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We have just finished the one and only session of Heroes Of Underin. And it was probably the single least fun session, of pretty much any RPG, I have ever run (possibly not counting the Mutants and Masterminds one where one of the PCs broke the system and completed the adventure in 5 minutes). The system was illogical and slow, and the adventure design pretty terrible.
Classes: Bard, Paladin, Sorcerer, Cleric, Wizard.
The players were a bit frustrated by the choice of magic items available, since they offered an extremely limited choice to casters. In particularly the Bard felt hard done by that there was no kit available that would be helpful to him. I don't know if this was supposed to be a balancing factor but it didn't come across as such at all.
Arriving in the ruins, the PCs explored the area, finding the stables and study, and detecting the good aura about the Altar. The Cleric made a religion check to identify the stained glass painted of Desna as sacred and cast a Light spell on it. The holy light of Desna streamed down, halving the resistances of demons and undead in the temple... except the demons in the first event don't have any resistances. So the PC had just lost a substantial strategic resource without even knowing it.
When the six Slaver Demons appeared, we run into a major problem. The adventure says that the demons main interest is in moving towards the staircase to find the heroes who are claiming the White Axiom, and the sidebar states it is "likely" that events will be failed this way. But this obviously hasn't been actually thought through at all. These are enemies that have Dimension Door at will! So a few damaging spells were thrown at the Slaver Demons, and the Paladin hit one, and then even though the demons "are not prone to advanced tactics", they could clearly see that the Sorcerer was the only one actually standing next to the stairs, so all five demons used all their actions on Moves to walk down the stairs past him. Event failed in the first round.
Of course, at this point the players were very upset that they couldn't go into the basement and help overcome the demons because of yet another broken false border in the adventure, similar to the "why can't we set a watchman outside?" issue in Sombrefell Hall.
The PCs arranged themselves closely around the staircase, and the Glabrezu and Toad Demon arrived. Things started fairly well. The Glabrezu tossed a few Confusions at the party, most of which were saved against, and the Toad Demon used Divine Decree, damaging some of the party but none critically as most managed successful saves. Then a Glabrezu cast Reverse Gravity. And everything went to hell.
First of all, the adventure states that "PCs who hit the ceiling" would take falling damage. But the ceiling is 50' high, and Reverse Gravity creates only a 40' cylinder. After some discussion about whether or not the 10' of normal gravity would actually completely remove the momentum they had obtained in the 40' upward fall, it was decided they didn't take falling damage.. but it was also decided they couldn't move, because they had no purchase on anything. This was again confusing, because Reverse Gravity does state "you can move along the point where the two forms of gravity meet" but it was not clear if this meant that the spell did not make doing so impossible if this could be done anyway, or made it possible. (Making it possible would have a ton of bizarre consequences.) It also didn't state what movement modes could be used, so it wasn't clear if they could walk, or swim, or jet-propel Willy Wonka style.. and so on.
Also, at this point the Glabrezus and the Demons all realized that, now being 40' up, the Reverse Gravity had just put the PCs out of range of all their spells, while they remained in range of the PCs. So there was literally no reason for it to be used. Also, it's not dismissable, so the Glabrezu then started chucking Dispel Magic at its own spell.
The Toad Demon eventually decided to run into the Reverse Gravity field, bringing everyone into its Stench aura; several PCs chose to retch, thus causing their vomit to settle on the gravity interface and triggering the thread title. And at that point, we discovered that Mr Toad can throw apparently Poison Minds every round.
It promptly did so. The PCs generally did manage to save, but not to critically save, so they were without allies for 1 round (after which the Toad Demon could do the same again). This meant that the Bard was completely useless as he could not affect anyone with buff songs, and the Paladin couldn't guard anyone with his shield. So the PCs got to spend 3-4 rounds, almost an hour of real session time thanks to the ridiculous amount of rules looking up that was needed for a magic-heavy battle, helplessly floating in a pool of vomit with a Toad Demon trying and failing to bite them while the wizard and sorcerer lobbed spells at the Glabrezus when they had the opportunity.
