Saturday, December 28, 2013

Frozen made my daughters cry

As the father of two young girls, I am fully immersed in the world of Disney princesses. Go ahead. Test me. I know them all, from the classics like Snow White and Aurora (Sleeping Beauty to the uninitiated) to the modern heroines like Mulan and Merida. The latest to join the sorority are Elsa and Anna from Frozen, which we went to see today. I admit, I rather enjoyed it, except for the music which was annoyingly modern and not at all in keeping with the ambience of the film. However, my daughters, especially the younger, were not pleased. [Minor spoilers ahead] The usual themes of betrayal, estrangement, and tragically premature parental demise that we've come to expect from Disney animated features were present in full measure. There were sequences that were very intense and probably not appropriate for younger children. My two daughters are very close and the forced estrangement of the two princesses was particularly unsettling for them. The happy reunion at the end did little to alleviate their anxiety. Just a word of caution if you have sensitive children (especially girls).

One more thing, what's up with the new naming trend of one-word adjectives for Disney princess movies? First there was Rapunzel in Tangled, then Merida in Brave and now Anna/Elsa in Frozen. I think we could retroactively rename older pictures similarly. How about Snow White in Gullible or Cinderella in Oppressed?


Sunday, December 22, 2013

Way of the Wicked 9

This was a very productive evening where  we got through many more encounters than I expected. After the frustration expressed by some about the last session I left most of this sessions encounters as written, although ironically the one I modified turned out to be probably the easiest.

The former contributor to this blog Derrobane brought his new PC all done up beautifully on a fancy character sheet. It was thick paper, with pictures and it was all laminated. The other guys teased him and said he jinxed himself which turned out to be true.

A few days passed this the last adventuring party hit but no messages were arriving from Farholde. Leaving the necromancer cleric in charge of the ritual, the party set out to see what was going on. Farholde seemed quite and both the Antipaladin's minions and the White Raven's claimed to have sent messages. On the way back the party disguised themselves as messengers. The last in the line was Derrobane's new cleric.

Charging out of the bushes came a massive tiger which then pounced on the guy in the back. The horse went down, Derrobane's PC went down and the dire tiger ripped into her (female PC). She was severely injured but still alive when someone at the table pointed out I'd forgotten to roll the rake attacks.

Yes, I had "forgotten" to roll the rake attacks but since you've reminded me...

And that was the end of Derrobane's brand new Cleric on the fancy character sheet. Killed on the surprise round of the first combat encounter. The tiger tried to haul his new kill away from the rest of the party but they were having none of it and attacked the beast. The beast went down in a snarl or bloody and charred fur. The brand new warrior who had just shown up (replacement PC) tracked the tiger back to its lair and found what little remained of the tigers previous meals including a number of messengers and Boggards.

Messages began flowing from town again including word that a silver dragon had been spotted flying over the town. Defenses were prepared but the dragon was a no show. Word did come back about an Inquisitor being in town. Defenses were hastily prepared at the Horn and the Inquisitors party was spotted approaching. They vanished and were found the next deep in Level 3. A surprise assault was readied and the villains caught the Inquisitor's party unawares and took them down quickly. The cleric with the Inquisitor's party was knocked unconscious since a follower of Mitra was required for the sacrifice at the midway point of the ritual.

The next week after the sacrifice a boggard with limited knowledge of the common tongue came and asked for assistance against something that was eating the tribe. It turned out to be another plant monster which was killed with minimal trouble although much hatred of plant monsters was expressed (at least it wasn't a swarm).

The final challenge of the evening came in the form of yet another adventuring party. This one was somewhat woodsy and did their best to get the villains to come outside. The battle began and the villainous Bloodrager traded blows with the dwarven barbarian, an archer fight occurred between the evil cleric and the goody ranger. The sorcerer charmed the halfling fighter and asked him to go pick some flowers and then Held the  evil wizard. A bird landed in the middle of the battle and shape changed into an Allosaurus (druid). It moved over to finish off the wizard.

Things did turn in the villain's favor. The Bloodrager disengaged from the barbarian and murdered the gnomish sorcerer. The wizard broke free from the Hold Person spell but still had an Allosaurus towering over him. The evil elven cleric tried to rescue the wizard but the wizard was trapped over by the cave mouth away from his companions. The druid ate the wizard but elsewhere things were not going well for the good guys. The barbarian was finished off by the Bloodrager, the cleric shot down the ranger as she tried to flee and then the druid was killed. The villains stood victorious but for the loss of their wizard companion.

Going through the loot they found a journal written by the gnome. It seems that the White Ravens gave this adventuring party as much recon as they could in the hope of them defeating the 9th Knot.  Now, the villains are pretty pissed about this betrayal and are planning vengeance on the White Ravens. What will they do? Come back next time to find out.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Pathfinder: Prestige Classes

In D&D 3.5 Prestige classes were great. Maybe a little too great. There certainly a bazillion of them. It was a different design philosophy. Base classes tended to front load abilities and Prestige classes tended to be stronger than base classes so it made no sense not to multiclass into a Prestige Class. Some of the results made no logical sense (story-wise) but from a power-gaming point of view they were the only way to go.

Pathfinder changed things up a bit. The base classes were improved, giving players a reason to stick with the class over all 20 levels. Archetypes were introduced for more variety, but Prestige classes were not really changed. They certainly were not improved and in many cases they were made worse.

Looking back at all of the PCs I've seen since we started playing Pathfinder, there have not been too many Prestige classes in use. A little bit of base class dipping here and there but I would say in general people are sticking to one class. Prestige class usage is quite rare.

Let's take a closer look at the Prestige Classes (PrC) in the Core Rule Book and see why.

Arcane Archer: This PrC did get buffed a bit and had its racial restrictions removed. Its actually not bad. Its great for an archer that wants to dabble a bit in magic. Most of it abilities are mutually exclusive and not terribly useful. It is a cheap way to get Fire or Holy on your arrows and get a few spells while keeping full BaB.

Arcane Trickster: This one looks awesome until you actually play it. You can sneak attack with spells! That sounds awesome until you realize that your BaB is so terrible touch attacks are your only option if you want to hit anything. Then we have the problem of doing ranged sneak attacks. The easiest way to do sneak attacks is with a flanking buddy which won't help you since spells don't threaten. Luckily at some point you should get Greater Invisibility which is great but you are getting it quite a bit later than a straight wizard would. Then you realize that sneak attack really isn't that much damage anyway if you are only doing it once per round. You quickly realize you are probably better off to play a wizard if you want to be anything other than super sneaky and a Rogue or one of its better variants if you do.

Assassin: why is this even in the Core Rule Book? It is a NPC class. Most of its abilities are of little use to your typical PC. It pains me to type this but even the Rogue is better than this garbage. Assassin is a cool class name though.

Dragon Disciple: I always see lots of interest in this PrC but I can't figure out why. It looks great with lots of attribute boosters but then you actually try and build one and you quickly realize that it is a little bit of everything that adds up to nothing. The entry requirements scream Sorcerer but this PRC loses a lot of spell casting ability but doesn't become good in combat. So its just a crappy fighter and a crappy caster. Seems like a strong path to me (/sarc). There may be some class combination that works with this but I haven't found it yet.

Duelist: This is another PrC that was upgraded from 3.5 and is actually decent but very niche. This class allows for unarmored fighters to have great AC and ok damage. It still suffers from terrible Saving throws. You are probably better using base classes to fill this concept. We'll see how the new Swashbuckler class turns out.

Eldritch Knight: The biggest problem with this Prestige class is getting into it. For a few levels you will be a crappy fighter and crappy caster. At very high levels the EK is probably a stronger class than the Magus but you will pull your hair out to get there. Unless it is a high level replacement PC, Magus is usually a better way to go.

Loremaster: The wizard doesn't really get much after level 10 so the temptation is high to leave the class. The Loremaster's prerequisites are probably things you will have anyway so that's not a problem. The biggest weakness of this PrC is that it is pretty weak. Since it keeps full casting I can see why they could not give out any big treats but as it is, why bother taking it?

Mystic Theurg: This is another PrC that looked so awesome when I first started playing. What can be wrong with having both wizard and cleric spells? Well it turns out that there is quite a bit wrong. Lower caster levels, lower level spells, low DCs on your spells. You basically end up with a ton of low level spells. If you want to be a poor healer and a decent buffer than this class is ok but it is a long way from great cosmic power like most full caster classes are. Play a Bard instead.

Pathfinder Chronicler: NPC class. Seriously, what is this? If you are in a campaign that has little to no combat then this class is ok otherwise avoid it.

Shadowdancer: This PrC grants great utility to a sneaky character but its not worth more then a 1 or 2 level dip - 4 at most. The ugly prerequisites limit its use even more. If this PrC was rebuilt as a full base class I could see it being quite useful and popular, now it is just a dip for HiPS.

Other PrC's that deserve mention:
Red Mantis Assassin: Love the imagery of this PrC but i haven't found a good way to build out a PC that uses this Prestige class. I find Ranger works best but RMA casts off Int and the Ranger uses Wis. Maybe the slayer will work well with this? However you roll it, this PrC has serious MAD issues.

Horizon Walker: In the right circumstances (you know you are only going to be playing in one or two environments), this prestige class is immensely powerful. Use Rogue talents to stack up a ton of Favored terrain bonuses and then go to town when you get Terrain Dominance and all creatures native to that terrain become your favored enemies. For an Urban campaign it would not be too hard to get a +10 bonus to hit and damage by level 10 to everything that lives there.

Rage Prophet: These Gish PrC's just don't work. They just dilute the original classes and end up being underwhelming. If you want to cast and smash, go play the new BloodRager instead. They are awesome. Otherwise, stick with either Barbarian or Oracle.

