My PCs are facing the Ravenous Crypts tomorrow, and I need a quick sanity check to make sure I'm not going to accidentally murdilate my party.
Azaven came out and engaged the party in conversation. On learning that they sought Inib wine, he offered them a bargain: get fresh research materials for him -- i.e. people, dead or alive -- and he'll happily trade them bottles of Inib wine at 10 bottles per head.
The party discussed it, and even offered him the dead body of Ordikon (which they had stuck in a bag of holding hoping to recover the mithral later!). But he thought the mithral coating would interfere with his research, and so negotiations broke down and he decided to just kill them and use THEIR bodies for research.
That's where we broke session.
My thoughts are that at this point, Azaven spends a free action to call out to the mummies in the walls, who will burst out of their hiding places emitting despair auras. This is the sticky part. My party's Will saves are mostly not great:
Ronia (cohort): +15
I've just done some number crunching, and if I have them roll six Will saves at DC 19, chances are excellent that 4 out of the 6 will get paralyzed, five if they're unlucky. The ones who fail are likely to fail more than once, getting multiple 1d4 rolls for the duration. I'm assuming those don't stack, but more rolls means a better chance of rolling a 4 and being out of commission for a long, long time. 4 rounds is at least an hour of play time, I think, maybe more, which A) isn't fun, and B) makes it a lot harder for the rest of the party.
So I'm thinking of combining the six Will saves into just one Will save at a higher DC -- maybe 24, 19 +1 for each additional mummy. I'm guessing there would still probably be 3 failures, but the duration would wind up being shorter, even if I gave them 1d4+1 rounds of paralysis.
That's not even taking into account Azaven, who will be busy summoning a devourer into the mix, and possibly calling Xyoddin and/or more mummies into play.
Any thoughts? I want this to be a challenging encounter, not a ha-ha-the-whole-party-dies-now encounter.
Without changing anything above, you could slightly help the PCs by giving them a Sense Motive check to realize that Azaven is done negotiating and planning to kill them, and have everyone roll Initiative. Give the PCs a Perception check to tell that something is starting to move in the walls. That way some of the PCs might be able to act before the mummies burst free. But yeah, they look to be in a tight spot :)
I'm going to quantify how bad the situation is:
Micah fails their Will Save on rolls of 2-.
Ronia fails on rolls of 3-.
Dova fails on rolls of 6-.
Zoey fails on rolls of 9-.
Wren fails on rolls of 10-.
Skrag fails on rolls of 12-. Ouch!
In percentage terms, this means that (against 1 mummy):
Micah fails 10% of the time.
Ronia fails 15% of the time.
Dova fails 30% of the time.
Zoey fails 45% of the time.
Wren fails 50% of the time.
Skrag fails 60% of the time. Ouch!
Probability to fail at least once against 6 mummies:
Micah = 1 - 0.9^6 = 0.47 -> 47%
Ronia = 1 - 0.85^6 = 0.62 -> 62%
Dova = 1 - 0.7^6 = 0.88 -> 88%
Zoey = 1 - 0.65^6 = 0.92 -> 92%
Wren = 1 - 0.5^6 = 0.97 -> 97%
Skrag = 1 - 0.4^6 = 0.996 -> 99.6%
You can safely assume that Dova, Zoey, Wren, and Skrag will fail their saves in the encounter as written.
If I were GMing for this party, I'd replace the mummies with CR appropriate undead. I might keep 1 mummy if I felt like challenging the party.
Patient: Doctor, it hurts when I move my arm like this.
Doctor: Don't move your arm like that.
You changed the encounter and created this problem. Change the encounter again and make it go away.
Do the pc's know the mummies are behind the doors? I assume no. "Poof" they're gone. Put them in F2 or F5. Have Azaven fight them for a couple rounds and then retreat and send the mummies in so they only have to deal with one encounter at a time.
I would also point out those are pretty crappy will saves for a 14th level party. +8 and +6 in particular are very vulnerable. (Do some of them have Sin penalties?) The mummy encounter as written would have been dangerous for them. Have they been to the Iron Cages yet? The alu-demons and succubus are going to eat them alive - they can spam charm spells (unlike the mummies' save and ignore for 24 hours.) Are they taking any precautions? Something like Heroes Feast? Other buffs? They know they're entering a Necromancy focused wing, yes? Have they planned for likely affects like fear or energy drain?
Yes, I did create this problem, in an effort to make things more fun. My players enjoy role play a lot more than combat, and they are poorly optimized. I have been trying to make it possible for them to talk with their opponents. You miss an awful lot of story when you kill everything on sight. I am also aware of that fact and trying to compensate -- hence this thread.
The party went to the Vaults of Greed first; this is their second stop.
The figures given above do not reflect any sin penalties. I haven't been doing very much with those, because the party's saves are bad enough already. I've been turning Rings of Protection into Cloaks of Resistance, but they keep not taking the hint.
They knew they were getting into a necromancy focused area, but took no special precautions. The players mostly haven't mastered the system, and often don't know about all their options. I have been helping as much as I can, but I can't play the game for them.
We've been chipping away at this campaign since 2012, and I've been forced to make major adjustments practically every step of the way because they're usually just not up to the book as written.
- In the Scribbler's Lair, everything attacks on you on sight.
- Arkhryst attacks on sight.
- The Abjurant Halls contain nothing but a trap, which of course can't be negotiated with.
- Everything in the Ravenous Crypt attacks on sight.
