My experiences GMing Age of Ashes thus far


Age of Ashes

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CorvusMask wrote:
It is true, part of what made 1e Pathfinder combat hard IS players not knowing what is the optimal way of dealing with encounters, that kinda applies to all rpg systems to be honest.

What is the CR value of ignorance anyway? How much challenge does it add to an encounter? PCs don't get extra xp for being especially ignorant of monster abilities. I'd say knowledge of the encounter isn't a factor for difficulty at all. In PF2 its entirely math based.

Any system that relies on ignorance for its difficulty isn't actually difficult. Its just obtuse. Pathfinder can be an obtuse game, certainly.

PCs with perfect knowledge of the monsters can make more optimal decisions, but Players are hardly tactical supercomputers.


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Pathfinder Maps, Starfinder Maps Subscriber
Colette Brunel wrote:

There is nothing here that gives the players an advantage over the GM. The GM has more information than the players, for example: monsters and NPCs know all special abilities of the players, whereas players have to manually use Recall Knowledge to learn monster and NPC special abilities, bit by bit, using their own actions.

Monster tactics have changed in no way whatsoever from my playtest runs. They still focus their fire and use very cheap tactics, cherry-picking defenses.

I cannot see how you would say that the players have the bigger advantage here. These are still the same tactics being used during the playtest TPK runs.

I think the inequity is built into the game.

PCs generally have lots of cool abilities to do things, knowing them doesn't really help the monsters (in a similar way, the PCs knowing how much damage the big, hulking brute is going to do isn't as useful to them as knowing it has a terrible will save in terms of ending the encounter).

Monsters are often designed with weaknesses/vulnerabilities and the PCs derive more benefit from knowing those (PCs, in contrast, have weaknesses that are more "not focussed on this area as much as other areas" so knowing them often isn't the game changer it is if you learn a monster's weakness).

PF2 is an asymmetric game by design. To me the default assumption is that the benefit of "full disclosure" is almost certainly going to be different for PCs than NPCs and I'd need a good argument as to why it would benefit each side of the battle equally.

FWIW, I agree with the idea that there's no wrong way to play. Sounds like your players and you enjoy enhancing the tactical aspect during battles and the transparency policy you've adopted enhances that - so good call, in my view. I just don't think you should consider that you're getting the same benefit from the information that they are (since PCs and NPCs are fundamentally playing different games - the PCs have been built to win and the NPCs are built to lose in an exciting fashion).

EDIT: FWIW, I think you acknowledge this asymmetry explicitly in your approach (and are perhaps partially correcting for it) in that you make PCs spend actions for their information but grant that automatically to NPCs.


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There is a core assumption about TTRPGs and randomness. Randomness/chance favors the adversaries if they are disposable. The more randomness you add to a game (like critical hit decks paizo offered early on), the more it benefits an NPC as they are unlikely to continue interacting with the party/living after meeting them. If you do horrible things to them, they don't have to worry about healing up afterward. They have no other encounters to prepare for. They have no resources to manage.

Taking randomness away favors the PCs. This means when you strip away basic boundaries about fighting capability (like AC and HP targets), you are making things easier for your players. Each side may make equally tactical decisions, but only one team has true consequences to their actions.

This also minimizes or negates any benefit to scouting in the classical sense of observing your prey. The same applies to divination rituals and effects.

Again as others have said, play whatever style you like. It is in fact the First Rule of P2. There are still consequences to the choices, even if you don't see all of them.


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I very rarely weigh in around here, but some of these responses have been almost unfairly harsh. The level of transparency is not *explicitly* stated in the CRB to my knowledge.

Whether you have no transparency, complete transparency, or any shade in between is a decision you make as a GM.

Combat will be easier with PC awareness of what they fight, but not for any difference in the game mechanics. Merely reducing the factor of making poor choices because of unknowns. Some people find this entertaining, and some people find it unfun.

I feel that one of the easiest assumptions to make is only vague transparency at best, due to the ability to use your skills to identify weaknesses rather than having them all be apparent, as one example. But that does nothing to invalidate the full transparency style of play. The game still functions the same, but the players are able to make better informed tactical decisions.

