Tag Archives: Paizo

Pathfinder Second Edition!

Hey all! Real life has been getting in the way of blogging, but luckily not of gaming (at least not too much).

Paizo came out with Starfinder late last year. It looks nice, but I’m not really interested. I like hard sci-fi, I like fantasy… But the “Spelljammer” type of crossover always leaves me flat.

I’m still running my super long Pathfinder pirates campaign, Reavers on the Seas of Fate. Other than that we’ve kinda stopped playing PF and have been playing a variety of other games – one shots, a number of Powered by the Apocalypse games like Dungeon World and Masks, and now a campaign of Unknown Armies second edition.

But then out of the blue, news of a second edition of Pathfinder! They’re dumping info now on paizo.com and a playtest version of 2e will be available for free in PDF on August 2. Or, you can buy it in book form! We played a whole campaign using the original Pathfinder beta playtest, so that should sell well I bet.

So am I into it?

Some random thoughts.

Well, most of the changes they’re mentioning are good. A couple of the ideas don’t seem well baked (“resonance” to power your magic items? Lame and gamey. Goblins as a core PC race? Ridiculous, given the flavor of Golarion goblins.) but in general I will bet it’s a better Pathfinder in the end. They are smart, they are playtesting, many of the changes promise to reduce complexity…

I didn’t care about extreme 3.5e compatibility with PF 1.0 and I don’t care now. On the Know Direction podcast, Erik Mona was talking about the new version and said that it’s not about slavish devotion to a ruleset, it’s about being able to tell the kinds of stories we want to tell with D&D (something D&D 4e scuttled hard). And while some of the more autistic Pathfinder people can’t understand or accept “winging it” (some of the host comments on that podcast really made me wince), I’ve run previous edition adventures with PF just fine even if they’re not 3e. It’s not hard. Rules compatibility isn’t important, storytelling compatibility is, I’m totally with Mona on this.

I own nearly every single Pathfinder product – I’ve been a subscriber to all the lines except like minis and trinkets since the beginning – every AP, every campaign setting and player book – just not like special editions and cards and whatnot. But I don’t mind my investment taking a hit, the campaign setting stuff is the best and it’ll all be usable.

But am I excited? I don’t know. Erik clearly says it’s still going to have the complex rules detail PF does now. And as I get older, my patience for the OCD min-maxing crowd goes nowhere but down. I don’t mind having more character options per se (Paizo’s classes are all brilliant, unlike the muddled mess of 3e’s Complete series…). And I can get being an “Advanced” Dungeons & Dragons – in a way, 5e is the Basic and Pathfinder is the Advanced, in old D&D terms. But… It’s just so God damned fiddly. And then that attracts the fiddlers, and then they cater to that more and more in their products. I played Pathfinder Society once… Once. No one gave a single crap about roleplaying or story, it was all a tactical exercise in optimized combat. I mean,even RPGA organized play events came off better (Living City in D&D 2e, Living Greyhawk in D&D 3e).

It’s definitely time for it. I was just about to cancel my Player’s Companion subscription – I held on for a long time but now it’s like “I need another dozen random feats why?” +2 to something, whoop de fucking do. So it’s possible to recapture my attention. I mean, I am still running a PF campaign.

So, I’ll definitely check out the playtest. As for whether I’ll then play it… I don’t know. Like, I like D&D 5e, I think it’s better than 4e by 100% and probably better than 3.5e. But I’m not playing it, because it’s still complex and time consuming. “Ooo look at me take my 5 actions in my turn.” And PF is doing some of the same things in 2.0 – 3 actions instead of 2 per round. Bah. 1e/2e were great, you took one swing and on to the next guy and then your turn came back around in less than 30 minutes.

In general I’m buying Pathfinder for the great adventure paths, interesting class and monster ideas, and the great campaign setting and its lore. I read the comics and the books (which I guess have stopped? I subscribe to Pathfinder Tales but haven’t gotten one in quite a while). But Moar Powerz and more minigames are not interesting to me. And I don’t know if that’s really the majority of their customer base, or just the ones that then spend their time spamming their message board all day, but they seem to think the money lies that way.

