Thursday, October 27, 2011

Rappan Athuk for Pathfinder

I never played the classic original megadungeon for D&D 3.5, even though I did buy the pdfs for a song a while back. That may change next year as Frog God Games has announced that Rappan Athuk will be released for Pathfinder in 2012. The release is described thusly:

Weighing in with over 50 dungeon levels and dozens of wilderness areas, Rappan Athuk will be released next summer as a hardbound, library-stitched book in both Pathfinder and Swords and Wizardry formats. The book contains 18 more levels even than Rappan Athuk Reloaded, as well as the outdoor adventures supporting them. I am also working on a leather cover (or faux leather) for thebinding.

This thing is truly the granddaddy of all dungeons. It represents years of play testing, years of adventure, and hundreds of player character deaths. Many parts of my campaign that have transpired over the years are included in its pagesfrom the dead remains of fallen heroes, to marks left on walls, to cryptic scribblings left by lost or dying adventurers.

Just like the dungeons of the early 1970s played by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson, Rappan Athuk is like a living being, big enough to be used for thousands of hours of play. From the Goblin city of Greznek to the Hall of the Titan Cyclops, from the Well of Zelkor to the Mithril gates, and from the Well of Agamemnon to the Abyssal pocket-plain and to the throne of Orcus himself—this terrifying place will create memorable experiences for all players and Game Masters.

This Tome represents the completed manuscript, including the wilderness surrounding the dungeon, three villages nearby, and the dreaded Temple of Tsathogga, where the sinister, evil priests of the frog-demon seek dark secrets and dark powers lost when the army of light destroyed the temple of Orcus at the site.

This book will be available for pre-order in March or April 2012. Retail price and page count are still to be determined (though it will probably be about $125 and 1000 pages or so). The pre-ordered copies will contain bonus material as a pdf enhancement that were cut from the final manuscript and will not be available after the pre-order period ends.

The estimated price point of $125 for 1000 pgs. compares favourably to a typical Pathfinder adventure path and given the relative scarcity of interesting product coming out over the last year, I see this an investment I can easily justify.

Maybe I'll go now have have a look at those pdfs and see what kind of misery I can inflict on my players.


Monday, October 24, 2011

Rippin' on...scary monsters!

Just in time for Halloween, Zack and Steve reveal D&D's scariest monsters.

Scary Monsters


Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Campaign Continues

After a bit of a break we finally got to play session 2 last night. Strange happenings continue in Ravengro and more and more clues point to the old haunted prison Harrowstone just outside of town. Second Level brought another chance to retry a bunch of skill checks that went poorly the first time and were met with much more success this time. The PCs began to piece things together and after learning a bit more about what they'd be facing, made a second attempt on the prison. Avoiding the areas they explored the first time (and were forced to retreat from), the PC discovered an entrance into the prison's dungeon. Fighting off numerous spirits and undead, they eventually uncovered a secret tunnel leading from one of the prisons wings to a wing that they'd been unable to access. However the tunnel contained a grey ooze which nearly killed the party's paladin and alchemist. Resources exhausted, the party has once again retreated back to town. One of the prison's main haunts has been defeated but 4 remain.

This has been a great adventure so far. It has a good mix of role-playing and combat with some very unconventional enemies. Its always a tough time with mysteries - you don't want to just hand out clues and at the same time the PCs can't get too frustrated. So far everyone seems to be having a good time. I think I will designate a map cleaner next time as I received some feedback after the session that I should map out more of the rooms. That's find, I don't mind mapping the rooms out - its cleaning the board off afterwards that bugs me. I find it interrupts my flow so let's delegate the task out! Any takers?

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Wizard vs Sorcerer - the solution!

Maybe it's a legacy of 3.5 but I've always preferred the wizard over the sorcerer. Wizards get a new spells level one level earlier, know more spells, and if they leave slots empty can fill the gaps with utility spells mid day. Wizards also have better school powers then sorcerer's bloodlines. Sorcerers get only 2-3 skills so they even have trouble acting as the party face since after you've covered Perception and Spellcraft, and are tempted by the ever awesome Use Magic Device, there aren't any skill points left. Bards are, hands down, the best choice as party face.

Wizards aren't all sunshine and rainbows either. While they get spells earlier, in order to be even slightly competitive with a sorcerer's spells per level, a wizard must specialize. This greatly restricts what spells you can cast. Sure you can still memorize them but it requires 2 slots/forbidden spell, defeating the point of specializing in the first place. There is the issue of having a spell book - best hope your DM isn't a dick and likes to mess with it, and that you have to prepare your spells ahead of time. This isn't the end of the world because most people pick out the best spells from each level and prepare those over and over, and carry the rest as scrolls or leave spell slots empty.

I have finally found a solution to this quandary. In Ultimate Magic, the Wildblooded archetype was introduced which allowed for mutated versions of the standard Bloodlines. The Sage is a mutated form of the Arcana bloodlines and solves many of my main issues with sorcerers. All of a Sage's abilities key off Intelligence and not Charisma. They even get a few extra spells known. The only missing piece is that you have to play a Human and choose the Known Spell favored class bonus. With this combo you'll have 6-7 spells known for each level excluding your top 2 spells levels (so roughly what a wizard would have based on my previous wizards) but you get about 2 extra spells/day/spell level. It like getting some of the best perks from each class. About the only thing missing is a wizard's spell access rate. The sorcerer's skill selection rather sucks too I suppose but this can be mitigated slightly by traits, and it won't make a huge difference overall anyway.

