New PFS Character

15 June, 2014

Well, I have played Azureban a couple of times and meh. Happily, I can redo the whole character and keep the sheets.

New character is Father Ezekiel Wood. Human cleric of Saranrae. He’s old (not using the ageing rules, because PFS doesn’t allow them). He’s a little deaf. He’s a little blind. He’s faking it and is actually pretty sharp.

“What’s that, sonny? Speak up! Orcs, you say?” I’m looking forward to calling VC Sheila Hiedmarch “girlie”.

A minmaxed healbot – Str and Dex of 8 (roleplaying his age). Traits give him an extra channel per day, and Perception as a class skill. Wis/Cha of 17/16, Con 14 because I simply cannot imagine any circumstance when a character with less Con than that would be viable. Int 12. Selective Channel and Alignment Channel (Evil). At this level, alignment channel is pointless, but I’d like to set the theme.

I’ve given him lamellar leather and a dagger, because a Scimitar would put him over the light load limit. But I fully expect him to have to be carried like baggage so he can perform his healing duties.

“What? Climb up that rope? You must be mad! Do I look like I galivant about climbing ropes at my age?”

Fun times.

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Pheno ’14

10 June, 2014

Massive weekend at Pheno. Zack Jackson is level 9, and I have decided to slow-play him. He’s such a good character and so good for PFS, I’ll be sad they day I finally level him up to 12 and can’t play him anymore.

For those of you with Hero Lab, his POR file is on dropbox. I have not put his consumables into Hero Lab. He has a Handy Haversack filled with all kinds of crap – scrolls for all those spells that you don’t want to learn, but are invaluable in the right circumstances, a few potions, all kinds of alchemical consumables. Still haven’t actually used the alchemical cement, but give it time.

The procedure is simple. If we have an adventure, and at any point I go “crap, I really need a scroll or potion of X”, I buy one. When the adventure is over, I restock as a matter of priority. And if I use all my potions of X, then I restock and buy one more than I had previously.

Zack Jackson does no damage. His weapon is a small rapier, which does 1d4-1. His only offensive spells are Confusion, Cacophanous Call, Glitterdust, Charm Person, and Grease. It doesn’t matter. Damage is what dudes with swords are for. Instead, he is a skill money and social dude. “Vagabond Child” trait gives him Disable Device, which is the only thing that an Archaeologist is really missing.

SPOILERS FOLLOW!

These are just some random snippets of memory:

Day 1 session 1 – The Waking Rune

Holy crap! We are up against the runelord of Sloth! tl;dr: we disabled all nine runes, but the bbeg escaped.

The encounter with the devil was bad, bad news. Fighters do not handle Int drain – we had one guy dropped to comatose and needing a full Restoration.

The puzzle was built to have something for every character to do: one of the runes could be defeated with a Disable Device, a couple of them could simply be bashed. But most of it needed various kinds of magic to defeat. Three of the runes could be broken with “negative energy, or 2 points of ability damage from disease or poison”. We were at a loss for a moment, but since we had a summoner in the party, I/Zack suggested that he just summon some spiders. After a bit of general hilarity, that’s exactly what we did. The DM made some rulings on the spot, but a Summoner gets a lot of spiders. Eventually, they made the check.

And finally, big fight. We were playing down, so the runelord summoned three huge Anklyosaurs – enough to threaten the entire chamber. But “big & dumb” is what Cacophanous Call is made for. Little halfling who does 1d4-1 with a rapier took one of those bastards out of the fight.

Stuff happened, fights were fought. Can I just say that Cloudkill is an absolute mofo? God damn! We ran out of the room. Mind you – it didn’t do his anklyosaurs any good, either. He started teleporting about the complex. ZJ used scroll of Locate Object on his Rod of Very Fun to track him, but at the end we just ran out of time and the DM called it.

So sad. We failed. But: no-one died. And Zack hit level 9.

