Some Pathfinder GM rulings info…

In case any of my players ever read any of this… 🙂

Now that we have converted our old 3.5 group entirely to a Pathfinder based group, and since Pathfinder is not exactly the same as 3.5, I thought it would be a good time for me to post some of my GM “rulings” for the group’s benefit, just to avoid any confusion. These might qualify as “house rules” or as “GM interpretations” of vague rules or whatever. I’m just going to go over the things that I have ruled in PF that I believe deserve mention or clarification:

  1. Magic item creation: In 3.5 magic items were created once and remained that way forever. Pathfinder introduced the concept of “upgrading” a magic item. Upgrading magic items allows a magic item crafter to add additional enhancement bonuses or abilities to an existing magic item by paying the difference between the upgraded version and the original version. I find this to be a reasonable approach. There are a couple of individual cases where the RAW is not clear on what an “upgrade” is vs an entirely new ability. For example, a “flaming burst” is not listed as an upgrade to a “flaming” weapon, but I treat it as if it is an upgrade.
  2. NPC creation: In 3.5 it was explicitly stated that NPCs should be built using the same character creation rules as PCs. In Pathfinder that has been mitigated to be more of a “suggestion”. However since the NPC creation section of the GameMasters Guide describes the process using the same rules as for PCs it is assumed by many that NPCs must follow PC creation rules. Just to clarify for my own players, I usually follow the PC rules for NPC creation, but I don’t always follow those rules. So it is possible that an NPC in my world might have abilities or powers that cannot be explicitly recreated for a PC. The same goes for monsters.
  3. Detection spells in Pathfinder (and 3.5 before that) have sometimes vague rules. For example, the “detect evil” ability is written in such a way that I interpret the RAW to mean that detect evil only detects evil auras as those auras are defined in the spell (meaning that detect evil would not detect any aura for a low level NPC since NPCs below level 5 have no auras [excepting paladins and clerics]). This seems to violate the spirit of the “detect evil” ability so I have decided that all creatures have some sort of aura, and evil intent and collaboration or bargaining with evil creatures will “taint” that aura so that even a “good” character can have enough of an evil taint to be detectable by a paladin or by a caster using the “detect evil” spell. However, it is important to note the difference between and evil “aura” and an aura with an “evil taint”.
  4. My campaign world does not religiously (heh, pun) follow the Pathfinder planar cosmology, nor are the gods in my campaign world literal representations of the Pathfinder Gods. Without going into exhaustive detail, the Pathfinder Gods are essentially roles that the elder Gods have adopted for their own purposes. The elder gods, and in some cases, newly risen gods, may or may not explicitly follow Pathfinder theology. For example, one of the first player characters in the world was so powerful and renowned that he eventually became a demigod, and shrines and followers to this non Pathfinder demigod will be found throughout the world.
  5. I don’t like the way metamagic rods and some other magic items (like pearls of power) work differently for prepared vs spontaneous casters. In general I rule that these items work more or less the same for both types of spellcasters. For example, wizards can apply metamagic rod effects as a standard action while sorcerers must use a full round action to do the same. This just makes no sense to me, so in my games both can use metamagic rods as a standard action. Pearls of power will recharge a spontaneous casters’ used up spell slot, but will only allow the identical spell to be cast again from it.
  6. There is an exploit which allows certain wands, scrolls or potions to be priced at lower levels if created by rangers or paladins. For example, a paladin gains “restoration” at a lower level than a cleric. That means, by RAW, that a paladin created “wand of restoration’ would cost less than a cleric created wand. This is economically and logically insane, besides it makes no sense that creating such a wand would be easier for a paladin than a cleric, since paladins in general are lesser spellcasters in the first place. So any magically crafted item will be priced in my game at the price that a cleric, wizard, druid or other full caster could make them.

As I come up with more, I’ll post them too.

Elania Campaign 2: Sessions 4 and 5

(Ed. Note: Due to a severe bout of extreme laziness and procrastination, I neglected to post the notes from our fourth session until after session #5. I could do two separate posts, but I am still suffering from post-laziness syndrome and have not yet fully overcome the effects of the severe bout of laziness I have endured. So instead I’m just rolling them together here.)