This unpleasant deadlock only ended after two things happened. First, the second Glabrezu successfully dispelled the Reverse Gravity field, causing everyone to fall to the floor. Second, the Bard rolled a critical failure (by rolling a 1; this was the only way this would have been possible) on Poison Minds, and saw everyone as mortal enemies. This meant that not only could they no longer buff anyone with song, but their Dirge of Dread now affected the PCs. This would last for 1 minute (10 rounds) with no possibility of early escape. The Sorcerer, who had cast Fly to move freely in the gravity field, killed the Toad demon with a Cone Of Cold.
Now back on the ground, the Paladin ran over to engage the easterly Glabrezu.. and the Bard cast Dominate on his enemy - the Wizard. I don't know if the Bard player thought this was what he would actually do when surrounded by enemies or if he was just bored and frustrated at being shut down. The Bard commanded the Wizard to fireball as many people as possible, causing a lengthy argument over whether the Wizard (who was affected by paranoia, but not by the critical fail effect) would interpret the command in the same way that the Bard (who was critically paranoid) would.
The dominated wizard continued fireballing the party for two rounds due to a failed save, in which time they were hit twice with an axe AoO by the Cleric (causing another argument over whether he would now consider the Cleric an actual enemy because he hit him with an axe, or if he would be aware that he was dominated and unwillingly cast a fireball and understand why he was trying to stop him), resulting in the Paladin falling unconscious from melee damage from the easterly Glabrezu and being fireballed by the party wizard.
Meanwhile, the PC Sorcerer flew around casting Cones of Cold and other damage spells on the second Glabrezu, but it eventually didn't matter, because the dominated wizard moved to improve his fireball targeting without thinking it through. So on its turn, the second Glabrezu simply walked across the room, shoved the Paladin out of the way, and then squeezed down the stairs (final image of a 15' glabrezu squeezing down a 10' staircase wasn't ideal). Second event fail. Game over.
Well, except that the negative ending then occurred, where the heroes from below claimed the White Axiom and defeated the demons. Since none of the PCs had actually been killed, the result was that the mission was successful and no-one had died. The PC's failure to prevent the demons reaching the staircase had resulted in the adventure having the most positive possible outcome. And there was much cringy laughter.
Needless to say the PCs were not happy when they saw that the heroes they were defending were their old PCs.. who were much more combat optimized, due to free choice of gear, and would have been much better at fighting the demons than they were.
So, yea. This was pretty much a disaster. Let me just give my responses quickly.
* Spells need to be better abbreviated. With everyone looking up keywords and action counts and saves and yadda yadda the game slows to a crawl once a lot of them are in use.
* Stop putting false borders in sample adventures.
* Stop putting stuff in sample adventures that can't have its effect discovered until too late.
* Reverse Gravity needs clarification. It is unreasonable for the GM to have to work out based on their experience of physics, what the effect of reversing gravity would be in a world of magic (and one in which it is actually possible to reverse gravity). Also, Glabrezu probably shouldn't use it causally; in any area with a ceiling higher than 30' it is actively damaging to the Glabrezu for it to cast it.
* Poison Minds every round is ridiculous if the demon can crit fish with it. (Also, some players were wondering why the Treachery Demons didn't have the ability that makes people betray each other, but a toad did.)
|The Once and Future Kai|
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I disagree with your reading on the monsters wanting to go for the stairs a bit. They are getting called towards the stairs, but in most of the event descriptions they are stated to attack the party. So unless the party is downed (but not necessarily dead), invisible or try to flee/kite them the demons aren't "free" to just go downstairs.
At least that is how I would run it, because at you state otherwise it will ALWAYS be over by event 2, unless you have a proper stop for dimension door.
Regarding the spells; yes the book is currently bad for quick referencing, but to some extend the players and GM should be aware of the spells they plan to use, I for one don't get the confusing aspect of reverse gravity. If the cylinder is 40ft then they won't hit the ceiling unless the cylinder isn't placed at the ground. Your party might not be the best for the demons to trap in reverse gravity but it is a good way for it to avoid the melee fighters while it throws spells at you. And while it's not stated anywhere how tall the demons are if it's in a 15x15 space it would not be insane to think it was at least around 15ft tall (but it would be cool to actually have this stated).
