Need help. The party has no high INT characters and it's starting to hurt (City Outside of Time)

Return of the Runelords

Liberty's Edge

I'm the GM and the party has just started City Outside of Time and the Knowledge Checks required for it are just completely out of their league now. Not even with a 20 on their skill check are able to reach the required DC for the ritual to the Shadow plane. This is a large group, 6 people... but most of them are focused on STR, DEX, WIS or CHA (barbarian, gunslinger, rogue, oracle, sorcerer, druid). All I can think of is to get them to hire someone to the party or add a NPC to the party. Maybe some of the pre-gens? Any suggestions?

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Not knowing any specifics (I'm playing Return, and we're still in book 3), I know there are similar issues with later parts of Strange Aeons, specifically the Dreams of the Yellow King

Using a Masterwork Ritual tool, based around whatever skill the specific ritual here is using will add +2 to checks. If the skill/s used in the ritual ARE Intelligence based, then things like Headbands of Intelligence, or potions/scrolls of Fox's Cunning might also improve chances.

There are a couple of other bonuses that you might not be aware of, namely...

Characters with a caster level gain a +1 bonus on skill checks to cast a ritual, and this bonus increases by 1 for every 5 caster levels they possess (to a maximum of +5 at caster level 20th) as their understanding of the fundamentals of magic grows.


If a ritual’s casting is aided by at least four secondary casters, all casters gain a +1 bonus on all skill checks attempted as part of casting the occult ritual. This bonus increases by 1 for every four secondary casters beyond four (up to a maximum bonus of +5 for 20 or more secondary casters).

So, depending on the levels of the characters, the oracle, sorcerer and druid could all potentially participate, and provide some bonuses. If they had one more caster participating, they would all get the group bonus for secondary casters.

Depending on the casting time of the ritual, more general-purpose buffs could help, like Heroism or Guidance.

Do they have any ability to bind outsiders? (Or Fey for the druid.) They could recruit something with the needed knowledge skills that way...

Dark Archive

You could just make them do the ritual, skipping the knowledge checks, assuming they succeed at each step but still take the penalty as if they failed. The rituals are a cool component of this AP. Don't let this one item be the brick wall to continuing.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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We normally try to set things like this up so there's more than one way through a plot bottleneck, but sometimes things slip through the cracks. This is one of those cases. Allowing someone to sub in a Wis-based or Cha-based skill check is a perfect solution. Some great nominations for replacements would be Sense Motive or Perception (to be able to adjust the timing of the ritual based on how the magic is unfolding) or Bluff or Use Magic Device (to "trick" the magic into thinking you're doing something you're not).

(It's DEFINITELY something we do better with rituals or research or traps other skill-based encounters in 2nd edition though, making sure that there's a variety of options to handle things like this without limiting it to only one type of character.)

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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And by the way, since it's been brought to my attention that some people might not appreciate me talking about how we do things in 2nd edition, let me just say here in public that I love BOTH editions of the game. I'm currently playing two 1st edition Pathfinder games, and two 2nd edition Pathfinder games, so it IS possible to enjoy both. Each edition has its advantages and disadvantages, its strengths and weaknesses. We've done the best job we can to make sure that 2nd edition learns from the weaknesses of 1st and improves on them. All I was trying to do with my above post is provide advice on how to make rituals in 1st edition less restrictive by citing the improvements we made to the previous system in 2nd edition.

If that bothers anyone, know that it's not my intent to be disrespectful to your chosen game system. Take my advice from paragraph 1 as you will and feel free to ignore the parenthetical in paragraph 2... the first paragraph stands well enough on its own without me explaining where and how I came to the conclusions and advice offered there.

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Pathfinder Rulebook Subscriber

A bit out of date, but I'm hitting this chapter now myself. Funny enough, my party essentially couldn't fail *any* skill check during the ritual in this book (high int wizard with max ranks in all the required skills, L.15 for +4, 4 other party members as secondary casters for +1, Heroism for +2).

There *are* at least two locations in Frozen Tears that have items that can grant bonuses to the ritual. You could also let anyone who got Sorshen's Kiss in Book 3 gain half that bonus as a residual for these checks.

That said, this one did feel a bit lop-sided with all Int checks, swapping something out would help a low-Int group, as well as the role-play of the ritual (though we still had a great time with describing what each check *did* to the planes).

Shadow Lodge

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Our party just finished this ritual to enter the frozen city...or to be more accurate, our Alchemist just finished this ritual while the rest of the party watched. He pulled out every buff he could and succeeded by the skin of his teeth (he succeeded in 6 of the 9 checks, but two of those checks just hit the DC due to poor rolls).

If Perception were added to the usable skills, my +36 Perception (with Heroism) Bloodrager (with a spiritualist dip) would have probably auto-succeeded at the relevant checks, but there was no way she could participate with the base skills (Int 10, Wis 08, Perception +36, Diplomacy +33, Sense Motive +32, no other non-physical skill in double-digits).

Likewise, the Swashbuckler and presumably the Ranger (new party member, uncertain of actual build) were not going to be able to help, while our Cleric and the Librarian from the previous adventure (another new party member) had at least some of the relevant skills but weren't as good at them as the Alchemist (I think they were 12 and 14 intelligence respectively).

I understand there were a couple of items that could have helped, but we didn't find any of these (we randomly went straight to the collector and borrowed her pendant in exchange for the vases she wanted) and I don't recall any indication that these items were in the area so we had no reason to seek them out (It's just one of those meta-gaming things).

While it is fine for an adventure to have 'here is a chance for character type X to shine' moments in it, this becomes really problematic when the story comes to an abrupt halt if the checks fail. This makes the second module in a row with a significant research sequence followed by a ritual casting that you really need to succeed at, and I presume there is another research sequence coming up soon (since we are here to determine how exactly history was changed). It does seem like there should have been a 'at least one high-intelligence character is strongly recommended, preferably with magical skills' disclaimer at the start of the campaign since it is reasonably easy to not have one these days*. Perhaps giving one of the Campaign traits a strong research/ritual bonus would have helped as well (Intrigued by Thassilon has the flavor, but doesn't really help mechanically while Scion of Legend has a useful mechanical boost for a ritual but doesn't naturally synch with the relevant ritual skills).

*I previously played (most of) Wrath of the Righteous where my Spirit Guide Oracle's 14 Int was easily the best in the party (the others being 10, 9, and 7), though at least I had the option to use my ridiculous Cha instead of Int for skill checks if I needed to with a Lore spirit.

In my limited PF2 play, this really hasn't gotten a lot better: We played Age of Ashes prior to this campaign and the ritual in the final volume was also pretty bad: Only our Cleric could actually help (the rest of the party being Barbarian, Fighter, and Rogue), and we ended up failing both** ritual casts because the GM rolled in the single digits for the primary caster which denied the party some decent buffs.

**Our first foray resulted in the only death of a PC in the campaign due to a 'fail both save and your soul is stolen' mechanic and some truly horrible rolling, so we had to retreat, resurrect, and redo the ritual for an additional foray. We also had issues with the skill checks in Volume 5, but we managed to succeed in the end. To be fair we started as a 6 person group but lost our Ranger and Sorcerer players about halfway through the AP, which left us with an annoying lack of Cha skills (we never had a strong Intelligence character in this party either, so Int skills were always a bit of a weak point).

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