If anyone can point me to a great build that uses any of the PrCs I would be grateful. I like the flavor of many of them but I just can't get them to work in my lab. There are just better ways to do the same thing. To get into many of these PrCs you have to gimp your character for a few levels as you stretch to meet the prerequisites. Often the cool stuff the PrC grants takes a few levels to kick in so there are several levels which can translate into months where you can be unhappy with your PC.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Paizo Advanced Class Guide: Second Impressions

So earlier this week they released v2 of the new base classes that will be found in the Advanced Class Guide. Here are my thoughts:

Arcanist: It is still a full arcane caster so its going to be insanely powerful. The new arcane exploit mechanic is a fun tool to play with and there are some interesting ideas there. I like the idea of counter-spelling but never actually find a use for it in game. Hard to say "no" to boosted caster level and save DCs as well. 

Bloodrager: Only minor tweaks here. Some of the bloodlines are still way better than others. This one just needs a bit of polishing.

Brawler: Lots of people seem to like this class but its just not for me. It seems to do what its meant to do ok but its just not a concept I care for.

Hunter: I like the tweaks to this class. The Hunter can now buff his pet and himself. I just feel this class is still weaker than its two parents - the ranger and druid.

Investigator: Ugh. Super nerf. The new Studied Combat/Strike mechanic is great conceptually but is piss poor in execution. It has way too many limitations. You need an 18 int for it to do anything, duration is ok but it ends as soon as you make a single Studied Strike (which does less than a sneak attack would). AND you can't use it against the same opponent for another 24 hours.As a skill monkey this class is still great with its variety of skills, inspirations, and extracts. It just sucks even worse in combat than before. The crappiness that is the Rogue class is dragging it down.

Shaman: Now with Druid casting with some sweet Cleric spells thrown in. This is a class with some awesome potential. Not a great healer however.

Skald: They made it more martial oriented with more weapon proficiencies and medium armor casting but I'm still not sure I like it. The Rage song is much better now but this class still doesn't appeal to me. There are better ways to make a Gish. 

Slayer: Last version was way better than a Rogue but still worse than a ranger. The gap between ranger and Slayer has closed and the slayer is now the ultimate combat rogue since it gained more skills, access to ranger combat styles, trapfinding and poison use through Slayer Talents (which are improved). The ranger's spells give it more flexibility and but these too are pretty close in terms is goodness now.

Swashbuckler: I still have mixed feelings here. I strongly disagree with the design team not giving this class dex to damage. Precision damage is lame even it the bonus is higher since it doesn't work against all creatures and isn't multiplied on a crit. The Swashbuckler has rogue saves (terrible) but lots of neat tricks. I'm still hoping they change their mind on Dex to damage but with more polishing this class will be decent. Seems to be ok defensively (especially with Crane Style) but has only moderate damage capabilties.

Warpriest: A few small changes have made this class much better. Ferver is a cool new mechanic but this class still suffers from MAD. I haven't played around this the revised class to much but it seems pretty good now.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Way of the Wicked 8

This game session got a bit controversial. The PCs were now level 8 and started off at the Baron's 105th birthday party. They picked up some gossip, ran a few errands around town but over all the visit rather rather uneventful.

Things got exciting quickly as a few days after the bash a party of adventurers showed up unannounced at the Tower.  With both the Anti-paladin's newly expanded evil organization working in town as well as the White Ravens watching, what happened to the party's intel?

This adventuring party was  pretty badass. They were basically level 8 versions of a bunch of characters I'd been working on and this session gave me an opportunity to try them out. They were a veteran group of adventurers that were used to working together and I had a few strategies all worked that would prevent them from getting blown away by round 3 which has been the norm up until now.

The party scouted using a very specialized eidolon while everyone else stayed back. This allowed them to dodge most of the traps and evade the first ambush the villains laid for them. While the party was massacring the boggard tribe, the villains decided to strike. They disguised themselves as boggards and attacked.

It took a couple rounds for the NPC party to realize that these were a different class of boggards and to start actually trying. The summoner and Mindchemist stopped standing on watch and all came together to try and buff up. By this point however things were not looking so great. The villainous Bloodrager and Antipaladin had already engaged and the Barbarian and Monk were already severely injured. A Fog Cloud spell was thrown up to provide cover from ranged attacks but then the villains dropped a few AE spells on the cloud hoping to hit the invading party.

The battle continued to rage inside the cloud but those outside quickly got bored after they'd used up their Area Effect attacks. The Cleric, Wizard, and Rogue didn't want to wander into the cloud to avoid the risk of running into the heavy hitters. After a few rounds the the BloodRager and AntiPaladin were dropped and only the Monk and the Summoner were left standing on the invader's side.

The summoner made a run for it while the Monk tried to get revenge. The wizard ended the summoner's run for freedom with a Blindness spell while the monk slew the Cleric and Rogue. The wizard was able to drop the monk with Magic Missiles one round before he himself would have been skewered.

In the end only the Wizard and Antipaladin lived (The Antipaladin had been rendered unconscious but not killed). The dice were very swingy all evening and really effected the flow of things. The cloud rendered all non area-effect spells and the rogue useless although it didn't seem to hurt melee attacks as no one rolled the 20% miss chance the entire night. There were lots of made saving throws but the MindChemist kept missing hers and she died before she was able to make any offensive moves. The Antipaladin made a great move in disarming the monk. She was still a beast but not nearly so scary when she's not sporting a x4 crit weapon. The Minotaur skeleton proved to be rather useless, and the cleric was limited by line of sight issues. The wizard had similar troubles since he specializes in ray spells. The Rogue could lay down some decent smackdown in the right circumstances but between the cloud and a bad call on my part on how stealth works, he wasn't as effective as he should have been. The bloodrager was fearsome as usual but needs some more defenses (you can cast Mirror Image!). Trading blows with a barbarian is fine until his buddy a Battle Oracle starts to join in.

So the difficulty level for the night was turned up to 11. Aside from my bad call on stealth I'm not apologizing but at the same timer the difficulty level will return to normal. I kill enough PCs on default.

So a quick analysis of my NPCs:

Monk (Sohei): Was surprisingly effective. I forgot she can always act in surprise rounds but the Rogue probably would have beaten her initiative anyway. Crane style is awesome although holding your two handed weapon with only one hand means you can only make AoO with your unarmed strikes. An awkward set-up and if I were to play this PC I would probably switch to something less cumbersome like a temple sword. She had the best gear of the invaders but even then it was well under what PCs get.

Oracle (Battle): This guy could hit almost as hard as the Barbarian and only slightly harder than the monk.  His spells really didn't come into play as he spent most of the fight engaged with either the Minotaur or the Bloodrager in melee combat. He really needed to buff to be super effective and in this battle never got the opportunity.

Barabrian (Invulnerable Rager): This build was all about offense and DR. Had he been buffed by the Mindchemist as I had planned he would have been an unstoppable force with ridiculous hit points, and crazy damage. As is, he was merely nasty.

Summoner: This was definitely a support character which I added in last to fill some of the party deficiencies. It mainly focused on a non combat eidolon (the table erupted in calls of fear of "Oh god, no. Not Frosty!" when they found out there was an eidolon present - Frosty was my eidolon in Kingmaker). The summoner was not very effective in combat being built around buffs and spent most of the battle using UMD to keep the Monk alive. The eidolon annoyed the wizard a bit but otherwise skulked around the battle unseen doing nothing.

Alchemist (Mindchemist): She was going to use Infusion to pass her extracts to other party members, then use force bombs to knock down the villains or use entanglement bombs to glue people to the floor or bring down flyers. She was meant to stay in the back but got stabbed once and nuked a few times and died before she could do much. I'm not sure if my concept was flawed, I played her poorly, or if she was just unlucky.

So anyway the ritual has passed the 1/4 mark. The villains still have time to gather what they need to complete the midway ritual (a devout follower of Mitra) and the final ritual (a descendant of the Victor).

Friday, December 06, 2013

Banned! And I Complain about the Rogue class

There is currently a thread on the Paizo boards that made me both sad and rather annoyed - to the point I stopped reading it. There are a lot of people out there that I'm glad I don't have to game with. They don't like something so they ban it from all of their games. It isn't necessarily over powered or "broken" or imbalanced or bad flavor. They just don't like it so its banned. These people come across to me as being narrow minded which is a big reason why I have not posted on that thread but rather making a post here.

I play with a pretty open minded group of people. Nothing is banned! Now we do tend to rotate DMs so maybe this helps as well. With that being said  there are some limitations we try to stick to whether they are written or unwritten.

Alignments: This tends to be pretty relaxed in most games but most APs have a certain flavor too them and it doesn't work as well playing evil in a heroic campaign or playing good in an evil one.

3rd party material: The general rule here seems to be let me look it over first and then go for it. It it becomes disruptive you may have to change it. In fact this general rule seems to apply to most things.

Classes: People can play what they want. No one has tried a gunslinger yet but I think that has more to do with lack of interest than anything else.

Flow of the game: Early levels this isn't an issue but after a while combat turns take forever and it can be over 30 minutes between turns. With this in mind we have a gentlemen's agreement in place that tries to keep things moving as fast as possible. Pet classes are frowned upon, summoning multiple creatures is a no-no, wide area long duration spells that involve checks each turn like black tentacles are best avoided. In boss fights it tends to be anything goes, but if someone is summoning 10 creatures every time a bunch of goblins show up they are going to get a lot of dirty looks from the other players. Leadership is usually not a valid option.

Flavor: This is probably the loosest restriction. The DM usually has some idea about how the PCs are going to fit into the campaign and it is is supposed to be very elf-centric and the party are a bunch of random obscure races, its probably not going to work so well. On the same note lots of DMs like to keep the Asian flavor out of Western fantasy (no Ninjas!, although why you can't just call the class something different is beyond me). The monk class is already a bit of an oddball here.

