Tag Archives: RPG

Weather Generation For Golarion

The topic of weather generation is popular among sim GMs.  The answers boil down to either random tables or using an almanac to find relevant weather from a place/time similar to the campaign’s.

Since I run a naval campaign, specific temperature, wind, etc. is an important part of the game to me and my PCs. I was using a random table method (using tables cobbled together from several sources because no one source has tables that are complete and don’t suck) – but I think I have a new plan along the almanac method line!

Enter VentuSky. Frickin beautiful isn’t it?  An animated map of temperature, wind, etc. for every hour of every day. Wind… Waves… All the info you’d ever want.  And on Golarion most areas are “Earth-like” – my PCs are sailing down the coast of Garund, which can be easily mapped one-to-one with the African coast. In fact, use this very cool interactive Golarion map to set up equivalencies!

The only problem it’s a short window forecast instead of all historical data, so you’re kinda stuck to same time-of-year as current IRL, but I thought I’d share it anyway! I emailed them to see what the chance was of getting historical data in there as well… I’ll update you!

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…

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

kemblor

Kemblor the Gnome

Sixth Session (8 page pdf) – “Finding Ilizmagorti” – Betrayal and gnomes go hand in hand as their castaway reveals his dark secret. Then it’s all storms and sea-whores as they sail southward.

Well so one day I had this idea come to me about a guy who was a “castaway” but was really like a ship serial killer.  Specifically a summoner who could blame attacks on “the monster” – his eidolon.

Kemblor is the implementation of that daydream.  His sea-dragon manages to drag off and devour one crewman, Nimborn, and harries the ship for days. Finally, as PCs do, they go into crazy no-backing-down-follow-it-into-the-depths-and-kill mode and drag it up, causing ol’ Kemblor to start busting out the spells.  Pit and grease spells make for an entertaining if foregone conclusion. After a break to combat a storm, they keelhaul him to death (there’s convenient rules for keelhauling in Skull and Shackles).

Kemblor the gnome meets his end after only one pass over the keel. His spirit joins that of his eidolon Odosha. The head is removed, a brass plate “Kemblor” is attached, then it is thrown into the corpse barrel.

The crew remains riled up for the rest of the day.

Then they come across a prize that ends up taking them… At least for most of their spare cash.  The Nun’s Dishonor under Captain Pugwash is a ship full of whores bound for Ilizmagorti. And by pure chance on the weather tables both ships are becalmed for a couple days. The entire ToA crew blows their ready money on days of straight debauchery.

Once they get underway, they experience one of the heavy storms that the giant permanent hurricane known as the Eye of Abendego throws off.  They came through it but there were some close scrapes and they are grateful to see Mediogalti Island finally heave into sight.

Wrath of the Righteous Chapter Six, City of Locusts – Sixth Session

pzo9246-areelu-vorlesh

Areelu Vorlesh

Sixth Session (9 page pdf) – We confront the witch Areelu Vorlesh, in order to slay her and then to close the Worldwound for good! We also get an undead Storm King, a hundred-handed titan, an avatar of Deskari, and more in the bargain. No worries for mythic murderhobos, and we close the rift – but then we get tossed into a landscape with Deskari the demon lord himself!  All that remains is blood and vengeance in the climax of this AP!

So you know it’s going to be a big fight when it starts off like this:

The doors at the end of the chamber slam open. Standing there is Areelu Vorlesh and Korramzadeh the Storm King. The Storm King has changed somewhat since the characters last slew him – he now has a distinctly undead cast to his features. She is also escorted by four vrolokai demons. Areelu Vorlesh starts off by casting gate and bringing in a hecatonchires titan, a massive creature fifty feet tall with a hundred arms, each of them carrying a weapon. The creature is so massive it must squeeze to get through the twenty-foot portal.