See, I don't see that. The only spells a Glabrezu has that it might cast on its enemies are Confusion, Reverse Gravity and Dispel Magic.
Dispel Magic works, but it means the Glabrezu makes the enemies float in the air in order to.. debuff them? I mean, that might be a legitimate concern but it's not really what's described in the tactics text.
Confusion has a range of 30 feet, so if the enemies are floating 40 foot up it is out of range. Allowing for the height and/or reach of the demon when casting spells is something I've never known any d20 type GM to do; if it's intended it ought to be a definite rule. If Confusion works, the Glabrezu can't make any physical attacks because if it does the confusion will be nullified, and if the melee fighters can't move in Reverse Gravity they can only attack people they're next to. (If they can move in Reverse Gravity they can just walk out with a bit of damage, and it fails to achieve its stated goal for the glabrezu.)
As for the stairs, the problem there is that there is a huge tactical difference between the PCs being intended to defend the stairs or not, because of how much it restricts their positioning. Even if the demons prioritize killing the PCs, the PCs knowing that the stairs are a threat would make a massive difference to how the encounter runs. The text on being "likely to fail" presumably means that the PCs are supposed to be guarding the stairs for the playtest, and if there is no danger of anything going down the stairs then why would they?
The stair problem is a discrepancy between the area description / sidebar and the listed monster tactics. The description of the stairs states that the demons try to move toward and down the stairs, and this is also indicated by the failing an event sidebar. However, none of the monster tactics in any of the nine events say anything of the sort, instead indicating that the demons and undead focus entirely on fighting the PCs.
My recommendation for resolving the contradiction would be that if PCs are present and visible, the demons and undead try to deal with them first. Enemies will only try to move for the stairs if they end up in the main room with no PCs around, for example because they're spread out everywhere else.
(When I get to this adventure with my group, maybe I'll have the ritual heroes recommend to the PCs that they barricade the stairs.)
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As for spell ranges: these always start from the edge of a creature's space, the same as weapon and natural weapon ranges. Creature spaces are cubes. If something has a 10 ft or 15 ft space, that space is also 10 ft or 15 ft high, so any attacks or spells aimed vertically would have a starting point 10 ft or 15 ft off the floor.
It still doesn't make reverse gravity a good "all the time, all possible targets" tactic, because ranged PCs and casters are still effective from 40 ft off the ground. But it is good for temporarily inconveniencing melee PCs, especially if the demon can leave most of the ranged PCs out of the area of effect.
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That is very problematic. It means that a Huge creature (15' space) cannot touch a Medium creature (5' space) because its arm is too high up.
No, that means its shoulder is about 10 ft up, and its arm can pivot like any other person to point in any reasonable direction. Plus they have reach, plus they're creatures with joints that can move flex crouch stretch etc rather than being solid stone statues with a turret scuttling over them. There isn't a problem at all.
I suspect you're being intentionally difficult now. But I'll humor one last time: the abstracted reach of 5 ft for game purposes is from any edge or corner of the PC's 5 ft cube space, and includes arm length, weapon length, possible lunging, etc. So a Medium PC can hit a flying creature at up to 10 ft up without reach, or up to 15 ft up with reach.
If I was a computer I could calculate specifics of height, arm length, weapon length, body extension, etc and maybe come up with a reach of 8-12 ft depending on personal height and weapon length. But I'm not, so I'm happy to run with the abstraction, which is "close enough."
I'm not trying to be intentionally difficult, honestly - it's just these are problems I've come up with before. You seemed to be arguing that Reverse Gravity needed no clarification, and I'm pretty sure it does because pretty much everything to do with 3D needs clarification.
The normal 5' square abstraction doesn't work so well for the vertical dimension, because it was always designed on the basis that creatures and PCs were moving around and jockeying during combat. That applies in the two map dimensions, but it doesn't apply vertically.
