Sombrefell Hall and the inability to test the intended goals.


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This adventure has been a little bit odd to run. I count myself fortunate that my players didn't sap the professor when he refused to come with them willingly, but it seems full of hiccups.
During investigation my players succeeded all the perception checks and circumvented locks by either climbing through an upstairs window or using gaseous form to slip into the basement. One player was quite concerned that he couldn't access the salon even when invisible. Not satisfied with that level of investigation, the druid took his wolf out to track the zombie scout back to its origin, a detail not covered in the adventure, but tracks left a few days ago by a low level creature seemed within the realm of his 30ish survival check which lead him to the lake. The lake he'd been fishing at while the rest of the party investigated.

Afterward, the druid swims out to see if there are more zombies underwater. Unsure where the undead army is hiding as far as the adventure is concerned I had them hiding in the lake, scaring the bejeezus out of the druid and sending him back to the house. At that point the cleric figures he'd be best off slinging fireballs out the back windows down at the lake. In order to preserve the scenario I created an impenetrable mist to cover the area.

The combat, the actual focus of the adventure, hasn't done much to test healing. My players have adapted their tactics to suit the game by this point, so the types of barricading expected by the adventure aren't things they went for. Instead there's a barricade about 15 feet into the main hall with the chandelier lowered to about chest height and furniture spread about the room making flanking impossible. The zombie invasion feeling, breaking down the front door and all that, just isn't happening.

The player most fond of the new system commented that we spent far more time working on the characters for the adventure than playing the adventure.


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The zombies are a small part of this section. How'd the ghasts, wights, shadows, vampires, poltergeist, and the brain collector affect the party? If they spread stuff around to limit movement they are also hampered by it limiting options. The poltergeist would have had a field day pelting them with things for example. Did they have the professor with them in this set up or was he in another room?


They have the last two events left. The shadows don't have much to do with healing endurance, and ilvoresh has some weird setup issues I'm uncertain how to run. Both are flying enemies so I expect them to be more trouble. All other waves were slowed by needing to jump twice to get to the players and were killed after at most one action The vampires could avoid jumping, but needing to move to and away from the walls requiring the same amount of actions, so it ended up not mattering.

I'd like to know how people have run the Ilvoresh event. He uses a scroll to move barricades, but the spell wouldn't last long enough to move everything and the range of the spell would require him be within spell and weapon range in order to do so. My players were also threatening to saw the legs off the D4 table in order to force creatures to crawl under or walk over it to get through the front door, and I think it may be too big for telekinetic haul. Ilvy can't get into the smaller rooms either without taking a minute to squeeze, so his melee attacks are unlikely to come up at all. That leaves him with a handful of offensive spells and tons of defensive spells and not enough access to the house to be a viable threat.

As for the prof and the students. The adventure says the two nobody students leave right off and are locked in their respective rooms. The prof locked himself in the basement. The grad student has been asked to stay in the library and help identify anything that she sees or provide more info on callouts regarding the creatures. She takes the recall knowledge action every action of every turn and has yet to critically fail.

I'm hoping the shadows can do some damage, though"screaming over the second story balcony" presumes that the players don't have a lookout up there with the doors propped open to allow them to see attackers asap. A bunch of zombies with -2 stealth, +4 athletics and 2 actions per round are going to have a hard time avoiding detection before they are even in the building, so I'll have to apologize to the party when I teleport the zombies into the rooms they're supposed to get in to.


The Shadows were a fairly rough fight for my group, they did fair damage and quite a bit of Enfeebling, more than we could Restoration away before Ilvoresh. They were a pain to kill too given their resistances.

Telekinetic Haul lasts up to a minute, tossing an object up to 500 feet every action spent. I feel like this should pretty easily let him clear off any significant obstacles, and I mean given his size I feel like he should be able to ignore smaller barricades. Not to mention flight.

When I ran it it was simple since the players only barred the door, so I just had him clear the debris and skitter in with his minions, and then we rolled initiative. Fight wasn't too bad, we were a bit drained on attack spells but we were mostly ranged attackers and eventually forced or goaded him down to the melee fighters too.

On the idea of him not being able to get to the smaller rooms, if the PCs try to run out of the main room to hide I'd say Ilvoresh should just fly-camp out of their line of sight and send his minions to retrieve the professor. Either he flushes out the players or he wins his mission. And if the players are between his minions and the professor, then he can send them after Lucvi or the students to try and force the hand of the players.

Also the hardness of the old wood walls can't be that high, just saying...


How tall were these barricades that the ghasts had to spend two leap actions of 15 feet each to get to the party?

The vamps had spider climb. Why didn't they just climb over the barricades instead of having to go well out of their way to use the walls?

How did the wights do? Considering they break into the dining room and the library, thus are past the barricades and the chandelier as well as summon a poltergeist to help them, they should have provided ample threat to the PCs

I don't recall seeing stats for Lucvi. How was she rolling recall knowledge checks and did she get slaughtered by the wights since they break into that room specifically?

