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Genth
2014-02-10, 12:35 AM
Hiya all, I've been asked for the first time to GM a campaign. The forums have been really helpful already, a lot of information I've been able to use and get ready with, but I have a couple of advice questions.

1) One of the 'tasks/missions' of the campaign is going to two different groups and trying to gain their favor, somewhat like a strategy game where you ally with one group or another, and you gain benefits from it. My question is - what benefits would be appropriate? I'm thinking it changes what gear and armor is available in the PCs 'home town', and followers on certain adventures, but that seems somewhat weak, and wondering if people had any better ideas!

2) Introducing a 'Dragon'. - my BBEG has a 2IC, who at the start is going to be significantly more powerful than the party, kinda give a taste of what to come, and to give them a change to arrange their gear/stuff appropriately. I was going to have them kill a high-level creature solo in the first session. I was wondering if people had thoughts on how to make this appealing for my players, what information to give. Should I roll out the fight, or do it 'before hand' and then describe the battle straight out.

3) If I want to have a specific effect/trap/magic item that isn't described in the source, but has plot purposes (say a collar that allows the BBEG to scry, teleport and cause pain to the wearer at BBEG's will), do I need to calculate cost? I realize that combat gear for the enemies should be costed to make sure they're balanced.

3 part b) Eyeballing CRs. Kinda moving on from above, how much extra CR does 'gear' give a bad guy? If say they've got gear equaling 1 1/2 times the wealth they 'should' have at their level, does that increase their CR by x1/2, or more like just adds a couple of CRs?

4) Mass fights - how do you as GMs handle large-scale battles, where the PCs are not commanding any other forces, but are fighting a 'horde' of enemies.

Sir Pippin Boyd
2014-02-10, 01:44 AM
1) One of the 'tasks/missions' of the campaign is going to two different groups and trying to gain their favor, somewhat like a strategy game where you ally with one group or another, and you gain benefits from it. My question is - what benefits would be appropriate? I'm thinking it changes what gear and armor is available in the PCs 'home town', and followers on certain adventures, but that seems somewhat weak, and wondering if people had any better ideas!
The best answer to this lies in what sort of flavor and influence the organizations have, and in how functionally different you want the choice to be. Possible ideas off the top of my head are:

1) The services of a magic user (Wizard or cleric, probably) that is a member of their organization without charge or at reduced cost
2) Providing them with information. A bard or rogue could travel with them and help to provide useful tips on the local area
3) One-use magic item that lets them summon emergency help from the faction they chose
4) Discounts on certain kinds of items


2) Introducing a 'Dragon'. - my BBEG has a 2IC, who at the start is going to be significantly more powerful than the party, kinda give a taste of what to come, and to give them a change to arrange their gear/stuff appropriately. I was going to have them kill a high-level creature solo in the first session. I was wondering if people had thoughts on how to make this appealing for my players, what information to give. Should I roll out the fight, or do it 'before hand' and then describe the battle straight out.
This part is hard to specifically do right. If you want to go for impact, have an NPC save the players and die in the process. Make sure its someone that they already look up to and like, and definitely that he dies, because if he lives after that then he's just a DMPC babysitter or a mary sue, and nobody likes those. Martyrs, however, get avenged.


3) If I want to have a specific effect/trap/magic item that isn't described in the source, but has plot purposes (say a collar that allows the BBEG to scry, teleport and cause pain to the wearer at BBEG's will), do I need to calculate cost? I realize that combat gear for the enemies should be costed to make sure they're balanced.
If its a plot item that can provide no benefit to the players, it doesn't need to be cost calculated, because they'll probably never want to buy or sell it. If they do sell it, they'll be making up the cost to pawn off something they don't want anyway. Alternately, if its an item they're tricked into wearing because it has beneficial properties in addition to all the crappy ones, then it could have a cost based on those beneficial properties.



3 part b) Eyeballing CRs. Kinda moving on from above, how much extra CR does 'gear' give a bad guy? If say they've got gear equaling 1 1/2 times the wealth they 'should' have at their level, does that increase their CR by x1/2, or more like just adds a couple of CRs?
To be honest, CR is a terribly inaccurate method of calculating exp and stuff. I usually bump CR up or down by as much as 4 to account for circumstances and how the enemy's abilities interact with the party's composition. In terms of how much extra exp they should get for killing a decked out enemy, I'd probably wager the extra loot they're getting is probably reward enough. Every +1 longsword you throw at them is one more they'll wield or sell when the fight is over.


