Tuesday, 22 July 2014

The Pathfinder Chronicles is Closing Down...

While the title of this is true it does not mean that I am leaving the blogging world.  Instead I am simply moving to my own space.  

I have a plan to continue the growth of my blog and for it to be a reliable source of information for a multitude of games.  I one day hope to be offering more than a simple blog, such things as programs I have made for use like character generators and other similar material.  
We've laughed, cried and killed zombies but it is time to move on!
This idea is somewhat hard to obtain whilst working with a blogger interface (which the Pathfinder Chronicles is currently) and so I have decided to put in motion a three year plan to expand and improve the blog.  That has meant that I have invested in my own little patch of the internet where I can build and expand as I see fit without the need to have to jury rig around limitations put in place for people's ease of use.

So I bid a fond farewell to this blog and say hello to my new blog site which has all of the Pathfinder Chronicles posts already migrated on to it.  The site has been in my possession for less than 24 hours and already people are visiting, commenting and offering up the good vibes.  The new site is www.rpgknights.com and is named so that I feel a bit freer in discussing all games, not just Pathfinder.  There will of course still be Pathfinder material but hopefully the blog name will be more inviting to all gamers!

I have also signed on a couple of people to give me a hand with the site and the writing so a bit of variety of tone and content will brighten the site up.  I still have to talk to them about how we handle it but I am sure it will all be a nice relaxed affair full of fun and information!

So please take the time to investigate the new site.  It is a work in progress at the moment while I get used to the new space.  I may repaint the walls and move the furniture a bit for the first couple of weeks but things should settle down soon enough.  One thing is for certain and that is the new site offers a lot more flexibility in being able to find old posts of interest and is a much more attractive place to be.  This blog will stay open but not updated after this post up until December is planned at this stage.  I will then delete the blog and the migration will be complete.  This post will be the only post not transferred based on its content and therefore it is the only post that anyone will miss from this blog.

Thanks again for being a great audience to write for and I hope to be writing for you well into the future over at www.rpgknights.com!  Keep rolling...

Monday, 21 July 2014

What Should You Include in a Running Sheet

A couple of weeks ago I talked about something that I have recently started to use, a running sheet if you will.  The idea is designed to help me run the game a little smoother and to make sure that I don't miss anything that could alter the path of the game that I have planned.

At the time that I wrote that I had used a sheet that I had designed for an upcoming game and so I did not let the full amount of detail on that sheet be shown so my players got no inside information.  I got a gentle reminder from a reader that I had planned to let the details of my running sheet out and so today is the day that I offer up a document of the details that I include on my sheets.  Click the link and you will download a PDF of the below pictured document.
My formalised running sheet
So, on the sheet there are quite a few things that I have space for.  I rarely include notes in all the sections but I use what I need and if I am running short of space I use some that I didn't! 

I have a Game ID which I just assign a number to (I am a little OCD I number my games) and a Date.  You can use the date for the current date or the date in game.

The two large sections are my main weaknesses.  The first has an area where you can note down Plot Flow or draw a flow chart between encounters and that allows us to see what events connect to what and how the flow of the game could go.

The second large box contains specific notes about NPC's that I use to prompt me of any items I feel will be pertinent in game or that I might easily forget.  The other thing is that I might find other things that I am likely to forget like terrain details and other information.

The next column has a series of bits I may need.  A References box that gives me pages in books I may quickly need to look up.  Another box for me to "not forget" stuff (I forget a lot)!  I then have some Random Names so if I need to add an NPC in at short notice I am prepared.  Plot hooks box is for some of the details or encounters that I design that I may want to slip in and get in the players head.  

Special Rule References section is there for things that are unusual and I want to stand out.  Say if I was going to run a flying game I might specifically put those references in this section instead of the first reference box.  PC Connections is a section I would use if I plan anything specific that is attached to a PC background or personal story.  Ongoing Conditions is a section that I note any details that occur in the game that will affect the play for the following game.  I use these sheets to review what happened briefly before doing the next sheet where I would put ongoing conditions in the do not forget sections for the new game.  The Other section is just that, anything else.  The final sections record the random encounter details that I will pre-generate prior to sitting down at the table.