As for Brain Boy. Telekinetic Haul has a range of 120 ft. If your players never barricaded the door then they were busted wide open by the second wave giving him ample room to move the barricades that's 15 ft into the room. He also has a direct telekinetic link to the professor and wants his brain. If your players are hiding in small rooms from him he could always go invisible, go after the professor and not deal with the party until after he achieved his goal.

Lastly, just how much time did your players have to "prep" for the few zombies they saw in the lake? It takes 10 min for 1 person to barricade a 5ft square and between each wave is about 10 min for the first but 5 min after that. So to achieve this setup that they have they must have spent hours getting things in place.


They didn't build barricades, they just moved objects. I'm not sure what the difference is there, but it takes seconds to hurl sizeable objects around with telekinetic projectile or to drag bulk 8-10 objects 50 feet. I suppose I could have enforced the idea that the players needed to take the strangely time intensive build barricade activity to create any impediment, but that would have provided more weirdness not less. "Ten minutes? Okay, we move the materials we plan to build the barricade with and fill this area with it." All I can say at that point is "It doesn't work" which doesn't make much sense.

They had no time for the first wave of ghasts, but once the rhythmic knocking started and the druids wolf started freaking out, one player opened the door, another tossed out a fireball and a second group healed. To be fair, an unreasonably high roll on the fireball damage skewed that encounter a bit.

The vampires could climb over couches and tables and such, but they'd be moving up two objects. The ghouls could jump over the outside edges with one action, but toward the center there was a space between the objects that would have required a second leap. The plan of course was to force the monsters to chose how they would spend their action but leave them in more or less the same area for a spell. The druid did throw an entangle out the door when the doors opened, but it did nothing. We assumed it didn't come into the house since there weren't plants in the house, but I could be wrong on that.

The ghasts were about the same, two moves worth of distance to get to the room, and they move to the only visible target, the lookout for that room, and end up grouped up and killed. That was with the generous assumption that they didn't spend an action to break in the window, chanting their ritual, seeking to find the poltergeist presence or jumping/climbing over the furniture.

What would you recommend, treating furniture as difficult terrain rather than legitimate obstacles or ignoring them completely unless they've been transformed into a barricade?


@ErichAD , congratulations on having a skilled group of players. Sounds like you had fun, outside the frustrations created by the scenario. My players did something very similar to your barricades, creating a barricade 20 ft. inside the doors for the same reasons yours did. Win!

The playtest scenarios are written such that there are generally workarounds around the problems being tested. In Pale Mountain's Shadow, a 12 hour camel ride (clearly allowed by the resting/watches rule) solves the time pressure. This means that skilled players used to working together can do these scenarios fairly easy. Which means you report 0 kills and 0 below-zero-hp situations - a blip in the overall playtest data. This should be an expected, even desired blip - of course an efficient group playing well together should be able to win! If skill was moot and everyone took casualties, that would be a very unrewarding game.

Paizo could misread these data blips to say they have to increase overall lethality/weaken PCs, but I don't think they will. It seems the death toll is sufficient that they are reconsidering both spells and the monster math.


Starfox wrote:

@ErichAD , congratulations on having a skilled group of players. Sounds like you had fun, outside the frustrations created by the scenario. My players did something very similar to your barricades, creating a barricade 20 ft. inside the doors for the same reasons yours did. Win!

The playtest scenarios are written such that there are generally workarounds around the problems being tested. In Pale Mountain's Shadow, a 12 hour camel ride (clearly allowed by the resting/watches rule) solves the time pressure. This means that skilled players used to working together can do these scenarios fairly easy. Which means you report 0 kills and 0 below-zero-hp situations - a blip in the overall playtest data. This should be an expected, even desired blip - of course an efficient group playing well together should be able to win! If skill was moot and everyone took casualties, that would be a very unrewarding game.

Paizo could misread these data blips to say they have to increase overall lethality/weaken PCs, but I don't think they will. It seems the death toll is sufficient that they are reconsidering both spells and the monster math.

Hmm, this is a good point, and something I hadn't really thought of. I've been confused at times and wondering about what kind of table variance goes on as I read a lot of stories about major struggles and TPKs and such, because my group has had 0 deaths and only three 0 HP situations (One of those was a lucky crit by Drakkus, and the other 2 were in the two toughest fights in Heroes of Undarin, specifically the two that over-scale on their 5+ player adjustments).

For some reason I hadn't considered that it may just be a difference in experience and playstyle of groups. And different GMs can play a part too I suppose.


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So you gave your players free barricades. Let them move couches and tables with telekinetic projectile. Gave them free knowledge of the enemies using an NPC with no stats. The players perfectly set up an area where the gahsts leap put them in the middle of more objects so they had to leap again. And they had lookouts in every room to be aware of the wights breaking in through the windows.

Oof I complained about Colette killing parties but at least they bothered to try and follow the Playtest.

I agree with Starfox that some situations have solutions that might not be directly pointed at in the book. However I never would have let them force march the camel's 12 hours to get to the mountain. Even with the time limit the few days it takes to get to the mountain are nothing and an organized party would be able to get in and out well before the Night Haralds even get near.


