GM Advice Requested: Guiding Arcane and Divine Casters through mid-level progression and gear acquisition

Rise of the Runelords

Greetings to all,

Although this question is perhaps applicable to any of the Pathfinder First Edition Adventure Paths, I am posting this to the Rise of the Runelords forum as my group and I are in the midst of this AP currently. If there is another sub-forum where this could be cross-posted, please advise.

I am a first-time GM running the Anniversary Edition of ROTRL for two first-time players (my wife and son). They are each running two characters: a gnome Druid and a human Wizard (Evoker); and a half-Elf Fighter and a half-orc Invulnerable Rager Barbarian, respectively. We are having a great time with all the roleplay and I have added additional NPCs and interactions in Sandpoint to give it the feel of an Old West boomtown and really anchor the party’s attachment to the town and its people. The party has just hit level 6 and started the Misgivings last night (I prefer to have them level up between segments rather than during).

With the above said, I am somewhat out to see on how to guide the development of the caster characters (my wife’s). While I have played a lot of different RPGs over the years (homebrew AD&D, White Wolf, Chaosium, Shadowrun), I was always a player and never a GM, and I almost always played some type of fighter (duellist, paladin) or martial cleric and usually ended up being the party face based on personality and a willingness to grab onto or provide plot hooks. I never had to think (much) about spells per day, spell books, items to enhance casting abilities, etc.

I have what I think is a good handle on the Pathfinder 1E “feat tree” for the combat feats and rage powers, and I am comfortable suggesting new gear for the fighters, such as having the half-orc sacrifice three captured +1 weapons from Book One to Gorum to give his double axe three randomly rolled properties (+1 enhancement on each head plus keen). For my magic users, though, I am at a loss beyond suggesting preparation of potions or scrolls for single spells and the purchase (or now creation) of wands for favorite spells (a big thank you to all the folks on these boards who suggested making wands of cure light wounds available on the market in Sandpoint and Magnimar).

Now that the characters are hitting middle levels and their abilities are really blossoming, I want to make sure I don’t accidentally trap the casters with selections of feats, spells, and gear that will hurt their ability to contribute to the party and the story at higher levels in the later books. I have spoken with my wife about using her characters’ powers for battlefield control and buffs/de-buffs, so we are not just focused on fireballs and lightning bolts (although I have to admit those are fun), but any advice on specific progressions or gear would be greatly appreciated. I can read ahead in the AP and see when the party is set to acquire various loot or substantial cash, but if I don’t know what to tell her to look for in the market, her characters won’t be able to ask – an unknown unknown.

Thanks for reading this far and providing all the great resources already on these pages – I am making heavy use of several of the community created items for the Misgivings and I think they will be a big hit.

TL;DR: How does a first-time GM who never played a magic user guide a first-time player so her druid and wizard stay awesome through the whole AP?

Grand Lodge

Hi there Hugging.

For essentially all PF characters, I look to keep my gear relatively on-track to the recommendations of the Automatic Bonus Progression system from Pathfinder Unchained, which laid out at what levels certain bonuses should be available to PCs (such as when to pick up stat boosters, rings of protection, and so on).

Rings of Protection, Amulets of Natural Armor, Headband of X, Belt of Y, and Cloaks of Resistance are good for most characters - making just enough of them available that most of said items will be on most characters.

Aside from that, I'll split this up by character.

For an evoker, you probably won't have much difficulty finding valuable items to drop given the number of wizards in the campaign. The additional drops I'd recommend, or items for purchase you might want to make available, are mostly Utility Wands (Fly, Spider Climb, Arcane Sight, etc) and Rods.

Rods are a really big deal for wizards, especially evokers. Here are some of the standouts that would be easy enough to include in the campaign.

- Quicken Rods. I put a Lesser Quicken Rod on Barl Breakbones, a standard Quicken Rod on Khalib, and left a Greater Quicken Rod on Karzoug.

