Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Fatefinder update

So here is what I have put together for character creation, included are new magic rules, influenced heavily by Ed Hastings work.  Please give me thoughts.

You may access my google doc of this information Here: Fatefinder

A Fate Core Conversion of Pathfinder
Ayrphish Arts

Part 1:  Character Creation

Your Character Idea:

You should have a high concept and trouble as per the Fate CRB.  You should make 3 additional aspects.  One of those should be similar to a campaign trait,  it should be your connection to the campaign.  If you are a magic user, you must take another aspect which indicates your magical training, or something similar, (if your powers were a gift from a god, the aspect should indicate that) this aspect must make it clear that are a wielder of magic in some way.  The other aspect(s) are up to you.


Acumen (Knowledge Skills, Appraise, Linguistics)
Allure (Diplomacy, Perform)
Aptitude (Craft: all non-magic, Profession: all)
Arcane (Arcane Magic, Spellcraft)
Athletics (Climb, Swim)
Ballistics (Ranged Attack/Defense)
Burglary (Stealth, Sleight of Hand, Disable Device)
Celerity (Reflex Saves, Initiative)
Deceive (Disguise, Bluff)
Divine (Divine Magic, Spellcraft)
Finesse (Fly, Acrobatics, Escape Artist)
Investigate (Perception)
Mend (Heal)
Nature (Handle Animal, Survival, Ride)
Physique (Fortitude Saves, CMD, Physical Stress)
Resolve (Will Saves, Sense Motive, Mental Stress)
Tenacity (Melee Attack/Defense, and CMB)
Thaumaturgy (UMD, Craft Magic Items/Potions/Scrolls)

Skills will be distributed as per the Fate CRB.


Stunts will be made as per the Fate CRB.

(Thanks to Ed Hastings and his FAE - Pathfinder conversion)

In order to practice magic, a character must meet the following requirements:

  • Skill ranks in the Arcane/Divine skill of +3 or higher  (You may rename these to something that fits your concept pending GM approval.  For example, you might want to rename Arcane to Psionic, or Divine to Primal.
  • An aspect that indicates where your magic powers came from
  • Lower your refresh by 1 if you plan on using 1 magic skill; by 2 if you plan on using 2 magic skills.

Arcane Skill

The Arcane Skill represents your mastery and knowledge of arcane magic.  The source of that magic could vary from training and research, powers inherent in your blood, etc.  The Arcane Skill should be coupled with an aspect that provides detail of the source of your arcane power.

Spells are not restricted to be drawn exclusively from pathfinder source material, but that may serve as general guideline as to what you are capable of doing with your magic.  In general Arcane magic is good for attacking and bending the rules of reality.

All arcane casters should have some sort of focus that will be defined as an extra.  This extra serves to limit what kind of spells you are capable of casting a given time.  If your focus is on evocation, that is to say, attack type of magic, it is unreasonable to assume that in a given scenario you use your magic to enchant your enemies.  Sometimes there may be some overlap, it will be up to the group and the GM to decide if your intended use of magic is consistent with what your character has practiced and demonstrated in the past.

Overcome:  The Arcane Skill may be used to overcome barriers created by other arcane magics.  Think of it like “Dispel Magic.”  When this occurs, you will make an arcane check vs the creators arcane check.  There maybe other uses of arcane magic to overcome barriers, such as locked doors, poor lighting, fog, etc.  Use of this magic must be justified by the caster’s focus, or if the barrier in question is a minor inconvenience, or something that could be overcome with mundane means, such as a locked door, there will be a passive difficulty assigned, possibly with a  +2 bonus.

Create an Advantage:  The Arcane Skill may be used to create an advantage.  In most of these instances, you will create an aspect that mirrors a spell from pathfinder source material.  Such as “invisibility.”  There will be a base difficulty assigned based on the spells level in the source material, see the chart below.

Source Material Spell Level / Base difficulty to cast
0    +0
1-2  +1
3-4  +2
5-6  +3
7-8  +4
9    +5

Success of the check will operate as per the original fate core rules.  Extra Shifts in the success may translate into extra invokes, this will be decided by the GM and the players at the time of the casting of the spell, and the number of shifts generated.