Shadows of the Everwar

Bruce ran all four sessions of Shadows of the Everwar, which is a big commitment and a lot of work.

Day 1, Session 2 – The Prisoner of Skull Hill

Here is how big the weekend was. I forget. I am just drawing a blank about this mod. No – wait! There was a fort on a hill. That’s right! A chelaxian spypost, and our man inside had gone quiet. Turns out, the whole place had been done over by an army of orcs. Zack got a chance to be diplomatic with the head orc:

“What you here for? (Grrr!)”
“Oh scary one, we had heard that the hated humans of tribe Cheliax had been defeated by an army of mighty warriors, and we came to see if it was true!”

Fun times! Dude had nothing much to say, but we searched the place in peace. Found our dude (dead, sadly), and found the entrance to the underground cavey bit. There was fight, which Zack sat out. Then there was “loot the nests of the cave/fly/bat things”. Zack used his new rogue/ninja trick “Wall Climber” to good effect.

Finally another sinkhole, and a damn giant bloody plant that ate people. ZJ has Liberating Command, and popped about five of those bastards just getting people out of the plant, one round after the next. Earned his pay in that encounter doing nothing but that (oh, and a Haste, but he was late getting to that point).

We recovered a wand and a ring. And a corpse, which we jammed into my backpack.

Day 2, Session 1 – The Watcher of the Ages

Another ruin. Fight some Barghests – I think Zack sat that one out, too. Then cellar, and a big Xorn. A little diplomacy, a little 100gp gem, and the Xorn was good enough to dig us a tunnel down to the sealed-up well. (There were clues for those who choose to fight the Xorn that they need to dig).

Down to some salt cave. Morlocks. Fight.

Then this weird shit – a big silvery dome of artifact-level magic energy. Bones of various creatures. After some dicking about, Zack and Dude go through the dome, taking some damage. (oh – part of the dicking about involved Zack drinking a vial of purple worm poison, which he had failed to identify).

Weird-ass nonhuman dude inside. Some story which I will not go into, even though I know that no-one who has read this far will be playing the module. Ok, fuck it – he was a roper, ok? Put there by the aboleth to watch webcams. TL;DR: a bit more diplomacy and he is happy to let us take the staff, ring, and corpse.

Day 2, Session 2 – Terror at Whisledown

ZACK JACKSON, VAMPIRE SLAYER! FUCK YEAH!

A town of gnomes with terror stalking the square at night. By “town”, I mean “hamlet”. Two vampire spawn, and a morgh. Shit – where there’s vampire spawn …

We tracked the skiff they had arrived on to a dude. Dude was a recluse. Not happy to talk to visitors. Spellsong to conceal casting, then Charm Person. Dude now perfectly happy to talk. Seems he is a smuggler, keeps the contraband on an island in the lake, had to leg it recently because of all the damn vampire spawn.

Out to the island in the middle of the lake. I have a damn phobia of water travel, and it was borne out by the optional encounter. Bloody giant, swimming, constrictor snakes. Did I mention that ZJ is a halfling? Into the drink. Happily, Mr Big’n’violent was packing a Touch of the Sea potion and basically took care of them. Next time, ZJ is climbing the mast and staying there.

Onto the island. Down the well. Underground chamber. Corpse and ring, but no sword. Fight some more vampire spawn, and archer gets dominated. Cacophanous Call takes him down for long enough to tie him up. We are one character down, and proceed onwards.

A vampire. Honest-to-god, full vampire. With a very nice falchion. Fight fight fight, Greater Invis. Shit. ZJ prepares to cast glitterdust “next time he reveals his location”. Scorching Ray from the dude, and he is glitterdusted. Before he can go gaseous, the fighters step up and murder his ass.

The gas goes into a crack in the wall. I ask the DM “could a tiny creature squeeze in?” and he’s “yeah, sure”. ZJ pops a potion of Reduce Person, then goes into the secret chamber. From inside, calls out in helium voice “A stake! A stake! For the love of god, a stake! Chop up a torch, break the head off an arrow, anything!”