After defeating the bandits in their lair, and capturing the bandit leader’s sister Bethany, the party rummaged through the loot they had liberated and mostly managed to distribute that which they found useful to the party members. In a truly heartwarming instance of decency and kindness the party accepted Orchid Caston’s assertion that some of the items in the bandit loot pile had belonged to her and returned them to her, including the 500 gold she said she had been sent to use to bribe the bandits to join the Caston’s against the Rovells.

Lt. Karel Rovell and Orchid Caston wasted little time rekindling their romance, and spent much of the evening in the nooks and crannies of the cave reacquainting themselves with each others intimacies. Their reunion was undoubtedly one with a high temperature rating.

Among the items recovered from the bandits was an ancient page of parchment with undecipherable writing, alongside elvish notes which indicated the parchment had some connection to the ancient “Dwarvenwyrd” events, but the page itself appeared not only to be in an ancient language, but it appeared also to be some sort of cipher which would require either the key, or some magical ability to translate into a comprehensible message.

Eventually the party discussed where to camp for the night, whether to camp inside the cave, or in the open ground outside. The relative merits and risks of this discussion were interrupted briefly by a deep “whooomph!” sound which seemed to pervade the cave, and was accompanied by a fall of dust and dirt from the ceiling. Eventually the party decided to camp outside, but with Bethany still tied up and locked inside the cave. Lt. Rovell disentangled himself from the ardent embrace of young Orchid long enough to write a short note explaining the situation to send to Lord Geltran Rovell (his grandfather) and the group agreed to use the bandit loot’s bird feather token as a means to deliver the message. Upon discussing the timing of sending the message the party decided to wait until morning to see if they could recover spells and decipher the parchment first.

The night was mostly uneventful except for a sudden appearance during Halmod’s watch of a bright burning “falling star” in the sky. Then, at the very end of the night, as morning was dawning, another burning object in the sky screamed through the air directly above the party, sending a shock wave that knocked them down and deafened some of the party, as well as knocking trees and boulders around enough to cause significant damage to the party members.

But that was just the beginning. Seconds later the falling object hit the ground some ten miles or so to the north-northwest, and the resulting shock and blast wave again knocked the party around and very nearly killed Halmod. At this point the party realized they had neglected to heal the party up before going to sleep.

As the party regained their composure and took stock of the situation, they realized a huge forest fire was blazing in the north, and that the area above the bandit cave appeared to have collapsed. Lt. Rovell and Talon immediately searched out Bethany only to discover her crushed and broken body beneath the heavy rubble of the now-ruined cave. Poor Bethany.

The bulk of the morning was taken up with preparing as much healing as possible. Kugel’s eidolon Kinestarre had been a casualty of the nightly events as well, and Kugel decided not to re-summon Kinestarre at half hit points.

After revising the message to indicate Bethany’s death, the party sent the parchment to Lord Rovell using the bird token. Then Malph summoned a phantom steed and went to see if he could locate the horses the party had left to the east of the bandit lair. After a few hours he returned with the horses and Halmod’s pony. Gregor and Violet had by now mostly cast all the healing they could muster and the party was mostly restored to adventuring form. As such they decided to head to the north to see if they could investigate the disaster area. After a while they noticed that a rainstorm seemed to have formed directly above the burning forest and the forest fire itself seemed to be slowly dying out.

After a few hours of travel they came upon a strange group of creatures that they concluded must be evil outsiders. Demonic perhaps. The group of creatures included one of the spear-wielding creatures they had fought before outside Elania and several elemental looking beings that were mostly legs and teeth. Flaming legs and teeth.

The battle was furious and several members of the party were burned badly by intense heat radiating from the creatures. Normal weapons seemed to barely harm the creatures, and the party lacked serious magical firepower. Then Kugel summoned the first rhinoceros and that’s when the tide of the battle turned. While not magical, the sheer destructive power of the goring, charging rhinos was enough to overwhelm any magical damage reduction the beings possessed and between the rhinos, Halmod’s magic missiles, Gregor’s unhittable armor, a hail of arrows from Malph, Talon, Karel Rovell and Orchid Caston, the evil beasts were finally subdued. However, the only item recovered from the battle was a flaming magic longspear.

