Sunday, May 25, 2014

Way of the Wicked 19 - The 9th Knot vs Eirmanthus

So last session the PCs went after the ancient copper dragon Eirmanthus. The dragon called on a number of reinforcements and as the PCs were slowly losing they decided to retreat and regroup.

With only 4 players present last night another frontal assault was out of the question so they decided to remove some of Eirmanthus's girlfriends. The first to fall was the tree lady. She put up a good fight and inflicted some damage before dying but the PCs retreated before reinforcements could arrive.

The second strike was against the "goddess". Scry and fry lived up to its name and because I rolled really low for her initiative, she didn't even get to act before they killed her.

Unable to Scry the dragon they simply teleported straight into his lair. The dragon was alone but immediately cast Anti-Magic field and began to tear into the 9th Knot. Now barely able to hurt the dragon, the dragon was still able to hurt them. So again they retreated as reinforcements were arriving, but this time without killing their target.

The new plan was for the wizard to try to counterspell Anti-magic Field. A few days later they teleported back only to find that the Dragon was ready with some reinforcements already in place. An epic battle began. One of the opening moves was for one of the Oread guards to Dimensional Anchor the wizard removing the party's avenue of escape. The wizard did his best to lock down the dragon's spellcasting. After two rounds of being counter spelled the dragon gave up and spent the rest of his time trying to kill Gorbatch the Bloodrager.

The Orca girlfriend dropped a few nasty spells before moving into melee with her electrified shortspear. The Oread guards dropped some AE spells on the PCs while the PC cleric tried to kill them off. The Oread guard captain had no trouble hitting the cleric but inflicted laughable damage. If I had noticed that pregame, I probably would have buffed him which likely would have led to a TPK situation so its good I didn't.

The Dragon and the Bloodrager continued to trade blows (the halfling vampire fighter was in there too and while the dragon was unable to hit him, he was unable to hit the dragon) and eventually both found themselves near death's door. Eirmanthus' Orca girlfriend teleported beside Eirmanthus while the party cleric was tyring to Hela himself after many would from Orca and the guard captain. The wizard executed a well timed counter spell preventing the Heal spell from going off giving Gorbatch the bloodrager time to finish the dragon off. Orca was enraged with the slaying of her lover and she quickly slew Gorbatch. At this point the remaining PCs focus fired Orca who was already quite injured and she too was slain. Finishing off what little remained of the Oread guards was not difficult and the battle was won.

The party immediately began searching for the dragon's treasure. On the library level a strange visitor was met but he didn't seem hostile so the PCs left him alone. On the main floor of the the dragon's dome was an immense magical chess board. The inscription nearby seemed important and the PCs managed to figure out the correct combination of moves to open the portal to the dragons pocket dimension that held his horde.

I listed off all of the dragon's treasures including another piece of the broken artifact Hellbrand. At the end of the list I described a crystal  case that held a floating cube. Sergeant, the vampire halfling fighter, went over to take a closer look and as soon as he touched the case, the skull spun alive and the eyes started glow.

Skull: Free Me! Free me and I shall grant you the secret of immortality.
Sergeant: Cool! I break the case with my adamantine mace.
DM (me): Roll for Initiative.
Gorbatch's ghost: Uh guys, I think you just freed a Demi-Lich.

Still injured and with depleted resources from the battle with the dragon, the wizard quickly threw up an Anti-magic shell which he figured should protect him from most of the Demi-lich's powers. The vampire was relatively safe by virtue of him already being sort of dead which left the poor cleric who quickly had his soul wrenched from his body. The wizard closed the portal to escape the pocket dimension with the  Anti-magic shell and bargained with the Demi-lich. His freedom for the clerics soul.

After thinking about it, the demi-lich dropped the soul gem and fled out into the world. He'll be back.

We closed the session with a visit from Dessiter the Pact Devil. He hinted that there is a loophole in the contract with Thorn and that he would help the PCs if they did something for his master - kill Brigit of the Brijidine.