Dark Archive

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Playtest math was in favor of NPCs though, the release math isn't. Well more accurately, the math was pure luck where you had to optimize to had chance in first place, which makes it in favor of npc just because npcs need to win against party only once while pcs die the game if they lose any combat encounter.

The encounter math in 2e is favor in PCs yeah. I mean, if its four level 5 PCs vs 4 level 5 Monsters, its 40 xp per equal level foe which would be 160 exp in total which is the severe encounter. In otherwords, according to game rules, the "fair" match would be max difficulty level encounter because its math wise 50/50 chance for which side wins. So majority of encounters are designed to be in favor of party with exceptions of boss encounters perhaps.

Kasoh wrote:
CorvusMask wrote:
It is true, part of what made 1e Pathfinder combat hard IS players not knowing what is the optimal way of dealing with encounters, that kinda applies to all rpg systems to be honest.

What is the CR value of ignorance anyway? How much challenge does it add to an encounter? PCs don't get extra xp for being especially ignorant of monster abilities. I'd say knowledge of the encounter isn't a factor for difficulty at all. In PF2 its entirely math based.

Any system that relies on ignorance for its difficulty isn't actually difficult. Its just obtuse. Pathfinder can be an obtuse game, certainly.

PCs with perfect knowledge of the monsters can make more optimal decisions, but Players are hardly tactical supercomputers.

? Are you one of Colette's players or are you just arguing because some posters feel harsh? ._. I mean, you speak of this as if it was common opinion, but my post wasn't really harsh in tone.

Like, its completely fine to play game like this, but it definitely isn't the base line, hence why recall knowledge about monsters is a thing.

I definitely aren't saying its wrong way to play, but its definitely surprising for most people.

I don't think anybody has been too harsh about the transparency, but you can definitely see some posters bringing up old grudges regarding playtest posts ._.;


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Steve Geddes wrote:
PCs generally have lots of cool abilities to do things, knowing them doesn't really help the monsters (in a similar way, the PCs knowing how much damage the big, hulking brute is going to do isn't as useful to them as knowing it has a terrible will save in terms of ending the encounter).

Conversely, the monsters and NPCs do, in fact, know AC and saving throw values across the PCs, and can take actions accordingly.

Steve Geddes wrote:
Monsters are often designed with weaknesses/vulnerabilities and the PCs derive more benefit from knowing those (PCs, in contrast, have weaknesses that are more "not focussed on this area as much as other areas" so knowing them often isn't the game changer it is if you learn a monster's weakness).

I do not hand out resistances, immunities, and weaknesses for free. Those take Recall Knowledge.

T'Challa wrote:
Taking randomness away favors the PCs. This means when you strip away basic boundaries about fighting capability (like AC and HP targets), you are making things easier for your players. Each side may make equally tactical decisions, but only one team has true consequences to their actions.

I am not so sure this logic holds up. Why, exactly, does it favor the players given that the enemy side is also cherry-picking and targeting low defenses?

If this favored the players, then the players would have been able to eke out even a single victorious chapter/scenario during the playtest. But no, due to the same brutal tactics and focused fire being used, the players TPKed roughly two dozen times.

Again, my tactics have not changed between the playtest then, and the full release today. What did change was the math, and as we can clearly see, that can spell the difference between multiple repeated TPKs and much fairer fights.

T'Challa wrote:
This also minimizes or negates any benefit to scouting in the classical sense of observing your prey. The same applies to divination rituals and effects.

I am not so sure that scouting is ever going to reveal finicky, exact statistics like ACs and saving throw modifiers.

T'Challa wrote:
There are still consequences to the choices, even if you don't see all of them.

You do not have to so patronizing here.


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Pathfinder Maps, Starfinder Maps Subscriber
Colette Brunel wrote:
Steve Geddes wrote:
PCs generally have lots of cool abilities to do things, knowing them doesn't really help the monsters (in a similar way, the PCs knowing how much damage the big, hulking brute is going to do isn't as useful to them as knowing it has a terrible will save in terms of ending the encounter).
Conversely, the monsters and NPCs do, in fact, know AC and saving throw values across the PCs, and can take actions accordingly.

Yeah, it just doesn't help as much to learn the weakness of the thing expected to survive as it does to learn the weakness of the thing which is expected to be defeated. That was my only point - "They get it too" isn't addressing the difference between the two groups.