4) Mass fights - how do you as GMs handle large-scale battles, where the PCs are not commanding any other forces, but are fighting a 'horde' of enemies.[quote]
I usually treat them as a large sized swarm with a predetermined hit point total that might be something like many, many times the HP of the individual monsters. As the individuals die off, the crowd will thin. When the crowd runs out of hp, I replace it with about 20 or so individuals that will try to flee, seeing that they've been defeated.

Genth
2014-02-10, 02:40 AM
Thanks!

On 3b, I just want to make clear the reason I'm asking is more for not accidentally inducing a TPK, and being able to have some idea of the difficulty.

So on 4, if say someone was using an area-effect spell, like channel energy, you'd reduce the HP of the 'army' by (xd6) times (number of enemies in radius)?

Also another question;

Enemies running away. Now one of the ideas is for an enemy party to be recurring adversaries in this campaign - they are very loyal to eachother, and so if one were to fall, the others would gather around and teleport away rather than keep on fighting. They CAN be killed, and I've got a whole list of fun things that happen if the party do manage to do that. (Doubly so if they kill the caster so they can't port away). Is this an annoying tactic, or is it ok?

Sir Pippin Boyd
2014-02-10, 03:48 AM
On 3b, I just want to make clear the reason I'm asking is more for not accidentally inducing a TPK, and being able to have some idea of the difficulty.
This usually depends on the particular items being used more than their costs. A lot of typical items perform utility stuff that won't come into play at all in combat (crystal ball, bag of holding). Wands and scrolls, however, with the right spells in the right hands, can completely turn a battle around. When I add difficult to a game, I first consider whether I want it to be vertical or horizontal. I use vertical if I just feel the enemies need to have higher AC and attack bonuses, and be hitting harder. There are a variety of spells that provide these effects which baddies could realistically pre-buff with. If I want horizontal difficulty, Im looking for stuff thats not necessarily *harder* to fight but different, forcing the players to change their tactics if they want to succeed. There are certain spells, class features, and monster abilities that can bring this to a fight.


So on 4, if say someone was using an area-effect spell, like channel energy, you'd reduce the HP of the 'army' by (xd6) times (number of enemies in radius)?
Well, if you wanted to micromanage enemy health pools and stuff, an area spell *would* technically be dealing as much damage as the number of guys within the area. I find, however, that it eases play (which is the whole point of using a single 'swarm' monster instead of individual HP pools) to simply pick a base multiplier and use it for all area effects to apply when they hit the group. I used x4 for my games back in the day, but Pathfinder has swarm rules that I think have it doing double, and a lot of people like pathfinder, so theres that.



Enemies running away. Now one of the ideas is for an enemy party to be recurring adversaries in this campaign - they are very loyal to eachother, and so if one were to fall, the others would gather around and teleport away rather than keep on fighting. They CAN be killed, and I've got a whole list of fun things that happen if the party do manage to do that. (Doubly so if they kill the caster so they can't port away). Is this an annoying tactic, or is it ok?

Annoying? Possibly. Fair play? Depends on the level range. If your party are at a level where they could potentially use teleport to escape from a losing battle, they had best be prepared for their enemies to do the same. I wouldn't ever count on being able to do this reliably, because most parties value their survival enough to kill known enemy spellcasters first. If at all possible, try to avoid cutscene escapes. On one hand, sometimes the story wants someone to survive, on the other hand, it really cripples player agency for them to magically find themselves unable to take actions every time a villain is badly wounded and running away. If you *need* a villain to stay alive, put something in place at the start to guarantee their survival. High level spellcasters can do this with a contingency, sometimes I've even stuck invisible support casters in fights without the players ever knowing, so they could buff and heal their allies and/or provide an escape if needed.