Spells that have a passive duration will generally last 1 scene.  That may be extended based on shifts generated during the casting of the spell.

Conjuring and summoning is also covered by creating an advantage.  (The below is taken verbatim from Ed Hastings magic system)
“Rather than allocating extra shifts from the Create An Advantage action used to summon the servitor towards setting a difficulty to be overcome, or buying additional invokes, extra shifts can be used to "buy" Aspects, Stunts, pluses to 4dF rolls for specific things, and stress boxes for a servitor's write up.
Stunts cost 2 shifts each, while extra Aspects, additional +1 skill-like ability bonuses, and stress boxes cost 1 point each.
Servitors can also be spellcasters, but must have a relevant skill-like ability at +3 or better.
Servitors are not necessarily obedient to their caster, but an Obedient Aspect (or similar) can be added to the Servitor to ensure compliancy, at the cost of a shift.
Servitors act on their own, but unless they have a skill-like ability, Aspect, or Stunt that suggests otherwise, they have initiative 0.”

Attack:  The Arcane Skill may be used to make attacks targeting a particular save (based on the pathfinder source material, or decided by the GM and the players at the time of the cast.)  This will be resolved the same way as all other attacks.  Shifts will translate to damage.  There are no dice pool  upgrades, so higher level spells from the source material do not translate to extra damage in this magic system.  To affect more than 1 target, the spell caster will need an aspect and spend a fate point to effectively utilize area of effects.

Defend:  The Arcane Skill is not used for defense.

Divine Skill:
(And any other created magic skill like psionic, primal, etc)

The divine skill will operate in all ways like the Arcane Skill above.  Focus should be described in different ways, and you should draw from divine spells in the pathfinder source material.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Chef Magnus Zimmerman

Taking a little bit of time away from the conversion, I get to play in a play-by-post Fate AE game.  The story is zombie apocalypse set on a cruise ship.

Once I am able to get some more conversion time in, I'm going to change the magic system, just not happy with the first draft.

Here is the character that I created, Chef Magnus Zimmerman.

""I don't play baseball, but I hit a homerun everywhere!""

Magnus is physically striking. He is tall, bald, and in pretty good shape. He has strong arms, and a sharp wit. Women want him and men want to be him.


Chef is arrogant, but rightfully so, he is an exceptionally talented cook and very good looking with a exceptional charm, especially with the ladies. Unfortunately, he knows all of this, and can come across a little over-bearing. Most of this charm and confidence is a mask covering a pretty troubled guy. For reasons unknown Magnus has severe insomnia, and a mild drinking problem. Almost no one knows of these troubles, Magnus is quite good at hiding his flaws.


Magnus was born to cook, and cook he has. He has been trained and worked for some of the best chefs in the world. He has put himself in the cruise ship business, it's a perfect cover for his troubles and keeps people from getting too close to him. If half of the husbands who have taken a cruise knew what Magnus has done with their wives, he'd certainly be dead.

High Concept: The most charming chef sailing the seven seas!

Trouble: I don't have 'platonic friendships' with women - Magnus is a womanizer, a sucker for a skirt

"You call that a knife? THIS is a knife". - Chef Mag is renowned for using big blades for small precise cuts
"I cook with wine, sometimes I even add it to the food" - Unfortunately he drinks. Frequently.
"Sleep is a luxury that I can't afford" - Chef Mag has severe insomnia, he rarely sleeps, especially alone
Approaches: Careful +0, Clever +1, Flashy + 2, Forceful + 1, Quick +0, Sneaky +0
Traits: Charismatic +2, Dextrous +0, Intelligent +0, Robust +1, Spirited +0, Strong +1