Quote:
Steve Geddes wrote:
Monsters are often designed with weaknesses/vulnerabilities and the PCs derive more benefit from knowing those (PCs, in contrast, have weaknesses that are more "not focussed on this area as much as other areas" so knowing them often isn't the game changer it is if you learn a monster's weakness).
I do not hand out resistances, immunities, and weaknesses for free. Those take Recall Knowledge.

Yeah, as I mentioned. This is part of why I think you're already acknowledging there is asymmetry (intentionally or not, I think you're compensating for it). The two groups aren't playing the same game.

I'm not really challenging how you do it or anything. Merely saying that it isn't a matter of Team A vs Team B. It's red shirts vs recurring stars of the show.


Another report. We had a ~5.5 hour session today, and it was our slowest-paced session yet, because it was a chiefly "roleplaying filler" session. I handed out no Hero Points beyond the baseline. The party is currently 5th level and in Cult of Cinders by this point. The party is a maestro bard, a flickmace paladin champion, a guisarme fighter, and a crossbow Precision ranger. The bard is a gnome who, thanks to having taken Ancestral Paragon for Burrow Elocutionist at 3rd, now has Animal Elocutionist at 5th, which may come in handy for the upcoming challenges in the wilderness hexcrawl. The other three PCs are all half-elves, thus letting them select Ageless Patience.

For those who are unaware, Ageless Patience is a 5th-level elf ancestry feat, and it is probably the single best ancestry feat in the game for skill usage. Outside of combat encounters, there is very little downside to taking twice as long for various actions and activities, be it Recall Knowledge or Make an Impression. Being able to gain a +2 bonus to such checks, on demand, and insulating oneself from critical failures is incredible. This is fantastic for anyone serious about using skills. The one big downside, aside from the time cost, is that it does not stack with Aid.

To clarify the point on Ageless Patience's insulation against natural 1s, consider that if a character has a 55% chance of landing a success or a critical success, then they need to roll a 10+ for a success or a critical success. A natural 1 would be a critical failure only due to the natural 1 rule. Ageless Patience is granting a +2 circumstance bonus to the check, so odds are usually better than a 55% chance of landing a success or a critical success, assuming that the character is actually trained or better in the skill. Consequently, three-fourths of my PCs now have some top-notch skill checks.

The group spent the first two real-time hours bantering with Alak Stagram, Calmont Trenault, Pib, Zarf, and Renali over various matters concerning Alseta's Ring and the deed to Citadel Altaerein. Since these NPCs would be leaving the party, I thought it appropriate to give them a warm farewell. It was decided that knowledge of Alseta's Ring should be disclosed to the Breachill residents while loosely kept an open secret from others, at least until the party and the citadel grew stronger. The party did, after all, complete all of Hellknight Hill in a single adventuring day, so they were quite aware of their inexplicable leap in power, expecting more.

Alak Stagram would report the citadel's ownership (but not the portals) to the Order of the Nail, Calmont Trenault would turn themselves in while potentially becoming a teacher for Voz Lirayne's school for assassins and necromancer, Pib and Zarf would do some research on the ancient gold wyrm's scale that and the collapsed lair entrance that they had identified due to a critical success (Zarf obliquely suggested that Lamond Breachton was the ancient gold wyrm in question, but it was oblique enough that nobody really commented on it), and Renali would spend some time in Breachill performing the job hunt of her backstory.

From there, it was onto a freshly-repaired Huntergate. Now, I should reiterate that I run my game in an extremely moé anime style. Everyone is some sort of cute anime girl, essentially everyone is sympathetic to some degree, and virtually all NPCs are trustworthy in that they are very honest and open with their intentions. NPCs perform zero attempts at deceptive motives (except if a premade adventure deliberately says that they do), and everyone is worth saving. It is a Saturday morning cartoon, and the PCs have successfully knocked out every single non-construct, non-ooze, non-undead enemy in Hellknight Hill, with the exception of an accidentally-lethally-critted giant bat.

