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.


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


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.)

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.

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.


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.