Future of specials?


Pathfinder Society

Grand Lodge 2/5

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I thought Assault on Absalom was the best special yet, probably because the faction related choices that allowed for different kinds of encounters beyond just combat after combat. That said, I’ve also really enjoyed some of the past years' pre-gen specials where we have a chance to take on unusual characters and perspectives (kobolds, Aspis Agents, elementals). I just wanted to express my hope that we haven’t seen the last of that style of special.

1/5 5/5

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

The hope is that they will be more streamlined read: Solstice Scar and less clunky Cosmic Captive with easier access and understandable mechanics that don't require either hand-wavium or a math degree to understand.

Not only are more complex Specials harder to put into print, they are harder both to GM and to play, which kind of kills some of the enjoyment of them.

Scarab Sages 5/5

Wei Ji the Learner wrote:


The hope is that they will be more streamlined read: Solstice Scar and less clunky Cosmic Captive with easier access and understandable mechanics that don't require either hand-wavium or a math degree to understand.

Not only are more complex Specials harder to put into print, they are harder both to GM and to play, which kind of kills some of the enjoyment of them.

Ideally you'd be able to put that extra complexity on the Overseer (and overseer staff) and the individual GMs would just need to run a scenario and report some things every now and again; just be aware of certain conditions that create various modifiers to the encounters.

But you see the extremes of this between Siege of the Diamond City (largely considered, at least in my circles, as the best Special to date) and Cosmic Captive (largely considered the worst special to date largely because of its complexity.)

Ideally, a special would be 3 separate scenarios that all tie together, so that a low level team could go on a mission that makes sense to them while a high level would do the same. Similar to Act 3 of Siege. The countless waves of similar creatures that low level tiers go through while high level tiers often don't complete a full 2 waves or even face the BBEG, really doesn't work no matter which special you play.

1/5 5/5

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I have not yet played Siege but have both GM'd and played Captive, as well as Blood Under Absalom.

It seems like it would be more work, but I think it would actually be less?

Shadow Lodge 5/5

I look forward to the day Wei Ji and I take on Siege.

1/5 5/5

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

It has a Seeker-level, doesn't it?

Scarab Sages 5/5

Wei Ji the Learner wrote:
It has a Seeker-level, doesn't it?

Up to level 15, yes

Shadow Lodge 5/5

*remembers Life Oracle is 15.2*

Scarab Sages 5/5

Wei Ji the Learner wrote:


I have not yet played Siege but have both GM'd and played Captive, as well as Blood Under Absalom.

It seems like it would be more work, but I think it would actually be less?

Its more work if you require your GMs to prep every Tier. But when Siege came out for Gen Con, we were only required to prep for Low/Mid/High Tier. 1-2 & 3-4 had one Act 3, 5-6 & 8-9 had one Act 3, and 10-11, & 12+ had another Act 3. Or something along those lines, but you get the picture. As long as a GM doesn't have to prep 3 adventures in one (much like Cosmic Captive made you do), then its very doable.

The only problem that happens, like seems to happen every year at Gen Con, is when not all the 7-11 tables show up, and a GM has to run 1-2 cold for a group of level 1 pregens. This happened to me with Siege at Gen Con. I was not happy. At least Act 3 for level 1-2 was very easy to run cold.

5/5

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

Personally, I think the highest tier in the special should just go ahead and do its own thing, not just a ramped up version of what the other levels are doing.

The higher level fights often go on much longer and things don't get resolved by the time things have to move on. Story gets truncated and players get lost.

I would much rather see the high tier doing things to overall aid in the mission, but on their own schedule. (For Tallow, TOZ and WeiJi, that was about the only thing I liked during our table of Cosmic Captive at SkalCon).

Grand Lodge 4/5 5/55/5 Venture-Captain aka TwilightKnight

That would be a tall task to develop. The more different the three basic tiers (low, mid, high) differ the more it begins to feel like three different scenarios. Specials are already a huge burden on the development team. Most like the trend since Diamond City with the sandbox acts allowing for player choice to matter and so they can decide on challenges that may be better suited for their party skills. Having a long act like 90+ minutes and a plethora of choices seems to be the "right" formula. Also, the elimination of the enemy "wave" format especially for the finale was a welcome change.

We still seem to be a bit off on the timing though that is an extremely hard thing to balance. It might be better in the long run to make the successes at each tier worth different values. Say the room has to complete 150% of table count in successes to "win." The problem is that the amount of time it takes to finish an encounter at 1-2 is much faster (typically) than 10-11. This leads to low levels completing a lot of encounters while the high levels barely finish one, if any at all, leaving them feeling unfulfilled. If successes at 1-2/3-4 were worth 1 point, 5-6/7-8 2 points, and 10-11 3 points and then increasing the overall target, maybe the high tier tables would have time to complete an encounter or two even if the low tier complete a much larger number. Short of simply making advancement strictly time based it seems like a better formula. Regardless, we need to consider some kind of change in the metrics. As high level tables continue to struggle to complete encounters, more and more players are choosing not to play the specials.