I saw no reason whatsoever to exempt the avatar of Dahak from this tone, thereby creating my biggest narrative divergence from the original adventure thus far. I telegraphed this well in advance: Malarunk and Renali both attested to the presence of an avatar of Dahak inside the Huntergate waystation, and Renali reiterated her warning after Huntergate was repaired.

This is where the original adventure simply has the avatar of Dahak manifest a "vision of Dahak," an 8th-level hazard that blasts around the characters with fire damage until the PCs succeed on some skill checks. But I did something different.

I introduced the imprisoned avatar of Dahak as an actual NPC, visually represented by the Fae of Fire Emblem Heroes. The PCs took a reasonably friendly approach with the avatar of Dahak, and so I, in turn, took a friendly approach as the avatar. They spent the rest of the session bantering with the avatar of Dahak and essentially befriending her. One gimmick I implemented during this conversation was having the avatar of Dahak go all happy and excited whenever her name was spoken; this is for maximum contrast with the Ekujae elves later, who deliberately avoid using the term "Dahak."

The fighter happened to critically succeed on a couple of Recall Knowledge checks I called for over the course of the conversation. Due to Wisdom 18, expert Religion, and Ageless Patience, they knew a fair bit. This was how the fighter knew, for example, everything there was to know about "The Pyre of Dahak" (the god's sacred text, with a rather lurid history of dragons tearing their eyes out and declaring themselves atheists), and the divine side of the Age of Darkness and Earthfall.

Over the course of the conversation, they spanned a wide number of topics, ranging from the silly and the superficial, to more serious subjects on the history of Dahak. I played up Dahak's familial clash with, Apsu; and how Dahak really liked to destroy things, especially worlds. I also played up that Dahak had some cognitive dissonance in that Dahak helped stop Rovagug from destroying the multiverse, even when Dahak supposedly relished in destruction. I tried to make the avatar more approachable by demonstrating limits to her power in her imprisoned state.

I relayed the story of the avatar of Dahak's infiltration into Golarion; Dahak has been to many worlds and planes, and thus explicitly used a computer security analogy to explain the backdoor of Huntergate, which the players understood even when their PCs did not. The avatar explained her subsequent defeat and imprisonment at the hands of the Ekujae elves, talked about how lonely it has been for thousands of years (especially due to being cut off from the "real" Dahak running free in the multiverse), compared herself to the similarly imprisoned Rovagug, and genuinely thanked the PCs for being the first people in millennia to sit down for a genuine conversation with her. The Cinderclaws who passed by earlier just tried to rudely awaken her, which caused the recent malfunction with Huntergate.

The avatar of Dahak, therefore, likes the PCs more than she favors the Cinderclaws. I did eventually ask the bard for a DC 20 Make an Impression check; she critically succeeded, thanks to her one Hero Point. Ultimately, the PCs came out with a positive rapport with the avatar of Dahak. The paladin did note that the avatar has technically done nothing wrong for the past thousands of years. The bard declared her love for the avatar of Dahak. I still ran the "vision of Dahak" hazard, but couched it as the befriended avatar "playing" with the PCs and cutting loose with her power after so many millennia.

I asked the players whether they would prefer full transparency, or more opacity. The votes leaned more towards transparency, so I saw no harm in telling them the gimmick of the hazard, including the DC 26 Religion (expert) check. The fighter had higher initiative than the hazard, and so, on her first turn, the fighter landed the check with a Hero Point's help. They opted to invoke Alseta, explained as the equivalent of calling up tech support for the security flaw in Alseta's Ring. I narrated this as stopping the flame breath mid-blast.

We will continue next session with a little more banter with the avatar of Dahak, and then we will move on to the Ekujae elves. The avatar of Dahak has heavily stressed how much she hates the Ekujae elves and how she trusts the PCs to never, ever befriend said elves in turn. I have already informed the players that the entirety of 5th level is about befriending the Ekujae elves, so they are aware that they will have to juggle friendships between the avatar of Dahak and the obviously anti-Dahak Ekujae elves. It is going to be interesting.

Dark Archive

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...Okay, this didn't really make me less confused about "Why though?" xD

Like, seems like you are making the life for yourself harder because Dahak IS the big bad of the entire story ._.; Incentivizing them to work with him is weird because as you just pointed out, next part is about befriending Ekujae and fighting Dahak cultists.