"Bigger is Better": Because I have practice and renown with big blades, I get a +2 to attack when I am Flashy Strong and wielding a blade cleaver size or larger.
"Its where my demons hide": Because I have extensive practice hiding things (alcoholism/insomnia/flasks) from people around me,when I'm Flashily Charismatic I get a +2 to hide things on my person, if my personality could create a distraction.
"Here try this...": Because I am the best chef sailing the seas, once per session I may spend a fate point to create a food/drink that can cure [2] mental stress.
Physical Stress: [1] [2] [3]
Mental Stress: [1] [2]


Mild (2):
Moderate (4):
Severe (6):

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Fatefinder - Spells and Magic

Progress is coming along in the Pathfinder to Fate conversion.  Today I did some thinking on how I would want magic to work in the game.  The first thing I wanted to do, is try to balance the spell casters with the non-spell casters.  If the front line guy can attack over and over with his weapon, than the wizard should be able to do the same with her spells.  So I got rid of the idea that there were a limited number of spells that someone could cast 'per day.'  This will require me to pay attention to what spells someone creates so that they don't have world changing magic that can be cast over and over and over again.

In the next couple days, I'll set out some rules for creating spells, and the arcane/divine difference.  But what follows will be the bare-bones of the magic system.

I have also changed up my skill list a little bit.  So I will post my changes made after the section dealing with magic.


 For a person to use magic, they must have an aspect that shows where that magic comes from, how they got it.  They also must take either the Arcane or Divine skill.  Finally, they will have an Extra which will define how many spells a spell caster has at their disposal.

 That extra will likely mirror a pathfinder counterpart.  For instance, a spellbook, a familiar, a bloodline, a gift from a god, etc.  This extra should be consistent with the aspect that gave the character her magic.

 You will then define spells that will be ‘stored’ in that extra. The extra acts as your spell repository.  When creating and adding spells to your extra, it must be clear which of the four actions from the  Fate CRB the spell will do for you.

 Your extra may only house a certain number of spells.  The number of spells stored in your extra should be the total of your Arcane or Divine skill modifer, and add how many milestones your character has completed.   A significant milestone will add an additional spell to the extra.

Kiera is a witch, who stores her spells in a familiar.  She has an arcane skill at +4.  Before completing any milestones, Keira may have 4 spells in her familiar.  Once she has completed her first milestone, she may have 5, 6 after the second, and so on.

 If a character has skill in both arcane and divine, you add the two skills together, and divide by two to determine the number of  spells known.

Ayr is a mystic theurge with a +4 in divine and a +3 in arcane.  Before completing any milestones, he would be able to know 3 spells.


Acumen (Knowledge Skills, Appraise, Linguistics)
Allure (Diplomacy, Perform)
Aptitude (Craft: all non-magic, Profession: all)
Arcane (Arcane Magic, Spellcraft)
Athletics (Climb, Swim)
Ballistics (Ranged Attack/Defense)
Burglary (Stealth, Sleight of Hand, Disable Device)
Celerity (Reflex Saves, Initiative)
Deceive (Disguise, Bluff)
Divine (Divine Magic, Spellcraft)
Finesse (Fly, Acrobatics, Escape Artist)
Investigate (Perception)
Mend (Heal)
Nature (Handle Animal, Survival, Ride)
Physique (Fortitude Saves, CMD)
Resolve (Will Saves, Sense Motive)
Tenacity (Melee Attack/Defense, and CMB)
Thaumaturgy (UMD, Craft Magic Items/Potions/Scrolls)

These changes were to spread things out a little more, and allow for some more specialization.  I think I like this list a little better than the first draft.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Fatefinder - Converting Pathfinder Skills to FATE Core

My game group is at an odd crossroads.  Some of us want to explore new game systems, and others are committed to the status quo.  None of us really want to quit playing pathfinder, but most of us could stand a change in the system.

Enter Fate Core.  This system prides itself on being "Hackable" and able to fit any setting.  So can it handle Pathfinder?  Specifically, can it handle the Wrath of the Righteous Adventure Path?  Mythic Levels?  I don't have all of those answers yet, but here goes the first post of many into a conversion process.

You will be able to find other conversions online, and they are all quite good.  I had no qualms with these other systems, but stubbornly enough, wanted to reinvent my own wheel.