Vampire is staked by a size T reduced halfling. Then the dwarf spends a few hours chopping his way into the chamber with an adamantine mace, finally beheading and fully killing the vampire.

Captured townsfolk are v. happy, and we head back to Sothis. ZJ is level 9.

Day 3, Session 1 – The Faithless Dead

Back at Sothis. It’s the final day of Pheno, and we have three players and a pregen cleric. Pregen cleric has several of her spell picks replaced by something more sensible.

Big funeral for the three corpses. Yay!

Pathfinder lodge is attacked! Boo!

We run in, deal with some cultists who seem to think that we are helping out BBEG perform bad ritual with the three rings we found. We rescue the VC from being burned, but don’t rescue the Important Documents. Oops.

VC tells us to go talk to the sphinx over at the necropolis. We wait for dawn.

Sphinx asks some riddles, but we are good. Legend Lore is cast. The three chickybabes informa us that BBEG is a bad guy, and they would please like to possess us. ZJ is instantly, 100% in favour of the notion. Other guys cautiously agree. We get useful buffs for the big fight.

Down to tomb. Traps, secret doors. We have rangers, ZJ, and more than enough perception. Mummies pour out of sarcophagi, but ZJ has initiative and runs the fuck out of there without taking an AAO. Sheer luck. Fighter begins fighting. Fails one will save vs fear and is paralysed, but ZJ has Remove Fear. The cleric was also packing Remove Paralysis (because I had redone her spell picks), but DM rules that the paralysis was caused by the fear so the Remove Fear was enough.

Onto the final fight. It was mainly fighters FTSU. Bad guys shrugged off the Confusion, so ZJ’s only contribution was to Vanish the cleric so she could go in and healbot. Kyra is a very fine healer: 30hp with a cure crit. Oh – and the Haste, of course. Fighters just love the Haste.

Dude gets properly killed. We fail to ID the priest of badness doing the reanimation, so having failed 2 of 3 sub missions we lose one PP.

But, everyone is alive, and mission accomplished.

Then I went home and crashed – it has been a long weekend. Yay Pheno! Yay PFS!

And again – a very big thankyou to Bruce. (Oh, I owe him fifteen bucks. Must remember it.)


New PFS character

25 May, 2014

Ok! I have my new PFS character: Azureban Wikileak! Tiefling inquisitor. Charisma 5, but with class features that mean that he uses Wis instead of Cha for social stuff. Str and Wis 16. He’ll be front line with some buffs.

Working for Asmodeus, fighting the good fight. It’s Year of The Demon, and the Blood War is being fought up at the Worldwound. Realistically, I won’t be able to level him up fast enough to fight high levels this year, but I can play the YoTD modules later.


Big weekend

14 February, 2014

Big weekend of PFS. They were running Echoes of the Overwatched at GG on Sunday, then moved back to Ben’s house (Venture-Captain Ben Jordan to you) for Glass River Rescue. Then Feast of Ravenmoor all day Monday.

Echoes of the Overwatched – we had to play uptier, which I always hate. Boss was bad news.
Glass River rescue – a pretty straightforward extraction job.
Feast of Ravenmoor was a horror-themed game. Creepy as hell.

Oh, and on Wednesday played the Temple of Empyreal Enlightenment. We didn’t complete the scenario. We figured out what was going on, but we had a bad party mix – no melee at all. We did the mission we had been assigned (map the pace, take some rubbings), and then GotTFO without confronting the BBEG. Zack saved another character from being killed outright. Oh, and there was some in-game intra-party sex. Chicks dig hairy toes. We were considering using a potion of reduce person to put the two parties on a more even footing, but the level 1 spell only goes for a minute and Zack is definitely a two-minute man.

