Friday, January 31, 2014


This is an important post.  For some fictional people anyway.  Starting with the next game, please adjust your XP to 5,865. (This includes the points you earned in the last game session).  From now on, you will be advancing your characters on the medium speed scale under the Pathfinder rules. (Page 30 in the PRFRPG Core rulebook if you have it).  Also, I think we'll be going to a new system for hit points, starting at your next level.  Instead of taking the maximum hit points you will take the better of your roll (+ CON bonus, of course),  or half your hit die + 1 (+ CON bonus, of course).

I think that I will also reverse my long standing policy on material components.  I've always disliked the rule, but I've been reconsidering it.  The rules assume that you have the spell components for lower level spells, and big powerful spells should cost more to cast.  There should be consequences for needing to be raised from the dead, or casting a necrotic spell that slays large numbers of opponents with only a chance at a saving throw.  I'm willing to entertain arguments against this policy if someone wants to make them.  

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Rules Review: Attacks of Opportunity

Yet another rule that gets used in virtually every combat, but can easily be misunderstood and misapplied.

So, boiling it down, attacks of opportunity require two things-- that you are within range, and that you trigger it.  Generally, this means that you have to be in an adjacent square, and take one of the actions which prompt attacks of opportunity.  However, creatures with reach, or creatures using weapons with reach, can make attacks of opportunity against targets that are two squares away (10 ft.).

What then provokes an attack of opportunity?

1. Moving out of a threatened square; and
2. Taking certain actions within a threatened square.

The actions which, of course, most often provoke an attack of opportunity are making a ranged attack and casting a spell.  Casting a quickened spell, and casting on the defensive are exceptions to this rule. Unarmed attacks (in most instances) will also trigger an attack of opportunity. Drinking a potion, reading a scroll, and stabilizing a dying character will also do so.   If you aid another in an action that would normally provoke an attack of opportunity, the act of aiding will also provoke one.

Using spell like abilities provokes attacks of opportunity, but channeling energy does not. Various move actions also provoke, including loading a hand or light crossbow, picking up an item, sheathing a weapon, and retrieving a stored item.  

Monday, January 27, 2014

Rules Review: DC

For some reason, this is one of those rules that is relatively simple and straightforward, but that I nevertheless always forget.  Obviously, I don't forget what a difficulty class is, I just regularly fumble about on how to calculate it.  I'll arbitrarily assign a DC on the fly for some things just based on my own subjective thought about how difficult they probably are.  Which is, of course, perfectly appropriate.  However, in certain situations DC is more important and needs to be more precisely calculated.  So, it would behoove me to really get the rule down for all situations instead of vaguely mumbling "Hmm, so add ten and your spell level... and then something, and...."

I know, this post is making me sound stupid. 

The most common DC's we need to know are spell saves.  (Seriously, now that I'm writing this I can't believe that I've always had so much trouble with this).  The basic formula for spell save DC is 10 + spell level + the relevant modifier (i.e., the ability modifier the casting class uses for spells, WIS for clerics, INT for wizards, etc.).  Combat will run smoother if everyone knows what the DC's for their spells are before we sit down to play.  Easy enough.  

The other common DC's that you need to know off the top of your head are also related to spell casting. Distractions can interrupt spells, and cause them to fail. Table 9-1 on page 207 of the PFRPG Core Rulebook lays out DC's for concentration checks to complete spellcasting. Casting, of course, can provoke an attack of opportunity.  If you are injured while casting a spell, the DC to succeed at casting it is 10 + damage taken + level of the spell you are casting. (This can also happen if you are casting a full round spell and take damage on an enemy's attack during their initiative count -- not just due to attacks of opportunity). If you are taking continuing damage, you still have to make a concentration check.  In that case, the DC is 10 + 1/2 the damage that the continuous source last dealt + the level of the spell you're casting. 

If you are affected by another spell while attempting to cast that doesn't deal damage, the DC is the DC of the other spell's saving throw + the level of the spell you are casting.  If the spell you are affected by does not have a saving throw, it's DC is equal to what it's saving throw would be if it had one. 

Concentration checks while grappling or pinned are based on a DC of 10 + grappler's CMB + level of the spell you are casting.  You may also choose to cast defensively when in combat and thus not provoke an attack of opportunity.  In that instance DC is 15 + double the level of the spell you're casting.   The rulebook details the DC's for a number of other spellcasting situations that are less common, but may add some options to your tactics toolbox.

DC's for a variety of skill checks are listed with the appropriate skill.  Using acrobatics to avoid an attack of opportunity, for example, has a DC equal to the threatening character's Combat Maneuver Defense.  To move through the enemy's space using acrobatics is 5 + the enemy's CMD.  