(At this point Session 4 concluded)

At this point the party decided to scout around and they soon spotted a veritable army of demonic beasts of various sizes and shapes. The army was clearly beyond the ability of the party to combat, even had they been at full strength. Karel Rovell estimated that the army was making a beeline towards Elania and the party decided that on horseback they could outrun the army and get a warning to Captain Kane for the defense of the city. So they rode.

After several hours of riding they came upon a group of Caston soldiers fighting beasts similar to the beasts they had fought earlier. The Caston’s were hard-pressed and were clearly on the verge of utter destruction when Gregor announced his intention to save them. Karel Rovell objected, and immediately he and Orchid Caston were engaged in a bitter argument.

The rest of the party followed Gregor’s lead and attacked. Again the rhinoceros’s bellowed and blew, and soon the evil beasts had been slain, but not before completely exhausting the party’s resources. The leader of the Caston force turned out to be none other than the long-missing Lucen Caston himself, Orchid’s grandfather. Orchid attempted to talk to him, but upon seeing Orchid at Karel Rovell’s side, Lucen was enraged and slapped Orchid to the ground. Karel Rovell attempted to come to her aid and the Caston soldiers intervened. It looked like a new battle was just about to begin.

Then Malph interceded and persuasively explained that minor issues like who might be bedding whom did not really matter when the literal end of the world was at hand. Gregor swallowed his own distaste at dealing with Lucen, whose aura indicated some taint of evil, and soon Gregor and Malph had calmed down the Castons and they began to discuss options.

Unfortunately the party learned that the situation on the ground was… complicated. Lucen Caston’s presence was due to his rebel army having arranged what he hoped to be a decisive battle against Tam Rovell’s army over the next rise on the plains below. The two nearly equal armies had been ready to start the battle when the falling star had landed nearby. Lucen had accompanied a party to investigate the event and had thus come under attack, but the two armies were still primed and ready for battle, awaiting only word from one or the other generals to begin hostilities.

Malph and Gregor negotiated fiercely. Eventually an agreement was reached that Lucen Caston would agree to talk with Tam Rovell if the party could convince Tam to put aside hostilities long enough to parley. Lucen clearly considered this unlikely, but Karel Rovell promised that he could get his uncle to listen. Lucen escorted the party through the Caston army lines and agreed to meet Tam in the no-man’s land between the armies if they could bring him. Orchid stayed behind with Lucen, in spite of Karel’s attempts to bring her along.

So the party continued on to meet with General Tam Rovell. Lt. Karel Rovell was able to convince the Rovell army sentries not to shoot or arrest them and soon they were escorted to a huge tent behind the Rovell lines. General Tam turned out to be a more difficult man to convince than Lucen had been. But then again, Tam had not been on the verge of being killed by the outsider beasts. Here the skills of Malph and Gregor again turned the tide, and in spite of Tam’s disdain for his young nephew, upon seeing the demonic inscriptions on the spear’s shaft, he agreed to at least discuss the situation with Lucen before initiating the decisive battle for Elania.

And thus it was that the party found themselves in the middle of two massive armies, negotiating with both sides to join forces against the common outsider invaders. In the end it required having Lt. Karel Rovell be held hostage by the Castons, and Orchid Caston being held hostage by the Rovells. But the agreement was made, battle between Caston and Rovell was averted and an army was ready and in position to defend Elania.

With that complete the party traveled to Elania to report to Captain Kane. Kane was somewhat surprised to see that only two of his agents remained from the group he had sent out a week or so earlier, but he seemed to approve of the new additions to the force. Kane was angrily disappointed that the party had not returned with Dain, the bandit lord’s head, and informed the party that the next time he asked for the head of an evil-doer, he expected to see that head. But in spite of his disappoinment in the lack of a trophy, he was clearly disturbed and concerned with the story of the invading outsiders and after taking care of some paperwork, he led the party to the palace library to meet with none other than Lord Geltran Rovell himself.

Geltran seemed to know all about the invading outsiders. Indeed, he informed the party that the combined Caston and Rovell forces had already engaged the enemy and that he was sending in his most powerful magic users to stop the advancing army. He took one of the flaming longspears from the party and gave it to an underling with the instructions to “take this to Mogush” for examination.

