Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Thoughts on the Arcanist class

Is the Arcanist the best arcane spellcasting class in Pathfinder? For this comparison, I will be leaving aside the Magus and the Bloodrager, which are really martial classes that use arcane spells to improve their combat abilities. The true arcane spellcasting classes, in my opinion, are the Wizard, the Sorcerer, the Bard and the Arcanist.

Advantages - medium BAB advancement, decent weapon and armour proficiencies, lots of skill points, healing magic, two good saves, best "face" in the game
Disadvantages - medium spell advancement, heavily-weighted toward mind-affecting magic, no high-level spells

Synopsis - Limited combat ability, decent, but not great spellcasting, some healing, vulnerable to creatures with resistance to mind-affecting magic
Nemeses - undead, constructs, high SR creatures

Advantages - good spell advancement, high-level spells, good balance of spells, one major stat
Disadvantages - low skill points, poor weapon and armour proficiencies, underwhelming bloodline abilities, limited metamagics

Synopsis - poor combat abilities, yet many bloodlines encourage melee, good spellcasting
Nemeses - constructs, high SR creatures

Advantages - best spell advancement, high-level spells, good balance of spells, one major stat, unlimited metamagics, low skill points balanced by high INT
Disadvantages - poor weapon and armour proficiencies

Synopsis - poor combat abilities, best spellcasting
Nemeses - constructs, high SR creatures

Advantages - good spell advancement, high-level spells, good balance of spells, many supernatural abilities, unlimited metamagics
Disadvantages - low skill points, poor weapon and armour proficiencies, two major stats

Synopsis - poor combat abilities, good spellcasting, supernatural abilities
Nemeses - you tell me...other arcane spellcasters, perhaps

Based on this analysis, I call it a toss-up between Wizard and Arcanist. The Bard makes a great addition to a party, especially when a lot of social interaction is involved, but you definitely don't want him to be your sole arcane spellcaster. The Sorcerer is also pretty good, but there are too many conflicting abilities. The supernatural attacks of the Arcanist are great for dealing with monsters that have high SR and really good saves, but they still require a ranged touch attack, so a decent DEX and a couple of ranged attack feats are essential. This forces the Arcanist to spread himself a bit thin compared to the Wizard. Otherwise, the Arcanist is solid, with a wide variety of abilities and no obvious weaknesses.


Note: In hindsight, I realize I didn't consider the Witch in my analysis. I have never played one, so I have little experience with the class. Perhaps Obiri can enlighten us and make an argument for the Witch class.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Savage Tide 3 There is no Honor - The Bullywug Gambit

We are playing back to back weekends so I have to get this updated or else I'll fall behind.

We left off with the PCs deep in the Lotus Dragons Guild lair. I realized that most of the remainder of the guild that was unexplored would fit on a roll out map so I drew it all out a head of time and only left out a few secret doors and hallways.

Heading towards the main part of the Thieves' base, the party triggered a trap and half of the fell down a chute and landed in should deep water. A mystery woman's voice taunted them a bit before a large crocodile attacked them. Bytor and Trevain lowered a rope down for Isis, McDougal and Kaeless allowing them to escape after Isis put down the Gator.

Rogues harassed the party as they continued exploring, popping out from behind corners and taking sneak attacks before trying to disappear again. Eventually they made it to the where the rogue's boss was waiting. A big brawl ensued but most of the thieves were knocked out immediately when Trevain hit them with a Sleep spell. He proceeded to end the sleeping thieves' lives while the rest battled the now invisible Guild boss and her bard enhanced pet Drake.

Rowyn sang her bardic tune while Guttugger tried to chomp on the PCs. It took some effort but eventually they managed to kill Guttugger. Rowyn cursed them and became silent. The PCs did their best to keep her from escaping but somehow she got away. Stealth + invisibility is tough for 2rd level PCs to over come.