Other highlight was using Grease to get into a lootful spot. I also have a potion of Reduce Person for the purpose. Grease is such a great spell – its value is that it remains useful as you level up, unlike (say) Sleep. An important consideration for a spontaneous caster.

Zack Jackson is now level 4.

I’m thinking of writing something along the lines of a formal rules question re “Dirty Trick” in PFS games. The rules appear to be contradictory and unclear. I’m pretty sure I can cite the problematic material and reduce it down to a set of yes/no “is X legal?” questions.

On another note, I have taken the spell ‘Revelation’, which is a GM fiat device like Augury. I used it when we were assigned our mission, sort of to provide an in-game mechanism to fish for anything we might have missed asking about. The GM pointed out that we had failed to ask for a rather pertinent bit of info. If the GMs are cool with it, I’ll make a habit of it. The other use of the spell is to provide a bonus to a single Disable Device attempt. Zack is a bard with a trait (vagabond child) that gives him DD as a class skill.

On the whole, Zack shines in a party which has combat covered. A party with a non-combat cleric, a gunslinger, and a sorcerer not so much. I think I’ll kit him out with consumables (much like Switch, really). In Feast of Ravenmoor he gave a potion of Protection from Evil to the tank in the first round of the big fight, and it was both tactically good and also characterful.

Other thing he needs is a way to switch between whip and rapier without having to drop ’em. A glove of storing would be great. A few potions of invisibility would also be a good investment.

Next level – lingering song. His Archaeologist’s Luck goes up to +2, so it will be more worthwhile. His feats are Agile Maneuvers and Spellsong – spellsong is mainly for applying Charm Person when needed.

As always, it never pays to get too attached to PFS characters. They do tend to get killed. But Zack is ok for now.


CanCon 2014

28 January, 2014

(NB: I am drinking at the keyboard again, so this post contains a little language)

CanCon 2014. I signed up to play PFS, this year.

Saturday, played the intro game with my new character, Zack Jackson. In the evening, DMmmed it at a table at which a couple of guys (at least) were themselves DMs. No pressure.

Sunday, played an afternoon session, but the noise was so bad I left the table. Could not, could not hear the DM. I’m a bit deaf, or something, but it wasn’t just me – he was reduced to playing D&D with the player sitting next to him, who would play chinese whispers to get the info around the table.

No fun, especially when PFS modules feature slabs of colour text which a DM is supposed to sit there and read out. I’ll tell you – when I ran games, I would print copies of that shit beforehand and just had it around the table.

Actually – I’ll go off an have a mini-rant about it. Here’s a typical example:

The Pathfinder Society has turned its attention to the Ruby Phoenix Tournament—a world-renowned fighting competition, held once every ten years in the city of Goka on the eastern continent of Tian Xia. More specifically, the Decemvirate is interested in the incredible prizes available to the tournament’s winner—a choice of treasure from the legendary vaults of Hao Jin, the Ruby Phoenix herself. As part of the preparations for the tournament, Pathfinder Society agents have been deployed across the Inner Sea and beyond to seek out forgotten lore, allies, and magical items to be used by the Society’s tournament representatives.
Venture-Captain Amara Li, leader of the Lantern Lodge and Goka native, has uncovered information about one such item hidden amid the reaches of the Wall of Heaven—an Iroran relic known as the Braid of a Hundred Masters. Organizing the search from her base in the Dragon Empires, she intends to send a group of Pathfinders to the high mountain range in search of the braid’s ancient home: the Clouded Path Monastery. The two-week-long journey to the mountains began in the cosmopolitan city of Goka, passed through the surrounding villages and farmlands, and led thousands of feet up into the tallest mountain range on Golarion; all that remains is the final day’s journey up from the base camp.

This is box text. You are supposed to sit there and read it out to the players, like it’s fucking story-time for kids at the local library.

I mean, let’s take this bit:

Organizing the search from her base in the Dragon Empires, she intends to send a group of Pathfinders to the high mountain range in search of the braid’s ancient home.