So, use the sheet if you think it will do you some benefit.  It certainly has helped me run games in a much smoother manner.  Until next time, keep rolling!

Reign of Winter : Frozen Stars Game 5

Starts around 8 P.M. Come and have a look :)


Sunday, 20 July 2014

Pathfinder Encounters: In Honour of Monty Python CR 7

The bridge across the chasm...
He is out there lass.  Standing on that bridge day and night, rain, hail, snow, sun.  The Black Knight.  "None Shall Pass!" he states in a deep voice, and to date, none ever have.

A brief encounter on a bridge across a raging river in a chasm eighty feet below.  This encounter is inspired by the Monty Python crew as they return to the stage for their last hurrah!

The Black Knight is an armour master and seeks to withstand a barrage whilst defending the bridge.  He will likely frustrate players as his Armor Class is very high for this encounter.  If he gets a chance he will attempt to drink both his bulls strength and bears endurance potions before engaging the PC's.  Have fun with this encounter, after all it is in honour of Monty Python!  Keep rolling.

The Black Knight    CR 7
XP 3,200
Human Fighter (Armor Master) 8 (Pathfinder RPG Ultimate Combat 0)
LE Medium humanoid (human)
Init +6; Senses Perception +1

Defense

AC 26, touch 15, flat-footed 23 (+10 armor, +3 shield, +2 Dex, +1 dodge)
hp 80 (8d10+32)
Fort +10, Ref +5, Will +4
DR 3/—

Offense

Speed 20 ft.
Melee heavy shield bash +11/+6 (1d6+3) and
   +1 bastard sword +14/+9 (1d10+6/17-20)

Statistics

Str 16, Dex 14, Con 16, Int 10, Wis 12, Cha 8
Base Atk +8; CMB +11; CMD 24
Feats Combat Reflexes, Dodge, Exotic Weapon Proficiency (bastard sword), Greater Weapon Focus (bastard sword), Improved Critical (bastard sword), Improved Initiative, Improved Shield Bash, Toughness, Weapon Focus (bastard sword), Weapon Specialization (bastard sword)
Skills Craft (armor) +11, Craft (weapons) +11, Intimidate +10, Sense Motive +6, Swim +5
Languages Common
SQ armor training 2, armored defense, deflective shield
Combat Gear potion of bear's endurance, potion of bull's strength; Other Gear +1 full plate, +1 shield spikes heavy steel shield, +1 bastard sword, cloak of resistance +1, artisan's tools, artisan's tools, 2 pp, 25 gp

Special Abilities

Armored Defense (1/2/3) (Ex) At 5th level, an armor master gains DR 1/ - when wearing light armor, DR 2/ - when wearing medium armor, and DR 3/ - when wearing heavy armor. At 19th level, this damage reduction increases to DR 4/ - when wearing light armor, DR 8/ - when wearing me
Combat Reflexes (3 AoO/round) Can make extra attacks of opportunity/rd, and even when flat-footed.
Damage Reduction (3/-) You have Damage Reduction against all attacks.
Deflective Shield +2 (Ex) +2 bonus to touch AC, up to AC bonus provided by shield worn.
Improved Shield Bash You still get your shield bonus while using Shield Bash.
Hero Lab and the Hero Lab logo are Registered Trademarks of LWD Technology, Inc. Free download at http://www.wolflair.com Pathfinder® and associated marks and logos are trademarks of Paizo Publishing, LLC®, and are used under license.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

Matt Jackson and the Great Map Challenge

So, here is a thing that I found when I arrived at work this morning.  +matt jackson  the map making military man from the USA had created a map.  Nothing unusual apart from the fact that he had offered up in a Friday map challenge for us to fill it with adventure!  This was a challenge I had to get into.  I saw that others had already completed it so I decided that in between serving customers I would build an adventure to share in the way that would benefit the readers of this blog and also the people in Google+ that has helped me along the way.
Free Pathfinder adventure people!

I intended the entire adventure to fit neatly into a single post for the blog.  But then it grew, and it grew and then I decided it was time to turn it into a PDF for you to download.  So without any further ado I offer you the mini-adventure written for Pathfinder characters between 18th and 20th level titled The Caverns of the Tane Trio.  Download the PDF from this link.