So that's it. I like a nice wide open game with few restrictions. I don't like heavy handed DMs who ban stuff just because they don't like it. If there is an agreement that something has become disruptive then I'm OK with that. Disruption usually comes into play when several factors come together. The Witch class can be OP in a very humanoid-centric campaign but is pretty much useless in an undead-centric campaign. The Witch class should not always be banned just because it is very strong against certain classes of enemies.

A final thing that pisses me off is people that ban classes or archetypes because they are better than another class. "I ban the Vivisectionist archetype for the Alchemist because its is better at sneak attacking than a Rogue". Dude, I hate to break it to you but the Rogue class sucks. Banning something because another class is better is going to get everything but the monk, rogue and fighter banned. And for that matter most of the monk archetypes will be banned because almost all are stronger than the base class.

I'm getting off topic here but I don't see why people are so hung up on class names. "I love being a Rogue". Why? They have terrible saves, sneak attack doesn't work most of the time, they can't hit in melee, they can't do damage at range. Let's see: they have lots of skills, have a cool class name, and trap finding. Why not just take another decent class/archetype that actually does everything a rogue can do but better and call it a Rogue? Archaeologist bard, Trapper ranger, or Crypt breaker alchemist are all very roguish but have a lot more options available to them. Play one of them and call it a Rogue.

Maybe its just me, but why be mediocre in a heroic game? Why do you want to be good at just sneaking and disabling traps, when you can be good at sneaking and disabling traps as well be able to buff the party, throw bombs, and have decent defenses? I just don't know.

Don't give me any BS about role-playing either as the mechanics of your character have a limited at best connection to how you role play them.

And I did spend a campaign playing a Rogue. Even being over the WBL guideline I still was over shadowed in combat by the martial characters and didn't shine especially bright in any other areas of the game.  I optimized like mad to make him an effective combatant and in the end realized that it wasn't worth the trouble. Other roguish classes can have the same flavor and be twice as effective with half the effort. So yes, I've tried to make an awesome rogue. Unless you are playing a very restricted type campaign where everyone is playing a rogue, I can't see any reason to play one.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Way of the Wicked 7

Purcy the rogue was missing tonight so he volunteered to run the rituals while everyone else did stuff.

The night began with the Horn of Abbadon under siege. The new party wizard was out constructing traps around the Horn when he was ambushed and chased off. The mysterious arrivals were not attacking the horn but just those coming or going. There was some debate about whether to ignore the threat or face it and it was decided that facing it was better. Shatog, the Bloodrager lured the attackers out into the open and the battle began. It was a group of 6 barbarian warriors let by some sort of priestess. Although the warriors could hit quite hard they went down quickly to the hasted Bloodrager and Anti-paladin. The priestess fled back into the forest.

The wizard began work on repairing the alchemical golem that was found when first exploring the Horn. He needed some supplies from Farholde and so took a trip into town. He had a chat with the Baron who extended an invitation to the party to his 105 birthday party. After he was met by the White Ravens (the 7th Knot) and was persuaded into taking the cleric Trik back to the Horn for a tour.  He was kept blindfolded but given a tour of the sanctum where the ritual is taking place.

The White Ravens informed the 9th Knot (our villains) that a team of adventures were setting out for the horn and provided a good description of each member as well as where they were expected to go first. The villains laid an ambush for the party and the heroes died quickly. No prisoners were taken.

The next week, late in the night Purcy informed the group of something odd. Through his scrying he had spotted 3 boggards wandering the first level of the complex.He continued to watch and they seemed to be exploring. After a few hours they left. The next night they returned to explore the second level and an ambush was set. The battle went poorly for the intruders. One of the boggards kept slipping and falling on a Grease spell. One was focus-fired down quickly and the third managed to escape. Shatog tried to follow the escapee but fell into the party's own pit trap after missing a jump check and then failing a saving throw. Examination of the bodies indicated that one of the intruders was actually a Lillend and the second was a Moon Dog. The escapee was also likely a Moon Dog since it plane-shifted away after getting outside of the green aura.

I hope everyone had fun because this is only week 6 of approximately 31. Everyone leveled up to 8 and the next waves of heroes, treasure hunters, and monsters are on their way. The next few sessions will largely follow the same format as this one although the enemies will be varied.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Paizo Advanced Class Guide: Preview

I don't know why they don't do these releases via Bittorrent? Instead they crash their website for half the day, losing sales and annoying their fans who want to read the play test.

That bitch aside here are my first impressions of the new classes in the playtest:

Arcanist: It is a full arcane caster so its going to be insanely powerful. It is basically a wizard with delayed (sorcerer) casting but more flexible casting options. Seems pretty solid.

Bloodrager: Barbarian with limited arcane (Magus spells) casting and a bloodline. Loses all Rage powers. Seems solid.

Brawler: An improvement over the vanilla Monk but I'm not convinced we have a winner here. A much sturdier melee combatant and less MAD. I'd like to see one in action.

Hunter: Don't care for it. If you wanted a full power animal companion as a ranger you could get it by spending a couple feats. I'm not a fan of Teamwork feats and that your animal companion shares yours seems to be the big draw here. This class loses the ranger's martial prowess and the druid's 9th level spells and gets Teamwork feats? No thanks.

Investigator: The rogue killer. Seriously why would anyone ever play a rogue ever again? You lose a little bit of sneak attack, 2 skills per level, and evasion. You gain alchemy and a ton of cool tricks that come with it, a bunch of neat poison stuff, Inspiration, and Investigator talents which are at least as good if not better than Rogue talents.

Shaman: Cleric like casting (wisdom, prepared, no delay), blends mysteries with hexes. I'm sure there is stuff in there to love. Seems pretty solid.

Skald: Bardbarian. Seems very niche, more of an archetype for bard then a full blown alternate class. The bestow rage power is cool but would really only benefit large groups with lots of melee fighters. Spell Kenning (cast any arcane spell) give this class great versatility - as long as you are not in a rush.

Slayer: The other reason to never play a rogue again. For people that think rogues should be deadly melee opponents this is the class for you. An unlimited use, more flexible but less powerful Favored enemy, slower sneak attack progression, Ranger saves, Ranger BAB, Rogue talents.

Swashbuckler: I can see what this class is trying to be. It is a decent melee combatant that hits easily but doesn't do much damage. It does, however have a ton of tricks at its disposal, cool tricks but most are limited. I like the flavor, but I'm afraid for most campaigns this guy would be an underachiever, but probably really fun to play.

Warpriest: Hmm, a cleric with crappy casting but nicer weapons and armor. Does get lots of bonus feats but doesn't say anything about being able to choose fighter only feats. Would make a strong archer, but I think for melee combat the cleric is the stronger choice.

So that's my initial impression. I have not tried any builds yet or seen any in play. I rather question the existence of some of them but I'm sure they will find people who will love them (maybe even me). They do render the rogue obsolete and put another nail in the monk's coffin (other than some of the strong monk archetypes, I don't know why you would play one anymore).

I am going to try to squeeze the Skald into an upcoming encounter and I see a spot when I could swap in the Bloodrager. The brawler and Slayer are intriguing and I'm sure I can squeeze them in somewhere. Let's see if they can score some kills this weekend (or if any of the replacement PCs use classes from the playtest).

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Ranking the Paizo Adventure Paths (some spoilers)

Today I'm going to rank the Paizo Adventure Paths (APs). I am including the 3.5 APs but excluding the Dungeon ones (Shackled City, Age of Worms, and Savage Tide). The main criteria is fun to play taking into consideration amount of role playing, interesting combat encounters, cool themes, and great story.

The APs in order or appearance are: Rise of the Runelords, Curse of the Crimson Throne, Second Darkness, Legacy of Fire, Council of Thieves, Kingmaker, Serpent's Skull, Carrion Crown, Jade Regent, Skull and Shackles, Shattered Star, and Reign of Winter. I will admit to being slightly biased towards the earlier ones since I've read them over more and played most of them.

Tier 1 - Over all Great with just a few weak spots
1. Curse of the Crimson Throne. I love the first three parts of this one but part 2 is really the star here. With a group that loves to role play this AP would be amazing. Lots of interesting NPCs, great stories, and some interesting encounters make this one the winner. Part 4 is a bit railroady but still has some great themes and interesting encounters. Part 5 is a massive, very difficult dungeon. Should be very fun. The last part is a bit weaker like most of the final chapters but does a good job of wrapping up the story that really took play in the first three parts. Parts 4 and 5 are really good but don't have the same feel as the other four parts.

2. Kingmaker. A close second. This AP can really be anything you want it to be. It is so modular that it can be expanded with little difficulty incorporating whatever you want. It has an old school feel with the first few parts heavily focused on exploration (hex crawling). The last part was very cool since since it is really just a series of gonzo boss fights tough enough to challenge any party. The only real fault of this one is that the BBEG at the end doesn't really feel connected to the rest of the Path.

3. Rise of the Runelords (Anniversary Edition). This one is great because they got to go back and fix the minor flaws from the first time around. This one has some great roleplay elements, fun combats and great back story that is slowly unveiled over the first few parts. In the last third, things start to go down hill. The dungeon in part 5 is both rather pointless and is so long. Part 6 isn't too bad but we usually have ADD by this point in the campaign and the way its written is very long and drawn out. We played a shorted version of it.

Tier 2 - Good but need some help to be great.
4. Reign of Winter. This AP wasn't really what I was expecting and it won me over as I read through it. This is one of the rare APs that seemed to get stronger as it went along instead of the other way around. Part 5 is down right weird and yet is rather appealing. Who hasn't wondered how high level PCs would do against WW1 troops and tanks?