Next session: Infiltration of the Adarium!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Ranking Pathfinder Classes (Updated)

This old post is by far the most popular on this blog but after the last three years it is rather out of date as Pathfinder has expanded with more classes, features, and feats.

A ranking system never works very well because the classes are so different it makes them difficult to compare. This time I'm going to group the classes up a bit by role although this will get tricky as some classes like the bard can do a bit of everything.

Arcane Full Casters
1. The wizard comes out on top. If you leave a few spells slots open and have a very full spell book then as long as you are not being rushed you probably have a solution for every problem. A good wizard is the QB of every strong adventuring party. Most wizard customization comes via the spell book.
2. Sorcerer. Still extremely powerful, sorcerers have limited spells and tend to focus a bit more than the wizard. With a Haversack full of scrolls they can do just as well as a wizard. The wizard vs sorcerer debate is largely a matter of personal preference. As long as both are well conceived and properly built, you can't go wrong.
3. Witch. Witches are awesome or awful depending on what you are doing. Their limited spell selection hurts but its partially made up with Hexes. Witches are near useless against anything that is immune to mind affecting effects which includes many high end monsters. In any case, they get a bit boring since you tend to cast the same hexes in same order fight after fight. Witches have some very interesting archetypes like the White Haired Witch and the Scarred Witch Doctor.

Divine Full Casters
1. Cleric. Which is the best  divine caster really comes down to what your character concept is. I think in terms of well rounded awesomeness the cleric can't be beat. 
2. Druid. Once you get into more niche builds than things change a bit. The druid can be a fearsome melee machine backed up with self buffs. The ability to spontaneously summon creatures is great when you need a bit of help on the front line. The Animal companion makes a great flanking buddy and a some extra DPS.
3. Oracle. While only slightly less awesome than the cleric, the Oracle excels at specialized builds. A battle oracle is arguably better than a battle cleric. They can also be good archers. The different mysteries allow for more customization than a cleric's domains.

The 2/3 Casters
1. The Summoner is the mightiest and most versatile of this classification. They cast almost as well as a sorcerer - and get early access to some great spells. They have a pet that is usually as powerful as the party Fighter. If the Eidolon is defeated they can just summon more help as a standard action.
2. Bard. The bard is the ultimate in flexibility. Different archetypes allow the bard to specialize in different roles although I can't think of any archetype that lets the bard be a good healer. Every group is stronger with a bard around.
3. Inquisitor. I like the Inquisitor class and they have done pretty well in play but I have yet to see one really shine. I still think and archer build can be really great but the melee version just isn't strong enough defensively. Melee Inquisitors are going to get clobbered.
4. Alchemist. An alchemist with Infusion is probably the games strongest single target buffer. They have lots of knowledge skills and their bombs and some good versatility. Alchemist score pretty highly in my books because they have several different build options and they all seem to be fairly effective. Alchemists have several interesting archetypes that really change things up like Vivisectionist, Beastmorph, and Mindchemist. Just stay away from Rage Chemist.
5. Magus. Great flavor and seemingly effective, I find they lose their shine a bit at very high levels.  They work best when you have only a few battles a day. A long adventuring day and they become a crappy fighter pretty quickly.