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PsychicPixel wrote:
Even with the time limit the few days it takes to get to the mountain are nothing and an organized party would be able to get in and out well before the Night Haralds even get near.

+1 to this. Just using normal overland speed with the Camels, the party (With Bard Inspire Courage) got enough crits and successes on their checks to make the trip in I think 3 days.

And in the end they left with 2 or 3 days on the Night Heralds. Like they left literally just a bit after the Heralds entered the 2-day Labyrinth.

I was sad at missing that fight but it helped our timetable. XD

My players were always curious about the fight though so I'm making a level 16 version of Hevah the Antipaladin for part of the 5th player adjustment to a fight in chapter 7.


My Sombrefell Hall game sessions ended with the first ghasts at the door and then missed two weeks, one for Thanksgiving and one due to a snowstorm. It is good to hear insights about what is coming next, so I can make the future sessions worth the wait.

For example, I had skipped the descriptions of the multiple rooms, and missed important details, such as the dead zombie scout in the attic. That description began with, "D18. Attic This is a cluttered storage area," so I did not think it worth reading immediately. Maybe I will change that to a live zombies undetected in the attic, finally receiving orders to break down the padlocked door, no matter how noisy the effort.

My players took an occult detective approach to the plot hook. Volumen, a half-elf esoteric scion cleric of Sarenae, works for the Esoteric Order of the Palatine Eye. He decided to grab Dr. Oscilar for the Order and recruited his Ustalav relatives for the visit to unfamiliar territory. His second cousin Loriel, elf noble bard, heard, "went into seclusion in an isolated manor house," and decided that she had best be armed for vampires, but also prepared with medicines and soothing songs in case the doctor was merely sick. Cousin Duvellia, half-elf barkeep cleric of Cayden Cailean, brought along his drinking buddy, a dwarf barkeep monk named Flint Ironhook, and does not seem too concerned about Dr. Oscilar's secrets. Flint did most of the sneaking around, finding clues.

Like ErichAD's party, Volumen would have been happy to sap Dr. Oscilar and drag him away in ropes. But that would be something to do the following morning, and the nighttime attack occurred during dinner.

Loriel, upon seeing the "enormous marble column set with towering bookshelves" in the library (room D2), became convinced that it has a secret room inside it. I am tempted to declare that she is right, the column has a hideyhole in it in case the house is invaded. This is Ustalav, after all. At the very least, I am going to have Dr. Oscilar say, "Yes, there is a secret door there, but the latch broke and I can't open it." Or I might hide Dr. Oscilar's students there, with the doctor asking the party to distract the monsters so that they don't glimpse the secret door.

I strongly suspect that my players will look for ways to exploit the existing terrain rather than look for ways to alter the terrain by moving furniture and setting up barricades. They still have to learn each others' combat strengths--they are largely a party of strangers to each other--before they come up with definite plans. After that trial period, they are going to be proactive. That is how they play.


Edge93 wrote:
PsychicPixel wrote:
Even with the time limit the few days it takes to get to the mountain are nothing and an organized party would be able to get in and out well before the Night Haralds even get near.

+1 to this. Just using normal overland speed with the Camels, the party (With Bard Inspire Courage) got enough crits and successes on their checks to make the trip in I think 3 days.

And in the end they left with 2 or 3 days on the Night Heralds. Like they left literally just a bit after the Heralds entered the 2-day Labyrinth.

I was sad at missing that fight but it helped our timetable. XD

My players were always curious about the fight though so I'm making a level 16 version of Hevah the Antipaladin for part of the 5th player adjustment to a fight in chapter 7.

If In Pale Mountain's Shadow were a module instead of a playtest, the Night Heralds would move at the speed of plot. Speed of plot means that the timing is mallable and the bad guys show up when their arrival would be the most dramatic.

The purpose of that chapter was testing the effect of terrain and overland travel. The purpose of the Night Heralds is to give a plot-relevant reason for the party to hurry. Henah the Antipaladin is just an aftermath for players who did not invest in handling the terrain.

I did play up the tension a little. While the party intellectuals were working on the Chamber of Planar Alignment's puzzle lock, the barbarian parked the sleeping alchemist (the player was absent due to her daughter's wedding, after her alchemist being heavily injured, so I declared that the alchemist had taken a sleep-inducing potion to heal) by the secret door. Through the door, the barbarian heard two Night Heralds pass by, not finding the secret door.

HERALD 1: Wait, there's sometime ahead. A statue of a giant scorpion.
HERALD 2: Statue, eh. What's the chance that it's a golem?
HERALD 1: Too high for me. Let's turn around and come back with someone who can fight a golem.

The party finished and left before those heralds returned with Henah.


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PsychicPixel wrote:

So you gave your players free barricades. Let them move couches and tables with telekinetic projectile. Gave them free knowledge of the enemies using an NPC with no stats. The players perfectly set up an area where the gahsts leap put them in the middle of more objects so they had to leap again. And they had lookouts in every room to be aware of the wights breaking in through the windows.

Oof I complained about Colette killing parties but at least they bothered to try and follow the Playtest.