1/5 5/5

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

The other aspect to the higher tier tables struggle to fill/complete is that the lethality (or perception thereof) seems to ramp up far faster than the average grab-bag of fellow random players is capable of handling.

The 'sweet spot' has been about 5-6 and 7-8.

At 10-11 it becomes a bit rough (even with a team that's *on point*) and at 1-2/3-4 it often feels 'easier' because the characters don't have as much of a challenge, in part due to the design philosophy that we don't want to 'chase away' new players.

If the amount of success that the lower tier tables can contribute is reduced significantly, then the chances of the house completing a given scenario in most circumstances diminishes rapidly.

This is based both on GMing experience and as playing experience.

Maybe there needs to be some soul-searching on what high-tier is supposed to accomplish that the low tier IS accomplishing?

This is not a rip or a dig, having put together similar beasts in a different organized play, I am profoundly aware of how difficult it is to balance tables in a fair yet fun fashion.

Both Walter and Bob had mentioned it here, perhaps the higher tiers could be given the option to play 'fire brigade' and engage the things that the rest of the house is avoiding, with a pro-rated weighting to reflect the fact that the scenario may take them places they'd rather not go, but feel compelled to for the sake of the house success?

It'd soften the blow a bit, and would also feed into the idea of being the 'near-Seeker' guardians for the newer Pathfinders.

Dark Archive 4/5

I like the different point values for different tiers. I would think with the Gencon data alone you could base the points on a good empirical foundation of how big the time difference usually is. And it could also provide a way to work in value for those extra challenging options that have started to appear.

Scarab Sages 5/5

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If they can develop 3 separate scenarios like Cosmic Captive, I'm not concerned with them finding time to develop 3 separate scenarios that are different by tier rather than direction.

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

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Tallow wrote:
If they can develop 3 separate scenarios like Cosmic Captive, I'm not concerned with them finding time to develop 3 separate scenarios that are different by tier rather than direction.

I really liked GMing Cosmic Captive, but it did unhinge me a bit because of the amount of prep it took. (23 possible combats, after I decided to blithely ignore the random effects that might allow a combat from a different tier to slip in as well.)

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I think one issue in special design is stamina: a low-level caster doesn't have a lot of spells, but a party of low-level 2H martials who each brought a wand of cure light wounds can keep going for days without rest. Also it's mechanically simple and fast.

At higher levels you suffer more different conditions that CLW can't cure, damage spikes that require heftier resources to cope with, and enemies with mobility/battlefield options that require a caster to oppose rather than a backup bow. These are non-replenishing resources, and altogether more complex and more difficult resource allocation decisions need to be taken.

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What about something like this? Each table success counts, but after X successes are gained, we go into Time Mode (x minutes). Any successes scored within the time limit still count, and tables definitely have enough time to finish their current encounter. Fast tables may be able to squeeze in 1-2 more encounters, slow tables at least don't get cut off and can take a 5-10 minute break. After time is called, the house has X+Y successes, and the overall successfulness of the house is based on how high Y is. (For conventions with stricter time slots, you can go into Time Mode after X time instead of after X successes; but the thing is that after Time Mode starts everyone can still finish something.

Another option: every table scores successes, but different tiers unlock different benefits for the House. Siege of the Diamond City did this and it made a lot of sense. It's still one overall story but different tiers do fill different niches in it; you won't have L1 PCs take on a super scaled down version of the boss, you have them track enemy troop movements, delay them with traps and ferret out enemy spies. Mid-tier PCs cover the flanks and give the high-tier PCs a clear path to the enemy heavy-weights.

Successes for each tier are tracked separately, and are also reported back to Paizo separately; this allows them to fine-tune the next scenario. If one tier is scoring much more than others, those encounters can be beefed up next time or made more elaborate. If some tier is struggling, it can be made a bit easier/simpler.

What I would like to keep though is what current specials do very well: give choices to parties. Informed choices, that allow the players to take on the missions that interest their PCs, or which they think they're particularly good at. ("We're highly mobile, we could take out that archer nest on the high hill"; "We have three arcane heavyweights, we can take on the research job"; "We're sneaky, we can do the scouting", "We have the paladins and barbarians, and the demons are over there", "We're sovereign court, we should talk to the nobles")

Dark Archive 4/5

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Lost Omens, Rulebook, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I like that idea Lau. Basically, with specials I don't play in high tier - in the 3 table run I GMd last night of Solstice Scar with a Chained Summoner, my party at subtier 10-11 did not finish the last encounter. That makes for a very frustrating end.

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