TL;DR – I’m ambivalent. I think it’ll be better, and I’ll definitely check it out. Can they re-fire my desire to play it? We’ll see, I’m open to it!

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Reavers on the Seas of Fate, Season Five, Eleventh Session

Waterspout

Eleventh Session (10 page pdf) – “The Key To War Machine, Part I” – The pirates brave the Sodden Lands to find the control key to the superweapon. A shore party descends into a boggy crypt…

First, the ship has to deal with the issue of Serpent’s wife Samaritha being lost overboard in the Eye of Abendego. With clever use of spells and some sharp sailing they find her and are effecting a rescue, when my next random Eye of Abendego weather conditions roll comes up double zero.

The entire crew is lining the port rail, intent on watching the rescue. From the other railing, Wekk the Cloven screams, “Great Gozreh’s cock!” As everyone whirls, they see him pointing at a waterspout forming to the north. (A waterspout is a tornado over water, for you landlubbers.)

The next bit is the PCs desperately trying to keep their ship together as the waterspout hits – my ship rules turn this into a pretty epic and interesting “combat.” Serpent keeps leaping overboard to save people, which in hurricane-racked seas would be suicide if he wasn’t all optimized with a Swim speed and everything.

Finally they get to the Sodden Lands and go ashore. They’re searching a ruined Chelaxian plantation for the control doohickey for the war machine Mase Venjum promised them. This bit is taken from Tomb of the Necrophage from Tombs of Golarion. In the first part they mainly just fight angry juju zombies; apparently someone’s gotten here before them.

Reavers on the Seas of Fate, Season Five, Tenth Session

The Kraken’s Spite

Tenth Session (11 page pdf) – “The Eye of the Storm” – The pirates take on a skald and set off through the Eye of Abendego, which tests their mettle as sailors harshly – and Samaritha is lost overboard when a waterspout hits!

So first they come across a weird sight – an Ulfen longship!  This far south? They decide to parley instead of fight (probably a good idea, as the ship is the Kraken’s Spite from Ships of the Inner Sea, and the crew is pretty stout). They just want to get rid of a skald that needs to go further south.  Why?  Well apparently Ulfen Linnorm King White Estrid sacked Nisroch and sent skalds in all four compass directions to spread the word of her feat!  And those of you who’ve been with us a while remember that the PCs were there when her fleet attacked…

Maar Eiderson

I hadn’t yet determined what happened in the Estrid vs Nisroch battle, and decided to leave it up to the dice, and dependent on the fight between White Estrid’s ice linnorm thrall Boiltongue and the ancient umbral dragon the Nidalese had put in place after her first raid for such an eventuality.  So between sessions I rolled out a fight between the two and – OK I’m such a nerd – composed a skald poem to relate it to the PCs.  The fight took a long time. Here it is, The Battle of the Two Dragons in its entirety, related by the skald Maar Eiderson.