I agree with Starfox that some situations have solutions that might not be directly pointed at in the book. However I never would have let them force march the camel's 12 hours to get to the mountain. Even with the time limit the few days it takes to get to the mountain are nothing and an organized party would be able to get in and out well before the Night Haralds even get near.

That NPC is given stats for recall knowledge and is said to stay and help but not fight both before and during waves. She has a +13 for familiar topics and +9 for unfamiliar topics. That works out to being better than the PCs at most recall knowledge checks. Since she specifically studies the dark tapestry, the dominion of the black, is currently involved in research regarding possession, and is also described as devoutly religious. This puts everything the player encounter pretty directly in her wheel house. It's baffling that she's spent days living here and hasn't noticed the poltergeist that the wights notice in seconds. She has stats and is expressly made available to the players as a resource.

They have lookouts posted at the middle upper story, the two side doors hoping to see something out the window before it heads to the front, and the front door to open it when the players are ready to engage. When engaged they move to the middle to support. This is normally a terrible strategy, but without needing to worry about attacks of opportunity or differences in personal defense, each member of the party was free to spread thin and act as a tank if needed.

There is no weight/bulk limit placed on telekinetic projectile and I didn't create one. It was also unnecessary unless the couches have greater bulk than
that of a piano.

I did give them free barricades, but I can't see a narrative way to explain why they couldn't move furniture and disrupt movement in the room without spending 10 minutes per square, without also imposing that same time requirement on Ilvoresh's barricade clearing. I'd need to make everything too large to fit through the doors, too heavy to move, or activate the poltergeist early having it only move furniture back where it belongs till its supposed to be encountered. That would probably be the best option as I could have had it appear due to their furniture rearranging antagonizing it rather than an instant ritual.

I think the main difference is that it was my impression that the barricade construction was only meant for turning things that wouldn't block movement into things that would, like tying chairs together and what not. The barricades are also mentioned as completely blocking movement into a room which was not a feature of my player's game drive strategy. I'm not sure what the authors intent was.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
ErichAD wrote:

There is no weight/bulk limit placed on telekinetic projectile and I didn't create one. It was also unnecessary unless the couches have greater bulk than that of a piano.

Without commenting on the rest of the post, I do want to dispute your apparent assertion that your players were using telekinetic projectile within the bounds of RAW. Unless they were actually throwing the couches/pianos at a creature and dealing appropriate damage, they were not using the spell legally.

Setting RAW aside, though, when you say you didn't feel that you needed to create a weight/bulk limit on telekinetic projectile, did it occur to you that you were allowing a cantrip to perform the same effect as a 5th level spell (telekinetic haul)?


The actual play of moving things around was non-specific. I noticed two players with the spell and know there isn't a point in taking it for any other purpose but to move things, and they had characters with enough carrying capacity to move large instruments at half speed, so I figured couches wouldn't be a problem.

I know that's not your point, just clarifying that play would have proceeded in the same way without the cantrip functioning as written.

I haven't seen anything so far to convince me that magic is intended to be balanced across levels, so seeing a 5th level spell do the job of a cantrip isn't surprising. We also see in this adventure telekinetic haul being used to target several objects at once in the form of barricades, which is something that telekinetic projectile can't do. Neither of them are written to be able to do so though, so that's not really a point in my favor.

Your point is taken and if we weren't running as close to raw as possible for playtest purposes, I certainly wouldn't allow the spell to move large things around like that. I don't have a guideline to base a size restriction on though.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
ErichAD wrote:
Your point is taken and if we weren't running as close to raw as possible for playtest purposes, I certainly wouldn't allow the spell to move large things around like that. I don't have a guideline to base a size restriction on though.

Fair enough. I do completely support the idea that telekinetic projectile needs an included Bulk limit for sanity.


Three of my five players switched sides to the Night Heralds during the boss fight with Ilvoresh... i'm pretty sure that didn't meet any of the playtest goals.


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BeardedTree wrote:
Three of my five players switched sides to the Night Heralds during the boss fight with Ilvoresh... i'm pretty sure that didn't meet any of the playtest goals.

...I have questions about your players.


"He's very persuasive..." -Jumba

Did people crit fail their paranoia or suggestion saves? I could see turning over the professor to save their butts and hoping that Lucvi could decipher the clock in his place, but joining the Night Heralds seems really far out.


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ErichAD wrote:

"He's very persuasive..." -Jumba

Did people crit fail their paranoia or suggestion saves? I could see turning over the professor to save their butts and hoping that Lucvi could decipher the clock in his place, but joining the Night Heralds seems really far out.

Especially considering the players are all well established members of an Order whose current main goal is to STOP the bloody doomsday.

So unless they were going for some double agent stuff...


I just started running Somberfell for my table. It gives no indication early that there will be multiple combats which is bad. My players were tossing around the idea of using most of their high level spells one-shotting ghasts that couldn't hit them. (First spell my players cast, Searing Light crit. Obliterated one.)