5. Shattered Star. If you really love dungeons I'm sure you would rate this one higher. Sure the dungeons have very different themes, contain some interesting role playing options but over all it just didn't appeal to me. There is usually at least one part in each AP that is "WOW" and this one really didn't have one. It was just consistently good.

6. Carrion Crown. This one grew on me the more times I read it. The horror themes were fun and I thought the first two parts were quite unique and entertaining (and difficult). Part three was a bit like "Clue" before ending as a zombie movie. I cut this campaign off here because I didn't really care for the second half. Part 4 tries very hard to be Lovecraftian. Plot wise Part 5 makes no sense, and although Part 6 had one super awesome encounter (OK maybe 2) most of the book was rather blah and the BBEG was a pushover.

7. Legacy of Fire. Pugwumpies. That word still sends shivers down my spine. May I never encounter them again. This one had a great theme, lots of fun in the first two parts but kind of lost its way in the middle. Part three was a blatant railroad and then both Parts 4 and 5 involve being trapped in either a pocket dimension or another plane of existence. A bit repetitive and by the time we finished part 5 we were still walking around in same gear we had in part 3.

8. Skull and Shackles. I really wanted to love this one but after Part 1 I found it just fell flat. A DM who loved the material and really put some life into this AP could probably make it great but it definitely needs some love as most of it just seemed rather blah and generic.

Tier 3 - Strong elements but need major re-writes
9. Council of Thieves. They tried to fix the problems of Curse of the Crimson Throne and failed miserably. The first part was largely forgettable as all of the NPCs you meet are then ignored for the rest of the AP. The back story is handed out in bits of pieces but never really comes together. Even after you killed the BBEG you are wondering who the guy was. The best element of this AP was Part 2. It actually comes with a script and the PCs can act out the murder play. For a theatrically inclined group it would be amazing, for a group of dice rollers, not so much.

10. Second Darkness. This one isn't as bad as it seems. Parts 1 and 2 are actually really good. Part 3 is fun but the elves come across as very unlikable. Parts 4 is unique and part 6 was fun with lots of tough boss fights. The big reason people love to hate this AP is part 5 which was a total disaster and needs a complete rewrite. One interesting fix for this AP I saw, is to drop parts 1 and 2 (which didn't really fit with the rest of the AP) and make the PCs Lantern Bearers.

11. Jade Regent. Don't get me wrong I liked the Asian themes but this AP just didn't work for me. Chapters written by James Jacobs are generally great and Part 1s are generally great but I just didn't care for the first part of Jade Regent. The caravan rules are broken, I didn't love the NPCs (even though some are returning from earlier APs), and I didn't love the dungeon. Part 2 didn't really work for me either. I liked the travelling in Part 3. Its rare that the environment plays such a central role in the game. Part 4 started out strong but I didn't like the dungeon that it led to. I heard someone replaced it with the Jade Ruby Tournament which sounds like fun. I love the idea behind Part 5. Rally different factions into rebellion against the Jade Regent but I was not thrilled with its execution. It could easily be expanded and made more awesome.

12. Serpents Skull. Part One is one of the stronger adventures out there and darn near perfect. Part 2 is fun if you play up the different faction rivalries but Part 3 is a big mess like Part 5 of Second Darkness. There were so many things they could have done with Saventh-Yi and what we got was kill 60 Mobs to pacify this part of the city. Thanks. Part 4 was only OK except for the Gorilla King which I thought was a excellent encounter. Parts 5 and 6 mainly involved trips down into the Darklands to kill snakemen. Yawn. Now the end boss of this AP is great. He is a tough mofo and should challenge any party. The best part is that should the PCs be good enough to defeat him, an avatar of his god emerges and they have to fight that too. It is just as tough as the BBEG if not stronger. I've started this campaign twice but never made it to the end which is a shame since this would be an epic fight.

So there you have it. The above list is just a snap shot of how I feeling at this moment and if you ask me to do this again in a week I'd probably move a few of these around. Any feedback is welcome.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Empower Spell is now way better than Maximize

Empower Spell: If I use Empower Spell on a spell that has a die roll with a numerical bonus (such as cure moderate wounds), does the feat affect the numerical bonus?

Yes. For example, if you empower cure moderate wounds, the +50% from the feat applies to the 2d8 and to the level-based bonus.
—Sean K Reynolds, 

Monday, November 11, 2013

Way of the Wicked 6

This episode began with our villains continuing to search the caverns beneath the Horn of Abbadon. The first order of business was to track down where the boggards escaped to at the end of the last session. A search of mainly empty tunnels eventually lead to the discovery of the boggards main encampment. There the shaman, who was pleased that the Knot killed off the tribe's champion (and his main political opponent), issued a prophecy that the villains would return the Horn to greatness in honor of "the Father". He promised them the support of the boggard tribe as it was now firmly under his control and sent them off with a warning  that the blue wall was important. Rather than wander aimlessly, the villains requested that a froglok, err boggard take them there. Happy to see the villains go, the shaman sent two boggards to escort them to the blue wall.

It turns out the blue wall was a harmless slime mold. After some searching about a small tunnel was found in the rock. It ran deep and was too small for even the gnome to squeeze into. After a bunch of Stone Shape spells, the tunnel was widened enough for everyone save the burly guys to squeeze through. Inside the Knot found the remains of one of the cultists and the results of his clever but foiled plan. The large tome that the cultist had written contained the ritual required to resummon Vetra Kali Eats-the-Eyes as well as one of the Eyes. The ritual itself is fairly simple. It requires 3 prayers a day for 222 days - sunrise, sunset and midnight, and a sacrifice to begin, one in the middle and one to finish.

Towards the end of their search of the caverns, a secret door was found that lead up through the complex past two Ceustodaemons that allowed them to pass after being told of the villain's purpose. They searched the Sanctum and examined both the evil alter as well as the holy artifact protecting it.

A second search of the third floor revealed the treasure room and Ezra Thrice-Damned, a former cultist and now a Dreadwraith. It turned over the third eye to the villains in exchange for their promise to resummon his master.

The Knot broke their seal and Tiadora appeared a few minutes later. They gave her a status update and she almost seemed impressed. She reminded them the master has limited patience and they should begin the ritual as soon as possible. She also reminded them to work with the 7th Knot (the White Ravens), to keep the ritual from being disturbed.

Thinking they'd have some time to get things in order, they began the ritual by offering the first sacrifice - the de-petrified cultist. His heart continued to beat on the alter (Temple of Doom style) after being removed. Any plans of completing the ritual stealthily went out the window when the horn erupted in a green energy field sending a blast into sky visible for hundreds of miles in every direction as the ritual began.

Now the villains scramble to prepare the defenses against the coming onslaught of do-gooders and treasure seekers (after all it is known that the Victor never found the cult's treasure room). A quick trip into Farholde was made to procure some supplies while Purcy continued the ritual back at the Horn. The Anti-Paladin began recruiting minions, while the others worked with the Baron to get some of the things including magic they'd need to defend their new dungeon. A plan was worked out with the White Ravens to send a rider to the horn whenever their was news. Secrecy was no longer a top priority as the horn was now a giant glowing green beacon.

The trip back proved to be perilous. Jurak was an old Treant. Eighty years early he had tried to work against the cultists but had managed only small victories. When the Victor destroyed the cult, the Treant regretted not being able to have done more to stop them. The Victor charged Jurak with preventing evil from returning to the Horn and for 80 years he had been fairly successful (one of the reasons the dungeon was so empty). Now Jurak realized that an evil had slipped in under his gaze and he decided to do something about it. He watched our villains depart from the Horn and laid an ambush for their return.

The villains walked right into it. Jurak and his animated trees laid waste to the party killing 60% of their number before finally being defeated. Now the villains have to recruit some replacements because heroes are coming to stop their evil ways and won't be giving up until the ritual is complete or they are successful.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Pathfinder Bestiary 4 ramps up the hurt

Bestiary 4 for Pathfinder is now on store shelves and there are some seriously powerful monsters in it. Up to now, the mighty tarrasque (CR 25) was top of the heap as far as monsters go. However, B4 introduces no less than twelve new monsters with higher CRs. Most of these epic horrors come from three groups; demon lords, kaiju and great old ones. Some familiar names return among the ranks of the demon lords, notably Pazuzu (CR 30) and Kostchtchie (CR 26). Sadly, the kaiju do not include names like Godzilla or King Ghidorah, although Mogaru (CR 28) and Agyra (CR 27) serve as approximations of those classic Japanese monsters. Finally, the great old ones derive, of course, from the Mythos and yes, Cthulhu (CR 30) is among them, as is my personal favourite, Hastur (CR 29), the King in Yellow.

Speaking of the Mythos, they have really gone all out this time including Lovecraftian horrors in B4. Besides the great old ones, the bhole (aka dhole), colour out of space, elder thing, flying polyp, mi-go, nightgaunt, spawn of Yog-Sothoth and star-spawn of Cthulhu all make an appearance.

One notable change in B4 is the introduction of mythic rank. Though only a small number of monsters (and not any of the really powerful ones) have one, the mythic rank (MR) is included for use with the new Mythic Adventures rules. I don't own this book so I can't say much more about it other than to note its inclusion. Overall, it's worth a look, especially if you like really high-powered campaigns.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Way of the Wicked 5

This session was almost completely opposite of the last one. Where as last week it was almost all fighting the entire session, this one had much more roleplaying and exploration with only 2 short battles and they only occured near the end.

