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.