Grozomah
2014-02-10, 05:02 AM
1) I'd say it depends heavily on the campagn, playstyle and even party composition. Rewards i'd consider it is a large sum of gold (don't be afraid to bump it above WBL) for the "evil" choice, or like already said - services. In a campaign where I currently play we have a NPC artificer willing to buy all magic items (no buy limit for small town), but he repays in creating magic items of equal value. He also identifies every item we bring to him for free (he has artificer's monocle).
Both choices - a pile of gold and good services are notable enough to matter, but neither is gamebreaking. You can spice the choice with unique magic items with more abilities than usual (e.g. a silver icy burst sword +2 that can shoot cone of cold 1x/day).

2) stick to already said advice.

3) No, unless it's also a beneficial item. Also WBL is a guideline. You don't need to stick to it like a drunk to a pole.

3b) ... and the reason for it is that the CR varies significantly on various circumstances. A good example is a fight we just had as level 6 vs a fiendish 7-headed hydra (CR 7). We had an Illusionist, malconwoker, a druid with fleshraker companion and me (a warblade). None of us had notable elemental damage except some fire (to which hydra had res. 5), and our damage output was mostly non-magical (my warpike was being enchanted at the time, so i had just a MW replacement), and was subject to DR 5. Add hydra's regeneration 17 to the game and our average damage would be negated by the DR/regen. So we ... tactically retreated.
Despite being barely a challenging encounter CR wise (we were quite optimised, with flaws, 75% HP etc. and could munch through CR 7 generic encounters with ease), there was no concievable way to win the encounter at the time. The next day we returned to the hydra, our wizard hit it with a ray of stupidity, knocking it unconcious, and I Coup-de-grace'd it the next round for a whooping 75 dmg. Needless to say it failed its save vs death (not to mention it was one-shotted to 2 HP). None of us were as much as scratched.
A good approach changed the CR from impossible to cake-walk, and the DM knew it. He just punished us the first time for not being prepared. Good examples of other impossible/trivial encounters include swarms (if you lack AOE/elemental dmg), pixie rogues (ranged/invisibility counters), vampires (if you have a mirror/garlic/cleric it's super easy), and pretty much anything with fly and wand of fireballs (unless you have fly yourself or Grounding or a aranged glass canon).
This is also where WBL comes into play. A well equipped party can deal with many more situations, since well-picked magic items add significant versatility.

Do note that a good BBEG will know about his enemies and be prepared for their most popular tactics. DOes your party like summons? Great, here's some dispell magic/banishment. They are sneak attack heavy? These new warforged barbarians are great.

4) A general tactic for mass fights is to send the PCs as a commando team to a critical point. If the PC-s succeed the battle is won.

5) It's annoying, because you don't get any loot for a victory. Then again, it will make the eventuall sucessfull kill so much the sweeter. Also if the party is well prepared for preventing their escape - let them kill them. Award preparation and smart play. If the NPC's are carrying important information, note that Speak with Dead is a mere level 3 spell. If you REALLY like a NPC and they serve a sufficiently powerful/rich BBEG he might have prepared a Clone for them. This way the party gets the loot and think they killed the guy, only to find him alive and angry at a cruical point. This also highlights the power of BBEG.

So to recap, take a look at your party's capabilities. Make sure that they can defeat the challanges if properly prepared, preferably in more than one way and in a plan that includes toa greater or lesser extent all party members (so noone feels left out). That includes unothodox methods e.g. party has no AoO spells to fight a swarm - the swordsage stabs the party tank with a Mark of Death, dealing a lot of damage, but making him explode in a fiery blast that kills the swarms, or casting grease on the deck of the enemy flying ship or the fighter bull rushing the enemy into a pool of lava. Add enviromental hazards in the room if needed. This makes for a memorable fight, since it requires some thinking.

Just make sure not to overdo it and create an IKEA-tarrasque aka. Half Black Dragon Fire Souled Troll-Blooded creature.

Genth
2014-02-10, 05:52 AM
Thanks again for the advice!

What you mention RE: Teleporting away, the problem seems to be player agency, which is ok. Like I said, the PCs will have a full chance to stop them - after all, the enemies will have to congregate to touch range to 'port away, meaning unless they get ABSURDLY unlucky with their Init rolls, the PCs will get a shot.
Plus even if they do run away, the team gets loot/rewards from their Quest Giver. ((They're bringing back a valuable artifact. So if they win and kill all the enemies, they get 1 1/2 times the reward (and the artifact), if they let the team get away but hold on to the artifact they get 1/2 the reward (and the artifact) But if they loose the artifact they get NOTHING!))