They searched the rest of the lair and this time managed to break into the part of the guild that they couldn't reach their first attempt. They found Rowyn's bedroom which contained lots of fine clothes and jewelry as well as some spicy letters from Vanthus. They also found the vault. Some of Lavinia's family gold was still here which they returned to her. There was also lots of unmarked funds which they kept for themselves. Lavinia would also reward them for their honesty so they ended up with a pretty good score loot wise.

Going through the letters reveled some hints of details to Vanthus' plans. His other lover has connections with the Crimson Fleet and the two of them are going to go rob the pirates of their loot at a location called Kraken's Cove.

The PCs do some research and discover the location of the cove and then rent a boat to make the trip. It takes them about 8 hours in their little sail/row boat to make the trip. As they approach they see smoke rising from the cove. The source are three fairly large sailing ships that are burning. There is a fourth ship moored further out which seems to be unharmed.

This ship, the Sea Wyvern, is both deserted and in full working order. The PCs are a bit hesitant when they realize that the ship belongs to the Crimson Fleet and so they decide to leave it alone. They do spot something weird on the beach. Two pirates are walking along the water's edge but they've changed in some way. They've been mutated some how and now have extra limbs, tentacles, teeth, claws, horns and all arranged in very unnatural ways.

The PCs engage the two on the beach to discover that these things have a nasty habit of first taking a death bite just as they are killed and then exploding into pools of acid. The Golden Retrievers explore the beach but only find a cave entrance. Going inside the find the place filled with horrors. Half eaten and mauled bodies are everywhere with many more mutant pirates wandering around looking for another meal. The PCs even do battle with a mutated Oviraptor.

Killing mutants as they go, in the deepest cave they finally find someone unmutated and alive. Captain Harliss Javell is battling a few mutants but with the PCs help finishes them off quickly. She explains what happened.

Vanthus and his lover showed up and posed as potential buyers. The pirates allowed them to hang around until the next shipment of goods showed up which included a black pearl the size of your fist.  When the goods arrived and were being unloaded Vanthus dropped whale oil into the bay and lit it on fire. As the pirates fled, Vanthus and his lady slipped on board and started stealing the choicest loot. Javell caught them and began a duel. Vanthus was losing badly and dropped the now blood covered pearl he had grabbed which dropped to the desk and cracked. If began oozing some sort of foul smoke. Alarmed, Javell tossed the pearl into the bay but it exploded releasing a wave of madness and evil. Javell and Vanthus were both unaffected but most were turned into the hideous mutants that they had seen. Vanthus fled by leaping into the bay, but Javell returned to the caves to try to restore order and rescue any still unchanged. She and another pirate captain had survived for a while but he had recently been overwhelmed.

Javell realized that if the PCs had made it this far the path behind them was likely clear. Isis escorted her out of the caves while the remaining PCs searched for more loot. Javell warned Isis of her revenge. She had sent her First Mate Drevoraz back to Eleder to deal with Vanthus. He was headed to the Vanderboren Manor where he would slay Vanthus, his mother, his father, and his dear sister Lavinia, then burn everything to the ground. No one messes with the Crimson Fleet. Now she was leaving here ASAP and he better not try and stop her.  Isis tried to get her to stop her first mate since Lavinia and Vanthus don't exactly get along but she Javell didn't trust them and was having none of it. Isis let her go in peace.

With the caves clear of mutants, the PCs decided to quickly get back to Eleder and save their boss. Unfortunately the gods are cruel this day and high winds and rough seas make it impossible for the PCs to leave immediately. They must spend the night in the cove before they can leave when things calm down in the morning.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Savage Tide 2 There is No Honor

Where is Vanthus Vanderboren?

The only clues Lavinia could offer the PCs is that she'd heard Vanthus was shacking up with some artist in the Azure district of the city.

With only that weak lead the Azures shuffled over to the Azure district and started asking around. Lots of people knew Vanthus and many had seen him - just not recently. After posting rewards for information about his whereabouts, the party were contacted by a shifty half elf named Sefton Rosk who claimed to know where Vanthus was hiding out. The party was suspicious but with no other leads they accepted his offer to lead the party to Parrot Island where Vanthus was hiding in some old smuggler caverns.

