Tag Archives: 3.5e

Pathfinder Preview – The Sorceress

Paizo’s put out their third preview for the final Pathfinder rules, and this time it showcases the famous iconic sorcerer, Seoni, at level 10!   Let’s take a look.  Yep, she’s still built like a brick shithouse.  I need to figure out which Golarion country is the source of her quite-advanced cosmetic surgery.

In 3.x, I didn’t like the sorcerer that much.  It was too similar to the wizard.  A mechanical difference (spontaneous casting vs prepared casting) didn’t seem like something to bother basing a PHB core class on.  Its main niche, really, was as an NPC class, so that hideous goopy monsters could cast spells without having a spell book around. In our gaming group, it was mainly used as a dip class for someone that needed just a little arcane casting.

Pathfinder’s helped that out some with the full-scale adoption of the bloodline concept.  3.x hinted at a “draconic bloodline” in sorcerers that gave them their power.  In Pathfinder, they take that a big step farther and have a wide variety of bloodlines a sorcerer can take, that give unique powers and have different feels to them.  Seoni has the “arcane” (aka lamest) bloodline.  I wish they had showed off a more flavorful one.  In our Curse of the Crimson Throne campaign, our sorcerer Valash has the air elemental bloodline.  Check his level 13 build here.  He can do electric at-will zappies, a big blast once per day, has electricity resistance, etc.

The other bloodlines in the beta were abyssal, aberrant, celestial, destined, draconic, elemental, fey, infernal, and undead.  Bloodlines are not overwhelmingly powerful, but a nice addition that adds as much flavor as “kewl powerz.”  It justifies sorcerer more as a separate class in my mind rather than a variant wizard class option (“Spontaneous Casting: Get two more spells per level per day and you don’t have to prepare them but you can only know X/level!”  Look, there’s an entire class writeup.)

To me, that’s the big deal.  The smaller changes and tweaks (d6 HD, specific spells, etc.) are fine but not terribly interesting except to the number-wonks.

Pathfinder Fighter vs. Ice Devil?

There’s been some smack talk about the Pathfinder preview of Valeros the 14th level fighter.   It spins off into the usual “fighters are worthless in D&D 3.x” hate speech.  In particular, there’s comparisons with an ice devil. “The fighter is totally outclassed by the CR 13 ice devil!” they cry.  “Casters are the only worthwhile classes!”

Well, I can’t speak for Valeros’ build, but our Pathfinder Beta based Curse of the Crimson Throne game is coincidentally at level 14.  We have a fighter, a ranger, a cleric (me), a new bard, and an occasional sorcerer.  And I’m afraid we don’t find the fighter “weak.”  Let’s look at our level 14 fighter and how he’d fare.

Malcolm, our fighter, carries a modest +1 heavy flail of transmuting (which, after hitting a creature, gains the properties needed to bypass its DR).  Sure, he needs buffing – but with his usual loadout (he always drinks a potion of Enlarge Person, which he has scads of, when in a dungeon, and then either Righteous Wrath of the Faithful from me or Inspire Courage and Haste from the bard, either gives +3/+3 and an extra attack) – he can kill the devil in three rounds on average.

First round, he closes and gets one shot at +28 for 2d8+17 damage (not even counting it as a charge).  With Improved Critical (17-20) and Devastating Blow that’s 36 damage (minus 10 for the devil’s DR).  He does have to contend with the devil’s fear aura, and it’s true that even with Bravery he has a good chance of failing that save (45% for Malcolm) but that’s what friendly casters are for – resurgence or anti-fear stuff, of which we have a variety.  And for the flying problem – he has potions and other items that give short flying, or again one of us can help out there.

Then in round 2 with a full attack (and extra one for haste), the transmuted weapon bypassing DR, and Backswing –  107 points of damage on average in that round.  Devil’s down to 14 hp.  Even if it gets a slow hit in and Malcolm somehow fails a Fort save (unlikely!), it’s nap time on round 3 from a single attack.  Malcolm has AC 28 and 197 hit points; there’s nothing the devil can do to pour enough damage into him to kill him inside 8 rounds.  Its cone of cold only does 25 hp damage to him on average, and its full attack is only a little better.  Even without caster buffs, Malcolm can do it in four rounds (though the fear and fly problems are more of a problem without caster support, although there’s a variety of cheap Magic Item Compendium items that counteract those problems).

A three round kill on the devil is as good as a caster would do on average.  Between the SR 25 and +15 saves (+19 with unholy aura up), even the spiffiest save-or-dies from a level 14 caster only have about a 20-25% chance per round of working.  That’s three to four round survivability once you do the math.  And the fighter can keep it up for a long time.  The Pathfinder rules tweaks have helped him out a lot – the weapon training, armor training, bravery, and additional feats like Backswing and Devastating Blow boost Malcolm’s worth in this fight was above a level 14 3.5e core fighter.