They ended up preserving resources, which was good. However, I find it significantly more likely that my players will not be testing making healing last, but instead how long offensive spells last against waves of undead. I can forsee most of the combats just being repeated use of Disrupt Undead, with the occasional big blast.


I began the combat section of Affair at Sombrefell Hall today. The party was at dinner in the dining room with Dr. Oscilar and his students when the sun set and someone knocked on the door. Lucvi went to answer the door, and the uncouth dwarf barkeep monk Flint left dinner and accompanied her. Five ghasts were at the door and Lucvi immediately vomited at the stench. Flint had encountered worse smells while cleaning the tavern and he resisted. He grabbed Lucvi and dragged her away from the door. But the ghasts advanced and grabbed Lucvi and struck Flint once (he was hard to hit) and declared that if the two surrendered then they would live.

Meanwhile, everyone else was still in the dining room when Flint's shouts alerted them to the house invasion. Royst proposed pushing a table against the dining room door. The elf noble bard Loriel cast Unseen Servant and sent it to fetch her rapier from her bedroom. Another character was shocked that she was not armed, and Loriel's player (my wife) said that it was impolite to wear a martial weapon to dinner (... "as he had done" was left unsaid ...) but of course she had her silver dagger hidden on her. The half-elf barkeep cleric Duvellia went through the kitchen toward the reception hall. The half-elf acolyte cleric Volumen drew and drank a potion that increased his speed by five and went out the dining room door before Royst could block it.

One ghast left the fight to check the master bedroom on the 2nd floor. My reasoning was that it was searching for Dr. Oscilar. One plot hole in Affair in Sombrefell Hall is how will the undead recognize Dr. Oscilar. I decided that Ilvoresh has pulled some thoughts out of Dr. Oscilar's mind and learned his appearance and the floor plan. But Oscilar thinks of room D16, the master bedroom, as his room. He temporarily moved into room D10, Professor's Room, for its basement access. So the ghast was heading to the master bedroom on the 2nd floor. It was startled to see a floating rapier there, as the unseen servant fetched that blade.

Lucvi broke free from the ghast. Her +9 to unfamiliar skills gave her a good Acrobatics bonus equal to the ghast's Athletics bonus for her Escape action. But the ghast caught her again, since she was sick and slowed from the ghast's stench (she had not rolled a failure, since she lacked a Fortitude stat. I picked the critical failure result for dramatic purposes). But Volumen and Duvellia where zapping that ghast with Disrupt Undead so she wsa free in a few turns. Alas, by then Royst had barricaded the door to the dining room, so she could only cower in a corner near that door and try to tell Volumen what she remembered about ghasts.

We ran into an annoying movement detail. Duvellia had ended his movement in the kitchen one square away from the door to room D1, Receiving Room, where the battle occurred. By the rules, he would need an action to Move 5 feet, need an action to Interact to open the door, and have only one action left over, not enough for an offensive spell. I let him fudge the distance to the door with a DC 15 Acrobatics roll, which he succeeded. Starfox's thread, Abolish the Acrobatics Skill revealed that Acrobatics needed more roles than balance, escape, and grab edge. I decided that it would be a great skill for adding movement to other actions, such as taking 5 feet of movement during an Interact action. This determined that this houserule can reduce player frustration. After Duvellia opened the door, he had two actions to cast Disrupt Undead on the ghast holding Lucvi.

When the first ghast dropped, a ghast attacking Flint ran toward the library declaring that Plan A had failed and it was time for Plan B. Flint and Lucvi overheard that ghast later, yelling to the ghast searching the bedrooms that they needed to open the door to the attic. (The players wondered how the ghasts knew where the attic door was. I love when they notice my clues.)

Loriel herded Oscilar and Vittoria into the pantry for safety. She and Royst moved the table back a little so that they could open the door and close it again quickly. Talking through the closed door, Lucvi, the Unseen Servant, Loriel, and Royst coordinated turns through the Delay action so that Lucvi and the servant could rush through the door during a brief period between Loriel's turn and Royst's turn. Lucvi relayed the news about the attic door to Loriel, who discussed it with Oscilar. Oscilar replied that the attic door was locked because a poltergeist was bound there.

I had made a mistake in not reading about the dead zombie in the attic and I rearranged events for drama. Plan B is that the ghasts enter the attic to unbind the poltergeist, which I moved to the attic. Ilvoresh will then control the poltergeist and use it to invite the vampires into the house, since the poltergeist is a resident. Plan A had been to force at least one student to surrender so that the ghast that accepted the surrender would gain the mystic authority to invite the vampires.

We had to quit early, due to the schedule of one player. The fight froze, with Flint still facing two ghasts, down to 6 hit points, infected with Ghast Fever, but unparalyzed. The multiple Fortitude checks were growing annoying and we were wishing a critical success would bolster her against ghast paralysis.

I learned that I procrastinate on writing up playtest events from scratch, but quickly mention them in comments, so I am seeing whether using a write-up to comment on ErichAD's Intended Goals topic motivates me better. My players have a definite goal of strategically protecting the students that will warp simple endurance test of this chapter.