Sefton led them to the island, up through the thick vegetation along a well trodden path. At a small clearing was a trap door leading into the earth. Sefton offered to stay behind and watch the boat and the PCs, though again suspicious, agreed.

Spying on Sefton a bit, the PCs decided it was safe to descend. The half elf was nervous but didn't seem like he was going to betray them. Climbing down the rope ladder the PCs found them in a dark dank smell passage. As they slowly crept down the tunnel, they heard a noise coming from the room with the ladder, like a heavy weight being dropped from a height. They quickly return to the room to find the body of Sefton lying at the base of the ladder. A figure could be seen above silhouetted by the light. He called down, "Say 'Hi' to Penkus' ghost for me while you are down there. Later losers." He then slammed the trap door shut and started moving heavy rocks to cover it.

The PCs took this instride and searched Sefton's body to see if he still had the money the PCs had paid him to take them to Parrot Island. He did so the PCs felt a little better about their situation.

This didn't last long as they started to explore. The whole place echoed with strange noises. Some of was probably a sea cave but some of it sounded like moaning. It didn't take too long to find the source of both. Sections of these caves were flooded and there were a bunch of zombies down here. The PCs quickly figured out how to deal with the zombies - attack them and move away. Zombies are slow. Things got a little more complicated when they ran into the Huecuva but since they'd found a silver dagger then eventually managed to kill it without getting infected by its contagion.

With the smuggler cave's undead occupants all dead, the PCs found the smugglers vault with some treasure remaining. The key item was an Earth Elemental Gem which was used to remove the debris from the trap door and allow the PCs to escape. Just outside the vault the PCs found the body of Penkus. He had been trapped down here and left to die. He has become infected by the Huecuva and had slowly wasted away. He managed to pen a letter begging for revenge.

The gist of the letter is that Penkus no realizes what Vanthus' game plan is: to get in with the Lady of the Lotus  and with Penkus out of the way it should be easier. Penkus reveals an entrance to the Lotus Thieves Guild where Vanthus should be. There is a trap door in the Taxidermist's guild hall that leads into the Lotus guild.

The PCs returned to Lavinia's manor  to report what they'd discovered and recover. The next day they bought a few supplies in towns and with two late PCs in tow, they strolled over to the Taxidermist Guildhall.

No one greeted them at the front door but a plethora or stuffed beasts all all shapes, sizes and prices. Rather than ding the bell for service they let themselves into the back of the shop area and started to search around.

The Guildmaster, Nemien Roblach was not pleased to see them and after quickly determining that they were not here to buy, order them to get out. Trevain tossed a Sleep spell at him and knocked Nemien out.

The PCs quickly found the trap door leading down in the thieves guild. The party found a training room and battled a few thieves but one escaped. They chased after him but between another Rhagodessa and a solidly locked door, the thief escaped.

The PCs had a debate about whether or not it was evil to kill sleeping rogues but then accidentally woke them up. The rogues were killed and the PCs explored a bit more of the underground lair before we called it a night.

Next time: The Lady of the Lotus.

Friday, January 01, 2016

Savage Tide 1 There is No Honor Intro

The Golden Retrievers are a recently formed mercenary/adventure group. There first mission was success retrieving some rare mushrooms from a far off jungle and now they are looking for their second gig. While hanging out at the local adventurer's guild, the Drunken Dragon, the  team were approached by a young child carrying a note. The note read:

"Greetings, and I trust this missive finds you in good health! My name is Lavinia Vanderboren and I humbly request your attendance at dinner at my estate on Festival Street and Blue Skink Lane tomorrow evening. I think that I can present you with an opportunity uniquely suited to your skills. Please inform the carrier of this letter of your response to this invitation and I hope I will b speaking to you soon."