- Maximize Rods. Your Evoker is unlikely to take Maximize Spell, but it makes 3 spells/day pack a total punch. I'd make one of these available for purchase after book 3.

- Selective Rods. These are darn near essential for the discerning (and considerate) evoker, both for damage and control spells. I imagine she'll be using some of both, so consider dropping one of these from Mokmurian or a Runeforge spellcaster.

- Reach rods. These rods make it a lot easier to drop buffs on the party, and are an all-around good thing to give a caster. Of course, it also helps them land dangerous touch spells if that's the direction they prefer to take it.

- Piercing rods. Sometimes spell resistance just ticks you off and, especially as an evoker, you don't have a good solution that ignores SR. Bust out a piercing rod and hit them with some of your weaker spells so you're at least contributing.

Now, it really depends on what type of druid she's playing to determine gear, but it's worth noting that, as a druid, she'll have less use of Amulets of Natural Armor, and neck slot items are a good choice - there's any number of good options there.

For improving spellcasting, Ioun Stones make especially good options for druids, given they won't merge upon shapeshifting. These can drop from Thassilonian enemies very easily as well, giving both your casters something to be excited about after facing them.

Verdant Boots are a niche but good option for druids - in Books 4, 5, and 6, when there are few plants available for effects like plant growth, this lets them create plants, as well as provides them with food in the harsh Book 6.

Goz Masks (or the RotR version, Fog-Cutting Lenses) can be a major boon when working with a wizard or druid, and your party has both!

And of course, wands. You can look up people's wand recommendations, but druids have a similarly nice list - Detect Animals is a surprising winner IMO.

Lastly, of course, rods are also great for a druid.

- Rod of Extend Spell (Barkskin, Animal Growth, Life Bubble, various Communal spells)

- Rod of Ectoplasmic Spell (for dealing with the wraiths and such that crop up throughout the adventure)

Last but not least, various magic items that boost the power of summoners (such as Gloves of the Commanding Conjurer) are of benefit to druids, who can spontaneously cast summoning spells.

While your question was on gearing / feat choices ... I'm going to make a suggestion first. You are running for family. Decide early how you are handling certain parts of book 5.

When I started, I had preteens, but we've been playing slowly enough, that they are now over 18, which has been a massive weight off my mind, leaving me planning to just hedge some, instead of dread what's coming up within the next 1~6 months, as we are a session from entering that ... part of the book.

Other than that, feel free to browse this guy's listing or this one

Happy Gaming!

Thanks, Askar and Roonfizzle! These are great suggestions. I really appreciate the advice.

Regarding the content that enters in during Book 3 and 5, I think I can modify as needed to keep it age-appropriate (my son is 10 now). I recorded young adult versions of the Iliad and the Odyssey for him when he was an infant, and we've raised him on a steady diet of Norse myths and the Arthur mythos, so the violence is less a problem than the adult content.

We started Pathfinder about a year ago with the Beginner Box adventure (using the druid and the fighter), and kicked off Rise of the Runelords about 9 months ago, so I figure we have over a year at minimum until Book 5 begins. Plenty of time to modify.

Grand Lodge

Hi there! I'm back with more info about magic items, especially for the druid.

More Druid Items:
In line with my earlier recommendation for the Verdant Boots, but more aimed towards use in combat, consider the Evergreen Seed Pouch. This could potentially be a gift during the Heart of Sadness, which is right around the point when a druid is really going to start hurting for want of plants in a control build.

The Polymorphic Pouch is a druid's bag of holding. I'd make one of these available for sale as early as when the party makes it to Magnimar - just leave it available until they decide to buy it. Same goes for standard bags of holding and handy haversacks for the rest of the characters.

If the druid does any amount of melee combat, Amulets of Mighty Fists make for a good drop. Of course, Longtooth drops one in Book 4, but there aren't a lot of other good opportunities for an amulet drop after that. I'd have Arkrhyst drop a +2 and just remove a bit of the treasure from his Hoard to compensate. Probably expect no higher than a +3 amulet by the end of the game.