The adventure is centered around the appearance of three of the greatest threats from the Fey Wild that the world has ever seen.  The map is +matt jackson's brain child and the cover image is from the Public Image Share made by the British National Library with a tiny bit of work from me.

Keep rolling!

Friday, 18 July 2014

Pathfinder and Flying Rules

In my Reign of Winter adventure path game we have recently moved onto the fourth module for the game called "The Frozen Stars".  In this module the players travel to the planet of Triaxius, home to the Dragon Legion and dragon riders.

This is all a hugely high fantasy concept.  We are channelling the beautiful spirit of Anne McAffrey  as the players all take to the skies.  None of them are yet dragon riders but it certainly sounds like a couple of them are interested.  This adventure is more Tracy Hickman and Margaret Weiss than the adventures of Pern but the imagery is one that goes hand in hand with the fantasy setting.
Learn the rules and you will be flying in no time!


OK, I will stop gushing and talk about why we are here.  Today one of my players asked how difficult it was to run an aerial combat which is what we have done for the past three combats and off the cuff I said no problem at all.  I admitted though that I was not taking into account in any large way the three dimensions of the combat (although one of the players did plummet to the ground 120' below).  He asked about fly skill checks and I replied that as it was largely open space and no one really tried anything tricky that there was no real need to worry about it.

After the conversation I realised that I was actually removing a lot of the fun to the combat by being so blasé about it all and so I have cracked open a few books to take a look at what I really should be doing to bring these combats to life.

The Fly Skill

Most of what is stated about the flying or sky environment is detailed in this skill.  In fact there is very little else stated explicitly about adventures that are air or sky bound apart from these rules.  There are aside mentions of the environment but really what you need to know exists under the fly skill heading.  

One thing I was right about was the fact that you only need to make a check with this skill when something out of the ordinary happens.  If a character finds themselves flying at the start of the turn then as long as they do not attempt anything tricky they remain flying at the end of the round, no skill check required.

But what is something tricky?  Well, there happens to be some set circumstances in which a character needs to make a check with their flying skill.  They are;

  • Move less than half speed and remain flying (I would argue this does not count when using fly the spell)
  • Hovering
  • Turning greater than 45 degrees at any point during a move action (you can change facing in between turns with no penalty for some reason)
  • Turn 180 degrees by spending  10 feet of movement (Immelman anyone?)
  • Fly up at greater than 45 degree angle
Even my Eidolon needs to use his fly skill once in a while!
Each of these manoeuvres has a DC that you need to roll when flying.  There are penalties to these checks based on wind and also the fly capability of the creature you are mounted on (if you are flying a mount that is).  These situations are simply the times you need to make a check when you are flying in a straightforward manner.  There are other times that you need to make checks as well depending on your interactions in the air.  These circumstances are listed below;
  • Attacked while flying - if you are flying under winged power you must make a check when you take damage or lose 10 foot of altitude
  • Collision whilst flying - if you run into anything your size or larger whilst using wing power when flying you have to make a check not to plummet from the skies.  I am now thinking that a melee attack would actually count as a collision here
  • If you are falling and can fly then you need to make a check to pull out of the fall (this does not count if you are falling after a collision in the same round)
  • High winds can also have an effect and push you astray if you do not make a fly check.  When you need to make this check depends on your size and the strength of the wind
What it only mentions briefly is the idea of altitude and this is the third dimension that we need to consider in our games.  This is definitely going to require a more complex system of combat recording for the GM and each player should also take on the responsibility of keeping track of their own altitude.

For every 5 feet of movement horizontally (if you are using minis) the player can climb 5 feet without a check.  This should actually be considered 10 feet of total movement, much the same as moving diagonally twice on a typical grid.  If they want to climb faster then they need to make a fly check and spend the movement points (so if they want to go 10 feet up in 5 feet horizontal make it a 15 foot move).

As a GM you are going to need a table for all of the enemies and with that you will need individually identifiable markers/tokens or miniatures if you use a map.  It is OK to bring non-combatants in at a standard height but as soon as they get involved then you should start taking note of their position, especially as the players are likely to start asking about what and where the enemies are once three dimensions becomes pertinent.
Flying combats make for an interesting game!