The Rest
1. Barbarian. The Core barbarian is pretty bleh. Later splatbooks added lots of great archetypes and Rage powers that don't stink.The barbarian today is in a great spot and one of the strongest melee classes of all. Pounce, DR, Come and Get Me, and Spell Sunder are all awesome in play.
2. Paladin. Paladins are great if your DM isn't a dick and purposely tries to make you fall. If they are sticklers for the paladin code, forget this class and keep reading. Otherwise, the paladin has lots of great build options and can make for a very interesting character. They have superb defenses and against evil a few times a day they can blow away everything.
3. Ranger. They Ranger is a great class to play with lots of fun options. Where they can get rather weak though is that their main class feature is largely dependent on the DM. If you never meet any of your favored enemy you are just a crappy fighter with a dog and few spells.
4. Gunslinger. My group isn't so keen on guns so no one has played one yet but they strike me as a solid damage dealing class with a few non dps options. I keep waiting for a spellslinger type archetype to come along that combine spells with guns (and not the terrible wizard archetype). I just find the Gunslinger class features a bit boring.
5. Fighter. If your Pathfinder games consist of nothing but combat then Fighter is the class for you. Slightly less effective than the stereotype barbarian build, the fighter is much easier to build for newbs and is consistently effective across all levels. They do great damage but really not much else. Fighters do have some interesting archetypes however like LoreWarden.
6. Samurai. A bit better than the cavalier because of its reroll ability. My group doesn't like Asian flavor in its Pathfinder so no one has played one of these. 
7. Cavalier. I have tried to fit some of my character ideas onto a cavalier but I'm never happy with the results. The Houndmaster Archetype is very cool but it just can't compare to the optimized builds that I can do with other classes. This class always seems to come across to me as a crappy paladin with only a weak code to worry about (this is a stronger option if your DM is a dick).
8. Ninja. Great in a stealth/assassin type campaign but otherwise they fall down here on the list. Although their Ki powers give them more options than a rogue they still suffer mainly of the same issues such as have no bonuses to hit and 3/4 BAB, terrible saves, and dependent on sneak attack for damage.
9. Monk. Monk is only saved from the bottom of the list by some of its great archetypes. Zen Archer is a top tier archer, Tetori Monk is a fine grappler, and the Flowing Monk has some very cool moves. The base Monk though is terrible. Avoid it.
10. Rogue. While the rogue has some serious problems many of them could be fixed if they introduced some Rogue talents that were actually good. Whereas the Barbarian trades Feats for Rage powers, the Rogue trades Rogue talents for Feats. That should speak volumes. Unless you are playing a low magic campaign where almost all of the other classes are banned, avoid the rogue.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Way of the Wicked 18

Back to back gaming weeks - always fun if the wives are OK with it.

This week started off with the players deciding to rescue Chargammon's son Jaratheon who had been captured by the Lord of the Eagles. Cardinal Thorn had commanded the 9th Knot to convince Chargammon, an ancient great wyrm black dragon, to attack the King's palace and threaten his daughter, the princess Belinda. Rescuing Jaratheon seemed like a good way to get in the dragons good graces so off they went.
The PCs had the good fortune to discover the Lord of Eagles was out hunting so they teleported into his lair while he was away. They still had to deal with 8 of his minions but they prevailed pretty easily and rescued the dragon. They did their best to extract a promise from Jaratheon to attack the Adarium (King's palace) for them but the dragon went home to dad first to heal up. The PCs went after him only to discover belatedly where they actually were. They parlayed with mighty Chargammon who was curious why these lesser beings would bother to rescue his son and agreed to attack their foes in exchange for the PCs dealing with his foes.

The target was one ancient Copper dragon named Eirmanthus who lived only a few hundred miles away. He lives on his island with his 3 non-dragon girlfriends (concubine-whores in the words of Chargammon). The PCs resupplied and then invaded the island. They were intercepted by a flock of 6 crystaline gargoyles who insisted that they meet the master. Since the PCs wished to meet and slay the dragon anyway they went along with them peacefully.

The PCs chatted a bit with the dragon before one of them got tired of talking and attacked. The six Gargoyles immediately began to defend their master and the dragon called for reinforcements. The next round the three girlfriends teleported in and took turns healing the dragon and blasting the PCs. The PCs quickly realized they were not only out numbered 2-1 (although they did manage to kill a few of the gargoyles), but out gunned as well as the dragon began blasting with his breath weapon while the ladies were unloading some high level magic. A decision to retreat was made as one of the PC clerics went down.