Isaac Zephyr wrote:
I just started running Somberfell for my table. It gives no indication early that there will be multiple combats which is bad. My players were tossing around the idea of using most of their high level spells one-shotting ghasts that couldn't hit them. (First spell my players cast, Searing Light crit. Obliterated one.)

My ghasts mentioned "the master" so the players have a clue that others could arrive. Plus, cinematic storytelling would add more combat to the night.


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@mathmuse

"The vampire spawn typically can’t enter a dwelling unless invited. If someone mentions this to the vampires,they eagerly reveal that during one of Oscilar’s episodes, the vampires’ master commanded the professor to announce they were always welcome in his home." Pg43 at the end of the description of event 2.


ErichAD wrote:

"He's very persuasive..." -Jumba

Did people crit fail their paranoia or suggestion saves? I could see turning over the professor to save their butts and hoping that Lucvi could decipher the clock in his place, but joining the Night Heralds seems really far out.

No spells were cast against them to make them do anything. These guys aren't the usual group I run game for, I usually play with them. The Sorcerer was an evil sorcerer (because the player wanted to, and always winds up being evil because I think the player herself is evil) and at one point tortured Verid because she thought he wasn't telling them the truth. :| She said something during the fight (in character) about killing the Professor, so Ilvoresh told her that he sensed great power within her and ghast if she joined him she could have more. All she asked for was that he spare the cleric of Sarenrae, who was her in-game girlfriend. One thing leads to another and the two bards make a run for it, she calls them back with Message saying everything is taken care of while also telling the cleric that she has a plan, and everything is taken care of. Meanwhile her summoned monster is beating on the Paladin, dropping him twice (he used a hero point to stay alive) Technically not a lie, but when she did have to bluff she nearly crit succeeded every time. So, the bards come back (who look out for themselves more than anyone else AND are the long lost brothers of the cleric) and she says they can all live if they join the Night Heralds. The cleric is livid, has an argument with the sorcerer, finally finds out that she's been evil the whole time. That's when the players turned on each other and killed the cleric, joined the Night Heralds then torched the place.


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While interesting, it does make one doubt the Players understood the background of these characters they were creating. But as long as everybody had fun, no harm done.


PsychicPixel wrote:

@mathmuse

"The vampire spawn typically can’t enter a dwelling unless invited. If someone mentions this to the vampires,they eagerly reveal that during one of Oscilar’s episodes, the vampires’ master commanded the professor to announce they were always welcome in his home." Pg43 at the end of the description of event 2.

Yes, I saw that. But I had to reject the concept.

1) The players would never learn this. The rules have to look consistent to the players. Or they will fill in the surveys with comments like, "I hate how the vampires don't follow the rules written in the Playtest Bestiary."

2) If Dr. Oscilar invited the vampires in on a previous night, then why didn't they attack that night?

3) I like giving the players a chance to stop some opponents by detective work. "Hey, the poltergeist is an inside agent! Kill it now!" I have a Plan C if they succeed at stopping Plan B; in fact, chaining together contingency plans is my usual way of letting my players know that they are fighting a very intelligence mastermind.

4) If Ilvoresh could control Dr. Oscilar enough to make him invite vampires, then it was only a small step away from being able to control Dr. Oscilar enough to have him walk out the front door and into the hands of Ilvoresh's minions. Dr. Oscilar prevents this by locking himself in the basement, so this is a weak argument. By the way, I added a time lock to the basement door, since it is obvious that the students don't know that the professor locks himself in every night.

On another note, I asked my wife about point (1)--the poor woman has to suffer many spoilers as I use her judgment to check my plot ideas--and she agreed that squeezing news of Dr. Oscilar's invitation into the game would not work. She had more comments about Dr. Oscilar and the students. She is playing a noble bard, a background about leading people and a class about inspiring people. Her character Loriel organizes people. The students are now her minions to inspire and organize. What the chapter actually says is not going to stop her. She won't be railroaded!


Indeed, that's unquestionably outside of the roleplaying background for the group.


Ok. Mathmuse please don't fill out the survey for this part. You are drastically changing points that Paizo is looking for in this part. Still fill out the other surveys classes/races/open assuming you didnt just houserule everything away.


Mathmuse wrote:
PsychicPixel wrote:

@mathmuse

"The vampire spawn typically can’t enter a dwelling unless invited. If someone mentions this to the vampires,they eagerly reveal that during one of Oscilar’s episodes, the vampires’ master commanded the professor to announce they were always welcome in his home." Pg43 at the end of the description of event 2.

Yes, I saw that. But I had to reject the concept.

1) The players would never learn this. The rules have to look consistent to the players. Or they will fill in the surveys with comments like, "I hate how the vampires don't follow the rules written in the Playtest Bestiary."

2) If Dr. Oscilar invited the vampires in on a previous night, then why didn't they attack that night?

3) I like giving the players a chance to stop some opponents by detective work. "Hey, the poltergeist is an inside agent! Kill it now!" I have a Plan C if they succeed at stopping Plan B; in fact, chaining together contingency plans is my usual way of letting my players know that they are fighting a very intelligence mastermind.