The PCs accepted the invitation and showed up at the Vanderboren estate the next evening in their adventuring gear. The had no trouble getting past the guard and upon knocking on the door met Lavinia's chief servant, the old halfing woman Kora Whistlegap. She escorted them to the dining room and helped them get settled. While waiting for Lavinia to arrive they encountered another group of adventurers pass through. Kaeless recognized as members of the Jade Ravens, another of Eleder's adventuring parties, which have been in Lavinia's employ for a couple years.

After dinner and a bit of small talk Lavinia got down to business. Her parents had recently died in a boating accident and she had inherited their estate and a large number of debts. There should be enough money in the family vault to cover everything but she did not yet have one of the signet rings that would allow passage. Her mother's ring had gone missing over a month ago, and her father's was kept on his ship, the Blue Nixie. Because no one had been paying docking fees, the ship has been impounded by the harbor master. She paid the fine to one of his employees, Soller Vark. She didn't think to get a receipt but the man then claimed to have never received the payment. The PCs first task is to get Lavinia access to her father's former ship so that she can reclaim his ring. Idealy this will be achieved in a lawful manner but the exact method was left to the PCs.

The PCs went down to the docks in the evening only to find the Blue Nixie was no longer where it had been docked. Trevain the sharp eyed elf spotted the ship anchored further out in the bay. After renting a row boat, the PCs rowed out and climbed up onto the ship trying to be as quiet as they could. There were two guards on the deck and the PCs managed to quietly knock one unconscious with a sleep spell but the other one escaped into the hold.

The PCs slammed the trap door to the hold shut and prepared for battle. A number of scruffy humans emerged from another entrance to the hold and began to battle the PCs. Several of Vark's guards were hit with a fire spell and jumped into the water to escape. One tried to steal the PC's rowboat but was dispatched by Trevain's arrow. Vark was rendered unconscious but not before smoke began to pour out of the hold of the ship. Kaeless tried to descend the ladder that they had initially blocked only to encounter another ruffian trying to escape. The fire in the hold was panicking the animals and numerous exotic monkeys, and birds escaped. Also in the hold was a strange arachnid type creature that managed to break free of its cage. This beast killed the poor girl who had set the fire and too big chunks out of most of the PCs before they finally brought it down.

Vark was tied up and the PCs began to search the ship. They managed to find Verik Vanderboren's ring as well as a piece of parchment that listed some numbers. Lavinia was thrilled to hear of the PCs success and after freeing Vark they set off to Castle Teraknian to enter the Vanderboren vault.

They entered and encountered the vault guardian - an iron cobra. Kaeless was fascinated with it and wanted to keep it. It was ordered back to its alcove. In order to open the inner chamber a secret door needed to be opened. The slip of parchment found on the Blue Nixie corresponded to the number of eyes of the many examples of creatures depicted on the walls of the vault. The PCs activated the creatures in the correct order and access to the inner vault was granted.

Lavinia was upset to find that many of the chests were empty but there was still enough left to pay off the PCs as well provide a list of a large number of debts that were owed to the Vanderborens. Upon leaving Lavinia asked the custodian if anyone else had entered the vault lately. The man admitted that he had seen her brother Vanthus enter a few times, the last only a few days ago. Lavinia was quite shocked by this as she had believed he had left town.

Lavinia provides some backstory about her brother. They used to be close but after getting caught committing a major prank, he was sent to do a few years of hard labour and she was sent to a special school for girls where she was taught proper manners. After they reunited, her brother was no longer the free spirit of his youth but had a hard edge to him and he had started hanging out on the wrong crowd. They no longer got along and after one argument he hit her. He was shocked for a moment only for the hardness to return and he stormed off. When her parents had died he was furious that they had made Lavinia their sole benefactor. After another fight, he packed his bags and left the estate. Lavinia had assumed hed left town but apparently he is still around.

Lavinia tasked the PCs to find her brother and return him to the manor so they can talk.