To clarify the point on the hazard, I do not feel bad about being transparent with it, because what kind of PCs' first instinct upon seeing such a thing is going to be, "Get on one's knees and start praying for salvation from some other god"? The hazard-disabling solutions are really quite obtuse in this game.

And to clarify the point on juggling friendships, I like to implement some intrigue and complicated relationships in my games. Befriending the main villain and reconciling that with fighting against the forces of said villain is a storyline I am reasonably experienced with running.


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As it turns out, I did, in fact, make a transparency error. I thoroughly studied page 521, the page that covers disabling a hazard, for rules concerning how PCs know how to disable hazards.

It is page 520, which covers the rules for detecting hazards, that contains a passage on identifying a magical property's disabling methods: "Determining a magical hazard’s properties thoroughly enough to disable it requires either the use of more powerful magic or a successful skill check, likely using Identify Magic or Recall Knowledge. Magical hazards with a minimum proficiency rank cannot be found with detect magic at all."

This is just awful, awful organization. The page that covers information on disabling hazards lacks this information important for disabling hazards; it is actually in the page for detecting hazards. Come on. Also, this does not cover non-magical hazards at all.

In my game, given that this hazard rolled low initiative and everyone rolled high initiative, it ultimately may not have mattered too much, though.


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Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

You approach the game very much like a tactical battle simulation, being very focused on the numbers and math, with those being openly available for everyone. The most important reason why I don't like this playstyle (and again, that doesn't mean it's wrong, just ... very different) is that Pathfinder really is not a tactical battle simulation. It's essentially a rules system about how to roleplay a heroic journey through an epic story. Yes, that involves combat rules, but they are not meant to be balanced like an Axis & Allies or whatever game but rather for each combat to provide challenges of varying difficulty for the party that can ultimately be overcome. Part of the GMs job as the story's "director" is to balance the encounters, both combat and non-combat, in a challenging but not impossible way. Some important balance options here include "non-numerical" balances, which I feel you totally skip over.

A good example is the way you allow the paladin to be run. Paladins get a number of very powerful abilities that are balanced by various non-numerical restrictions: They have to be lawful good, they have to pick a deity (currently from the list provided in the CRB, though that list is likely to expand later) and then follow the tenets of this deity in addition to the tenets of good as well as the paladin cause's own tenets, zealously wield its favoured weapon and strictly avoid any actions anathema to the deity, etc.

Now, I'm not sure which deity your player's paladin picked, but he is pretty much not acting like a paladin at all:
- No deity that I'm aware of has the flick-mace as its favoured weapon.
- Despite being tasked by a lawful government to find and return a known arsonist to be brought to justice, that arsonist (and hostage-taker, and rogue openly interested in becoming a teacher in an assassin's school according to your version of the story...) is instead allowed to join the party, equipped with magical gear and allowed to fight alongside them, giving him plenty of chances to escape, e.g. during the battle of Guardian's Way in the woods.
- In your last session he essientially seems to befriend a manifestation of a chaotic evil deity, based on the technicality that that manifestation really hadn't done anything wrong recently (not that he didn't want to, but he wasn't able to due to being imprisoned).

Yes, there are no fixed rules when exactly his alignment would have changed sufficiently by acting as what I would probably describe as chaotic neutral.
Yes, nowhere does it say specifically that he should not ally with or befriend evil NPCs.
Yes, there is no listed penalty for never ever zealously fighting with his deity's favoured weapon.

But even without fixed rules, these are important balancing aspects of a paladin.

If you as the GM allow the player to play the paladin like that without any in-game consequences that's fine for your group but it's likely the least paladinly paladin that I have ever seen. And by removing all these balances, the character becomes very much OP.

Now, powergaming and min-maxing certainly have a long tradition in rpgs and also in Pathfinder specifically. Still, the more I read your posts, the more I wonder if you and your group aren't one of the few people that would be best suited by 4th edition D&D. Most people I know that went to Pathfinder from 3.5 initially did that because most importantly they didn't like how 4th ed. tried to turn the rpg into a tactial battle simulation. Maybe you and your group are the exception. And PF2 is very much NOT trying to be an improved version of D&D 4.0, which I feel is what you're really looking for.

