Monday, February 24, 2014

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Rules Review: Intimidate

As I've mentioned in earlier posts, I'm spending a lot of time with the rules, and posting about them in an attempt to up my game as a dungeon master.  If I know the rules better, it will be a better gaming experience for everyone. On Saturday, I was a little off my game mentally, and I felt the game suffered. I still need to figure out the best way for me personally to manage combat.

Anyway, intimidate...  Well, Grace likes to intimidate, so this one has come up a lot in the current campaign.  My adjudication of this rule has been inconsistent at best, completely wrong at worst (to the party's advantage though, in the latter case).  So, the reason Grace's ability to successfully intimidate foes has varied over time is that I haven't been applying the rule correctly.  So let's look at it in detail. Here is the text from the Pathfinder System Reference Document.



You can use this skill to frighten an opponent or to get them to act in a way that benefits you. This skill includes verbal threats and displays of prowess.
Check: You can use Intimidate to force an opponent to act friendly toward you for 1d6 × 10 minutes with a successful check. The DC of this check is equal to 10 + the target's Hit Dice + the target's Wisdom modifier. If successful, the target gives you the information you desire, takes actions that do not endanger it, or otherwise offers limited assistance. After the Intimidate expires, the target treats you as unfriendly and may report you to local authorities. If you fail this check by 5 or more, the target attempts to deceive you or otherwise hinder your activities.
Demoralize: You can use this skill to cause an opponent to become shaken for a number of rounds. The DC of this check is equal to 10 + the target's Hit Dice + the target's Wisdom modifier. If you are successful, the target is shaken for 1 round. This duration increases by 1 round for every 5 by which you beat the DC. You can only threaten an opponent in this way if they are within 30 feet and can clearly see and hear you. Using demoralize on the same creature only extends the duration; it does not create a stronger fear condition.
Action: Using Intimidate to change an opponent's attitude requires 1 minute of conversation. Demoralizing an opponent is a standard action.
Try Again: You can attempt to Intimidate an opponent again, but each additional check increases the DC by +5. This increase resets after 1 hour has passed.
Special: You also gain a +4 bonus on Intimidate checks if you are larger than your target and a –4 penalty on Intimidate checks if you are smaller than your target.
If you have the Persuasive feat, you get a bonus on Intimidate checks (see Feats).
A half-orc gets a +2 bonus on Intimidate checks.

So... Intimidate isn't really a combat skill.  Once the initiative dice come out, the time to intimidate is over.  Unless you want to spend an entire minute (10 combat rounds) to attempt it.  So, basically, if you walk into a situation where you're likely to be attacked on sight, or where you have already initiated combat, intimidate isn't going to allow you to change a foe's attitude towards you.

But, it is going to remain a useful skill in non-combat situations.  It will also remain useful in combat situations, as the Demoralize action makes clear.  Adding a shaken status to your opponents, even if just for a round, can certainly come in handy.  So, that's how intimidate should work (sorry for the earlier confusion), and how it will work in the future... if I can keep my rules straight. 

Ptolus Campaign Journal Episode Whatever

The party fought their way through the Temple of the Ebon Hand, but not without cost.  Harumi was caught in some sort of magical trap that was beyond the ability of the party to rescue her from.  The party continued on and managed to rescue several hostages, but were not able to kill or capture all of the Ebon Hand cultists.  While the party holed up in what appeared to be the office of the high priest to rest and recuperate, the remaining cultists fled into the night.  When the party emerged, they found the few hostages that had been left behind.  They engaged in combat with a fearsome transformed "Child of the Hand," which appeared to be much like a troll.  They triumphed, and easily dispatched a grick that was kept by the cultists.

The party took the rescued prisoners and the one victim that had been half-transformed by ritual into a Child of the Hand, to the Cathedral of St. Valian, and left them in the care of the Lothian priesthood. Brother Fabitor was unable to help the party recover Harumi, but directed the party to consult Kaira Swanwing, a prominent mage and leader of the Knights of the Golden Cross.  Swanwing decided to help the party.  She told the party that she would research what spell might possibly have trapped Harumi and go to the Temple.