So here is the first step in the process.  Taking the Fate Core skills, and merging them with Pathfinder skills, saves, attacks, and magic.  At this point, I'm not sure what to do with the primary ability scores, right now, I just don't plan on using them.

Fate revolves around skills to do most things in the game, and there are fewer of them then there are pathfinder 'skills.'  Job 1 is to merge somethings into the Fate skill system.  So here is the list I came up.  The name on the left is the name of the skill for my game.  The  skills in parentheses are what pathfinder skills it will cover.

Fatefinder Skills:
Athletics (Acrobatics, Climb, Swim, Escape Artist)
Burglary (Stealth, Sleight of Hand, Disguise, Disable Device)
Speechcraft (Bluff, Diplomacy, Intimidate, Linguistics)
Investigate (Perception, Appraise)
Lore (All of the knowledge skills)
Profession (Craft: All, and Profession: All)
Nature (Handle Animal, Survival, Ride)
Fly (Fly)
Heal (Heal)
Sense Motive (Sense Motive)
Initiative (Initiative)
Melee (melee attack rolls, CMDs, CMBs)
Ranged (Ranged attack rolls)
Fortitude (Fort Saves)
Reflex (Reflex Saves)
Will (Will Saves)
Divine (Allows for Divine Spells, UMD, Spellcraft)
Arcane (Allows for Arcane Spells, UMD, Spellcraft)

That's all I have for now.  More to come.  What are your thoughts?

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Time to get the wheels rolling again...

I have been very inactive here...

I think it's time to turn it up a notch.  I think it's time to finally create an original Ayrphish Arts product.

Suggestions?  Ideas?

Friday, February 1, 2013

Questions and Answers

So I borrowed a questionnaire from Zenith Games this week and gave it to my group of pathfinder players.  Here are the results, with their comments, and my comments after.

Ok, there were 11 people questioned in the survey.  All of the questions have 11 responses, except the Obsidian Portal Question, which somehow has 13.

My thinking in sharing these results, is to give the percentage for the most popular choice(s), interesting comments that were made (anonymously), and then my response to those results as a GM.  I encourage everyone to give their 2 cents, especially the other GMs.  To facilitate this, I am going to post each question as a separate post, this will keep responses and discussions organized.

Without further ado, here is the data…

Question 1:  How willing are you to contribute to an Obsidian Portal?

45% of people said they would use the Obsidian Portal, as needed, which was right in the middle on the scaling answers.  36% said they would be very willing and do a lot of work on the site and its maintenance.  As such, I am going to try and clean up the OP for Shattered Star, and will plan on using it when we start the next home campaign.  I will also continue to post important (and sometimes redundant) information to facebook as well.  I think minimal involvement with the Obsidian Portal would be to contribute to the wiki from time to time, and keep an up-to-date character on the site.

I will also award Hero-Points, as per the house rules, for participation on the Obsidian Portal.  The goal in my mind for it would to be a pretty accurate collection of data, and what was done during game time.  If over the course of the next campaign, we pick up a new player or two, that person will be able to log in to our OP, and literally receive all of the information they would need to jump in and know what was going on.

Keep in mind, this was the only question with skewed responses, so the percentages may not be entirely correct.

Question 2:  How do you like your Plot?

55% of people preferred “There is an overarching plot, but what we do and the choices we make certainly have an effect on the outcome.”  And another 36% were between that a complete sandbox.

Some of the interesting comments:
In regards to sandbox-
Obviously this is the ideal.  But, it's a lot to put on the GM, so I dont expect it at all.  But, sice you asked...

I think there has to be structure, but it shouldn't be so constraining that the choices seem pointless.

I feel that roleplaying is storytelling with a community. You can not know the ending because we have not written it yet.

I refer that someone throws a few "surprises" at the party. I LOVE when the GM, adds a surprise element to the story whether it be more monsters, more loot, or a twist to the plot line. That way it does not feel uniform or a "been there, done that".