At this point Lord Rovell told the party that he needed them to perform a critically important task, but that to do so, the party would have to take an oath not to reveal the nature of the task, nor any of the information related to the task. At first Gregor seemed to be unwilling to make any such promise, but eventually the party agreed to take the oath, and Gregor cast a “truth telling” spell to ensure that only the truth could be spoken during the discussion.

According to Lord Rovell, the parchment had revealed the existence and location of a mythical text written eons earlier, during the Dwarvenwyrd itself, called “The Book of Ceorl” which supposedly had a means to combat the hordes of invading outsiders. The location of the book was said to be below Grygsdraal, in the Underdark, the realm of Drow and other fell creatures.

Halmod asked if there was a way to transport the party directly to Grygsdraal to save the hike, and at first Lord Rovell seemed unwilling to reply, but when Kugel chimed in with the same question, Lord Rovell reconsidered and said “I have entrusted you with the most critical task of our age, I should not keep more secrets from you” and he revealed that within the palace there existed a portal that could transport the party directly to a location within Grygsdraal. But to do so would require urgent negotiations with the Dwarves that would take a few hours. Lord Rovell counseled the party to visit Elania’s remaining open shops to prepare as they could for a trip into the underdark. He also informed the party that Elania was being evacuated as they spoke, so there would be no shops open after they closed for the night.

At that point we stopped for the night.

The new Hirst molds

Yeah. New Hirst molds. Three of them. For my birthday/Christmas presents this year my main acquisition was the latest molds from Bruce Hirst’s “Castle Molds” company. These are the things in the mold:

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The items in the mold are very tiny and highly detailed. They require significant casting skills to get workable results. Even my best efforts so far have had some of the items with bubbles that make them awkward or even unusable, but after five casts from each of the three molds, I think I’m finally getting some decent results.

The items in the mold are some of Bruce’s most clever work. He has carefully aligned the sizes of several of the items so that you can mix and match things in ways even Bruce hadn’t anticipated. For example, there are some wagon wheels that come in two halves. The diameter of the wheel is exactly the same as the width of some wooden planks, some small desks and a couple of other things. The result is that you can flip the wheel over (it has wood detail on both sides of the wheel) and insert a “leaf” in the middle so create long oval tables.

People on the Hirst Arts site are posting lots of clever things you can make with the new molds. I haven’t done anything yet but cast the molds. I’ll try to assemble and paint some stuff soon.

+1, adamantine, flaming tiger’s teeth

So I am going to see if my next GM for my next campaign involving my level 9 druid will allow me to have my tiger’s teeth turned into masterwork adamantine teeth and then enchant them with a +1 enhancement bonus and add the “flaming” enchantment on top of that.

Anyone here see a problem with this?

Just think of the awesomeness of a roaring pouncing tiger with flaming fangs coming at you.

That’s gotta be some serious awesomeness….

The Hobbit approaches

So this weekend I will be seeing Peter Jackson’s latest foray into the realms of Middle Earth when the first of three “The Hobbit” movies comes out.

I am looking forward to it. I know it won’t follow the book, there’s not enough material in the book to flesh out three movies. But I am perfectly fine with mining the Silmarillion, the LotR and Hobbit Appendices and even some of the unpublished work of JRR Tolkien to weave the Hobbit narrative more completely into the LotR narrative.

I just don’t want them to screw it up by totally making up nonsense. As long as they stick by the actual material from the books, even if they embellish it a bit for dramatic purposes, I’ll be fine. But if they introduce entirely new plot lines or major characters, I will be a bit disappointed.

Anyone else planning to see the movie?

Gandalf, as a Pathfinder build

One of the common activities that I see on the gaming boards I tend to frequent is the desire expressed by a multitude of gamers to recreate in the game rules system, a favorite literary, movie or video game character. While there are dozens of such figures that are discussed on those boards, there are only a few that are repeatedly and constantly recreated by players for their games. Here is a short list, more or less in the order of popularity, of those figures I’ve seen addressed in this way:

  • Drizzt, the reformed Drow swordmage
  • Link, from “Legend of Zelda”
  • Merlin
  • Batman (yes, Batman is definitely in the top five)
  • Conan, the Barbarian
  • Aragorn
  • Iron man (yep, seriously, something about his armor I think…)
  • Dr. Who
  • Catwoman (is it a coincidence that one of the most popular female figures is also somewhat morally ambiguous?)
  • Gandalf

Etc. This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive list, just a short demonstration of what sorts of figures gamers like to “recreate.”