While there, Draygon questioned Swanwing about the references to the "Galchutt."  Swanwing told him that the Galchutt were ancient gods of chaos, revered by many of the cults in the city.

Later on, while walking in Midtown, the party were delayed by a random herd of sheep.  The party was stopped in front of a shop that they had never noticed before, a shop that sells dice and other gaming implements.  Of course, this intrigued Tzakarac, who went in to browse the merchants wares. The owner of the shop, Prontius Callisto, invited the gnome cleric to a game of chance. Tzakarac easily won, and left with a few extra gold pieces, and a set of carved pearl dice (which he purchased rather than won). Callisto invited Tzakarac to join him for gambling in some of Ptolus' finer establishments at some indeterminate time in the future.  

Sunday, February 02, 2014

A Rather Important Post

Because it will add to the overwhelming avalanche of new posts to keep up with, yet is not from Hadrian.  Read it carefully.

Oh, and don't forget to watch out for Tree Dragons.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Things You Would Know By Now-- The Ghostly Minstrel

You've spent a lot of time there so far, so it seems like you should know some more about the Minstrel.

Here it is from the outside:

And here's a look at the floorplan:

The Ghostly Minstrel, located as it is in Delver's Square, is the spot in Ptolus for Adventurers to gather. Vard Hillman is the owner of the Minstrel, but he spends most of his time in the kitchen, or in his makeshift office in the third floor storeroom.  It is unlikely that any of you know him, other than Farland.  You would recognized Tellith Herdsman, the pretty young woman with reddish-brown hair who works the front desk and manages the inn operations of the establishment. And of course, you all know Zade Kenevan, the bald, skinny, and gruff bartender who serves Farland the famous "grbsh samches."  Tairn Ursalato is a bard of some local renown that regularly plays in the taproom.

And don't forget Scabies the dog: 

The rumor is that the Ghostly Minstrel actually earned its name, but none of you have ever encountered any phantoms roaming the halls. You've spent enough time there that you're beginning to recognize some of the other regulars, and getting an inkling that some of them might be rather important or famous Ptolusites.

Calendar, The Fictional One

It is, regardless of anything I've said before that can be brought up to impeach this statement, early Fall in Ptolus.   The infamous fire at the Cloud theatre occurred in the month of Blessing, and it is now the month of Toil.  The new campaign began on the 9th of Toil, and your intervening adventures have been packed into the two subsequent weeks.  It is now the 25th of Toil, as you weather The Storm, and fight in the Temple of the Ebon Hand.

In the future the time scale will become more ordinary, with more down time built into the narrative between all the questing. 

Blast from the Past

While digging through some boxes of crap in my spare bedroom closet, looking for some office supplies, I found an old notebook, with this inside:

A well used character sheet.  

Amongst other things in the same notebook were some amusing notes, such as this one: "Hadrian confers with each member of the party (except Lummox) --Do you remember when Lummox stared acting odd (more odd)? Leelu thinks it was in the Air Temple.  Do you remember anything that might have happened that may have bestowed a curse upon Lummox?"

Good times. 

Product Review: Hero Lab

I was playing around and looking at the different combat manager/character sheet apps available for the iPad the other night.  One thing led to another, and before I knew it I was checking out Hero Lab for my desktop.  I don't need a computer program to generate a PC right now, since I don't see myself playing in the near future (unless I decide to go the full nerd and play in some of my FLGS's Pathfinder Society games).  In any event, generating a single PC could, in no way, justify the expense of a brand new program.  BUT... what if you are a DM running an urban campaign where there is a high likelihood that the vast majority of the enemies your party encounters are going to be NPCs rather than Bestiary monsters?  And what if the campaign you are running is statted for 3.0-3.5 and the challenge ratings/NPC abilities don't make sense for the more powerful characters in a Pathfinder campaign? Well, Hero Lab might actually come in handy. It's a lot quicker than generating NPCs yourself, and it lets you know if your character is conforming to the rules as you make it (remember--you can't have more ranks in a skill than you have hit dice!).