End Comments.
I get the feeling that people would like to have some more freedom and control of the plot.  This doesn’t really create MORE work for me, it just creates different work.  Hopefully we can create some times in the adventure path, where the party has some more choices.  I will also try to incorporate more consequences to actions into the game.  This one will be difficult using an adventure path, but I will do what I can to create some additional opportunities to let you stray from the course from time to time.

Question 3:  How do you like your Quests?

This is one of the questions that had a very clear preferred choice.  73% of people preferred “Sometimes our quests come to us, other times we will be given free time to do what we want.

Some Comments:

I think overall I'm fine with the notion of allowing some open-ended content as long as it's productive. 

Quests are great to get things moving, but allowing for individual growth can be interesting. many times these items (learning to craft and the minor quests that would accompany such learning) can be handled better in a wiki leaving the table time for group quests and such.

I am use to the "Bash-Over-Head" quests. (i,e. the party enters a room and only one person is there. Surprise! They give the party the quest!) I honestly did not think GMs did it any other way. I would be THRILLED if a story line came along that required the party to think outside the box or actually problem solve something to get the next phase of the quest line.

End Comments
I’m pretty excited about the responses to this, and I think doing things to incorporate this into the game, will also create the sandbox feel that people want.  I have some ideas on how to do these things; for the most part it will require me to work with you all on character development.  If I know what your character wants, what it likes, etc, I can create some places for them to act on instinct.  We can also do some mini-quests from time to time on the obsidian portal, maybe even for some exp rewards to encourage some involvement. 
Anticipate a more lengthy process on creating characters for the next campaign, and between book 1 and 2 for shattered star. 

Question 4:  How do you like your difficulty?

64% of people said ” Certainly don't pull any punches. If we make any big oversights, then we will die. However, I want things to be fair, and I don't expect my death unless I make a serious mistake.” 

Some Comments:

This is a tough one to answer because I think the notion of difficulty is kind of an abstract with rpg-table top (at least with combat situations).  There are so many factors that play into how an encounter may go that control of difficulty may be very difficult in it's own right.  For example, in one particular encounter the party composition may be perfect for kicking a monster ass, in another encounter, it may be the worst possible combination for that monster.  Additionally, maybe the GM is rolling great one night and the players are sucking or vice versa.

I like the fair idea.  However, there should be a fight every two or three sessions that really challenge the team.

"I think the best lessons are learned hard.  Dying being the ultimate (but possibly the only) way to punish mistakes in PF.  If people don't have to learn, they don't adapt, if people don't adapt, the meta becomes stale.  On the other side of the coin, I don't want the majority of my time to be reintroducing new characters.  Character death loses impact if they are just constant.  If i died every other session, I would have no grievance.  I don't see a problem with people bringing a 'backup' character in case of death."

success shouldn't hinge on one person

it is what it is. if I die, I have more paper.

I have no problem with a hard game. IF my character dies. My character dies. What I do not enjoy if the party encounters "GM-Ego" Monsters that require the party to wipe because someone made a comment about not liking the GMs green tennis laces. If we screw up, if we guess wrong, or we do not pack correctly, then by all means, wipe the floor with us. But no floor wiping because someone makes a comment about Democrats verses Republicans please! =)

End Comments.
I have tried very hard to do two things.  The first, make important fights difficult, and two, to not create a GM vs Player mentality.  Perhaps, I have a misconception, but I’d like to think that I am doing a good job on those accounts.  This last book of Carrion Crown has been a monster, but a lot of the pain was either bad luck or avoidable.  The Banshee?  Super bad luck on saving throws.  Nothing can do about that.  The mini-boss that just killed a player, without trying to spoil things he was a) mostly avoidable (WHAT?!?) and b) you all could have ran away a lot earlier J, and c) is supposed to be tough.  If I am mistaken, in thinking that I am giving you the difficulty that you want, please let me know.  You won’t hurt my feelings, I am asking for the opinion/criticism.

Question 5:  How do you like your Roleplaying?

I was a little surprised with the answers here…
64% said I like roleplaying at times, but hate when it bogs down there game. I'll happily role play conversations, but don't expect me to describe every die roll.
The other 36% all wanted more roleplaying.

