How to scout an encounter? [Slumbering Tsar Saga]



I'm going to play with friends a Slumbering Tsar Saga. One of the problem of this campaign is a fact that some locations have CR above the party level.

What is the best way to scout up ahead the room or location to find out what the CR is? Because of the lethality of the encounters and murder crazy GM onboard the team would prefer to not scout personally.

The party:

Wizard 7 lvl
Zen Archer 7 lvl
Cleric 7 lvl
Paladin 7 lvl.

Any advices? Some spells or magic items we missed? Anything except hardcover books is forbidden tho. We are also too poor to waste the familiar. Eventually what spells would be perfect to increase the survivability of scout a.k.a dead body?

If you were planning to make the familiar scout but expect it to die doing so, there is always the figment familiar archetype which is in the ultimate wilderness (hardcover).

Insect spies is safer but the information the spell grants is limited (if the insects survive)

LoBandolerPi wrote:

If you were planning to make the familiar scout but expect it to die doing so, there is always the figment familiar archetype which is in the ultimate wilderness (hardcover).

Insect spies is safer but the information the spell grants is limited (if the insects survive)

Thank you kindly for your answer. The figmet familiar seems really good! Inspect spies is a cool spell but not hardcover, sadly :(

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If you're looking at Core books, consider the following strategies:

1. Stealth and Perception: maxing these out is the easiest way for your party to scout. To communicate with the scout, utilize the Message cantrip from the wizard. By level 7 with the right build one PC could easily have a +14 Stealth check. Add in the following Core spells to increase that Stealth check: Guidance (+1 Competence bonus), Invisibility (+20 Untyped bonus if moving; +40 if stationary), Fog Cloud (no line of sight to scout inside cloud; Concealment if foes are 10' away or more) to hide the scout's movement, Reduce Person (Small size grants +4 to Stealth; Tiny size grants +8; spell delivers a +2 Size bonus to Dex which in turn grants a +1 bonus on Stealth), and Cat's Grace (+4 Enhancement to Dex)

2. Hire someone: Tsar was created in the vein of old-school modules and adventures, complete with old-school lethality. One tool players had in their arsenal back in the day were Henchmen or Hirelings. Contracting out a professional scout, an NPC willing to risk their lives for some money up front and a share of the profits on the back end could prove very useful to this party

3. Monster mops: another tried-and-true staple of old-school gaming was the "monster mop." By this I mean mounting a monster's corpse on the end of a 10' pole and moving them ahead of the party to set off traps, attract the surprise attacks of wandering monsters, etc. This isn't so much a scouting technique as a "staying alive" technique

4. Look at utility spells: casting Mount into a hallway ahead to use like a live "monster mop" or casting Animate Dead to make undead ones; Summon Monster III to generate a Lantern Archon which in turn can accurately communicate anything it sees up ahead; Gaseous Form to seep into a room through the keyhole, look around and get out; just using flat out Stone Shape to make an arrow loop through a wall where you can peer in on the chamber beyond

With a bit of prep work ahead of time, unless monsters are detecting you with Blindsight and Telepathy (quite possible in Tsar, but hardly something you could be expected to be fully protected against even at level 7), having a Tiny sized PC with a 24 Dex scouting ahead using Invisibility means they're rocking a potential +38 Stealth check. If they roll a 10 on a D20 this requires the monsters relying on mundane senses to detect the scout on a 48 or better Perception check; unlikely unless, again... the party wouldn't survive the encounter in the first place.

The best way to scout is almost always with stealth, and as you get higher levels, the Wiz can help them with Invisibility, Fly, Undetectable Alignment, Nondetection, etc. As well as giving that person a Message scroll and a Dimension Door scroll to report and get back in a hurry when needed. If it's absolutely too dangerous for the stealther to go, you can try Scrying or Clairvoyance/Clairaudience.

If you think you're about to get pulverized by something in the next room or down an ominous hallway, you can always cast Summon Monster I and send it ahead of you to at least take the first hit (or trigger a trap that might pulverize you).

Oh... and Windy Escape if the scout is a Bard, Bloodrager, Druid, Magus, Sorcerer or Wizard, has access to those spells, or has a high UMD and a wand or scroll.

This spell gives an Immediate action to turn to a mist or vapor through which one attack will pass almost harmlessly through. The user of the spell must know the attack is coming unfortunately, but if they're a good scout then presumably they have high Perception as well as magically enhanced senses, Scent, etc.

Windy Escape is a level 1 spell that grants the user DR 10/Magic and immunity to Poison, Sneak Attacks and Critical Hit effects. If you're high level this DR isn't much, but if you're low or even mid level blocking 10 damage can give your scout the chance to turn and flee intact.

Disguise isn't a bad way to scout either. Reading the disguise stuff, your disguise works until you're doing something that draws attention to yourself, in which case opponents take-10 unless you're *really* drawing attention to yourself. This means that if you can get away with just walking around for a few minutes you can scout a reasonable amount.

Bluff here helps to make yourself less conspicuous.

Make sure that the GM won't just be rolling perception and insta-gibbing you anyway though; as if he's doing something not normal for disguise you're in much more danger.

The spell "Arcane Eye" would do the trick, though without darkvision (unless the caster already has it via race, spell, etc.). So would an onyx owl figurine, but those are pricey. There is also a contingency spell (in Ultimate Wilderness or Animal Archive?) that will teleport your familiar back to you if a condition is met (like taking damage).

A problem I've experienced with scouting is, how do I get info without tipping anyone off that I'm scouting (and, thus, that a party is close behind) if the enemy Perceives the scout? Summoned critters don't last long and evaporate when killed, losing our element of surprise.

My solution is to buy a half-dozen expendable critters (rats or bats) and keep them in a familiar satchel bag. I also get scrolls/wands of "Charm Animal" and "Speak with Animal". When I need recon, I send a critter to check things out (often with Message and sometimes with Mage Armor). A rat or bat can squeeze its way into almost anywhere, it has scent, and it won't look very conspicuous even if it fails its Stealth check. Disadvantages are that one trivial hit will kill one, they don't have darkvision unless I provide it (though bats have echolocation), and an animal with an Int of 2 can't report all the details I want.

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