DD4: Mirrored moon, fast TPK and long story


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RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32

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First thing first: this free-exploration strategic genre of the game is one of the most favorite with my group, so its playability was of particular important to us.
We used following characters during the playtest.

A goblin sorcerer, dragon bloodline, planned to be “blaster+utility” type of a character. Armored (are there any unarmored casters left around?). Felt overall pretty weak, much like one trick pony, which feels wrong at level 9 (what was the trick, I am going to explain in details for the encounters we had).
A dwarf druid, wild shaper. Turned to be a very decent melee at level 9 thanks to the huge dinosaur form, plus a very good utility character outside combat (Survival skill, phantom steeds for the group, speak with animals, all that stuff). Did not do pretty much any heals. Lack of long-lasting noncombat animal forms to run around and scout felt awful and nondruidic, really a drop in life quality.
A human paladin, sword&shield, blade bonded ally, warded touch, lay on hands - a self-healing tank. Spammed lay on hands like crazy, basically was the most active combat healer. Shield block is not really an option any more at this level, everything you meet just breaks the shield immediately.
An elven alchemist, with racial weapon feats, quicksilver mutagens and some poisons. Pretty much an archer who provided the group with mistform elixirs before fight and lixirs of life after that. All attempts of using bombs (such as bottled lightnings to make enemies flat-footed) in combat proved to be waste of time: lacking weapon-like quality or magical bonuses for the bombs, she was missing even against the TAC of the creatures (more about that when I tell about specific encounters). Using mutagen greatly improved her archery, but we had hard time persuading her to try it: both onset time and the drawback were deterrent.

As a group, we had no problems with heals despite the lack of cleric: the particular adventure layout is about having 1 big encounter per day, which changes priorities a lot. We could just sit after the combat around our knapsack of halflingkind and drink our elixirs of life with toasts and all, in any roleplaying manner we wanted. Btw, Resonance Points were not our weakest spot either. We had different kinds of problems instead, described later.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32

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Exploration

Spoiler:
We told our GM about how we were exploring, only to discover it was a “Survival or Perception check for everybody, info on success, extra info on crit success”. But I have Survey Wildlife feat, says druid, I can get some interesting info in like 10 minutes… Nothing about such options in the book. We had to houserule how to implement particular character abilities and feats into the game, since the hexcrawl-specific rules seemed to be completely separate from the feats and abilities described in the rulebook. That said, current hex exploration rules are completely playable, with ability to guess direction to hexes of interest being a very good thing.
Inability to stay in animal forms really hurt our druid, especially when in came to exploring the lake. No way to turn into a big fish and do some long-term scouting, but at least we could use water breathing. Still, we were happy to see that phantom steed and shadow walk spells function properly, making our travels way easier and faster.

We quickly got to the Lake Aelona Hex, already knowing there is some big sea serpent living in it. Not that we were in dire need of disturbing it, but GM hinted it could be interesting to see what happens if we fight that. We agreed, planned a hunt. Fight in-water looked like a terrible idea, and luring it to the shore only to bomb it from the air would probably just end up with the snake diving back into the lake (that were our expectations, we had no idea then WHAT devs actually invented to make the snake’s spit efficient against flying opponents… we do not generally expect such videogamish, unrealistic, artificial solution the monster description contains). So, we decided to lure the snake to the shore using a summoned monster as a bait, then range it with paladin teasing it and luring deeper inland. We grouped up at the shore, ready with spells and bows, the druid summoned a crocodile and sent it to splash loudly in the shallow water, in the most appetizing manner…

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32

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Monster Hunters take 1

Spoiler:

It was a plain TPK. Well, most of the group could have escaped after the first two awful rounds, but we were trying to save those swallowed, so stayed too close. What we discovered during this fight:
-The sea serpent has massive bonuses to Perception and Stealth (this crawling barn is stealthier than tiny-sized familiars! WTF?). It always acted first even when we were ambushing. All we could manage is to make it waste its first turn on chewing our crocodile
- The sea serpent critted on absolutely every attack. It was not rolling 20-s, it was just rolling ok - 14s and 15s. That was enough to crit every time.
-We did a flurry of misses. Archer alchemist kept missing, paladin kept missing, druid kept missing (used large dinosaur statistics from the spell instead of huge ones, the difference is drastic). Sorcerer missed on all attempts to hit the TAC.
- It went better when the snake started swallowing characters, because to attack from inside, you only need to hit TAC. Finally the druid and the paladin got some hits… with the backup dagger, since sword was unusable. Backup weapons means nonmagical weapons, with negligible damage at these levels. Still paladin managed to carve the way out (only to get critted again immediately after). Sorcerer was in worse position: “need to hold breath” means no spellcasting, not even a chance to activate dragon claws ability to get a chance at clawing a path out. For a melee, the position “inside” felt much safer, because damage from being swallowed is reliable and never crits.
-The sea serpent made all saving throws against our spells and poisons (after the alchemist managed to hit once with a poisoned arrow). Most of its successes were critical. Since we had zero ways to increase DC (spell level does not matter, there is no way to specialize and buff DCs), sorcerer felt just useless. So did the alchemist.
- The GM ruled that if the serpent can swallow whole a Huge creature, it accommodate all of the PCs in its belly comfortably.

We took a break. We vented off. All that stuff looked suspicious and pretty much unlike PF 1. We decided to replay this fight again, slowly, this time trying to find more ways to prepare .There should be some rules and options we missed, right? We started double-checking, only to find out there are very few ways to buff characters nowadays, unless you have cleric or bard in your group. Most debuffing options require the opponent to fail a save first, which is too unlikely from what we saw. We needed spells that do something even on a successful save or that do not allow a save. And do not require a to-hit roll, because the sorcerer can’t add any “quality weapon bonus” to the spell roll and has only a Dex of 16. Blindness from the druid looked like a partial solution… but there is no spellcasting and

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32

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Monster hunters, take 2.

Spoiler:

- We changed tactics. Paladin's sword ally had shifting property that day. Everybody started with mistform elixirs in one one hand, ready to cast spells/prepare weapons when the fight starts. Since all durations are only 1 minute now , you can’t really cast buffs in advance. Well, mutagens are exceptions, but sitill a lot of trouble. Since sea serpent has +25 to Stealth, you can’t start encounter at great range. So no mechanical way for us to actually make an ambush against this stealthy crawling barn.
- So, the snake appears, grabs and swallows the same bait crocodile and we start. Drink-buff, engage.
- The druid blinds the serpent for 1 turn only, then trasnforms to a huge dino and charges, finally hitting and doing some decent damage. Tries to flank the serpent with the paladin, with little luck because the snake crits (ofc) and swallows him, filling its belly. The druid damages the snake from inside, then repeats the routine.
- Paladin attacks the snake, keep rolling badly
- Sorcerer stands at decent range and shoots heightened magic missiles in 3-action casts. Only them, one trick for all rounds. No need to hit, no saving throws, just moderate reliable damage which is very good in our case.
- Alchemist stays at range and keeps shooting, distracting the serpent away from the sorcerer. Poison on the arrows never worked, but got a couple of hits eventually.
- - Its belly full of dinosaur meat, the serpent hit the paladin with its tail and starts constricting, while spitting at the alcmenist at range. Yay, says the paladin, constricting is ok with me, it can’t crit! Stays in the coils , keeps chopping at the snake (even did one crit, the only crit done by the PCs in this fight, using lay on hands with 3rd action when needed.
Took long, but we managed. A climactic battle, except that everybody (but the paladin maybe) felt lured in multiple trap class options they could not really use because mechanics, like bombs never hitting. Heightened magic missile spam is the striking example, the player really expected to be hurling lightning bolts, using dragon breath etc. However, the encounter does not really support this playstyle.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32

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Allies

Spoiler:

This bit of story need not be long. We used treasures from the sea serpent to buy a new weapon in the basr camp. Then we found Korlabablin, made friends with gnomes, went roc-searching to discover their nest eventually, the druid parleyed with rocs, we sent the gnomes an animal messenger with a note about repainting the roofs. We checked some more of the mountains, found the slain reinforcements and then the Moonmere, scouted the Ramlock Troops with some critical successes, hurried back to the gnomes (allies, checked) and then to the base camp, feeling we should start before we are too pressed in time. While armies were marching, we shadow walked to the Tulaeth using guidance from the gnomes, miserably failed the diplomatic efforts (bad rolls) and tried the cyclops area. There GM changed their behavior a bit, letting us strike a deal with them without killing the dragon first. In our case, it was like “ let’s go kill and loot these Moonmere cultists first, then go together against this dragon and split its treasury”. Worked well for us. Generally, I think the exploration-alliance part of the adventure is solid and fun. Ally point mechanics are very convenient for sorting strategic challenges such as this one.

Bossfight

Spoiler:

With 4 ally points, we had only Hidimbi, 2 cultists and a brain collector against us, plus we were well-prepared and buffed at start (starting fully buffed with most spells lasting 1 min only looks suspicious though).
All of the group had their chance to shine there, sometimes in unexpected way. Paladins are not immune to fear any more, so our paladin spent 3 rounds paralyzed, with mummy missing strike after strike (paralysis is just like being flat-footed for AC purposes now , nothing special). The sorcerer kept cultists busy at first with chromatic walls (orange versions rolled in the most convenient manner), and when they took flight, finally had fun targeting them and the brain collector with fireballs in the air. And the mummy too, when the positioning was good for that. The mummy caused more trouble with its sandstorm wrath than with anything else: it rolled poorly on attacks, we rolled fine on saves. The alchemist wyvern-poisoned the brain collector, causing surprisingly good damage, and then did some decent archery practice at the flying cultists. Dinosaur druid gored happily everything it could reach, proving to be a solid melee dps. Overall, a fun fight, with much overstrain (which it would be if we had fewer allies).

Overall, I like the adventure very much, it feels very kingmaker-like and generally the style I like. The monster hunter fights show, however, that monster power and spell usefulness might need major tweaking, most of it being already mentioned in other threads in these forums.


Any idea of how Long you took Overall? Two months seems plenty of time, so I would like to get a Feeling if you felt pressed at all.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32

Were not really pressed, finished in about 1 month 15 days. Would be even faster if we started using the shadow walk spell earlier, but we were dumb enough to forget about it during the first three weeks.

Without speed increasing options - namely, phantom steeds and shadow walk - I doubt we would do the job in time, with heavily armored paladin our travel speed would be awful. Plus, our GM rounded all travel time up, so moving to the nearby hex would always cost us a day, unless we sped up to make the time insignificant, such as when using shadow walk. And then made us spend full days (morning to evening) to actually explore. All that slows the characters down. Different exploration rules interpretations should give faster results.


Nice to see you got the sea monster in the end.

We fought it in the water but with appropriate water breathing up.

I got initiative on the first round with my Druid and transformed into a megaldon (Huge Shark) I was then promptly hit and swallowed whole. Not really what you expect when you are in a huge animal form. But it turned out for the best. I was able to bite successfully from the inside, and the rest of the party in the water took a lot of damage.
It criticalled all the time, even with flanking only our Fighter could occasionally hit it - after being buffed with a heroism. Our cleric went through all his healing keeping everyone up.
I broke out ofter a big hit and soon stuggled to hit from the outside.

Fortunately our DM refused to rake more than once per turn - rightly guessing that that was too powerful and out of place compared to other monster abilities. We got lucky with our saves.

Eventually we did beat it but for a fight we were expecting it was extreme and totally exhausted the PCs abilities.

Level is extremely important in PF2. if you are 3 levels then you are hitting and critically all the times and you will only be criticalled on a 20, hit on a 15+ and probably rarely fail a save.

The best way to deal with it is to make sure you get your flanking bonus to hit, and a heroism spell. Aside from the that the maths is quite clear, you will get slaughtered.

Personally I find the curve far too steep.

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