This is so wrong. How are characters supposed to know this? They just by magic know what Amara-Li’s long-term intentions are? This is DM background – absolutely should not be box text that you sit down and read out to the players.

And frankly, you sound like a dick reading it out. Nobody actually talks that way “Organizing the search from her base in the Dragon Empires, she intends …”. Try it now. Look around, to see that no-one is watching, and read it aloud. You feel like a fool, right?

It’s a classic violation of the basic rule of storytelling: show, don’t tell. Box text should be limited to what players see and hear and know. If it must have background info, it needs to be in dot point form.

So module writers, you don’t make the DM read out “Organizing the search from her base in the Dragon Empires, she intends …”. The right way to do this is to have as one of Amara Li’s possible answers to the characters’s questions: “Oh, I’ve been organising it from my base here for years!” You don’t say “As part of the preparations for the tournament, Pathfinder Society agents have been deployed across the Inner Sea and beyond to seek out forgotten lore, allies, and magical items to be used by the Society’s tournament representatives.” as box text to be read out – you let Amara Li say “We have pathfinders looking all over for something to give us an edge – lore, allies, magic items. All the other competitors have been doing the same, naturally.”

Fucking dreadful. As I said – I would copy that shit into a document, print out a couple of copies and hand it around the table. The intro stuff I would leave on the table before game for payers to look at while I was housekeeping.

Oh – off on another tangent – PFS modules have a nice way they use knowledge skills for background info. Here’s an example:

Diplomacy or Knowledge (local)
10+ Nobody has seen the monks of the Clouded Path Monastery in years. In the past, the monastery often sent a small group of them to the mountain’s base camp to trade for the goods the monks could not produce for themselves in the harsh mountain environment.
15+ A demon of ice and snow made flesh, called Shang Xu by locals, prowls the mountains. Since the monks disappeared, it has come down to raid the farms and villages on several occasions.
20+ The “demon” is not a demon at all, but rather a raving yeti that has established its territory well below the icy altitudes in which its kind normally hunt. With increasing regularity, the beast has attacked travelers in the low mountains and even settlements high in the foothills of Clouded Path Monastery’s peak.

I would print off a few copies on this on strips of paper. My attitude is that if you know something, you know it, and during briefing of course you are working with your knowledge. Making players guess that the specific K to use is K(Arcane) is bullshit – like the character has different DVDs in their head and just overlooked referencing the right one. Instead, I’d just tell the players to roll “K(local) or diplomacy”, “K(Arcane)”, or whatever the module specifies. If anyone got 20+, hand them a strip of paper. 15-19, I would just fold the paper under to hide the 20+ info and hand that out. Etc. Then the players can RP their characters pooling what they know about the situation. And I don’t have to sit there and read out box text which, I hope I have made clear, I despise doing.

So, getting back to CanCon 2014, we have a DM with a cold (conventions are disease vectors) attempting to read out torturous, narrative colour text in an environment which, from an auditory standpoint, I can safely compare to being inside a jet engine. I’m reduced to shouting at the player next to me “Purple? Did he say something about something being purple?”

Worst of all, the module was all about exploring a tomb and solving riddles written on the walls in ancient Orisani. You have to be very clear about the text of those motherfuckers, or you wind up decapitated.

When I noticed myself getting frustrated and pissy, about to stand up at the table and yell at the top of my voice at the DM “I’m sorry – did you say something as purple?” (as if the entire con is supposed to STFU because I’m trying to play Pathfinder), I cut my losses, packed up and walked out in the middle of session. Made sure to apologize after. I behaved badly. I feel bad about it. I wish I were a better human being.

I believe Venture-Captain Ben will be having words with the CanCon organisers next year. Not that it’s thier fault either: CanCon is a bit of a victim of its own success. The tables were too close together, but they were all full. Next year, they should grab one of the other Buildings at epic, too. Moving the roleplay groups (PFS and DWO) into the building with a bar would be utterly, utterly awesome.