Dark Archive

I mean, Paladins could have CE friends if they were working hard to redeem them and make sure they don't do evil stuff under their watch and out of it :p


Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
CorvusMask wrote:
I mean, Paladins could have CE friends if they were working hard to redeem them and make sure they don't do evil stuff under their watch and out of it :p

I'm pretty sure that's what the NG Champion cause of "Redeemer" is for. But they don't get the nifty "Retributive Strike", so much less interesting from a powergaming POV :).

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I'm increasingly convinced that kawaii moe touhou Advanced Squad Leader might be what this group is after. After all, Panzer Girls and Hetalia are out there...


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It is true that I run combat in this game in a very wargame-y fashion. That is how I like running my game, and I do not think that is going to change.

I do not think that champions "get a number of very powerful abilities that are balanced by various non-numerical restrictions." Even completely disregarding their tenets, champions are merely on the same level as barbarians, monks, and rangers: martial classes who are good at straight-up combat, but still ultimately lag slightly behind the sheer accuracy and free Attack of Opportunity of the fighter. Barbarians, champions, monks, and rangers are all equally strong, in my opinion, simply with different strengths and weaknesses; a champion is a good tanky defender who can heal both in and out of combat, but they are not so spectacular in terms of offense or mobility, all fields that barbarians, monks, and rangers can shine in in separate ways. Again, this is all completely disregarding the tenets.

So no, I do not believe for a second the idea that champions have stronger abilities than other classes, balanced out by their tenets. As far as I am concerned, the tenets are essentially just flavor.

But let us go over this. For reference, the champion in question is a paladin of Irori.

1. At no point do the actual tenets ever stipulate that a champion has to use their favored weapon. The flavor description of Deific Weapon is just that, flavor. There is nothing obligating a champion to use their favored weapon. I do not think Irori is seriously asking his paladins to use unarmed attacks, particularly when it would not even benefit from the damage die increase.

2. Calmont was set towards a good cause and served capably in that role. Calmont is now willingly turning themselves in (Alak Stagram, Pib, Zarf, and Renali are assisting with this task). Thus, the town council's request to arrest Calmont has been fulfilled, and Calmont has already performed some community service along the way. It remains to be seen whether or not the town council will allow Voz's dream of an assassin and necromancer school, but they could certainly be convinced that there are merits to allowing such a place to be built, and I can see even a paladin making a case that such a school's presence would at least regulate such people. Voz is, after all, explicitly a follower of the Reaper of Reputation aspect of Norgorber, the one aspect that allows neutral worshipers.

3. In my games, genuine friendship goes a long way towards turning people to a good cause. Doing such a thing for the aspect of Dahak may take the entire adventure path (including an inevitable fight with a rampaging manifestation of Dahak), but who is to say it is not worth the effort? I am running a game on the more idealistic, power-of-friendship side here.

I do not see why the redemption angle needs to be redeemer-exclusive, much like how honor does not need to be paladin-exclusive.


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Pathfinder Pathfinder Accessories, Pawns, Starfinder Accessories, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Society Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

Thanks for the updates. Personally, I think it's a little harsh to say it's bad organization to include the skill checks for knowing how to disable a hazard in the detection section that is, presumably, expected to be read first.

And I don't get why everyone is telling you other systems to play. I think it's pretty cool that Pathfinder 2e and the Age of Ashes AP work as well as they appear to for your group, and I
think it'd be hard for any system to meet your exact requirements. I look forward to seeing how you adapt the future books to accommodate your game as you get more experience with the system.

And there's definitely no need to turn this into yet another Paladin thread. The "everyone can be redeemed" assumption of Colette's game is pretty well established upthread.

For anyone who thinks this thread isn't providing useful advance intelligence on how the AP runs because of the way this game is different, that's on the people who aren't posting their own play updates in a thread, not Colette.

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32

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Thanks for these detailed reports of your sessions. While your GM style does not match mine, I still find these reports useful for whenever I may run this AP.


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CorvusMask wrote:
Are you one of Colette's players or are you just arguing because some posters feel harsh?