So, after playing around with the demo mode, I downloaded the full product license.  I've been restatting Ptolus NPCs to conform with the Pathfinder rules, and tweaking them for higher or lower CR as befits our campaign. So far, I've found this to be an excellent tool.  When creating an NPC spellcaster, for instance, the program outputs a very nice and easy to read statblock, and generates a spell list which can be viewed in list, brief summary of the spell, or full spell text format.  It even calculates save DCs for the spells. So, I can have a nice NPC character summary in front of me with a well formatted spell description for all of the characters I'm running. Thus eliminating the need to constantly be flipping through the book for descriptions of spells that I'm less familiar with.

Hero Lab also has support for multiple game systems and many of the PFRPG splat-books.  I looked at the tools included for Savage Worlds in the demo mode (but seriously, this product makes a lot less sense for a system like Savage Worlds, the entire point of which is to be simpler--for a complex and rules intensive system like Pathfinder though, it really comes in handy).  The downside, and this is a big downside, is cost.  The initial Hero Lab license includes access to the database for the core rules of a single system.  In my case, obviously, that is Pathfinder.  There is a bit more content from outside the Core rulebook that is included, but not much.  All of the NPCs from the NPC Codex, for example, are included and available for tweaking.  But if you want, say, all the spells from Ultimate Magic, or the feats from Ultimate Combat, or the character classes from the Advanced Player's Guide, you have to pony up more cash.  And a not insignificant amount.  Each of the add-ons I just listed above are $9.99 each.  A not insubstantial investment, especially if, like me, you've already purchased hardcopies of those books.  Furthermore, it's not like you're getting an electronic copy of the entire content of those works when you shell out your extra cash, you're just getting the database of the spells, feats, etc. included in those games for your character creation software.  You're not getting the rules discussions, advice etc., that you get when you have the actual book.  You're not getting the layout of all the alternate class abilities for a class on one page so that you can, without fumbling around through menus and such, look at the different options for your character with ease. Which is not to deny the usefulness of having all the extra data in Hero Lab so that you can create more complex characters with the extra options available in the Pathfinder splat books.  It just seems a bit pricey to me.

On the other hand, from a GM perspective, I am seriously thinking about shelling out the extra money to get the Bestiary package which gives you the data from Bestiaries 1, 2, and 3 at a discounted price. Having that dataset in Hero Lab could be invaluable.  The Bestiary books are little more than databases themselves, so the issue of having the extra content I discussed above is not nearly as big a deal.  And, having that data in Hero Lab means that it is easy to scale up or scale down a monster, and to do so without running afoul of the monster creation rules (I think. Maybe that feature won't function quite the same with monsters).  This of course, would avoid those situations where, for instance, a GM might want to throw a Rakasha at the party--but a Rakasha is CR 10 and will slaughter the PCs.  No problem, pop it into the software, and take away hit die and abilities to scale it down to an acceptable challenge. Or conversely, maybe a GM wants to throw a dire wolf at his players, but they're past the point that a dire wolf is a challenge.  Not wanting to create a horde of monsters, it's simple to just scale up the one at hand, and now the party is fighting a DIRE dire wolf.  Rules for advancing monsters can be found in the books, for sure, but doing it in a computer program and then just printing out the statblocks is significantly easier, and takes a load of work off of GMs.

So, in summation, a good product that I've already found very useful, but one that is not without its drawbacks, especially if you want to create characters with feats, abilities, and spells not found in the Core rules (or if you want to use it for multiple game systems-- again, you'll be shelling out more cash for those databases).  Despite the very real cost issues for extra content, I have to give Hero Lab an enthusiastic thumbs up.