As the fleets of the Northmen reaved into Nisroch harbor
Estrid’s Pet wreaked destruction on the darkling city
When an ebon tower rove asunder and a great shadow wyrm arose
The two huge beasts circled each other and darkened the ground
Boiltongue spoke first and his maw sprayed ice across the blackness
The other replied in a cacophony of shadow that drained the icy one’s might
But then the ice hardened and it fell like a mountain to earth
The crash was felt throughout the bay
As darkling buildings were crushed to gravel
But Boiltongue raged aloft, blinded by the shades
As the dark one tried to free itself from the frost
The linnorm’s vision cleared, and he followed the shade to ground
And snapped at its flitting flanks, as it shook free of the encircling ice
The dark dragon’s eyes blazed as it uttered a dark word of destruction
That caused the bravest men’s hearts to quake
But Boiltongue the linnorm is beyond such magics
And continued to press his attack unslaked
The shadow wyrm pulled together the shadows to encircle him
But Boiltongue struck unerringly through the darkness
The shade spoke again and shadows spilled out, covering the wyrm of ice
Whose claws and fangs lashed out but could not find purchase
The shade took to the air with frightening speed
Its wings blew building walls down, like a storm from the north
As men and darklings fought and died around
But Boiltongue followed it into the twilight sky
The shadow wyrm called upon its dark magic and became faster still
Like a shadow flits across a wall, it darted by Boiltongue and each
time opened a rent
In the great linnorm’s side. But the linnorm’s wounds knit
Almost as speedily as they opened; and he bode his time
And iced its wings again as it approached
The shade fell into the bay, and the wave it made as it smote the water
Raised up boats a dozen feet; the ice wyrm followed right after
But the shade broke free of the ice and turned his full fury onto Boiltongue
Ripping into the linnorm with fangs and claws and pinions again and again
Till Boiltongue’s blood stained the dark waters oil-black
The linnorm coiled around the dragon and dragged it down into the icy waters
It burst free and shot out of the waters into the darkened sky
And circled enraged looking for its opponent
But Boiltongue lurked below, the icy waters knitting his wounds
The shadow wyrm descended on a longship, and shadows vomited from its maw
Draining the life from a dozen Ulfen warriors
Boiltongue surfaced by Estrid’s flagship and the king saw he was weakened
By the shadow wyrm’s foul darkness
She ordered her war-priest to restore his strength and enchant his fangs
That they might find purchase on his ghostly foe
And the Lord in Iron’s blessing was given unto the linnorm
The umbral dragon’s fiery eyes espied this and he spoke his word of
destruction against the priest
Whose ears bled, and quaked in agony
Boiltongue surged from the waters to answer this offense
And the dark one eagerly met him
Determined to rip him asunder once and for all
Boiltongue’s fangs sank into the shade in turn
And their serpentine bodies coiled about each other in a death-knot
The shadowy one broke free of Boiltongue’s embrace and shot away
Boiltongue coiled up into the sky proudly awaiting its charge
It paused, muttering draconic magic, and then advanced
But turned aside, hurtling down towards Estrid’s ship
The linnorm ignored this, and charged and struck at air
Whence the real dragon commanded its shadowy double
Taken aback, it again breathed out its shadows on the linnorm
But prepared for its tricks, Boiltongue was barely affected
And his mighty jaws crunched down on the shade’s neck
It roared as the linnorm’s feared venom, the black blood of the earth
Flowed into its veins. In a frenzy it tore into Boiltongue
As Boiltongue replied fang for fang
But the shadow dragon’s pinion struck to the heart of the great linnorm
And this time it was Boiltongue that fell from the heavens
Into the icy heart of the bay; the dragon roared in triumph and followed
Him down to finish off his victim; but in the chaos of the spray
He missed the linnorm’s throat with his claws
And Boiltongue, his wounds healing, lashed from the waves
And raked his foe with poisoned fang; the umbral one raged
And slashed and battered his wounded foe into icy hunks of flesh
Then tried to rise, but the venom in its blood found
Its dark heart, and it fell again into the waters
And sank into the depths alongside the linnorm.
Men on both sides shrank from the fray
To see such destruction wrought by the massive titans
Upon each others’ colossal frames
Ice and shadow unleashing their might
To finally take each other in their death-spasms
But the linnorm is no mere beast
He is a part of the arctic primeval
Even as the battle between Ulfen and darklings swelled
His corpse began to come together
And knit itself back into its ancient shape
Ice gripped the hearts of the Nidalese scum
As Boiltongue rose again from the waves
The umbral scourge defeated
He devoured its dark heart And his roar was like the north wind
And the howl of the wendigo in winter
The defenders quailed and fled from the fight
And thus did the men of Halgrim, led by White Estrid the Linnorm King
Sack Nisroch again.

White Estrid and Boiltongue

Both of them had DR and SR and high saves so the fight went many rounds. The umbral dragon had the linnorm generally outclassed, but its regeneration (and a little help from the Ulfen) kept it in the fight long enough to finally get its poison to proc, and once that happens it’s a short trip.