Here are some comments:  (Some edited to protect anonymity)
Since I suck as a rules god, I really do enjoy the roleplaying AND the storytelling aspects of these games! Tell me a story and then let me play in that world please. I have no problem with mechanics. I am a big kid and do not mind at all when everyone laughs at my screw ups.  People are nice and do not mean anything ugly or harsh by it. In fact, in a few cases, the more they trash me, the more I think they enjoy my friendship and participation.

"the more the players and GM get into their characters and NPCs the better the death dealing, and maiden saving”

I would like more role-playing however with more role-playing you need to restrict alignments so the characters arn't in direct conflict

RP is what makes this more than a glorified Statistics course.  I think people should act in character (alignment, deity, etc) for most interactions, not necessarily voices, things like 'Edgar would disagree with that action because it contradicts his faith' should suffice.

End Comments.
Ok, more roleplaying.  Got it.  I think a lot of this can be done by just slowing some things down.  I also have some other ideas, and have been trying to incorporate some more into the games, this is an area that I know we have been lacking and I am constantly trying to improve here.  I’ll keep trying, I’ll keep working.  That said, help me out!  Have some character conversations (gasp), do things just because its what your character would do, have some mannerisms, some fears, some goals.  You are in the hideout of super necromancers, every other room is haunted… no one has shown even the slightest sign of fear… I can’t do that part for you.

Question 6:  How do you like your optimization?

36% of people chose option 1, Optimized - I will spend days researching and make my character 100% optimized. He is going to kick ass.  Another 36% chose option 2, and the rest chose option 3, which was a good character, but not going to spend tons of time researching it.

Some comments:

Not going to lie.  I try to make the best possible character I can.  That's part of what's fun about the game for me.

I like to optimize but it is never fun to be the one guy who is super optimized.  I try to build to be about equal to the other characters.

Not going to lie-I do this.  If rp was more important than the quest chain though-I wouldn't.

Optimized not just applying to combat prowess.  Skill centric optimization, utility, communication for RP, etc are all of the upmost importance as a party.  For me, the feeling of accomplishment is entirely relative to the investment in the  character.  If i don't care if my guy is any good, then i don't care if he dies, or if he gets a new sword, etc. 

ill do research but not more than 2 hours per week

I usually do my utmost best in making my characters, but I ALWAYS seek out someone else to double check me. In case, I make an oversight or they know something better. (I have never owned ALL the books for any of our games.)

End Comments.

Here’s the thing with optimization, and it ties closely to the difficulty question, if the party consist of optimized killing machines, then you should expect to face the same.  It isn’t fun to sit in my chair and get steam-rolled all of the time.  I also have no problem killing a dice roller.  I hate killing a character.
Im not saying you should avoid optimization, but you’re going to get back what you put in.  I think the comment about needing to optimize to beat the content is somewhat a result of optimization.  I am not interested in running a game where the players are gods and not challenged, and based on the difficulty question, you aren’t interested in playing that game either. 

Question 7:  How do you like your Suspension of Disbelief?

This one was more all over the place than any other question. 

36% wanted the most reasonable.  27% wanted the mix.

Some comments:

I do not mind suspending my disbelief, but if hardcore pharmacology or excess amounts of mind altering substances harder than Vanilla-Coke are required to buy into it. Nah, I am going to loose interest fast. I quit playing my local game because I objected to the level of  stupid, immature, and Star Wars references that were involved.

it is a fantasy game after all. KOBOLDS don't exist so starting there I guess I can believe anything for the right loot!

you can generally think of good reasons for things to be the way they are

A simple explanation for their appearance/purpose in a particular setting generally will suffice. 

End Comments.

Pretty self- explanatory on this one.  I don’t think our games are over the top stupid or “too far out there…” So I think we’re good here, we have a little bit of everything to hopefully make everyone happy.

Question 8:  How much combat?

82% said 50/50… I was surprised by this, I would have predicted “all combat all the time..”