And, that was it. That was CanCon 2014.

Shout out to Andrew, who permits me to exercise my amateur rigger skills most years (you want to tie down a load, speak to a truckie or a motorcyclist).


Zack Jackson, reincarnated

16 January, 2014

Zack Jackson is back! Halfling bard (archaeologist), absolutely useless in combat. All he can really do in combat is flank and assist. I took the ‘helpful’ trait for him, meaning that he grants +4 rather than +2 on an assist. Better than bard song, but a) you have to hit and b) only one enemy. Since he will be doing a lot of that, I really need to buff his AC.

I played ‘the frostfur captives’, which I have played before, so no risk/no reward.

SPOILERS!!

The combat at the towers took too long. Our main melee guy was busy trying to open the doors, which was a mistake. Once he was in combat, he dealt with the guards handily.

The ‘getting the goblins across the ferry’ was fun. A social encounter, involving mollifying an irritable ice troll. There troll declared that he did not want dirty goblins on his ferry, and that the price would be 200gp. Zack offered that since the goblins-on-the-ferry was the sticking point, how about if we just dragged them behind the ferry on a rope? They needed a bath, anyway. The troll thought this was a great idea, and offered passage for 25gp, which ZJ negotiated down to 5gp on the basis that there were four of us and 4 onto 25 won’t go. (still an outrageous amount for a ferry ride, but meh – the pathfinder society is paying).

We skipped the creepy hut – walked around it without engaging.

In the final combat, two axe guys attack the storeroom, and the two dudes at the table – an axe guy and a priest – also attack. We had split the party. Zack has one spell. Grease. Zack Jackson greased the axe of the axe guy at the table, and he spent the next 10 rounds fumbling with it. It very effectively kept him out of the real combat.

At one point, Zack attempted to throw some mashed potato at the axe guy to blind him. Rolled a one. Our interpretation is that Zack grabbed a handful of mashed potato and gravy off the table, was about to throw it, then “Hmm! Good!”. He’s not a glutton, specifically, but he is a halfling.

Zack also dropped some grease on the floor (which only delayed the priest for one round) then while the dude was fumbling with his axe, ran around to the other side of the floor grease patch. Dude finally got his axe, ran at Zack, failed a perception check and rolled 1 on his reflex save.

Fun times.

I’ll continue to play him as comic relief and skill monkey, I think. I’ll look into dirty fighting rules, maybe take ‘agile manoeuvres’, equip him with some bolas if possible. And keep putting points into skills – nine per level. Utility and debuffing spells. I may trade off some Cha for more Dex or Int, dump his Str to 7-2(racial). Bad MAD, unfortunately:
Str – CMD
Dex – missile & skills
Con – to stay alive
Int – skill points & knowledge
Wis – perception, sense motive
Cha – Social skills, archaeologist’s luck

Absolutely will not dump Con under any circumstances. But I could bear having a laughably nonexistent Str. I can live with Wis 8.

On a more contextual note, we had two experienced players, two n00bs at the table. The experienced players instinctively sat next to the DM. This was also a mistake. Yes, it means that the more into-it players wind up shouting the whole game, but its worth it to make new players feel included.


Penis size at Pathfinder Organised Play

12 September, 2013

So it seems the DM has a character named “Kernighan” with an animal companion named “Dennis”.

In-joke.

“Not Ritchie?”, I asked.

No no. You see, it was Dennis Ritchie, Brian Kernighan.

Oh right. Of course. I have a copy of the blue book, I casually mentioned, with a big coffee stain. But so does the DM. Ok, but I actually learned C straight out of the blue book.

But so did the DM.

Ok, then. I learned C out of the blue book in 1985.

Booyah! Point and set to the middle-aged bastard! Who’s got the bigger dick now, boy?