Its something I have strong opinions about in general. Any encounter whose difficulty relies on 'Gotcha' tactics or the players not knowing something is bad encounter design. Is it fun when they attack the construct thinking its undead? Sometimes. Depends on the group. I am also annoyed when players ignore the fact that they know exactly what a troll is and why aren't they using fire or acid on it? Whatever, if that makes them happy.

And I do think some people need to relax. I probably need to relax, but occasionally I can't help but offer my unsolicited opinion. I hope, that sometimes it helps someone.

Dark Archive

Umm, I wasn't talking about gotcha tactics though, I was talking about how Pathfinder is about preparation, so if you know what enemies are capable of and what they are weak to, you can easily counter most of them. So not knowing about them means you don't know to prepare something really specific you wouldn't have otherwise prepped.

(but yeah, I'm annoyed at people claiming trolls aren't common enough that everyone knows to use fire :p)

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Adventure, Lost Omens, Pawns, Rulebook Subscriber

I absolutely encourage people to act on legends. I just don’t confirm their knowledge is correct without a check.


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I have another report for my game. We played for ~4 hours today, and I handed out an extra 4 Hero Points beyond the baseline. In future weeks, we will be playing twice per week for only ~4 hours each session, and I will likewise give out only 4 Hero Points beyond the baseline each time.

We started off with another real-time hour of banter and conversations with the very anime version of the avatar of Dahak inside the Huntergate waystation. I figured that the party was deserving of a narrative reward. For one, they did knock out every single non-construct, non-ooze, non-undead enemy in Hellknight Hill that could be knocked out (aside from an accidentally lethally-critted giant bat), even the Cinderclaws. For two, they did take the time, this session and the last, to genuinely befriend the avatar of Dahak, enough that the avatar favored them over the Cinderclaws. For three, the bard did land a critical success on a Make an Impression on the avatar; even though the disposition change was temporary, I thought it should be acknowledged.

The narrative reward I came up with was that the avatar granted each PC the ability to conjure a very special symbol of Dahak. This symbol operated similarly to a Word of Truth: it would inform an enemy worshiper of Dahak that the symbol-bearer was favored by Dahak, and that the symbol-bearer was challenging the enemy worshiper to a trial by nonlethal (yet still very violent and destructive) battle. If the symbol-bearer won, the enemy worshiper would have to submit to the symbol-bearer; acknowledgment of authority would be instantaneous, though there would be a grace period of a few weeks wherein the worshiper does have to actually do anything for the symbol-bearer.

In narrative terms, this accomplishes a few purposes. Firstly, it gives an incentive to knock out the Cinderclaws in the hexcrawl around the Mwangi Expanse. Secondly, it prevents the party from having to drag along a cage of prisoners. Thirdly, it reconciles how the party has befriended the avatar of Dahak yet is still fighting the Cinderclaws; the PCs are simply proving their authority over the Cinderclaws. Fourthly, it leads to an angle of the eventual redemption of the Cinderclaws (who are antagonists only up to book #2 anyway), and perhaps much later, the avatar of Dahak herself.

That contrivance aside, the PCs, mostly through the bard, assured the avatar that the party would eventually release the avatar. (It is just that, presumably, this would happen only post-redemption.) Additionally, they rationalized towards the avatar that the PCs would merely be "tricking" the Ekujae elves on the Mwangi side of the portal. To prevent any misunderstandings between the avatar and other people, they also instructed the avatar to conceal herself within Huntergate for the time being, and to hide from anyone else passing through the waystation; being quite friendly with the PCs, and patient from many millennia of imprisonment, the avatar was happy to comply.

The PCs stepped into the Mwangi Expanse proper. Now, this chapter of the adventure, I like a fair bit. I think that Cult of Cinders is leaps and bounds above Hellknight Hill in terms of writing quality, and this first chapter is the best of Cult of Cinders, showcasing a wide variety of noncombat and social challenges. My only issues with this chapter are that, one, there were too few suggestions for critical successes on some of the skill checks in this skill-heavy chapter, and two, it was tough for me to integrate the long and varied lists of major NPCs' "likes" and "dislikes"; it did not help that the prepackaged dialogue suggestions seldom integrated the "likes" and "dislike" themselves.