In our current campaign, Grace likes to attempt to intimidate rather than jump right into fighting.  DC for an intimidate check is 10 + target's hit dice + the target's Wisdom modifier.  (This check can also be used after combat starts to demoralize the target). 

Some combat actions have special DC's, e.g. feinting. Feinting is a standard action. The DC for a feint is 10 + enemy's base attack bonus + enemy's Wisdom modifier.  (Unless your opponent is trained in Sense Motive, in which case the DC becomes 10 + his Sense Motive bonus, if this value is higher than the normal DC).  

DC's for climbing or breaking different walls, breaking doors, perceiving and disabling traps, surviving in different wilderness or environmental conditions, are found in Chapter 13 of the Core Rulebook. 

Okay, that's my brief (or not so brief) review of the rules on how to calculate Difficulty Class. This doesn't cover every DC in the rules, but does address the most common ones.  

Ptolus Session Recap

As the storm continued it's relentless assault on Ptolus, our heroes went their separate ways.  Through a series of events, Draygon and Tzakaric found themselves recruited by Brother Fabitor to investigate a kidnapping.  They were accompanied by Akiru, a warrior associated with the Church of Lothian.  The three were able to track the kidnappers from the victim's house to a pottery shop, and the sewers underneath it.  They killed a number of low level cultists and a drow nobleman and his giant spider companion, freeing the kidnapped boy in the process.  Later that same evening, Draygon received information about his missing cousin.  With Akiru still in tow, Draygon and Tzakaric investigated the address that they had been given, hoping to find Draygon's cousin Crom.

What they found was a secret underground temple where a barbarian was indeed being held captive by cultists.  Unfortunately, it was not Draygon's cousin, but another barbarian named Badvoc.  Badvoc had been badly wounded and was in no shape to give Draygon any information as to Crom's whereabouts.  The group delivered him to Brother Fabitor's care at St. Gustav's Chapel, and returned to the Ghostly Minstrel.

Meanwhile, Farland was out and about with his carousing gnome friends.  After spending some quality time in some of Ptolus' seediest gnomish drinking holes, he started to make his way back to the Ghostly Minstrel.  Along the way he ran into a familiar dog, and it quickly became apparent that something was wrong.  A ripped piece of cloth atop a nearby fence and the dog's insistent whining led Farland to the conclusion that something had happened to his child nemesis.  He scaled the fence and found the tracks of two men in the muddy garden on its other side.  He followed the tracks to a nearby wine cellar, where he found two thugs and the tied up boy.  A quick fight ensued, leaving one of the thugs dead, and the other fleeing into the night with an arrow in his shoulder.  Farland freed the boy, escorted him home, and returned to the Ghostly Minstrel.

Bogan is approached at the bar of the Minstrel by a courier bearing an invitation to a party in the Noble's Quarter.  He secures transport and spends the rest of the rainy night in the company of some of Ptolus' most important and drunkest citizens.

Grace receives an urgent message from a contact in the City Watch that knows of her adventuring prowess.  He tells Grace that he has no Watchmen to spare to investigate what is apparently a plague of kidnappings in the city.  The Warrens District has erupted into rioting and nearly the entire manpower of the Watch is engaged in restoring order (or at least containing the chaos to the Warrens).  Grace recruits Harumi to help her and the two interview a family that has reported the  kidnapping of a their child.  To their surprise, the boy is home when they arrive.  They investigate and find the underground lair where the boy was held.  It becomes clear that this boy is the same one that was, just hours before, rescued by Draygon and Tzakaric.  Grace takes the evidence that she finds at the scene back to the City Watch.  The Temple of the Ebon Hand, it appears, is behind the kidnappings.  Her contact asks Grace to assemble a party and raid the temple.....

(Excuse the piss poor writing... including the mysterious tense change in the last paragraph.)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Combat Easier Making Thoughts

I thinking of trying a couple of things in the near future to try and streamline combat (in addition to the "learn the rules" project I just posted on).  There are some alternative initiative systems out there that we might consider.  One idea that I wanted to run by you guys is the idea of NPC minions acting on the initiative count.  More important NPCs would still get their own, but the sword and spell fodder would all move on the same turn.  For example, in the last combat of last night, where you faced off against three low-level clerics and the more badass priest would have taken up two spots in the initiative order instead of four.  This is just something that would make it easier for me to track. 

Here is another interesting idea which might be worth considering. 