- You can talk to the Mephits and Zuvuzeg in the Vaults of Greed; everything else attacks on sight.
- The demons in the Iron Cages will talk to you.
- In the Shimmering Veils, there's nothing to talk to except simulacra, whose limited programming consists of "Leave or die". Plus your own reflections attack on sight in the hallway.
- Jordimandus won't talk to you until he's begging for his life.
- Everything in the Halls of Wrath attacks on sight, which is at least thematically appropriate.
In a word, this is boring. The book is about 85% mindless combat, when my players enjoy social interaction with NPCs a lot more than kicking down the door and rolling initiative. I've been trying to adjust the areas so that they can TALK with their opponents first. That way they at least get a little more story, and potentially could get what they need without actually fighting if they can reach some kind of satisfactory arrangement. It wasn't very likely with Azaven in particular on account he's an undead abomination, but if they can manage to talk with some of the other wings they might be able to work something out.
I used the mummies, but gave the PCs a single save vs 23 instead of 6 at 19. Also, we reviewed some notes from last session and found that Wren and Ronia were both under the effects of a Protection from Evil spell, which they had cast while standing in the lobby and waiting for Azaven to show up. I had forgotten thatn, but was very glad of it, because it rendered them immune to the mummy's despair aura (it's mind-affecting!).
As for the others, Micah passed the save, Zoey rolled a nat 20, Skrag and Dova failed, but Skrag was only out for 1 round (Dova for 4). I could in theory have coup-de-graced both of them, but that would be a dick move, so Azaven ordered the mummies to take the party alive so that he could conduct some experiments that required a living subject.
It was a super-challenging fight, but the party squeaked through with one death (Micah), 1 permanent paralysis from a touch by Azaven (Zoey), and the rest of the party in single digits. Over the course of four hours they fought and destroyed six mummies, Xyoddin, Azaven, and three more mummies that showed up from deeper in the crypt. By my count there are still 3 mummies waiting for them, plus they've got the clay golem and (potentially) that nightshade.
I expect the party to retreat and recuperate before tackling the rest of it, because they are in NO shape to continue on. Ronia survived and has a supply of diamond dust; she can raise Micah and de-paralyze Zoey after prepping spells in the morning.
I actually prepped an ally for them who could step in and provide some additional healing. Who then couldn't get to them. Once things started to turn in the party's favor -- there was an early Undeath to Death spell that took out several mummies -- Azaven stepped back into the central chamber and put up a Wall of Force. It was supposed to be an opportunity for the the party to back off and come back when they were better prepared. Instead they teleported past the wall of force to continue the fight, meaning the ally I'd prepped couldn't actually get to them (lacking any way to effectively deal with or bypass a wall of force).
Yes, Book 5 is high on combat and low on role-play opportunities. As written. Book 6 isn't any better. (In this characteristic.)
You could change the motivation of the various leaders. Even restore the real Vraxeris. Have them get into a bidding war over the pc's, trying to recruit them into taking out the other wings, especially as the pc's have already taken out two (if I read correctly.)
Vraxeris wants Jordimandus (Sloth) taken out first.
Delhavine pretends to be allied with Vraxeris but she wants Jordimandus captured so he can send her home.
High Lady Athroxis wants the Iron Cages and its minions destroyed (her opposition sin)
Jordimandus wants Athroxis taken out - without her forces, he can summon enough minions to take out the others.
Vraxeris and Jordimandus know how to make runeforged weapons and will barter that information if asked. Vraxeris will withhold information about which Pride components are needed unless the Sloth wing is taken out completely.
Athroxis offers access to her gate home and in addition to her many charms, Delvahine promises she can learn anything Vraxeris knows. She only parts with her "components" based on the price provided in the Book.
Book 6 doesn't offer a lot of options in this area. The undead dwarves provide some story elements via haunts but not much role-play. The nymph Svevenka will talk with them, but pending what they may have done in Book 3 with Myrianna, she's happy to ally with them. Even if they didn't help her cousin, she's likely to ally anyway. The pc's can talk with the Spared and they provide some help and social interaction. But other than that, everyone in the Book is actively interested in the pc's demise and has no interest in negotiation. So you may want to start to prepare for that.
There's no rule that says you can't pointedly call out to specific players that putting on a cloak of resistance would make them more... resistant. Are they selling them? Sticking them in a backpack and ignoring them?
I think part of the issue is that, as the APs progress, Stat Blocks take up more and more space, even being able to refer to the PRD for things. The combat encounters squeeze out the role-play aspects (somewhat). There's also the issue that, as the AP progresses, there is increasing likelihood that the PCs have diverged from any prepared role-playing scenes.. so as the AP gets into later parts, the GM has to do more to build on what has gone before and "wing it".
It isn't that there is intrinsically less role-playing potential.. just that more of it falls on the GM to come up with, and less is pre-scripted.
Agreed! Plus, in my experience, high level combats tend to take longer. Enemies have more defenses -- AC, DR, SR, fast healing -- and spells get harder to adjudicate. Partly that's because they're more powerful, but more often it's because they're less familiar than the lower level spells. The more time you spend at a level, the more familiar and comfortable you are with spells and abilities. And let's face it, most people spend a lot more time playing at levels 1-12 or so than at higher levels.
Anyway, I'd just like to say thanks to everyone who contributed to this thread. It helps a lot to have a community of knowledgeable GMs who can assist.