Well roused by the recitation, the Teeth of Araska sails into the permanent hurricane the Eye of Abendego… The storms batter the ship, and they manage to keep control but Samaritha is washed overboard!  Fly doesn’t do the trick when the ship’s flying before a gale wind…

Reavers on the Seas of Fate, Season Five, Ninth Session

Ninth Session (12 page pdf) – “The Sea Queen’s Pearl, Part II” – While they are making their escape, the crew encounters their own Jurassic Park. Once they return, it’s all shopping and celebration and planning for their voyage south to reclaim a secret Chelaxian superweapon!

I like the sessions where they have their pirate crew around; I really try to set a certain tone with their pirates, best described as “murder frat” – equal parts casual brutality and juvenile fucking around. It’s that contrast that makes similar fiction compelling, from the Sons of Anarchy biker gangs to the Goodfellas mobsters. The PCs seem to have an unlimited appetite to getting drawn into whatever problems or shenanigans their crew is into.

Little Mike gets a new nickname, “Tasty Mike,” this session, for how the monsters all seem to want to take a bite out of him.  He takes this on enthusiastically because being “Little Mike” to Big Mike really irritates him.  (This is actually taken from my Memphis gaming group, where we had two Mikes and dubbed one Little Mike and one Big Mike and Little Mike just couldn’t ever get over it.)

After more shenanigans and equipping, it’s off to get the Chelish superweapon, the Terraken, to become terrors of the shipping lanes!

Reavers on the Seas of Fate, Season Five, Eighth Session

tarins-crown-coverEighth Session (8 page pdf) – “The Sea Queen’s Pearl” – A trek overland to a pirate hideout, and then it’s pirate on pirate murder as they storm a rival captain’s redoubt!

Pretty much the entire session is a lightning raid on the pirate keep, which is from the Legendary Games adventure Islands of Plunder: Tarin’s Crown, only very slightly modified from its original form. It’s hard hitting action all the way through!

Wrath of the Righteous Retrospective

Well, we finished our Wrath of the Righteous campaign successfully.  You can read the many, many session summaries and weep in fear at our hellacious character builds at the link.  “Yeah, I’m level 16 with 10 mythic tiers, no big deal.”

Overall we enjoyed this AP, but it was deeply flawed in a number of ways.  It was ambitious, but its reach exceeded its grasp.

The Characters

I enjoyed my PC, Antonius.  I tied him into a Dave Gross novel even, as being a ward of Count Varian Jeggare gained after the Iron Mountain massacre in Tien Xia.  Having been brought up some in Cheliax he was a nice foil to the rest of the party’s expectations.   I was pro-tiefling (because of Uncle Jeggare’s man Radovan) and, true to a LG alignment, saw LE devils and CG whatnots with equivalent amounts of distaste. So some of the goody-goodys looked on his proud red and black Chelish garb with suspicion. As a monk/paladin of Irori he was different and I tried to balance the “lack of attachment” Irori thing with, you  know, Pathfinder, gotta have some loot to play.  I also gave a try playing him as a gay character, but all the major NPCs were chicks in this AP!  So I was largely thwarted there.  I tried to start something up with some guy’s brother we found who had been turned to a statue and we turned him back but then it was “back to the Abyss to kill demons” and the task at hand, realistically, was always more pressing than love, so really no romantic attachments were made by any of the PCs in this AP.  I did pull off the “you are already dead” Fist of the North Star move once in a while, which made me happy.

The other PCs were all fun. Our aasimar sorceress was our war leader since the mini-ruleset about wars was all about Charisma, so we called her “Khaleesi” much to Tim’s chagrin. Patrick was Shawanda the paladin (modeled on the iconic paladin), who paladinned up the paladin. Matt was Trystan the archer, who built his own religion. Bruce (Skyping in) was Tabregon the oracle, who largely healed and boasted about how much he could carry.  Chris’ cleric Tsuguri was of some good Tien moon and insanity god, so that was nice and different.