Some comments:

I like the 50/50 approach as long as the non-combat aspects are productive and advance storyline.

somewhere between FIGHTING and 50/50

Combat should be meaningful, not a 'grind'. 

at least one combat encounter per night. since we only play once per fortnight, it would be satisfying to punch stuff every night although just fighting lets players get loose on character development.

challenge me. i want a pile of mages, but the one that makes it through will freakin rock.

Honestly, I would prefer some combat, lots of role playing, and some serious puzzles or "group-must-work-together" to make it through a tight spot. I am always amused when no one EVER seems to need to be helped over a tall wall, carried at a faster rate than their legs can go, or a gnome is never picked up and tossed.

End Comments

I think incorporating more RP and more ‘individual quests’ and more character development will even this out in the direction that you want.  As I said with RP, I will do my best.

Last Question:  How Serious?

82% want a mix, Humor is ok, as long is it doesn’t overwhelm everything else.

Some Comments:
This group being hardcore serious! ROFL......I think someone would pull a major muscle if we all tried. Fun is fun, but goofy silly nonsense would loose my interest after a couple of weeks, IF that were all we did.

Fun and Serious aren't opposite sides of the spectrum.  People should play in ways that they enjoy, but hopefully towards accomplishing whatever our mission/goal is.  The silliness of a single character shouldn't hinder the achievement of the group, outside of that, I hope people add as much humor as they can.

I'm all for throwing in humor as long as it doesn't come at a cost to someone else.   Making choices in gameplay for the sake of humor which will put other players or the entire party at risk frustrate me.  That being said, I'm perfectly fine with the "hail-mary pass" types of decision making (which usually are really funny) if it's a situation that calls for it.  For example, if it looks like the only way to get out of  situation that is probably going to kill everybody is to drop a fireball on top of the group, my character is going to pull out his marshmellows.  But if some one is running from room to room, opening doors and asking "anyone home" in the dungeon we just entered, it'll probably piss me off.

End Comments:

I think we’re all on the same page here.  Moving on.

Any other comments:  Again, some are edited

I'm curious as to the results of this.  My guess is that you're going to see a wide spectrum of responses.

I like staying mostly within the system.  Creatures should not act like 4E creatures or magic the gathering creatures.

i might be to sensitive but, it seams like certain people tend to commandeer the party and impose their will over the other players. maybe I'm just imagining it.

It should be fun for the GM and the players. a balance is always good. I have had campaigns where I elevated the characters to superheroic status and let them beat the piss out of 90% of the dungeon. I always have a challenge waiting for them. other games have been very austere. usually I am in the middle but the players are the ones that let me know and i make subtle adjustments based on making it fun.

I only work part-time and can help out when needed. I know I have only played for an entire week, but I am willing to schlep buckets of stuff when needed. Also, I write my own stuff, so I can help out with writing on "a portal" if we set one up. Or helping a GM if he needs it. I am very good at keeping what I know and what  my character knows separate. You folks are doing me an amazing favor by letting me crash your games. So whatever I can do to help out, while still being new to this game, let me know please!
End Comments:

I will certainly take you up on helping with the portal!  I’ll try to get the Shattered Star one functional in the next couple days.  I’ll also try to get a head start on the RoW one. 

I have heard from more than one person, more than once, that they don’t like being told what to do.  I don’t think anyone does this out of malice, but let’s keep that in our minds, and let people play their own character to the best of their ability. 

Any Questions you ask your players?  Role Playing advice?

Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Review of the Keep Part 2

So in my last post, and yes, admittedly it has been a couple of weeks... I reviewed prepping for a game session with NBOS software The Keep.

I have now had the chance to run 2 games from behind my laptop using The Keep, and can share my experience and advice angle.

First, having all of the information in one place was FAN-TASTIC.  No shuffling of papers, no needing to look things up, it was all just right there.  That said, if you don't put EVERYTHING in there, expect to still do some looking up and web surfing to find what you want.  This can mean that you might have to prep a little more to make the absolute most of out of the keep.  If you leave something out, that something might become important and require you to do some on the spot research, which is something we would all love to avoid.