A Ring of Sacred Mistletoe is typically only of value to a Druid, and is cheap enough to simply have it on sale in Sandpoint or Magnimar. Works great with wall of thorns throughout Book 3.

Projected Items (End of Book 3):
In order to outline how this should play out for this characters, I figured I'd give you a breakdown. This projection is for after the characters have made purchases following the Giant Raid of Book 4 (Book 4 Part 1).

At level 11, a character's wealth should be ~82,000gp in value, with ~ 25% dedicated to weapons, 25% to protective gear, 25% on other magic items, 15% consumables, and 10% liquid assets.

Gnome Druid (Assumed to be a control Caster)

Primary Weapon: Wildshape (Free)
Backup Weapon: +1 Ranged Weapon (2,000gp)
Armor: +2 Hide Armor (4,000gp)
Shield: +1 Light Wooden Shield (1,000gp)
Neck Slot: Amulet of Mighty Fists +1 (4,000gp)
Shoulder Slot: Cloak of Resistance +2 (4,000gp)
Ring 1: Ring of Protection +2 (8,000gp)
Ring 2: Ring of Sacred Mistletoe (6,000gp)
Headband: Headband of Vast Wisdom +4 (16,000gp)
Belt: Belt of Mighty Constitution +2 (4,000gp)
Feet: Boots of the Winterlands (2,500gp)
Eyes: Eyes of the Eagle (2,500gp)

Other Magic Items

Polymorphic Pouch (5,000gp)
Wand of Detect Animals or Plants (750gp)
Wand of Detect Snares and Pits (750gp)
Wand of Mage Armor (750gp)
Wand of Endure Elements (750gp)
Wand of Cure Light Wounds x2 (1,500gp)
Pearl of Power II (4,000gp)

I'd leave the rest to random scrolls or potions they've accumulated or used up to this point, as well as spell components. While their expenditures on weapons and armor are low, their ability to cast barkskin and have mage armor cast on them reliably makes up the AC deficit, and the big purchase (Headband of Vast Wisdom +4) boosts their offense, skills, and saves. If you were to include the Evergreen Seed Pouch mentioned above, I'd probably drop the cost from defenses, as the book isn't actually handing out very good defensive options in its pre-generated loot, and the party doesn't have a lot of purchasing options in Book 3.

Human Evoker (Assumed to be hybrid control/blasting)

Primary Weapon: None
Backup Weapon: Hand Crossbow +1 (2,100gp)
Armor: Ceremonial Robes (100gp)
Shield: +1 Mithral Buckler (1,502gp)
Neck Slot: Amulet of Natural Armor +1 (2,000gp)
Shoulder Slot: Cloak of Resistance +2 (4,000gp)
Ring 1: Ring of Protection +2 (8,000gp)
Ring 2:
Headband: Headband of Vast Intelligence +4 (16,000gp)
Belt: Belt of Physical Prowess (Dex, Con) +2 (10,000gp)
Hands: Gloves of Elvenkind (7,500gp)

Other Items

Handy Haversack (2,000gp)
Wand of Scorching Ray [22 charges] (2,000gp)
Wand of Shield (750gp)
Wand of Heightened Awareness (750gp)
Wand of Mage Armor (750gp)
Wand of Infernal Healing (750gp)
Wand of Protection from Evil (750gp)
Wand of Gentle Repose [10 charges] (900gp)
Wand of Enervation [10 charges] (2,500gp)
Barl Breakbones' Spellbook (4,000gp)
Rod of Selective Spell (11,000gp)

Same deal here, the remainder here would go to spell components and scrolls. And, realistically, your wizard isn't likely to have as many wands as I've written here. Realistically, unless you specifically allow them to upgrade a +2 Headband to a +4 Headband for cash, they won't have the +4 Headband by this point, and the remainder of the money will likely be invested in sub-optimal items that happen to be available. This is fine, but I'd make the upgrade available at this point to reduce the number of items you need to keep track of.

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