4) If Ilvoresh could control Dr. Oscilar enough to make him invite vampires, then it was only a small step away from being able to control Dr. Oscilar enough to have him walk out the front door and into the hands of Ilvoresh's minions. Dr. Oscilar prevents this by locking himself in the basement, so this is a weak argument. By the way, I added a time lock to the basement door, since it is obvious that the students don't know that the professor locks himself in every night.

On another note, I asked my wife about point (1)--the poor woman has to suffer many spoilers as I use her judgment to check my plot ideas--and she agreed that squeezing news of Dr. Oscilar's invitation into the game would not work. She had more comments about Dr. Oscilar and the students. She is playing a noble bard, a background about leading people and a class about inspiring people. Her character Loriel organizes people. The students are now her minions to inspire and...

On point 1, I found it rather easy. A player used Recall Knowledge on the Vampire and the information received included their invitation restrictions. The player mentioned this out loud and the vampire cockily replied that their master had gotten Oscilar to issue the invitation.

So, the potential out-of-character complaint arising from reading up on the chapter's foes it fairly easily solved in-character.


PsychicPixel wrote:
Ok. Mathmuse please don't fill out the survey for this part. You are drastically changing points that Paizo is looking for in this part. Still fill out the other surveys classes/races/open assuming you didnt just houserule everything away.

Well, I am posting in a thread titled, "Sombrefell Hall and the inability to test the intended goals."

Affair on Sombrefell Hall as written has:
Event 1, Out of Time: 5 ghasts enter via the front door.
Event 2, The Assault Begins: Ten minutes later, 2 vampire spawn rogues and 4 ghasts enter via the front door.
Event 3, From All Sides: Five minutes later, 2 elite wights enter by the dining room window and 2 elite wights enter via the salon. The salon wights awaken a poltergeist that was inside all along.
Event 4, Risen from Watery Graves: Five minutes later, 2 greater shadows and 6 zombie shamblers enter via the upstairs bedroom balconies.
Event 5, The Final Battle: Ten minutes later, Ilvoresh and 2 vampire spawn rogues enter by the front door.

So, moving the poltergeist from Event 3 to Event 2 is going to invalidate the chapter? Page 37 in Affair at Sombrefell Hall says, "The ultimate playtest goal of Affair at Sombrefell Hall is to measure the healing resources of a party of healers against several successive waves of level appropriate undead." The party will face the same undead in successive waves. The dwarf barkeep monk Flint already needs major healing, so healing will be tested.

Or is my wife's bard trying to mobilize the students that breaks the chapter? She is a player. Trying to control a player's decisions is known as railroading. I will made the students frightened and hesitant to limit what they can do, despite their +9 skill in Acrobatics, Athletics, Deception, Stealth, and Thievery. Shouldn't we test whether a bard can be roleplayed as inspiring NPCs?

Okay, the students won't do anything that they lack the stats for, so no Perception, no saving throws, and no weapon attacks with the silver knives in the kitchen. They won't even be able to run away from the ghasts, since they don't have a maximum move speed--oh, wait, page 42 says, "The professor and students scramble out of the way and hide behind furniture in the library (area D2), leaving the PCs to fight the angry undead." I guess I will give them standard human movement. Why are the ghasts angry? Maybe because their mission is to capture the professor, but the module has them attack the PCs rather than chase the professor. I sent one ghast to the library and the master bedroom to search for the professor. Is that so wrong?

Maybe my unforgiveable error was allowing the cleric Duvellia to take a 5-foot step as part of opening a door after a successful Acrobatics check? Yes, that is a definite houserule. I should mention in the open survey that Pathfinder 2nd Edition needs smoother movement rules and that I think that Acrobatics checks is the way to go. But if Duvellia had sat in a chair 5 feet closer to the kitchen during dinner, that 5-foot gap would not have happened, so I don't see the change as invalidating the chapter.

For other shocking changes, my wife's bard carries a +1 cold iron rapier. Getting that weapon out of the Treasure for New Character rules on page 348 was difficult and I fudged a little. The player of cleric Volumen copied the rapier, but in silver. I learned in yesterday's session that he had also added two property runes onto his +1 silver rapier because he had missed the rule limiting expert-quality enchanted weapons to only one property rune. I let the error stand rather than spend half an hour of a two-hour gaming session letting him reselect his magic items.


Basically.. yeah almost everything you said and did would invalidate your information in a testing environment.

But I can break it down for you a bit more.

Moving creatures between fights can quickly and drastically change the CR of that encounter. The balance by adding a single enemy could change a fight from reasonable to impossible. It is explained how each fight happens and when they happen, ranging from 5-10 min between events.

Your wife mobilizing the students is great a totally something that is listed in the part. They are willing to help with skills but are not combatants and won't be of direct use in a fight.

It also states in the book that the undead fight the PCs because they are a threat to them. However if two or more PCs have the dying condition than the undead not currently engaged will move towards the basement where they are aware the professor is, due to Ramlock reaching out to Illvoresh through the professor and telling him where the professor hides. So they wouldn't just randomly move away from the fight unless they were sure they could.