Mounts

The other thing that may become an issue is mounts.  If you are planning for the players to be using a dragon or pegasus mount for example then you need to brush up on your knowledge of the mounted combat section in the rules.  Luckily these are pretty simple to follow;
  • Mount acts on the riders initiative
  • If the mount moves over 5 feet you cannot full attack for the round (unless using ranged where you can)
  • Mount has to be combat trained or you need to make a handle animal check every round or the mount runs
  • A simple ride check allows you to use two hands in combat
  • If the mount charges you take the neg to your AC too.  Also if using a lance and you charge it does double damage automatically
  • You take a -4 to ranged attacks while moving or -8 if the horse is running
  • Casting spells is fine if horse is moving at a speed under your own natural speed, if not it is a concentration check for the spell caster
  • If your mount falls in combat you will need to make a ride check to land without a penalty and if you are knocked unconscious in a saddle you have a 50% chance of staying in the saddle per round (or 75% if it is a military saddle).  Falling from a flying mount sucks :)

Flying with Magic

If flying utilising magic then make sure you read the spell carefully.  There are a number of spells that allow for flight or flying like capability and they all have differences in the way that they operate.  I can think of three off the top of my head (levitate, fly, air walk) so make sure that you get familiar with the common spells and read any that pop up in play.

If a player is using an ability (like a druid's shape change) then make sure you know how that works and you are well familiar with the rules listed above for the fly skill.

Conclusions

There is no broad space in the rulebooks that say "here are all of the rules you need for an air environment campaign" so you need to do a bit of work.  The detail that I have gone through in the above commentary really gives you an idea on where you need to look to find the material you need.  There are other books and details that can add to this environment but it is value adding.  The core book really has everything you will need to run a flying campaign.

Of course, what I have given you above are the official rules and that is really only half the story.  What sorts of games can you run in the sky and how do things like clouds and other such things play into the game.  Well, they are all interesting questions and ones that I hope to answer in a post sometime soon.  Thanks for reading and keep rolling!

Thursday, 17 July 2014

The Basics: Game Balance

Game balance is a term that is bandied about all sorts of gaming industries, not just the RPG industry.  It is used in the board game industry, the video game industry and in fact most game industries use this term like it is the be all and end all of their game.  The thing is though is that it is a very important thing.

Let me talk about the effect that the game balance has in a game.  The game balance is the thing that makes you nervous when your character takes an action that is uncertain.  When my summoner Coltyn enters a new room and sends Grellyk (his Eidolon) to do a reconnaissance I get that feeling in my stomach.  What will happen?  Will I succeed?
Balance is a very carefully considered thing in games

That is the effect of game balance, it builds a tension that makes a game fun to play.  If a game had no uncertainty then it would not really be a game.  But that is aanother conversation which could fill books!  What is a game?  Not such a simple question when you scratch the surface.

Most games build this balance with the mechanics.  A game of Pathfinder (and most d20 games) build that balance with the centralised roll of the d20 against a target number and the random effect.  This mechanic is finely tuned and also thoroughly understood.  Balance of battles is carefully managed and tested thoroughly.  The special abilities of spells, monster abilities and classes are all measured carefully to make sure that they fit at the levels that they are intended for use.

Take for example a Staff of Power.  This is an item intended for magicians at the height of their power.  As they close in on twentieth level they may get their hands on it and truly increase their legend.  But give one to a 1st level mage and find out how that item unbalances the game.  As you throw swarms of CR 1 encounters the magician does not even break a sweat.  The game gets boring because there is no real challenge anymore and you may as well be watching a movie.

I have of course broken this down to a simple level because game balance is really a very complicated idea.  This post is really just a way to introduce the idea of the concept to new players and GM's alike.  The reason for that is if you alter ideas and rules you need to work out if the ideas you are playing with are integral with the game balance.  Handing a Staff of Power to a 1st Level character is not a great idea, but what if it was at hand with only one charge?  It can generate excitement, and then maybe they save the magician who owns the staff and they take it back.

So you see, game balance is a thing that is intangible at times but well considered by designers who create these games.  I almost guarantee that you will find a section in most RPG's that tell you to play with the rules if you want and that is good advice, but make sure that the changes you make enhance the game and don't hurt the game.  Keep rolling!