I did a little shuffling of events and NPC appearances here, not because I disliked the pacing of this chapter, but because I personally thought that a different order would be more suitable for my GMing style. I do not regret my decision. For example, I had Akosa present right at the start in the temple of Ketephys, because I figured that it would be a more natural introduction to the unfriendly Akosa, contrasting with the more amicable Jahsi, whom Akosa was deeply attached to anyway.

The bard critically succeeded on the opening DC 15 Diplomacy check, so I figured that this would manifest as more hospitality from the elves overall, and the bard's songs being imitated around Akrivel. Conversation with Jahsi went smoothly enough, but the players did not seem too interested in Jahsi. It was easy to push Jahsi from friendly to unhelpful right out of the gate. The party critically succeeded on the Religion check for the pillar, regularly succeeded on the Identify Magic check, and critically succeeded on the Crafting check to identify the poison on the gold bar, because Ageless Patience is a hell of a drug. Thus, the party was able to piece together and share with Jahsi many pertinent pieces of information. This was one of "Jahsi" likes, so Jahsi immediately offered the Spellguard Shield, a decent item for its level.

The paladin champion put forth various topics concerning gold, and how it would be profitable for the Ekujae to take over the Cinderclaws' gold mine and export it. I had Jahsi give the spiels about the Ekujae and gold, including what was supposed to be Nketiah's explanation later. Jahsi denied any proposal to have the Ekujae mine gold, though I told the players and their PCs that the Ekujae could be convinced with some evidence that the arsenic was not actually brought down by Dahak. The champion raised a good point; the book never contemplates the possibility of claiming and cleaning the Cinderclaws' gold mine.

The party took to Akosa with greater interest. Maybe I simply portrayed Akosa more vividly. Breaking through the "me no speak Common" act was as easy as opening up in Elven. I let the PCs make the Perception checks for Akosa, in this early appearance, in exchange for denying the Perception checks the following day. One of the strangest things about Akosa is the strong implication that the huntmaster is actually vegetarian, preferring to "to hunt for fruits, nuts, and vegetables," which seems rather odd for a huntmaster, and the book never explains this. I had to improvise and play up this seeming incongruity.

It was midnight by this point, so the party was off to Akrivel. The elves were in a hospitable mood, and so carried the sleeping party in stretchers/litters/palanquins. I showed the lioness in the branches, but had her be sleeping at the time, so the PCs did not see a reason to approach her. Jahsi and Nketiah's DC 15 Acrobatics or Athletics parkour chase was easy enough that all of the party landed it with Hero Points, and the champion and the fighter critically succeeded; no critical success suggestion was given, so I simply had the observing elves be especially amazed by the athletic display. For pacing purposes specifically for my game, I ran the entirety of Nketiah's spiel on the Cinderclaw situation and the blindness, and Q&A with Nketiah. The party seems only cursorily interested in Nketiah; I do not know if that will change.

So far, Jahsi is helpful, and Nketiah and Akosa are still indifferent and unfriendly. The party's Perceptiion checks have ascertained some likes and dislikes (going in the order listed in the book and crossing them off the list), but there have been few opportunities to exploit such likes thus far. The ranger plans on showing off ranged weapon prowess during the hunt for Akosa's sake, at least.

All this time, the party has simply avoided mentioning their conversation with the avatar of Dahak inside Huntergate. It remains to be seen whether or not the PCs will disclose the full extent of the avatar of Dahak situation, or if they will keep it to themselves. It is going to be interesting.


I have to say, Colette plays about as unlike me as you can get while playing the same thing. I love Fire Emblem a lot, but it's just not what I'm looking for in Pathfinder. Still, I'm glad they're having fun.

The whole anime aesthetic is also not my thing, but Dahak as a wee anime manakete is just so funny an image I'm tempted to use it myself. Almost burst out laughing at work!


Kasoh wrote:
What is the CR value of ignorance anyway? How much challenge does it add to an encounter?

The answer is ... zero. Ignorance is already built into a CR value, and players may "attack" the creature by way understanding its strengths and weaknesses. Or not. Even dumb barbarians might be tough enough to survive their ignorance.

Kasoh wrote:
Any system that relies on ignorance for its difficulty isn't actually difficult. Its just obtuse.

Ignorance is a pointed threat. It isn't obtuse unless the value of research and knowledge is hand-waved as arbitrary.

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