Letting the cleric get an extra 5 ft to open the door was definitely houserule and as you said yourself had her chair been closer to the door she could have made it but it wasn't so she didn't.

Letting the PC have two property runes is also going to skew your results. And that's why you should always check your players character sheets prior to game.


PsychicPixel wrote:

Basically.. yeah almost everything you said and did would invalidate your information in a testing environment.

But I can break it down for you a bit more.

Moving creatures between fights can quickly and drastically change the CR of that encounter. The balance by adding a single enemy could change a fight from reasonable to impossible. It is explained how each fight happens and when they happen, ranging from 5-10 min between events.

The mathematics is that a Poltergeist is Creature 5, a Vampire Spawn Rogue is Creature 4, an elite wight is Creature 4, and a ghast is a Creature 3. That is 20 xp, 15 xp, 15 xp, and 10 xp by table 4, Creature XP and Role, on page 21 of the Bestiary. Event 2 as written is budgeted at 70 xp and Event 3 as written is budgeted at 80 xp. Moving the poltergeist to Event 2 will change that to 90 xp and 60 xp respectively.

However, challenge is also about preparation and circumstance. A strong defense of a poltergeist is its incorporeality. One of the PCs has a ghost-touch weapon, so the poltergeist won't be as big of a challenge as its creature level implies. In contrast, two of the wights in Event 3 will burst through the dining room window. The PCs are hiding in the pantry off the dining room as opposed to being in the library as expected. That increases the challenge of that encounter. The actual challenge of the encounters will be about 80 xp and 70 xp.

I am an experienced GM and a professional statistician. I know what I am doing and how it might affect the survey statistics.

PsychicPixel wrote:
Letting the PC have two property runes is also going to skew your results. And that's why you should always check your players character sheets prior to game.

Meet my problem player. He refuses to use character sheets. He invents his own spreadsheet, even for the playtest, that he can barely read himself. I learned about the two property runes because he was recreating some numbers on his spreadsheet because he had forgotten where he had written them.

He did this in my Iron Gods campaign, too.

I invited him to the playtest because we need to playtest Pathfinder 2nd Edition with inexperienced and quirky players, too. The point of the public playtest is not to test the Pathfinder 2nd Edition rules under carefully controlled test conditions. Paizo is very capable of doing that in-house, and they will be doing it in spring 2019 to test their newest ideas after the public playtest. Instead, the purpose of the public playtest is to test Pathfinder 2nd Edition under realistic conditions, such as newbie players, powergamers, dedicated roleplayers, and lenient GMs.

My wife, the dedicated roleplayer, also stated that if I do not adapt the playtest to their playing styles then they will quit the playtest, just like the people who write "Why I am leaving the playtest" threads. My players are sticking with the playtest, to the best of their abilities and schedules.

Realistic playstyles are not necessary a problem. Compared to all the threads I have read in this forum, my wife is making the better use of the PF2 background system than anyone else, adding an extra dimension to her characters by taking backgrounds seriously. She is unlocking the potential that Paizo dreamed up for backgrounds and proper feedback from her will help Paizo deliver that potential to all Pathfinder 2nd Edition players. That is what happens when playtests can be flexible.


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Yeah, I tend to agree with Mathmuse on this one.

But even if I didn't, telling someone "please don't submit your playtest data" is... kinda rude? And also assumes that Paizo is foolish and not already prepared for anomalies in the playtest data?

Like... it's not really your job to defend the sanctity of the playtest, as far as I am aware?


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They're going to need to sift out outliers regardless, and not every outlier is going to know why they are an outlier or be forthcoming about what caused them to be so should they be aware.

On topic.

The shadow encounter took forever. I was surprised to see that Searing Light didn't bypass the shadow's resistance. The players were surprised that there was no saving throw on their touch, the players ignored the zombies and continued building barricades until the shadows showed up letting the druid's wolf deal with the zombies slowly. There was also mild concern over fireball not having the light descriptor even though it didn't matter to the encounter since light only negates their weapon immunity and not their resistances. The shadow's design felt sloppy overall.

I introduced the Ilvoresh encounter, and sitting here going through his stats and spells it looks like his best bet is to turn invisible, head back to the professor, disguise himself as a human and say the trouble has passed hoping he'll come out. Then work out how it is the prof locks himself in of course. Unfortunately, the scenario starts with this big room clearing event and we're supposed to be testing healing, so maybe he'll just punch people and try to cause paranoia and confusion with magic manually.

Without any guidance, I'd probably have had him show up pretending to be the sole survivor of backup sent from the EOotPE. "Congratulations on your victory, I hope our sacrifice made things a little easier on you. You can join me escorting him back to town, but someone needs to stay behind and clean up the mess here, there may be more about." Split the party, attack on the road, good times.

Punching works too though.


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Lol yeah, there are certainly some clever tactics you could g with, pity he's inflicted with BadVillain-itis at Stage 3: Ignore all clever tactics and burst into the room with your enemies loudly, dramatically, and with no thought of subtlty or subterfuge.

You gotta consider a character's afflictions when making their plans, man.

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