So, the latest example of this is a thread going on right now about Gandalf and how you would build Gandalf as a Pathfinder character.

There appear to be three basic ways to accomplish this goal, and they appear to be more or less mutually contradictory.

The first approach (the one I would take) is to look at what Gandalf actually does as a character in Lord of the Rings and figure out what sort of Pathfinder build could accomplish more or less the same things. Using this approach you look at Gandalf’s skills, powers and abilties and duplicate them as closely as possible with Pathfinder skills, powers and abilties. What you realize in this approach is that Gandalf is pretty lame as a Pathfinder character. Most of the things he does with his magic are comparable to Pathfinder cantrips (like prestidigitation, spark or light, just as examples) or else relatively low level spells (like scorching ray, produce flame, etc). The most powerful magical things he does in the entire series of books is comparable to a lightning bolt or fireball. You could argue that the single most powerful spell he attempted, one which almost totally exhausted him, was the “word of command” he attempted to use to block the Balrog after his “hold portal” spell had been counterspelled. That spell was so powerful that the attempt to counter it resulted in the total destruction of Balin’s tomb room, and the collapse of a small section of the Mines of Moria. But in the end Gandalf’s demonstrated magical prowess seems to be more or less in the range of a level 5-7 spellcaster. And even then many of the most common spells available for that level of spellcaster (levitation, flight, invisibility) are far beyond Gandalf’s abilities. So in this analysis Gandalf ends up being represented as a fairly low level Pathfinder character.

The second approach (the one I see most people take) is to use the following logic: “Gandalf is the most awesome magic user in Lord of the Rings, he’s practically a demigod, so therefore he should be represented as a Pathfinder epic character or demigod”. This approach ends up with Gandalf being described as a very high level wizard, cleric or druid, usually with some levels of a martial class to allow him to be a melee fighter as well. Of course this approach totally ignores the reality that Pathfinder spellcasters of that level routinely fly, turn invisible, teleport, grant wishes, etc. So Gandalf appears to be a super high level character who for some unknown reason, only uses very low level spells and abilities. This creates such a sense of cognitive dissonance in my mind that it is incomprehensible to me how someone can argue this way, but as I said, this is the most common way to do it.

The final approach is to suggest that Gandalf is not possible to model as a player character, and instead should be modeled using the monster/NPC rules. In that approach Gandalf is usually represented as a celestial outsider with specific spell-like powers and the ability to cast certain spells, plus it allows him to have martial abilities in addition to his magical powers without having to construct complex multi-classed characters. This approach actually works OK for me, but even when people take this approach they tend to make Gandalf an epic level NPC with awesome cosmic powers, again in complete disregard for the limited amount of power Gandalf actually demonstrates in the book.

So, all of that to ask this, what would your approach to this exercise be? How would you define Gandalf in a Pathfinder world?

Dollar stores and Christmas cheer

Yep, it’s that time of year again. Time to buy lots of dirt cheap stuff for your gaming sessions.

Every Christmas I find lots of really amazing and cheap gaming stuff. And of course dollar stores are always a great place to find some cheap useful stuff for gaming.

So, for example, I found some Spiderman Lizard miniatures from the latest Spiderman movie. They are pretty great miniatures which will work for several potential RPG monsters. For only a buck it’s a great miniature and I will almost certainly find a way to work it into my games.

Plus we found a hobby store that sells dozens of pewter miniatures for prices ranging from fifty cents to a couple bucks. Some of them are typical fantasy figures like dragons, ghosts, knights, bowmen, etc. Others are great miniatures of furniture or animals. In the end I spent about $30 on several miniatures including the ghosts and dragon and a “Robin Hood” miniature that will work perfect as a halfling archer. I got quite a few furniture pieces that I can use including a witch’s cauldron, a wood stove and some chests of drawers.

Last year I bought a bunch of cheap diorama evergreen trees for just pennies on the dollar in after-Christmas sales.

I will try to take some photos of this stuff later, I’m just too lazy to do it tonight. But I did want to remind my gaming buddies that now is probably the best time of year to get some great deals on some usable gaming miniatures and terrain. Well, now and the weeks after Christmas when stores are dumping their inventory.