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.