Our party of villains boarded a barge with Tiadora and set off for the distance town of Farholde, Taligarde's most remote outpost. It was a three week journey and at the end they were visited by Cardinal Thorn who informed them that Sakkarot's bugbear army had fought three successful battles sacked two towns and another border keep. Eventually the great cities of the south would gather their armies and march north crushing the Sakkarot unless more was done to help.

The Seventh Knot had initially been sent to Farhold to claim a highly virulent disease that had been created by a death cult that one of the Darkarian kings had wiped out 80 years ago. The seventh knot had located the Horn of Abbadon (the death cult's hangout) but had failed to report in afterwards. Since one knot had failed to retrieve the Tears of Achlys (the nasty disease), two would be sent this time. Our villains would be in charge or retrieving the Tears, while the second team would stay in Farholde and provide cover for the operation. Unfortunately, the second team is the White Ravens, who are villains met back at the manor after escaping the prison and the two groups do not get along especially well.

The villains met with the local half-elf Baron who hates the current monarchy and is a former Asmodeous worshiper but fears being on the losing side. The gnome is quite convincing and the Baron agrees to help them. Next they track down a map of the location of the Horn which was still in the leader of the 5th knot's room at an Inn. After some school yard type taunting the next morning with the White Raven, our villains set off into the wilds to find the Horn.

They get quite lucky and find it quickly thanks to the map. They find an entry way on one of the upper levels and begin to explore. They quickly realize that when Darkarian I the Victorious slew the cult 80 years earlier he really trashed the place.Signs of battle were everywhere, murals defaced, libraries burned, very few signs were left of the original cult.

A few things were found however: some old notes written in a language they could not understand, and more importantly they were able to de-petrify one of the former death cultists. Learning that the villains wished to re-summon the cult's patron daemon Vetra Kali Eats-the-Eyes, he has agreed to help them.

Knowing that they were still missing something, everyone went down into the caverns beneath the Horn. A few Boggards were spotted and one tried to kill the villains.  His two companions escaped.

And that is where we ended for the evening. The villains know that there is an artifact which prevents Vetra Kali's return but as of yet have been unable to find it. The death cultist thinks that the entrance to the Sanctum may be found in the caves below. We shall see.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Way of the Wicked 4

Sakkarot's bugbear horde was assembled and ready to attack they just needed the signal to invade. Our villains were feeling confident that they were ready to go and so put in place one last plan to confuse the defenders. Disguising themselves as orcs, they began to burn the poor section of Aldencross. As panic and chaos set in, they raced back to the inn and set it on fire as well. Slipping out of their disguises they entered the secret tunnel hidden in the basement of the inn that connected to the old storage room in Balentyne Keep. Their first target was the wizard who was known to live in the tower. Discovering that the storage room is in the basement of a tower they proceeded to climb to the top and we disappointed to find that they had entered the rookery and not the wizard's lab. Guards were quietly dispatched and the raven keeper was dispatched before he even realized what was happening.

Looking around, the only other tall structure was the Keep's central structure. They flew over to the roof but were spotted by the guards who managed to sound an alarm before being slain. Further alerts were heard as the villains open the trap door of the roof and descended a floor. They quickly found a meeting room and a large chest. Knowing that the clock was ticking Purcy the rogue did a quick check of the chest before trying to open it. He succeeded in opening it but got zapped in the process by a trap and another alarm sounded.

30 seconds later other door in the room opened and a dour looking man in full plate opened the door. Proclaiming that he was going to end their evil once and forever he declared he was smiting the Fighter, Cleric, and Witch. Our villains started to take a pounding but a poor roll on the part of the paladin had him rolling on the floor laughing uncontrollably. Then he was crawling around in Grease unable to stand up. By the time he was back on his feet ready to continue his whooping of the PCs he was just about dead even though he was healing himself every round.

With the keep's paladin commander dead, the villains tried to make it down to the main floor, no longer so concerned about the wizard. They were assaulted twice a choke points by the remaining guard captains and their men but each time our villains triumphed. By the time they exited to the keep's ground only a handful of the keep's defenders remained. Outside an aerial battle took place as the wizard finally showed himself as he rained down Fireballs and IceStorms. Not expecting the skinny witch to be a melee threat, the wizard let her get close and she wrapped him up in her hair and squeezed him until he died.

From here the villains sabotaged the gate house defenses and opened the portcullis. Lastly they fought off the dwarven engineers that had heard the calls and come to help defend the Keep. Alas, for them it was too late and they suffered the fate of the soldiers before them.

Satisfied that their work was complete, they broke the seal that notified Cardinal thorn of their success and sat back and watched the carnage and the bugbears poured through and began to loot and pillage. Tiadora arrived with their reward and instructed to board a boat that will soon arrive that will take them to their next adventure.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Smartest Orc in the World

I love fiddling around with character builds. Sometimes I come up with a concept and then try and find the most optimal way of achieving the concept and other times I start with a class and look at different ways it can be great.

Most of my current favorite builds are pretty conventional. The human Invulnerable Rager Beast Totem Superstitious barbarian that has an insane amount of HP, and uses Come and Get Me to counter attack enemies into bloody pulps. I tried this one but he died at level 4 when I rolled a 1 on a will save. Its a rather one dimensional character so I haven't had a lot of incentive to try him again

The Inquisitor is a class that I've been tweaking lately. I have two builds I like here. The Intimidator is a melee specialist that uses large weapons and Cornugan Smash to Intimidate his foes. I played this build at level 6 on a one shot adventure and it was quite fun. Lots of combat and non combat options but the build is a bit MAD and having only a moderate AC is a problem. With all of the Inquisitors set damage bonuses a Two Weapon build should be viable but they just don't get enough feats for it to be really effective.

The archer build works a bit better mechanically. Con is not quite so critical if you are not in the thick of things. Pathfinder archer builds tend to be ridiculously strong anyway and this build starts a little slow but will eventually outperform Ranger archers once high level inquisitor spells come into play. A round of buffing is required for the Inquisitor to be at its best. Multiclass in one level of rogue and you have a great rogue replacement with trapfinding.

The alchemist is an interesting class. It has rather diverse class features that don't really synergize but still complement each other. I've played around with strong melee builds, bomber builds, but then I started looking at  a buffer/controller alchemist build. The idea here is to get you Int as high as possible and use the modified bombs to do knockdowns, stagger, or entangle. The DCs can get crazy high especially if you are using a Cognatogen (Mutagen variant). Because you can target different saves most of the time you can find the right tool for the job. Play a half orc for the extra bomb damage. You would have many more skills than a wizard, and good AE damage when you need it (with touch attacks so not likely to miss). The best part is the ability to hand out buffs using Infusions. You fighter buddy will love you when you hand him a Giant Form 1 Infusion he can drink just before a big battle.

I picture this character rather Beast like (the character from X-Men). He adventures in a lab coat, wears spectacles and he's a half-orc. He knows the answer to any knowledge question, buffs up his pals, and uses his bombs to entangle flying dragons, stagger opponents with multiple attacks, and knockdown enemy casters. Not a dominating character but useful in many different situations.

I tried to talk one of my players into playing something like this but they went rogue instead so that means that they now get to face him as an opponent. That is one advantage of being the DM, I get to throw of all my favorite character builds at the PCs and see how well they perform in combat. I think my 20th level archer Inquisitor will wipe the party but that encounter is still far far into the future. I expect the PCs to meet my first customized adventuring party sometime around Christmas. They need more time to mature as Dreadlords before I start throwing my optimized enemies at them.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Way of the Wicked 3

Our band of Villains have arrived in Aldencross. They set out to scout out the watch tower. The keep is about half a mile from town and defends an old dwarven bridge spanning the river. 100m around the keep was cleared of forest but otherwise the area was lightly forested.

They spent the first few days relaxing, replacing gear, and trying to get a feel for the town and its occupants. The local inn, The Lord's Dalliance, is the place to be with many of the off duty soldiers coming here to drink as well as some of the watch captains. The party dwarf made friends with the engineers working on the keep and gained some intelligence that led the catfolk rogue to steal a copy of the blue prints. The others schmoozed with the soldiers getting a feel for the garrison's strength.

The villains began a campaign of assassinating the military leadership.  The scouts were ambushed at a farm and the captain and a couple of the scouts were killed. Another captain was killed while meeting with his lover in the town. The keep's head priest was ambushed in town before he could conduct the service one morning.

The remaining leadership in the keep are aware something is not right. Nothing is entering or leaving the keep without being closely scrutinized. The villains are keeping their heads low and have come to realize there will be no more ambushes. However, they have one remaining ace up their sleeves. While slinking around the inn late at night the rogue witnessed a secret door being opened. A bit of investigation indicated that it lead into the storage room of the keep.

The time has come. The bugbear horde should now be in position. The villains have 2 weeks to throw open the gates of the keep to the horde and weaken the defenders sufficiently so that the bugbears can win. Why wait longer than necessary? Everyone is ready to go all they need now is one last plan.

Friday, October 04, 2013

Way of the Wicked 2

So last time saw our band venture into the dungeon beneath Cardinal Thorn's manor in search of a silver and sapphire pendant "you'll know it when you see it". Each room offered a lesson on Asmodean theology and were filled with traps, or nasty critters. The PCs struggled through each room wondering what each lesson really meant. Eventually they made it to the final room and found an imprisoned Knight of Alerion. It was a tough battle but our villains managed to triumph over the lone knight and take his silver sapphire pendent - his order's holy symbol.

Pleased with their success, Cardinal Thorn inducted the group as his Ninth Knot during a ritual with devil blood and a sacrifice. We then queued up a training montage while everyone leveled up to 3.