Alas, this is another character build that sits in my head along with the Zen Archer, the Debuff Cleric, the Come and Get Me barbarian, and the Dirge Bard. Actually this would be a pretty sweet party.

As an aside the Sohei monk is the first monk archetype I've found that can almost keep pace with the full bab classes in melee combat.

Monday, October 10, 2011

My reading project

For personal reasons, I anticipate being absent from my regular gaming activities for at least the next few months. It's unfortunate, but it does afford me the opportunity to do some recreational reading, something I haven't been able to do for several years (unless one considers reading Dr. Seuss stories to pre-schoolers recreational). At just the right time, out comes the NPR Top 100 Science-fiction and Fantasy Books list. I've read about one-third of the books/series on the list, so I figure it's about time I jumped into the rest, especially the SF books. First on my list, #51 - The Hyperion Cantos. I completed the first book, Hyperion in about a week and I'm now roughly a third of the way through the conclusion, The Fall of Hyperion. Endymion and The Rise of Endymion are in the pipeline and ready to go. At the rate I'm going, I figure to be through the complete series by mid-November. I will have a more complete report of my thoughts at that time. My initial impressions, the books are, not surprisingly, extremely well-written. The main characters are deep and the trials they face elicit genuine emotion in the reader. As a parent, the odyssey of Sol Weintraub and his daughter, Rachel, is particularly poignant (and, at times, gut-wrenching) for me. My only criticism, on the other hand, relates to the "illness" that befalls Rachel. I won't go into details, but suffice to say, I felt it was a bit contrived and strayed far beyond my concept of science-fiction and deeply into the realm of fantasy. Still, as a plot device, it was powerful and I find myself deeply invested in that particular subplot.

What's next after The Hyperion Cantos? Well, I just picked up a copy of A Canticle for Leibowitz, a classic that's older than I am. I always meant to read it, but never got around to it. Now's my chance.


Thursday, October 06, 2011

Rippin' on...whaaaa?

Zack and Steve at have finally stumped me, bringing out an '80s game I'd never heard of. No doubt, Cyborg Commando must have been a real stinker to be so obscure, but man, what a design team!

Cyborg Commando


Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Wheel of Time

And so my epic odyssey begins. I am going to read the entire Wheel of Time series from beginning to the very end. All 15,000 or so pages of it. At my standard reading pace I should be finished by the end of April which is perfect since the last book is due out in April sometime.

I know what I'm doing this winter.

Saturday, October 01, 2011


For anyone that plans to play Paizo's AP Rise of the Runelords. Please leave now as the post below is full of spoilers.

There is a boss in RotRL that is crazy powerful. She has several abilities that synergize well, her lair is well defended and the terrain favors her a great deal. Officially she is CR 10 vs a party of level 7 but with her gear and the terrain, she is much much harder. Reading the paizo boards, there are innumerable entries on the TPKs Xanesha has caused. I have always wondered: I game with a bunch of smart guys that min/max pretty well. Could we beat her as written?

We had a slight shortage of players last week end so I had our 4 remaining players show up with characters ready to go. They only had a vague idea what they were up against but everyone was rather combat focused. They made short work of the golem at the base of the clock tower. The paladin smited him down quickly. Climbing the tower proved to be tricky. Everyone thought the bell trap was awesome and although it smacked the sorceror, he was ready with feather fall. The cultists at the top of the tower proved to be rather ineffective but the noise of the battle would alert the next encounter.

The rogue was able to scurry up the scaffolding without being spotted by the now airborne Xanesha but the paladin would not be so fortunate. The image of a demon distracted the PCs for 2 rounds allowing Xanesha to buff further. She then landed on the rooftop to prevent the cleric and sorcerer on the lower floor from targeting her. The paladin and Xanesha traded blows and the rogue sneaked in a blow or two as well. Although the paladin had hot dice, so did the DM and the paladin fell to a massive critical hit. With the only PC who been able to really hurt Xanesha dead, the PCs tried a few different things, but her AC and spell resistance made her really hard to affect.

It was a bit of a stand off, Xanesha slowly healing herself from the massive damage the paladin had done, and the remaining PCs trying to figure out what to do. They finally decided that retreat would be the best tactic. They almost got away but the cleric blew his save vs her Charm and was left behind to his doom.

For the deadliness of the encounter 2 dead PCs out of 4 PCs is pretty good. In a campaign, Xanesha would have known about the PCs and adjusted her tactics accordingly. I forgot that part of the rooftop was covered in a Silence spell. The PCs made a few critical saves and the paladin got two critical hits on her.

There is good reason she'll be redone for the re-release of the AP next year. She is just way too difficult. She has an opportunity to pre-buff making her AC sky high, she has good SR, excellent saving throws, and a crapton of hitpoints.. The only way I can see her being beaten is with an archer, a paladin, a wizard who gets lucky with a couple dispel magics, and a cleric who tries to keep everyone alive. If the tower is properly scouted, that would also make the fight easier. Retreat was a good solution. If everyone had been equipped with flight, the who battle dynamic would have changed.

I like to see the retreat tactic used. I know that we (as players) don't use it very often. In our current campaign Carrion Crown, the (low-level) party was faced with an enemy that they could not hurt. Eventually the party retreated back to town to pick up some more supplies (and follow a different plot thread).