Besides, adventuring isn’t about one on one.  It’s about a party, over 5 or so encounters in a day.  The fighter needs healing, buffing, and anti-mind-affecting support from someone.  But that’s worth it – it’s like someone with a heavy machine gun needs someone to feed ammo.  The two people together are doing more than they could with a rifle apiece.  Getting and keeping Malcolm on a target when it means 100+ damage easily in a round is so worth it.  As a cleric, I can at best toss 25% success chance save or dies (of which I have a very limited number), or cast a variety of 14d6ey anti-evil-outsider stuff, which is only 49 damage even before SR and save which makes them average a net 15-20 damage.    I’m definitely better off optimizing our fighter.

These caster queens also complain that fighters are “boring” and support roles are “boring” (apparently only save-or-dies are “exciting”).   To them I say – you’re doing it wrong!

Third Curse of the Crimson Throne “Skeletons of Scarwall” Session Summary Posted

Quite the drama erupts in Part III of The Skeletons of Scarwall, in which our dear priestess Annata gets killed!  The last sub-boss in Scarwall got her with a Trap the Soul, and all our anti-undead/necromancy/death magic protections were of no avail because – get this – that’s a conjuration spell.  The boys killed the demi-lich and broke the gem, but then had to Shadow Walk back to Kaer Maga to get a Resurrection.  On the one hand, dying is scary, on the other hand, she got to see Sarenrae Heaven first hand and meet the Sunlord Thalachos, Sarenrae’s herald, so after she recovers from the physical aftereffects she’s mentally and spiritually quite invigorated.

Then the Shadow Count (and pet chain devil) finally turns on us and Laori.  We spank him but Laori heads out to Cenobite Heaven to sightsee, so the Boner Squad is no more.  And sadly Laori missed her last chance to put the moves on Annata.

And then we finally get the fabled (and holy, intelligent, and badass) blade Serith-Teal!   Thondyke is chosen as its wielder; as it’s both intelligent and holy it’ll have no part of Malcolm, and Annata (though to be honest a little jealous) thinks he’ll get a lot more use out of it.

And with that, Castle Scarwall is cleansed!  We get a sending from Vencarlo that tells us it’s time to return to Korvosa and whip some bitch-queen ass.  About time, we reply.  But first, we have $50k a head to gear ourselves out like the 14th level master killers we are!  To the magic mall!

Go enjoy the full 10 page .pdf summary of the session (and all the others).  Your favorite adventurers will return next session with Crown of Fangs!

Second Curse of the Crimson Throne “Skeletons of Scarwall” Session Summary Posted

We continue to clear Castle Scarwall in Part II of Skeletons of Scarwall (8 page .pdf).  Two more of the four sub-bosses, a devil bat lady (who really reminds me of an enemy from some video game I can’t place) and a shadow dragon, fall to our swords and sorcery, leaving only one sub-boss to go and then the main boss – who we already killed once before, so no worries there.  Our party is only three strong, but we are mighty!

The main challenge is keeping enough spells held back to take care of Shadow Count Sial when he finally decides to turn on us.  He’s acting even twitchier than usual and it’s clearly only a matter of time.  I hope Laori sides with us and not him when it all goes down.  Though Annata’s not quite sold on the hot girl-on-girl Laori proposed last session, she’s been a good friend so far.

We hit level 13 at the end of the session.  For Annata, I’m thinking adding a level of Crusader (a holy martial artist from Tome of Battle: The Book of Nine Swords) to get more combat prowess.  She’s supposed to be a holy warrior but her damage sucks (1d6+2 whether you need it or not!).  She’s finally worked through the feat chains to add one of the Pathfinder beta crit feats, which will help…  She could make her crits fatigue, stagger, sicken, or bleed an opponent, I’m still deciding which.  But with Crusader she’d get all kinds of nice boosts.  Paul’s letting me swap out Stone Dragon school for Desert Wind school to match Sarenrae’s sun focus, though counting the powers as one level higher.  I’m thinking Death Mark, Fan the Flames, Flashing Sun, Foehammer, Divine Surge, and Thicket of Blades stance.  Although Iron Guard’s Glare is also attractive, and if combined with Fire Riposte and Holocaust Cloak, and potentially the various fire shield magics Annata has available to her, could be compelling.

It’s a shame to lose a level of spellcasting, but truth be told, seventh level cleric spells suck.  First of all, there’s not enough of them.  And four of those, really the only good ones, are basically the same spell (dictum/holy word/blasphemy/word of chaos).  Spells like Holy Word and Disrupting Weapon suck because they specify that they only affect creatures of less than your caster level.  So they’re no use on big bads, they are only mook-mowers, and we have plenty of other mook-mowing options. The symbol spells which also take up several spots on the spell list suffer from the same issue.  She’ll miss the level bump to Channel Energy way more.

First Curse of the Crimson Throne “Skeletons of Scarwall” Session Summary Posted

We head out to haunted Castle Scarwall in Part I of Skeletons of Scarwall (8 page .pdf), the fifth and penultimate chapter of the Curse of the Crimson Throne adventure path.  Fighting undead is where Annata is a Viking, so we’re kicking bony ass and taking ghoulish names.  We were tickled to be fighting orcs and skeletons, it’s like we’re first level all over again.