The next mission involved a trip to the north smuggling weapons to a bugbear chieftain on a pirate vessel. The weapons were delivered and the group learned that the bugbear leader Sakkarot was also involved with Cardinal Thorn. The bugbear informed them that they had it would take him another 2 weeks to get his horde assembled and ready to move and he could hold them together for 2 weeks - another longer and they would begin to desert. A huge feast was thrown and the next morning the villains were to depart. Their orders were to kill the pirate captain and all of his crew after being dropped off on the south side of sea, but fearing a double cross the villains attacked the captain before they even set sail. The captain went down quickly but not before a critical hit would explode the goblin into a dozen pieces. The rest of the crew surrendered and the journey across the lake was quiet. As they reached the shore, the rest of the crew was mercilessly slaughtered and the ship set afire and sunk.

As the sun rose, our band of villains entered the town of Aldencross disguised. They would have up to 4 weeks to throw open the gates of the fortress of Balentyne to the horde and set Talingarde aflame!

*this update is a bit late as we played 2 weeks ago.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The measure of a man

The running joke is that the internet is all porn and cat pictures and it's true that fake breasts and cute felines with a craving for cheezburgers certainly consume a disproportionate amount of the world's bandwidth. However, I think there is a third pillar of the internet that is growing in strength everyday, that is, manliness. Massive bacon consumption, a killer porn 'stache and hero-worship of Ron Swanson are apparently the true measures of a man these days. Well balderdash, I say! (Crap, my monocle fell out...hold on). Let me tell you young whippersnappers what you require in order to be a man. Oh, and by the way, these guidelines are not limited to men, they will serve women well too.

1. Have a working knowledge of history: Now put down that smartphone and don't even think of consulting Wikipedia. No one says you need to know what year the Second Punic War started, but understanding many of the problems we face today requires knowing the history of those problems. How can you understand the conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians if you've never heard of the Balfour Declaration? As George Santayana, a famous Spanish-American philosopher said "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it".

2. Have a working knowledge of politics: Every adult should know the orientations of major political parties in his or her country. You should know what socialism and capitalism actually are, beyond the slogans you see on bumper stickers and T-shirts. If a politician is described as progressive or conservative, liberal or centrist, you should be able to guess what said politician's opinion will be on most major issues of the day. You should have opinions of your own and you should be able to defend them. You should vote. It matters.

3. Know how to do things: Change a tire or a light fixture, make your own beer or grow your own tomatoes, go hunting or fishing, own some tools and know how to use them. Be as self-sufficient as you can be, you never know when it may save your life.

4. Fulfil your obligations: Everyone has obligations, to your society, to your employer and most importantly, to your loved ones. Be the man everyone needs you to be. Get your lazy butt out of bed and do what needs doing. Be engaged. There are probably people who depend on you. There are certainly people who care about you. Put down the game controller and go help your wife with the housework or your kid with her homework. Invite your parents over and cook them a meal. Go shovel the driveway for your elderly neighbour. Pay your debts.

5. Be respectful: A real man does not insult or belittle others. He doesn't misuse other people's property or use threats of violence (but see below). When a woman says no, a real man accepts it. Oh, and if you disrespect my daughters I will crush you like a bug!


Sunday, September 08, 2013

Way of the Wicked: 1

I think this is going to be a very deadly campaign judging by the carnage present in session 1. First level characters are not known for their durability and I initially underestimated the added difficulty that would arise from being unarmed and unarmored. At least there were no pugwumpies. Session one started with 6 of the nastiest known criminals in the kingdom being sentenced to death in an inescapable prison.

Fortunately for the players the prison no longer lives up to its famous reputation. The present warden is uninterested in running the prison and basically spends all of his time staying in his tower doing magical research and leaves the daily running of the prison the the corrupt guard sergeant. The sergeant has let go a number of guards and just pockets their earnings now, he also runs a nightly rigged poker game that keeps half the guards away from their regular posts and a number of the guards drunk.

The second factor is a mysterious visitor who claims to know the Anti-paladin (he's never seen her before), she manages to get him alone and smuggles a magic object to him. Using that item (similar to a cloak of many things), the PCs manage to escape their bindings, and open their cell. After a short debate, they decide to spring the imprisoned Ogre after the Gnome sorcerer gets the Ogre's agreement to help them escape. Unfortunately the Ogre was drugged and seriously injured and with a lack of party healing capabilities the Ogre would go untreated.

The first part of the escape went fairly smoothly. The first few guards were quickly disabled and the prison seemed unusually empty as the criminals focused on escape rather than exploring, stopping only long enough to loot the guards of their weapons and armor as they made their way to freedom. The goblin rogue slipped out the doors and scouted around the main prison building noting the high walls. After spotting and being spotted by the dogs, the goblin slipped back inside where his companions were waiting. What followed what a mad dash for the gatehouse and what they hoped was freedom on the other side. Half of the party stopped to fight the guards that went to investigate while the rest  headed for the door. The guards got initiative and things began to go downhill fast. The signal horn was blown and within a few rounds reinforcements began to arrive.

A hole was made in the door and parts of the party climbed through into the gatehouse. The guards here were again disabled by the sorcerer but their companions in the connecting rooms used the arrow slits to poke holes in our anti-heroes. Back in the courtyard, the wizard  was unconscious and bleeding profusely from 2 lucky arrows, and the dwarven fighter opened the gatehouse door so the Ogre could escape as well.
The wizard would expire in the ogre's arms but was none the less carried through the gatehouse down the road and across the bridge that led to freedom.

This was not the end however as the bridge itself was fortified and the gate on the land side was blocked and defended. Several of the villains had an "every man for himself'" attitude and there was no real strategy on how to pass the gate. In the end the wizard died, the fighter and paladin were knocked unconscious and recaptured and the Ogre, who was never in good health to begin with, was killed as he attempted to scale the gate.

The heroes made it to the manor house of the mysterious benefactor, and were united with heroes that strongly resembled those that had just died or been recaptured. Everyone got 200gp to buy some equipment and three days to relax and recover from their escape. They learned they were not the only adventurers in the manor and did a bit of recon on the "White Ravens". Next their training was to begin but first they had to go into the dungeon under the manor and retrieve a silver and emerald amulet and return it to the Cardinal to prove they were worthy.

Things were not off to a good start but hopefully level 2 and two weeks to get a feel for their new PCs will have things running smoother when we play again in two weeks. I think everyone is still used to being level 17, reality bending super heroes from the end of the last campaign.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Rise of the Runelords - The End

After just over a year of playing, Rise of the Runelords has come to a close. I think Rognar's wizard was the only original PC to make it through the campaign. My bardadin managed to survive from about level 5 on without dying at all (a feat no other PC can claim). There were definitely parts of this campaign that were a bit of a meat grinder. C seemed to come with a new PC every second week.

We were all experiencing high level campaign fatigue towards the end so the DM chopped off 90% of the final book and we just fought 3 ridiculously tough battles to end things off. J's cleric came to the party rescue many times pulling people back from the brink of death and some times even after they'd passed over.

Karzoug is no push over and in the surprise round downed 60% of the party before we even had a chance to act. We threw everything we had at him and in the end it was C's latest archer PC that finished him off.

RotRL was a fun campaign but started to drag a bit as you get into Runeforge. The place is a huge dungeon and it just seemed to drag on a bit as most of the fights are against wizards and its not until near the end that you figure out what you are even there to do.

Next up I get to assume the mantle of DM, and kick off the new campaign - Way of the Wicked. Yes, its an evil campaign and will hopefully be a lot of fun.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

A day at the range

My buddy J and I have a minor obsession for all things WWII. We used to be hardcore Axis & Allies Miniatures players until circumstances prevented our lunch hour skirmishes. Just as well I suppose, he usually seemed to find a way to win. Anyway, we also like guns, especially WWII-era combat rifles. This weekend, we took our rifles out to the range and fired off a few boxes of cartridges. We brought along another buddy, E, who had almost no previous firearms experience. However, years of first-person shooters have served him well as he handled himself admirably. Here are some pics:

My two Lee-Enfields, a No.4 and a No.5 "jungle carbine"

Here is J firing the carbine

J has a M-1 Garand bored for 7.62mm. Here is E firing it. Notice the ejected shell casing near the top of the picture

Finally, here is yours truly having a go with the M-1

Good times.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Pathfinder - Mythic Adventures

I'm still digging through this book so this is more of a first impression than a detailed review.

This looks like Pathfinder turned up to 11. The first thing that strikes me is how much offense has been ramped up. With only a couple mythic tiers damage is easily going to increase by 50% for non casters and will probably double or triple as you get into the higher tiers. Archers take on a new level of scariness as the  get even more arrows per round and the damage bonus from deadly aim goes up by 50%. It is easy to push spell DCs up through the roof as well. I'm still trying to figure out how Mythic Vital Strike works. Depending on how you would calculate the new damage I can see this doing a lot of one hit kills. Why bother with iterative attacks if you can hit once and do as much damage as swinging 4 times?

In terms of defense there doesn't seem to be as much unless you are taking one of the mythic defensive paths. There are a few ways to boost saves (but quite a few rays to get re-rolls), and I saw what looked like quite a few AC boosters. Still lit seems to me that the scales have tiled towards offense even more so with mythic. It's Rocket Tag taken to the new levels.

The first half of the book is all of the PC mythic stuff which has not changed to significantly from the beta test. There is a short section on magic items and artifacts, a section on monsters and then a sample mythic adventure taking up a good chunk of the end of the book.

Over all, this looks like a fun system which allows the PCs to do some wild and crazy stuff. As long as you like your Pathinfer big and bold this is the place to be.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Anyone know of a Skylanders RPG?