The PCs escaped to fight another day and I assume they\ll return to a much better defended island but one where they don't have to fight most of the defenders at once - at least if they are clever about it.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Way of the Wicked 17

Last week's session was unfortunately delayed but I think things turned out OK. I found this weeks game immensely enjoyable. Lots of role playing as the PCs wandered the conquered city of Daveryn searching for the missing Duke and any loot they can find.

Trying to locate the Duke, they returned to the Duke's castle and began the search there. While roaming out they found a tower that was surrounded by bugbears and ogres. There was treasure inside so the wizard scouted the tower with magic and determined that it was trapped with some sort of electricity. The halfling and wizard buffed themselves with electricity and went on in. They were blasted constantly with chain lightning but with good saves and electricity resistance no damage was taken. 

Rather than fool with the locking mechanism, the halfling just used his adamantine mace to smash the crystal case and remove treasure within. Curious about the trap, they grabbed the emerald that the chain lightning originated from and dropped it into a bag of holding.

The bugbears outside the tower were not pleased to have the treasure removed under their noses by some "humies" so the PCs paid a visit to Fire-Axe and asked him to buy them off by giving him one third of the treasure (which they would later learn was worth 45000gp). 

At this point the two clerics arrived and the party continued their search. A passage through the wall was found leading from Duward to Smallward, and the wizard managed to luck onto the missing Duke's hiding place.

Knowing he had torture in his future he antagonized the PCs and they murdered him although they would regret it after the fact. The wizard managed to recall a spell that allowed for temporary Resurrection (Raise Dead failed since the Duke refused to return) and that gave them a brief window to learn what they could from the duke. Fire-Axe was very please with the Duke's body and a great feast was had (the Duke being the main course for a select few). Fire-Axe showed his appreciation by giving the PCs 5000gp in loot from the city and their choice of slaves that had been taken after the battle.

So now the PCs had some time to wander the rest of the city without any agenda. The found a defended and unlooted manor house in one of the farming districts outside of town. The ambitious Baroness Vanya Barca took a shining to the elven cleric of Asmodeus (she being a secret worshiper herself). She negotiated safety for herself and her men and the position of Duke of Daveryn in the new order in exchange for assisting the PCs however she can. She is trying to set up a meeting between the PCs and Vastenus Barca (King Marcardian's second in command) which may prove difficult since he is with the king and the army that is slowly approaching the Daveryn.

The PCs also managed to get in touch with what was left of Daveryn's thieve's guild. Anton Brueder promised his support in exchange for food and to be left alone until the bugbear's move on the city returns to normal.

The 9th Knot looted the city's cathedral and located the missing cardinal. They also defeated Polydorus, the city's diviner and his collection of Invisible Stalkers. The PCs now have control of his tower and have started to convert it into a base of operations.

Finally Tiadora returns this time accompanied by 8 of her Erinyes sisters dressed in full battle gear. Tiadora congratulates the PCs on their successes and informs them of their final mission. They are to acquire the assistance of Chargammon the Black, the greatest most fearsome evil dragon in the land. He is to attack the Adarium where Princess Belinda lives. This will cause Belinda's guards to signal the King who will use him magical recall amulet to teleport to his sanctum in the Adarium and try and rescue his daughter. The PCs will be waiting and there they can slay the king who will only have a few of his guards with him and not his entire army. They are also to steal the Liber Varcarian while in the palace which is basically the family tree of the royal family.

I was pleased that the PCs finally balked at a mission. They quickly realized that this is likely a suicide mission. Chargammon the Black hates everyone and everything and will likely kill any intruders that enter his lair. Thorn is offering no support to them this time.They are now worried that they've gown too strong and that Cardinal Thorn now sees them as a threat. They looked over their contract but it seems that it is pretty tight. For now they are going to have to follow orders.

Fortunately the PCs have discovered that Chargammon's son has been captured by the Lord of the Eagles. Perhaps he can be used as a bargaining chip?