes, but the only real metric that matters is whether or not it's working out well in your game, in particular. The main reason I accept and work towards promoting the idea that the rogue is the weakest core PC class, and the assassin is the (or "one of," if not "the,") weakest prestige class, is mostly so that people understand what they're getting into, and GMs understand that there are certain challenges they simply can't give those kinds of characters and not expect either death or (at the least) failure.

The rogue is actually a decent class, and so is the sorcerer. Comparing either 6th level rogue or 6th level sorcerer to a 3/3 of those same classes, though, makes the 3/3 look relatively weak, and automatically shuts off challenges that would be appropriate for a 6th level "straight" classed character - the reason being that having access to only 1st level spells instead 3rd level spells means that a sorcerer 3 is extremely weak (comparatively); the partial rogue levels aren't that harsh, by comparison - a +2d6 sneak attack is only 1d6 (an average of 3.5 damage) away from a +3d6 sneak attack, both of which are situational, anyway - but it still suffers from lacking as many skills as a full rogue, and so should be able to generally "handle" fewer things in an especially skillful fashion, comparatively (that said, rogue levels - and, in fact, most martial characters, like fighters or slayers - suffer substantially less from this than true casters).

But, and this is extremely important: none of this is wrong. It is entirely based on your gaming style and what you, as a GM, are putting forward as challenges. And, even more than that, it depends entirely on what you, as a group, define as "fun" for the whole group!

LucyG92 wrote:
(Does PRC mean prestige class?)

It does!

Sorry - we're so often used to throwing out big multi-word phrases around here that we often shorten it to little things like that, just to save time, and we tend to forget that most people aren't up on the "lingo" of the forums. Oops!

XD

Anyway, I want to mention: it sounds like you've got a great game going, here! I hope to hear more about it, as it progresses!

Also, although we're a cantankerous and argumentative bunch around here, it's just because we're passionate nerds with an extreme focus on our particular hobby. Because of that, I have two requests: 1) please don't hold that against us, 2) please don't hold yourself up to some imaginary "standard" that you have to meet as either GM or player, 3) please don't hold me to the fact that I said "two" requests, 4) please feel free to ask any and all questions you'd like!

Mostly, we're just glad you're here, and hope you have an awesome gaming experience! Let us know how it goes!

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