The Story

The story was decent.  A bit railroady.  We went to interesting places and saw interesting demons and killed them, which definitely lives up to what it says on the tin.  It did get a bit repetitive – one fire, bug, and ichor soaked place after another loses its punch with repetition.

The initial NPCs were supposed to be interesting throughout the entire campaign.  They weren’t.  We picked out other NPCs we liked more, like Uziel our repentant tiefling.  Our GM was a good sport about pivoting to them instead of the goons we were “supposed to” care about. This happened in Jade Regent too.  “Here’s people you should care about, instead of the more interesting people you meet” is crap design and they need to quit it. I mean, a GM should just call the audible but they can feel constrained from doing that when the adventure keeps trotting someone out because it “might be important” that it’s them… They should explicitly say “you can sub in other NPCs into whatever weird relationship or plot minigame we’ve built into this.”

There were too many high level NPCs for us to pal around with really.  Our poor GM – he’s trying to run a crapload of super high power bad guys, and besides our party we end up having a variety of angels and a Runelord and such along with us. So none of them really get their due.  We converted a Runelord to good!  And then it was just kinda like “we have a pet Runelord now.”  “Hey Alderpash you gonna get the lead out and fireball someone or just sit on your ass another round?!?” There were so many rules options it was too much to keep up with just for ourselves and for the primary bad guy, let along a bunch of other high-level-plus-epic-tier guys.  It devalued them.

But we kept interested in the story, in fact later on in the AP the GM was kinda dispirited at how much we were rolling over the fights and wanted to know if we wanted to continue the AP or not.  We said yes – by this time the idea of more grindy fights was not attractive, but gunning through the encounters to get to the story points was interesting.

Challenge Level

The AP was flat underpowered.  By a large margin.  Some of this is the mythic rules (coming next) but frankly I’m not sure we needed the mythic tiers to rock this AP. The GM upped enemies and added stuff and had bunches of singleton enemies band together.  We still one-rounded a lot of stuff.

This was partly good and partly bad.  On the one hand, when we one-rounded a mythic two-headed linnorm, I felt like “boo – that should have been more epic.” But when confronted with another fight with bugs with 1000 hp apiece, I couldn’t get those combats over with fast enough.

The Mythic Rules

The mythic rules are a innovative ruleset from Paizo.  They’re not just retreading 3.5 content, they are continuously exploring the design space and coming up with more options.

The mythic rules, as written, are 50% on target.  They’re billed as “not just more plusses – they’re truly myth and legend level powers.” And that’s true – sometimes.  The story they tell about the mythic rules is compelling, its execution slightly less so, and its use in this AP much less so.

My most bad ass power was Imprinting Hand. Also very thematic as an Irori worshipper.  I could touch someone and gain knowledge about them.  The GM loved this too, as he could dump the 1 page of AP backstory on me in the 30 seconds before we ripped whatever it was asunder for good. That’s a mythic power.

For every one of those, there’s a “double your plusses” power.  Mythic Power Attack, et al.  Those weren’t fun, they were just power inflation. Various others made us immune to something – we liked those, though they frustrated the GM.  He’d do something whizbang to us and we’d say “Oh, I’m unaffected…” We started referring to these at the table as our “cheating bonus.”  “The room fills with poison gas!  Make a DC 30 Fort save!” “I’m not affected.  You know, cheating bonus.” The GM would just sigh and move on.

Then the other powers – which were fun but also the real source of mass power – were the ones giving us extra actions.  Lots of extra actions.  That’s how we’d really kill stuff.  I could double move then full attack then get an extra attack.

The mythic rules as written are OK.  But Wrath of the Righteous did not make the best use of them.

First of all – mythic enemies are supposed to be legendary enemies. We ended up fighting mythic bugs.  Not bug-men named the King of Biting Ants or whatever – just big locusts they gave mythic tiers to.  Super stupid.