This fight is actually a challenge.  We have multiple party members struck down, though breath of lifes and miracles flow heavy to bring them back into the fray. I go after the vrolokais, Trystan and Calanthe go after Areelu Vorlesh, Shawanda tanks the Storm King, our new friend the inevitable keeps the titan occupied with a wall of force.  Tabregon and Tsuguri pour the healing and extra actions into us. Finally,

Trystan opens fire on Areelu Vorlesh with the mighty sun bow, driving her to the very doorstep of death. Seeing her near to her end, he fires a single remaining arrow into her throat. She falls to her knees, staggered, pierced through by seven arrows. Shawanda takes advantage of this to strike down Areelu Vorlesh, executing the witch with Radiance. As she dies, the characters are able to see her soul emerge from her body, and then get dragged down by a swarm of insects to be absorbed into the material of the Abyss.

She’s dead, we do the ritual, the Worldwound is closed, Golarion is saved!  Happy ending? Well, it would be but when we do that we all get teleported in disarray into someplace where Deskari the demon lord and a batch of heavy hitter minions (balors, apocalypse locusts) are lurking. I (Antonius) am struck down immediately and Deskari and his goons loom over us…

And then Trystan shoots him right in the head – rolls a crit, pulls a card from the Paizo crit deck we use, head shot, instant kill. (There may have been a one rolled on a massive damage save in here too, I don’t remember clearly). But it was a righteous single shot demon prince kill. We’re all like “What the shit!?!” The balors all skedaddle. Victory!  We all roleplay our new lives as gods/mortals/Kung FU wanderers for a denouement.

Next, a debrief!

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

Fifth Session (9 page pdf) – “The Way South” – The crew finishes up their business and intelligence gathering in Azir and set sail to Mediogalti Island.  Along the way they pick up a castaway and a strange sea dragon begins picking off crewmen!

The first part is the PCs wrapping up all the various subplots they self-initiated while in the city. Warnings of Chelaxian warships, information about White Estrid, hook-ups between the aasimar women and the ship’s officers…  Local lad Said becomes Sindawe’s cabin boy… And per “the deal,” the Argentate Blades are put to use *by* the PCs and abduct Zorzi back!

Sindawe is initially really worried and thinks the woman will be traumatized or damaged.  As is my wont I roll d20 off the cuff to determine magnitude of things and – she was unfazed.

“I got fed and bathed and lounged around and all I had to do was some sex with a modestly ugly man.”

The scene with the warring stevedores is drawn from my reading of historical naval stuff… The amount of cajoling, threatening, outright bribery, competition, duplicity, etc. is mind-boggling so I tried to capture some of that flavor.  Sindawe’s player has read a lot of the same things so he’s pretty clever about making it all work out OK.

Then it’s goodbyes and off with their hired navigator Tarek to go to Ilizmagorti, home of the Red Mantis assassins and friendly pirate port.

kemblor

Kemblor

And then they pick up a gnomish castaway!  His name is Kemblor and he seems nice, but his last ship got destroyed by some kind of monster.  Some kind of monster that then begins to raid the Teeth of Araska!

More on that next time…

 

 

Wrath of the Righteous Chapter Six, City of Locusts – Fifth Session

favoredofdeskari

Favored of Deskari

Fifth Session (8 page pdf) – We kill some giant maggots, a devastator, the Favored of Deskari, some demented aeons… Actually, we heal the aeons. Then we kill some demons and free an inevitable. I personally kill a mythic quasit in a gimp mask.  The Abyss gets goofier all the time.

The demon killing’s not done yet.  It’s fight after fight as we get to the Heart of the Worldwound.

Shawanda steps up to a katpaskier demon, Radiance in hand. She cuts free its arms, then its legs, then severs its head. Evil-smelling ichor flows across the floor. She pronounces, “This is how you treat assassins who have no respect for life.” She is unaware that her words echo those of Prince Argrath upon his return to Pavis.

Our session scribe, besides being invested in the fight descriptions, is also indulging his penchant for Gloranthan lore. But what all this boils down to is we fight bugs and demons and stuff.  We’re jaded so we’re just like “OK” but then when a quasit with a gimp mask shows up that gets our attention!