If you're the parent of kids in the 5-10 year age cohort, chances are you have heard of Skylanders. If you have kids like mine, every conversation you have with them quickly turns to Skylanders. Before they will tell me if they want cereal or waffles for breakfast, I have to decide if I prefer Drobot or Flashwing (Drobot, of course). For the uninitiated, Skylanders is a toy line and a video game all in one. It includes a line of collectible figures, not surprisingly known as the Skylanders, divided up into eight elements: Earth, Air, Water, Fire, Life, Undead, Magic and Tech. Within each element are several characters, some are elementals, some are robots, there are also elves, dragons, undead creatures and anthropomorphic animals, and a few that simply defy easy description. The really clever part is that each figure has a radio frequency identification chip embedded in the base. When the figure is placed on a device called a portal, which is available for both Sony Playstation and Xbox, it becomes the character in the game.

The game setting is a world called the Skylands (what can I say, it's a kid's game), where towns and villages float in the air high above some unknown land below. Airships fly from one skyland to another, which are populated by a race of anthropomorphic animals known as the Mabu. There is also a wide variety of bad guys including the lowly (but annoying) Chompies, Drow (rhymes with snow), various troll-like things and Arkeyan robots. The Arkeyans were a race of evil robots than conquered and enslaved the Mabu 10,000 years ago. Although the giant Arkeyan robots were defeated (by the original Skylanders) and locked away in the Lost City of Arkus, many of the lesser Arkeyan robots remained scattered throughout the Skylands. There's a lot of potentially good stuff in there for a role-playing game, but it doesn't get developed much in the third-person shooter game. As my kids are getting close to the age at which they could handle a tabletop game, I'm curious if anyone is aware of any attempt to design a Skylanders tabletop rpg. Given the wide range of abilities displayed by the various characters, I would guess the best system would be some sort of superheroes game. Anyone know of an supers system that elementary school kids could handle?


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Think positive

As my family can attest, I am not exactly the life of the party a lot of the time. Being something of an introvert with, as Melville would describe it, a bit of "damp, drizzly November in my soul", I tend to steer clear of internet negativity whenever I can. There's enough ugliness in the real world, without having to crawl around in the fetid swamp of trolling and nerd rage that occupies so much of the internet. Longtime readers might notice, for example, that I never give anything a bad review, be it a book, game or movie. That's not because I like everything I see, it's just because if I don't like something, I don't bother to write about it. I don't feel as though I have anything to say. I used to have a political blog which I eventually purged from the internet because I was finding it so hard to find anything positive to say. Politicians, even ones I admire or agree with on many issues, always seem to find a way to disappoint me. Being a father, I want to be optimistic about the future. I want to believe things will be better (or at least just as good) for my kids as they were for me. I've talked about this a bit in my "bright future" blog posts. Happily, I'm not alone in my desire to see more optimism and positivity in the world of geekdom. Two personal initiatives in particular have come to my attention from prominent members of sci-fi/fantasy/gamer community, Sarah Hoyt's "human wave" movement and Monte Cook's "A+ campaign". I'd also give honourable mention to Wheaton's law, but I prefer not to scold (an assertion my kids might contest). I'm not really going anywhere with this other than to bring attention to these laudable efforts from two talented writers. Now I just have to find the time to read Darkship Renegades.

Oh, and Numenera looks awesome.


Thursday, August 01, 2013

Red Aegis looks awesome

What do you get when you combine the tabletop rpg aspects of D&D with the empire-building of Sid Meier's Civilization? Red Aegis by Vorpal Games. There have been games in the past, notably Pendragon, originally published by Chaosium, that have allowed for dynastic play. Players could play a character throughout his or her life, then go on to play a scion of the original character. It was an interesting concept and pretty well-executed, but the game itself had limited appeal. Red Aegis, which is currently in the process of a successful Kickstarter campaign, is much more ambitious, Rather than playing several generations of a single family, the players take on bloodlines which rule empires for millennia. I cannot express how stoked I am for this project. My two favourite types of games, tabletop rpgs and turn-based computer strategy games fused into one...
Read more at io9.


Oh, one more will be compatible with Pathfinder.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Book of Quests for RQ6

I recently picked up Book of Quests, a set of adventures published by The Design Mechanism, for RuneQuest 6. The book is softcover, 224 pgs. in length. It contains seven scenarios, including the introductory adventure, "The Caravan" which is available for free download from their website. Although designed for use with the RQ6 ruleset, Book of Quests is not set in Glorantha (although no doubt, it could be with minor adjustments). The genre is strongly sword-and-sorcery, which is also a clear departure from the Gloranthan norm. Magic is rare and sorcery, in particular, is almost unheard of by most people and greatly feared by those who do know of it. Hence, the common thread in the seven scenarios involves the rise of an evil sorcerer named Jedakiah. Acting behind the scenes, the sorcererous villain directs his barbarian allies to cause considerable problems for a civilized land known simply as The Realm. Throughout the series, the PCs slowly learn of Jedakiah's schemes and of dark secrets long forgotten.

In the end, of course, only they can thwart his evil machinations. The book seems to be well-written, with an excellent index (unusual for a book of adventures) and a decent amount of cultural background info, such that the setting can be fleshed out for further use. Of course, the final word can only be written through gameplay.


Monday, July 29, 2013

Runelords update

Rise of the Runelords is coming to a close. We finished off Book 5, gained 2 levels and jumped to near the ending of Book 6. Most of the session consisted of 2 fights. The first against 2 golems and the next was against a bunch of super storm giants and a high level fighter. Both were very tough.

As a party we tend to approach combat the same way just about every time. Unleash massive amounts of damage and kill them before they kill us. There isn't usually much battlefield control. When facing opponents that out gun you, there are going to be problems. And we had a lot.

Our biggest problem with the first battle is that we were largely unbuffed to start. There was lots of scurrying around trying to get the basic buffs to start. Things were further complicated by one of the golems grappling a party member. The other one pretty much would always auto-hit and inflict 50+ damage so no one really wanted to stand near it. It was a mad, chaotic fight but we managed to win with no casualties although the cleric had some work to do at the end of the fight.

The second fight was much harder. We quickly discovered that the squishier party members would probably die if they got hit with a full round attack so this battle was largely about positioning. The wizard flew around dodging statues being throw at him by a giant before getting grappled in mid-air by the fighter. The archer ran around trying to snipe the giants and not get killed. The palabard was running around invisible trying to kill the giants and not get smooshed. The rogue got caught in a bad spot and got pounded by 2 giants. He died not once but three times as the cleric kept using reach spells to heal him and bring him back. The last hit pushed the rogue so far into the negative that he was beyond clerical healing. The archer was also caught by one of the giants and did not survive the battle. If this is a sign of things to come, I think we are in trouble.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Snap Shot

I was looking at feats last night and I took a closer look at this one. Snap Shot basically allows an archer to make attacks of opportunity with a bow. That sounds pretty good until you look at the the Improved Snap Shot feat. This adds 10' onto the 5' that you threaten with Snap Shot giving you a total threat range of 15'. That's huge!  One more feat line that makes archers very, very scary.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Pity me, for I am weak

I have never read any of The Song of Ice and Fire series, nor do I watch A Game of Thrones. I have great respect for what George R.R. Martin is doing and I have no doubt the books are the modern classics his fans believe them to be. However, I have always been a little intimidated by the series with its bewildering number of characters and off-balancing attrition of protagonists. Still, I always thought I would eventually get around to reading them, perhaps when my kids were a little older. I'm not so sure about that anymore. I've never been much for excessive violence. The cartoonish violence of Friday the 13th or Conan the Barbarian is fine. The sanitized violence of the old war movies is fine. But the visceral, hateful violence we often call torture porn these days, I just have no stomach for it. The response I have seen on the internet lately over the so-called "red wedding" scene in A Game of Thrones leads me to believe that I probably wouldn't enjoy it. It all sounds a bit too nihilistic for my tastes. From what I can determine, the most honourable characters in the series are all destined to suffer a horrific fate, while the schemers and betrayers are rewarded for their treachery. This may be reflective of reality, but it doesn't make for a particularly satisfying reading experience. Am I missing something or am I just out-of-touch with today's fashion?


Monday, June 10, 2013

Anatomy of a PC: The Battle Bard

I am a power gamer. I do not like my characters to die so I do not like to have any critical weaknesses in my character builds. I like them to excel in at least one area and be competent in a few others. He struggled a bit in the early levels but has matured nicely and it now a corner stone of the party. So here is my current PC:

Male Human (Keleshite) Bard (Dawnflower Dervish) 12 Paladin 2
LG Medium Humanoid (human)
Init +11; Senses Perception +16
AC 28, touch 19, flat-footed 20 (+9 armor, +7 Dex, +1 deflection, +1 dodge)
hp 148 (2d10+12d8+73)
Fort +18, Ref +22, Will +17; +4 vs. bardic performance, sonic, and language-dependant effects
Speed 30 ft.
Melee +3 Scimitar +21/+16/+11 (1d6+10/15-20/x2)
Ranged Shortbow, Comp. (Str +1) +18/+13/+8 (1d6+1/x3)
Special Attacks bardic performance (move action) (31 rounds/day), bardic performance: countersong, bardic performance: distraction, bardic performance: fascinate (4 targets) (dc 21), bardic performance: inspire competence +4, bardic performance: inspire courage +3, bardic performance: inspire greatness (2 allies), bardic performance: soothing performance, bardic performance: suggestion (dc 21), battle dance: inspire courage +6, battle dance: inspire greatness, smite evil (1/day)
Spell-Like Abilities Detect Evil (At will)
Bard (Dawnflower Dervish) Spells Known (CL 14):
4 (4/day) Invisibility, Greater, Dimension Door, Freedom of Movement, Echolocation
3 (5/day) Haste, Glibness, Slow (DC 18), Displacement, Dispel Magic, Good Hope, Terrible Remorse (DC 19)
2 (6/day) Delay Poison, Glitterdust, Tongues, Heroism, Mirror Image, Silence (DC 17), Bladed Dash, Versatile Weapon (DC 17)
1 (7/day) Silent Image (DC 16), Grease (DC 16), Disguise Self, Cure Light Wounds, Feather Fall (DC 16), Saving Finale (DC 16), Vanish, Vocal Alteration (DC 16), Windy Escape
0 (at will) Mage Hand, Know Direction, Read Magic, Prestidigitation (DC 15), Detect Magic, Light
Paladin Spells Prepared (CL 0):
Str 13, Dex 25, Con 18, Int 10, Wis 8, Cha 20
Base Atk +11; CMB +12; CMD 31
Feats Arcane Strike, Dervish Dance, Dodge, Improved Critical (Scimitar), Improved Initiative, Power Attack -3/+6, Skill Focus (Perform [oratory]), Toughness +14, Weapon Finesse
Traits Eager Performer (Perform [oratory], Terrible Remorse), Magical Knack (Bard [Dawnflower Dervish])
Skills Acrobatics +25, Bluff +25, Climb -1, Diplomacy +32, Disable Device +3, Disguise +25, Escape Artist +5, Fly +25, Handle Animal +8, Intimidate +8, Knowledge (local) +7, Linguistics +6, Perception +16, Perform (act) +25, Perform (dance) +25, Perform (oratory) +32, Ride +5, Sense Motive +32, Sleight of Hand +5, Stealth +5, Swim -1, Use Magic Device +24
Languages Common, Giant, Kelish, Orc, Thassilonian
SQ aura of good, battle dance (swift action), jack of all trades: trained skills, lay on hands (1d6) (6/day), mediative whirl (3/day), spinning spellcaster, versatile performance abilities (acting, dance, oratory), well versed
Combat Gear Potion of cure light wounds, Potion of gaseous form, Potion of protection from evil, Potion of remove blindness/deafness, Potion of remove paralysis, Potion of restoration, lesser, Wand of Barkskin (CL 12), Wand of Cure Light Wounds; Other Gear Celestial armor, +3 Scimitar, Shortbow, Comp. (Str +1), Bag of holding II (empty), Belt of physical might (Dex & Con +4), Circlet of persuasion, Cloak of resistance +2, Golembane scarab, Headband of alluring charisma +4, Ring of protection +1, Backpack (empty), Belt pouch (empty), Mirror, Sack (empty), 379 GP, 3 SP, 9 CP
Special Abilities
Arcane Strike As a swift action, add +1 damage, +1 per 5 caster levels and your weapons are treated as magic for the purpose of overcoming damage reduction.
Aura of Good (Ex) The paladin has an Aura of Good with power equal to her class level.
Bardic Performance (move action) (31 rounds/day) Your performances can create magical effects.
Bardic Performance: Countersong (Su) Counter magical effects that depend on sound.
Bardic Performance: Distraction (Su) Counter magical effects that depend on sight.
Bardic Performance: Fascinate (4 targets) (DC 21) (Su) One or more creatures becomes fascinated with you.
Bardic Performance: Inspire Competence +4 (Su) +2 competence bonus for one ally on a skill check.
Bardic Performance: Inspire Courage +3 (Su) Morale bonus on some saving throws, attack and damage rolls.
Bardic Performance: Inspire Greatness (2 allies) (Su) Grants allies 2 bonus hit dice, +2 to attacks and +1 to fort saves.
Bardic Performance: Soothing Performance (Su) Allies are healed and some conditions are removed.
Bardic Performance: Suggestion (DC 21) (Sp) Make a Suggestion to one Fascinated creature.
Battle Dance (swift action) A Dawnflower dervish is trained in the use of the Perform skill, especially dance, to create magical effects on himself. This works like bardic performance, except that the Dawnflower dervish’s performances grant double their normal bonuses, but thes
Battle Dance: Inspire Courage +6 (Su) Morale bonus on some saving throws, attack and damage rolls.
Battle Dance: Inspire Greatness (Su) Grants self 4 bonus hit dice, +4 to attacks and +2 to Fort saves.
Circlet of persuasion +3 competence bonus to CHA-based checks (skills already included).
Dervish Dance Use Dex modifier instead of Str modifier with scimitar
Detect Evil (At will) (Sp) You can use detect evil at will (as the spell).
Golembane scarab Can combat golems with weapons, unarmed attacks, or natural weapons as if those golems had no damage reduction.
Jack of All Trades: Trained skills (Ex) You may use all skills untrained.
Lay on Hands (1d6) (6/day) (Su) You can heal 1d6 damage, 6/day
Magical Knack (Bard [Dawnflower Dervish]) +2 CL for a specific class, to a max of your HD.
Mediative Whirl (3/day) (Ex) Quicken a cure spell as a move action.
Power Attack -3/+6 You can subtract from your attack roll to add to your damage.
Smite Evil (1/day) (Su) +5 to hit, +2 to damage, +5 deflection bonus to AC when used.
Spinning Spellcaster (Ex) +4 bonus on concentration checks to cast spells defensively.
Versatile Performance (Acting) +25 (Ex) You may substitute the final value of your Perform: Act skill for Bluff or Disguise checks
Versatile Performance (Dance) +25 (Ex) You may substitute the final value of your Perform: Dance skill for Acrobatics or Fly checks
Versatile Performance (Oratory) +32 (Ex) You may substitute the final value of your Perform: Oratory skill for Diplomacy or Sense Motive checks
Wand of Barkskin (CL 12) Add this item to create a wand of a chosen spell.
Well Versed (Ex) +4 save vs. bardic performance, sonic, and language-dependent effects.

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So the last time someone played a bard in a campaign they were a very stereotypical bard. Great buffer, great party face, but otherwise not very useful in combat situations. I was playing around with the idea of a good gish build and I found the bard to be the best base. The Dervish Dancer archetype is very helpful since it grants the Dervish Dance, and Combat Casting feats and changes Inspire Courage into a self only battle dance that grants double the bonuses. The 2 levels of Paladin are mainly for Cha to Saves, but a once a day Smite Evil is pretty tasty too.

A couple house rules made this character bloom a little easier. Everyone is granted Weapon Finesse and when you get an attribute at levels 4,8,12, etc, you get 4 points to add to your point build or you can take the single attribute point. This allowed my to push Str up to 13 at level 4 enabling Power Attack on a scimitar. Otherwise, focus all of the attribute point increases on Dex when is the primary stat for this character. The secondary stat is Cha and tertiary is Con.

So I am the party "Tank". I get up close and personal and encourage the bad guys to hit me and not the squishy casters, archer, or rogue (although he's not that squishy). To be successful in this role I deploy two lines of defense. Since very early on in my career I've cast a lot of Mirror Images; so many in fact that my party has begun to refer to them as "The Dance Crew" (since I'm always Dervish Dancing). They have taken many hits for me and I'm very grateful for them. As I've been able to fill some problem areas in my gear I'm much less dependent on the dance crew to keep me safe. Against a single opponent who hits once or twice a round very hard, its the my go to spell, but as I like using second levels spells for Heroism, I am more and more using Displacement as my standard magical defense.

I am also now able to sport a decent armor class. It seems like I was forever AC 21 which was great in the first few levels but I was getting clobbered as we passed level 10. Now I have very stylish Celestial armor which not only allows me to use my entire Dex Bonus to AC but also grants me Fly once a day increasing my mobility. I also have a Wand of Barkskin (CL12) which last for 2 hours and pumps my AC up to 33. If we have time to buff before a tough battle I can usually beg a Shield of Faith from the Cleric putting my AC up to 36 or if I use Smite 38. My standard AC33 doesn't quite meet my target of AC=Level+20, but its close enough for now. Most mooks are not going to hit and I can use my spells on the tough opponents.

OK that covers tanking. But can I actually hurt the things I'm fighting or do they just ignore me and chase after the sort targets nearby? Well, unprepared, things look pretty grave. My damage is a mere 1d6+10. 7 from Dex to Damage and 3 from the weapon enchantment. Luckily I have access to some fairly long term buffs so as long as trouble is expected I am usually covered. Heroism grants +2 to hit and lasts 2 hours. Battle Dance is activated as a swift action and adds +6 to attack and damage. Power attack adds another +6 to damage and lastly we have Arcane Strike which consumes a swift action but after the first round of combat that's not usually a problem. Add those up and the first attacks hit bonus is +26, does 1d6+25 and has a crit range of 15-20. On a full attack I usually do 50-75 a round, more with Haste and some lucky rolls.

His big weakness on the combat side of things is no real range option and no decent Area of Effect damage. Luckily other party members are highly effective at these roles.

In terms of Saving Throws I'm in good shape. My general rule here is to keep them all at character level or higher - higher is always better. I will make an exception for Reflex but only if the character has tons of HP, and has some special movement options (Fly, Dimension Door). Reflex saves tend to be AE damage or drop you in a pit or stick you in a cage.The two level of paladin help a great deal here with the high numbers, so much so that until recently I only had a +1 cloak of resistance.

In terms of Spells, I focus on buffs, utility, and defense. There are a couple of offensive spells on the list. I well timed Slow can trivialize certain fights, and Glitterdust and Grease have a multitude of uses. I have Terrible Remorse but I've never been able to bring myself to cast it. Its just too cheesy.

Like most all bards, I make an excellent party Face. My beef here is that its only been the last few levels when that side of things has really come together and since then we've met people that shoot first and ask quesitons later. I've had to spend a few skill points of Linguistics, because your diplomacy of 35 doesn't count for as much when they have no idea what you are saying.

And that is Aasif, my Dervish Dancer. Slayer of Goblins, Giants, and just about anything else that messes with the forces good.