I know it’s hard for a DM to run NPCs in a party, but these three Brotherhood of Bones hangers-on we have are worthless with a capital LESS!  Well, except for our favorite, Laori, who is always entertaining.  This session, she let Annata know she’d like to sleep with her!  I’m writing a separate blog post about how she dealt with that.  Will it violate the Paizo fansite license morals clause?  Find out, read the full summary!

At the end, we fought and slew what we think is the “main boss” but it didn’t lift the evil aura around the place; Paul was impressed that I then intuited we’d need to kill all the sub-bosses and then kill the main boss else he’d just respawn.   I’ve been playing RPGs and computer games for 25 years, I know how game designers think.

Let me say again for the record how sweet the Channel Energy power is for clerics in Pathfinder.  For those not familiar with it, Pathfinder replaced turning undead with “channeling energy.”  It heals people in short range and harms AND turns undead.  You can augment it with feats as Annata has – her channeling damages (but doesn’t turn) evil outsiders, she can make it heal only her allies (by default it heals everyone in range), and she’s quickened it to a free action with Quicken Turning.  It means that:

  • If you have a day where you’re not fighting undead, one of your major class powers isn’t worthless.
  • You can heal at range rather than always having to incur attacks of opportunity to go heal a comrade.
  • You can heal multiple party members at once.
  • You have loads of dice of healing that don’t eat up  your spell slots.  Thus you get to use spells for useful proactive things.
  • With the quicken, you aren’t wasting your time every round of combat with only healing.

Face it, as damage dealing has grown, Cure spells have not kept pace.  Even low level characters dish out or take like 20 points of damage a round – at our level, 80 points in a round isn’t uncommon and I’ve seen more than 100.  The usual 1d, 2d, 3d, 4d Cure spells are pretty much worthless in the face of that; I’d need ten minutes and my entire spell loadout to take care of just a couple rounds of combat.  So the channeling steps in to fill the gap and let the cleric do something in a round other than heal.  Neat!

Second Curse of the Crimson Throne “A History of Ashes” Session Summary Posted

We’re moving quickly, and we finish up the fourth chapter of the Curse of the Crimson Throne Adventure Path this session.

In Part II of A History of Ashes (10 page .pdf), Annata, Malcolm, and Amiri successfully complete our Shoanti ritual as Thorndyke rejoins us.  And then we have to face the biggest Red Mantis hit squad yet.  Amiri and Krojin Eats-What-He-Kills benefit greatly from their barbarian unflankability.  Sadly Malcolm does not, and the fight turns into a WoW-style format of Annata pouring healing as quickly as she can into Malcolm as he hacks at his opponents.  Annata is pretty lucky with striking people blind, her blindness spell succeeds on Cinnabar the Mantis leader.  It’s one of Sarenrae’s prime punishments for infidels so her good luck is dramatically perfect.

Annata respects the Shoanti people a lot more now.  In the beginning she was fearful (as around Korvosa they’re generally considered to be the murder and rape brute squad) and looked down on their “savage” ways.  But living with them, and seeing how they conduct themselves both in battle and in camp, she’s impressed.  They’re certainly brave – Krojin didn’t even bother considering the whole “turn them over to the Red Mantis” spiel from Cinnabar – but they are also surprisingly joyful.  Annata’s never been a big partyer (being largely confined to a temple for most of her post-street urchin life) and their celebrations, even after being attacked, seem much more honest and unabashed than Korvosan life, which appeals to some of her understanding of Sarenrae’s teaching (their worship of the sun also seems symbolic to her).  She gets a bit of a Spring Break experience out of the celebrations and she needed that; being underground resistance in Korvosa had her wound pretty tight.  By the time she has to leave, she is proud to be a Sun Clan Shoanti!

Amiri stays with the clan and Annata works to get her hooked up with Krojin.  Brandie was just temping as a player, and Amiri’s backplot says she was trying to find acceptance with the barbarians so that wraps up neatly.

At the end of Part II, we actually started The Skeletons of Scarwall and did the initial briefing, Harrow readings, etc.  And we get to see Laori again when we go find the Bortherhood of the Bones people!  Shadow Count Sial and Asyra are lame, but Annata really likes Laori.  Except for the evil-god thing they are two peas in a pod and happily chatter away with each other till Malcolm and Thorndyke are driven to distraction.

First Curse of the Crimson Throne “A History of Ashes” Session Summary Posted

We continue into the fourth chapter of the Curse of the Crimson Throne Adventure Path from Paizo, using the Pathfinder RPG beta rules.

Part I of A History of Ashes is kinda Part II since we got a lot of the initial plot explication out in the previous session.  We were really short on players, so Chris’ girlfriend decided to dive in as Amiri the barbarian, and she learned the joy of the UltraHack!

It was a short session, we screwed around a lot beforehand.  We went to get devoured by the sandworm, but the noob is the only one who got swallowed!  Then we go to perform some barbarian initiation ritual where we have to keep our poles erect for three days straight.  Has anyone else noticed that this whole adventure path has been pretty homoerotic?  In the art, even in the character descriptions, there’s “a lot for the ladies” in Curse of the Crimson Throne.  Good thing I’m playing a female character.

Speaking of females, we pressure one of our groupies into playing this time, and she outshines her bf easily!  Woot!