Second – they did not use mythic flaws at all.  I was hoping we’d have a lot of fights that required smarts.  You know, a giant minotaur we just can’t hurt until we figure out he’s only vulnerable to mistletoe sprigs, that kind of stuff.  That’s covered in the mythic rules.  Nope!  Not a single damn opponent had those.  The answer was always, always, “just pour on more hit points worth of damage.”  That’s extremely unfortunate and I don’t understand the thinking there.  I know the Paizo designers are smarter than that.  Is it “well some players are dumb and if they can’t just hack their way through everything they’ll get TPKed and/or frustrated and that’s bad for sales?”  I don’t know, but it made mythic combat – which should allegedly be more interesting that just pure high-level combat – even more predictable and “mash the buttons till it dies.”  Well, this AP buyer would like to request some that require two brain cells to rub together and not just DPS.

Conclusion

I don’t want to say this AP was bad – but it kinda broke us of Pathfinder, to be honest.  One of the reasons we went with Dungeon World for our next campaign was that we were looking for other options – 5e, Savage Worlds, DW – because after this festival of rules and math, when we looked at new APs and considered launching into one, we (and more importantly, the GM) were like – “Fuck this, I don’t want to do this again.”

It’s not just the mythic rules’ fault, we’ve been playing Pathfinder a long time and with every year there’s another 50 lbs. of rules options. It gets tiring.  I remember our last D&D 3.5e campaign before we left 3.5e behind for good, we were so jaded we were all playing super weird races and classes trying to recapture that elusive high – “chasing the dragon” in a very real sense. We had to take a break.

I’m still running a Pathfinder campaign – that I’ve deliberately kept down to 8th level over like 5 years because I have been doing this long enough I can see when the light at the end of the tunnel is a train.

We’re still using Paizo APs because they generally rock especially when divorced from the weight of the rules.  Will we go back to Pathfinder?  Maybe at some point, hard to say right now.

So I’m not saying don’t play Wrath of the Righteous – but I am saying know what you’re getting into.  If you love the rules and tactics, you’ll love it.  If you don’t, but want to put a lot of work into revamping it, you’ll probably love it too – it has a good chassis that if a GM were to significantly alter it (reduce number but add weight/complexity of… everything) it’d make a rollicking good story. But running it as-is, even with minor mods, it’s a mixed bag.

Reavers on the Seas of Fate, Season Five, Seventh Session

ilizmagorti

Ilizmagorti

Seventh Session (10 page pdf) – “Ilizmagorti” – The home of the Red Mantis assassins! But fear turns quickly to drinking. And safaris! Shimye-Magalla commands her faithful to recover a holy artifact…

So Ilizmagorti is the not so secret HQ of the Red Mantis assassin cult. So “don’t jack with the locals” is the order of the day.  This puts a bit of the fear into the PCs but then they have a good time…

Ilizmagorti is detailed in Cities of Golarion, and they have a sidebar with all these local booze concoctions.  I buy these books to use every scrap of local color, so I make the navigator Tarek more interesting by him being a closet epicurean who knows all the best places to eat and drink on the island.  The PCs happily take his lead and I get to roll off all the various boozes of the island… From the Rusty Cutlass to the Dark and Stormy to the Whore’s Breakfast, they drink them all.

And in an entertaining cameo, when Sindawe goes to the Quarterdeck, a ship’s captain-only tavern, he shares info and shoots the shit with Captain Harrigan, the villain of the first part of the Skull & Shackles adventure path.

But then, a dream… Many of the crew share allegiance of some sort or another to Desna, Gozreh, or the janiform combo of the two, Shimye-Magalla, who is worshipped down in these parts. She comes to them and encourages them to retrieve a holy artifact!

They ask around and find out that Captain Jared “Red Skewer” Tarin and his crew are holed up at their base on the island with the loot. And that a half dozen other pirate ships are lurking nearby because they all want his score for themselves.

Wogan asks, “What’s on the land side?”

“Apes. Man eating plants. Folks building ice factories. It would be daring but certainly less awful than the sea wall.”

Note the Mosquito Coast reference?  Paul Theroux?  Read a book!!!

Anyway so safaris to see dinosaurs aren’t uncommon here, so they book one as cover and head out into the bush with the plans of ascending Tarin’s Crown…