Another thing that I'm thinking about is reducing the use of miniatures.  That is, I think that it might be useful for me to use generic markers, like blank d6's to represent enemies.  This could have a couple of benefits.  First, it will make the tactical situation clearer.  A lot of times it can get confusing as to what miniature represents an NPC and what miniature represents your other party members.  Secondly, I think it might help the game from a narrative perspective.  Many times, despite the number of miniatures that we have at our disposal, we don't have the right miniatures.  Having a generic marker representing your foes, instead of the wrong miniature may make it easier to visualize them, and the combat the way that they're supposed to look.  If I tell you that you're fighting a drow cleric, that might be easier to visualize if he's not being represented on the board as a bugbear.   I could also number the tokens to make them easier to tell apart for the tracking of hit points.  I'm sure I wouldn't use generic markers for every foe, especially when you would be fighting a unique villain, or one that we had the perfect miniature for.

I look forward to your feedback.  

Random Fun Stuff

During my recent extended geek-out, I've been watching a lot of Kurt Wiegel's videos.  If you're not familiar with his work, I highly recommend checking out his videos.  If you're interested in another system, or even supplements for whatever you're playing already, there's a good chance he's reviewed it already.  Worth checking out if you're really into gaming. 

Also, this is pretty cool, a Google-based remote gaming system. 

I've now watched all of the available episodes of Standard Action.  Like I said, I've been in full on geek mode for the last several weeks. 

And if you like Standard Action, you might also check out Starlit Citadel's review channel on YouTube.  It's really more focused on board games, but I find myself strangely drawn to it.  Hmmm... can't really put my finger on why. 

Rules, Rules, Rules, or Postapalooza, Pt. 1.

This is a preview of coming attractions, so to speak.  The next edition of the Ptolus Campaign Log/after action review is in the offing.  In a similar vein, I've been thinking a bit about last night's game, how it went, what went well, what went wrong, etc., etc.  One of the problems with a Pathfinder campaign, is obvious: Pathfinder (D&D in general, actually) is that it is a complex rules-heavy system.  There are lots of details to keep track of, and rules and variations of rules for almost every conceivable situation. As a DM, my biggest weakness (aside from a seemingly inborn lack of organization) is my grasp of the rules.  Obviously, I know the very basics, but I get tripped up on the details--a lot.  And there are a few rules that, for whatever reason, I can just never seem to get through my head.  If I knew the rules better, the combats would move quicker, and the game would be smoother.  Thus, creating a better gaming experience for everyone.  So, with that in mind, I'm embarking on a project to improve my understanding of the rules.  Hopefully, this will lead to fewer pauses in the action to look stuff up, and really make our games more fun.

Here is how I plan to go about this.  I'm going to start blogging about the rules.  That is, I'm going to pick a rule (say, what provokes an attack of opportunity, for instance), and write a post about that rule, perhaps with an example of how it would play out in-game.  After all, reading is generally just the first step in really learning a concept.  For most of us, writing about it is what really seals the deal.  Also, I think this will be fun.

You guys also know that I've always had a certain level of flightiness when it comes to rules systems.  I'm always wanting to try new stuff out and have never been really able to settle on one system that I want to do most of my gaming in.  The problem with that is, of course, what I mentioned above: most roleplaying systems (not all) are pretty complex, take time to learn, and are much more fun once the DM and the players have achieved a certain level of mastery of the rules.  My new found fascination with Savage Worlds is no secret to anyone.  In any event, I think I have pretty much decided to commit myself to a limited number of systems.  I think you can guess which ones.  (With a caveat-- I really, really, really do want to try Nobilis at some point.  I have it on my Kindle). I'm planning on doing a Savage Worlds one-shot (or mini campaign) if we get tired of Ptolus at some point and need a break (yes, I know, we'll have to play more often for that to happen).  I don't know what genre I'll be using Savage Worlds for, but at some point I do want to run a campaign in the homebrew setting I've been thinking about for years.* Maybe in PFRPG, maybe in Savage Worlds, I don't know.

I'd love to know what other kinds of games you guys might be interested in.  I know that, as a group, we're pretty invested in high fantasy (me no less than anyone else).  In trying a new system, would you want to try the same kind of setting? Or would you be interested in doing, say, weird West (ala Deadlands), Sci-Fi, Pirates (or fantasy Pirates), Pulp, grittier fantasy, superpowers, historical fantasy (Weird Wars Rome, for example), etc.?  Please, don't let this discussion call into question my commitment to our current campaign.  The fact that I'm spending a lot of time thinking about RPGs is just evidence of how much fun I'm having in the campaign that we are playing.  So, looking forward to more frequent and better gaming in the future.

* I originally conceived of this as a 4e world.  Are any of us ever going to play 4e ever again?  (Wouldn't fit to my commitment to limit my systems, now would it?)  What am I going to do with all of these?