If you rule that PCs are a 5' cube even if their race is taller, then this implies that (for example) the players can cast a fireball at ground zero but 25' up, and any Large monsters in the area will be affected but the PCs are not because their cubes are 5' below the affected area. I have had PCs try to do exactly this in games where I used the kind of 3D rules you are talking about, and it dramatically changes the balance of that spell and many other area effects.
I don't think there's anything wrong with your approach, I'd just ask Paizo to clarify this stuff because it can make a massive difference.
It seems completely fair to me that if you are fighting monsters that much taller than the rest of you that throwing and explosion in the air would make great sense. I'm not saying anything like this is stated RAW. But I would never punish players for doing stuff like this. Or maybe having the fighter drop prone to avoid a blast etc (it would basically award creative play, which I like)
Well as far as I can tell from RAW there is nothing in P2 that actually states the whole cube aspect Fuzzypaws mentioned. I do think it makes sense to simplify the rules (to the cube) rather than spending time looking Treachery demons up in the Bestiary from pathfinder 1 (which is referenced in P2 Bestiary) to see that a treachery demon is 18 feet tall.
But I would always say monster and player height should be accounted for when you are playing in a 3D setting with 10+ feet in height difference and minions flying etc.
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There is a saying in my own personal groups and in my own play experience about how creatures are "Meat Cubes". In truth, the rules are on 3-dimensional combat have always been lacking. Creatures' size dimensions are only given for a 2D grid and yet flight and reverse gravity exist and often turn combat from a 2-dimensional affair into a 3-dimensional affair.
I believe most groups dealt with this by just assuming that creatures were "Meat Cubes" or "Meat Cubic Rectangles" as appropriate for the creature and just used the normal rules for determining reach and distances of effects by measuring from the corners and edges of the "meat cube". Perhaps using a separate sheet of 1" graph paper (8"x11" size sheet) that you can flip on to its edge to form a z-axis grid or through the use of plastic height platforms.
Obviously everything I just typed up makes 3D combat a weird and complicated mess to such a degree that it was largely left up to each GM and group to figure out how they were going to deal with 3D combat on their own.
But I don't think this is ideal and I would prefer if the combat chapter, spellcasting chapter, and monster statblocks gave the necessary information for 3D combat so as to not leave GMs without a framework to handle these situations.
Well that would be fine if they had allowed for it. I mean, I remember a similar thing happening with 4th Edition. They started by putting "meat cubes" rules in the standard rulebook but then when people pointed out that it allowed airbursting and made area attacks even more powerful than they already are, they rolled back with an implication that you have to attack an enemy's lowest cube, which meant flying creatures had to come down to arm height to attack walking creatures and you were invulnerable if you peeked your top half through a trapdoor, which then had to be changed again.. it became a mess.
3D needs to be thought about, from day 1, on every page, in every ability, every spell. If PF2E could do that, that alone would give it a unique advantages over every other d20 game.
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I see no problem with air bursts. Area attacks have lower damage than single target attacks of the same level, so it's not exactly an optimal solution, just making the best of what they have. And if a clever player or opponent manages to make use of an area spell in a smart way that avoids blowing themselves and their allies up with the enemy, that's great.
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As has been posted on another thread, I can describe what would happen with reverse gravity (I am a professor of dynamics, ao this is literally my field of expertise).
The PC would accelerate upward 40 feet, then decelerate 10 feet before hitting the ceiling with the same velocity as if he had fallen 30 feet (15 feet).
For simplicity, we will assume the collision with the ceiling is completely inelastic and the PC does not bounce off it.
At this point the PC will accelerate 10 feet downward theb declerate until he reaches 30 feet from the floor, then accelerate back upward towards the ceiling, traveling between the ceiling (with negligible impact) and thr 30 feet height in roughly 3 second cycles (I have actually worked out the exact math).
Unless it is dispelled early, the spell expires after 1 minute, at which point the PC would be at 30 feet with neglible velocity, so he falls another 30 feet as normal (taking another 15 points of damage).
I would imagine it would be hard to use ranged attacksand cast spella while in this cycle of alternating gravity, and would suggest having the PCs make a flat check to succed (probably DC 5 should suffice). They might also get quite motion sick, and might suggest having them make a Fort save or gain the Sick condition.