Re: 4 commando team idea - hells yeah, that is perfect thanks! :smallbiggrin:

Question 6) How much to reveal to PCs about homebrewed beasts. - Part of the campaign is coming across monsters that the BBEG has created. Mostly they will be refluffed other monsters, sometimes with a few wee changes, but is it Kosher to flat out state that the PCs don't know what it is? Or ask for a knowledge roll, and give out tidbits? So say a DC 20 on a Knowledge (Nature) check reveals "It seems to have the bone structure of a human.. but one vastly stretched and warped" and a Knowledge (Planes) check to say "You can tell that this creature has been ravaged by a period on the Negative Energy Plane"

Firest Kathon
2014-02-10, 06:35 AM
4) Mass fights - how do you as GMs handle large-scale battles, where the PCs are not commanding any other forces, but are fighting a 'horde' of enemies.

I found a Military Unit template (http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2hjp8&page=1?Military-Unit-by-template) some time ago on Paizo's Forums, which may be usable for this.


Question 6) How much to reveal to PCs about homebrewed beasts. - Part of the campaign is coming across monsters that the BBEG has created. Mostly they will be refluffed other monsters, sometimes with a few wee changes, but is it Kosher to flat out state that the PCs don't know what it is? Or ask for a knowledge roll, and give out tidbits? So say a DC 20 on a Knowledge (Nature) check reveals "It seems to have the bone structure of a human.. but one vastly stretched and warped" and a Knowledge (Planes) check to say "You can tell that this creature has been ravaged by a period on the Negative Energy Plane"

The Knowledge (http://www.d20srd.org/srd/skills/knowledge.htm) skill is meant to get exactly that information:

In many cases, you can use this skill to identify monsters and their special powers or vulnerabilities. In general, the DC of such a check equals 10 + the monsterís HD. A successful check allows you to remember a bit of useful information about that monster.

For every 5 points by which your check result exceeds the DC, you recall another piece of useful information.

As a player, I would find it highly annoying if I rolled a good Knowledge check and the DM told me flat out that I know nothing about the creature. Obviously, you shouldn't rattle off the complete stat block, but at least some information about a power or vulnarability ("It's scales look like those of Monster X, which you know to be vulnerable to weapons made of Y"). You could maybe add 5 to the DC of the Knowledge check to account for the BBEG's "homebrewing" of the monsters.

DonEsteban
2014-02-10, 07:35 AM
Regarding your number 1) I would make it something immaterial, story-based with potential drawbacks. It's hard to give more details without knowing your world and campaign, but I'll give an example:

Organisation A is the thieves' guild, organisation B is the city watch. Now they could try to gain the favor of A and get access to illegal goods, information on the unlawful activities and all this, but they might gain a bad reputation with law enforcement officials, city watchmen might neglect or harass them etc.
If they ally with the city watch instead, they could gain access to official files and generally gain a good reputation that helps them when interacting with "law-abiding citizens", but they appear on the black lists of certain organizations causing all kinds of interesting consequences up to and including assassination attempts. They might even try to gain the favor of both organizations, but good luck explaining this, once A finds out they're actually working for B and vice versa!

Sir Pippin Boyd
2014-02-10, 09:20 PM
Question 6) How much to reveal to PCs about homebrewed beasts. - Part of the campaign is coming across monsters that the BBEG has created. Mostly they will be refluffed other monsters, sometimes with a few wee changes, but is it Kosher to flat out state that the PCs don't know what it is? Or ask for a knowledge roll, and give out tidbits? So say a DC 20 on a Knowledge (Nature) check reveals "It seems to have the bone structure of a human.. but one vastly stretched and warped" and a Knowledge (Planes) check to say "You can tell that this creature has been ravaged by a period on the Negative Energy Plane"

In my experience, part of the fun of bringing homebrew monsters into a campaign is to help bring surprise and variety to a table where the players may have already read the monster manual and know all the basics of different creatures. For free, I'd give away the physical description and call for relevant knowledge checks for anything further than this. Furthermore, regardless of how good the PC's knowledge is, if the creature is unique (Perhaps created by the BBEG) its possible that they can't get any information on it at all from knowledge except that which can be extrapolated from its appearance and behavior.