That stuff aside, the best perk in the keep for my group was a little part of The Keep called the GM screen.  This lets you hook another monitor up to your laptop, and whenever you click on an image in the keep, it can be projected only to the second screen.  This allowed me to constantly be showing our group what they were fighting, I was also able to show a map in a PFS game when we fell way behind on time so that we could move things a long faster.  My players love the GM screen.

I'd be happy to answer any further questions, so ask away, and I still recommend The Keep!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

A review of "The Keep" part 1

I am constantly trying to improve and evolve how I GM my games.  I genuinely enjoy the time it takes to prepare a game, so it doesn't become tedious.  I have become increasingly fond of using my laptop to help GM, and in light of that, this week I purchased a piece of software called "The Keep" from nbos.  (I purchased mine on Paizo, it was a couple dollars cheaper.)  Below is my review.

Price:  A bit steep actually.  Coming in at around 30 dollars.  This seems pretty in line with similar products though.  I would have much preferred paying about 10 bucks less.  But that's not to say that I think 30 is overpriced, but it is an expense that certainly is trivial, at least not to me.

First Impressions:  So I paid the seemingly high cost, installed the software to my flashdrive (cool feature, discussed below) and started the program.  As soon as it loaded, and I looked at the interface for the first time, I thought to myself "well... this sucks, what a waste of money."  The interface isn't flashy, there's no pop up that says "Start here" there really isn't anything that comes up right away to tell you what to do or how to make the best use of program.  So, I did what anyone would do, I just started playing with the buttons and seeing what happens...

10 minutes later:  I get it now, despite not being initially intuitive once I started playing with the program its functionality became much clearer.  You create a new entry, for me, this was to create "Carrion Crown," the adventure path my group is currently playing, then you give that entry 'children.'  Each child that I gave to carrion crown became rooms in the dungeon.  Then I could give those rooms children to post monster pictures, stat blocks, read aloud text for the room, all the knowledge DCs, skill checks, etc.

My old system was to use a word processor that contained all of the information for a room, all of the stat blocks for monsters in a room, and anything else I would need to know during gameplay.  The problem with this approach was that my documents would get long, and cumbersome.  I would end up with files like "SoG Prep" and "More SoG Prep" and "Prep for SoG," just because I didn't want huge text files that were unpractical to print, and hard to use quickly from the laptop.

The Keep takes away the need for this, with each room in the dungeon being it's own child, I can use the navigation panel to go anywhere I want.  I have completely cut out the need for using a word processor to help prep the game, I can do everything right there in The Keep.

Things I like:  I love that I can install the program to a flash drive.  I can work on prep now when I have downtime at work, and not have to do any conversions (Word at work, Open Office at home), emailing files to myself, uploading to dropbox, etc.  I can keep my flashdrive with me, and run The Keep from there.

The GM screen.  How functional this becomes for me, is yet unknown.  The GM screen feature allows you to have a second screen project an image, while you run the keep from the laptop.  This would allow you to show monster portraits or maps to the group, while you see everything else behind the scenes.  I haven't ran a game using The Keep yet, I'm still prepping, so I don't know well this work.  I'm still trying to figure out the best way to use it to show maps, without showing the entire map.  The Keep allows you to move an image around so that you can only show parts of it, but this seems clunky to try and keep parts of the map hidden.  I might use an image editing program to cut up my map, and show the parts to the group as they become revealed.

Built in PDF reading.  I have a subscription to Paizo's Adventure Path, as such, I get a PDF of every book for free.  Having a built in integration of PDFs to The Keep makes using these PDFs incredibly easy.  I can copy/paste, I can click between rooms of the dungeon and the room in the original PDF, etc.  I keep the bookmarks tab open in the PDF reader, and this makes quick navigation around what you need even easier.

What I'm Unsure about...
The Dice roller is not overly simple, there is a lot of clicking and weird things to do to say, roll a d20 +5.  That simple command would require:  1 click on the d20 dice, 1 click on the 1d20 button, 1 click on the add button, 1 click on the number range to add to, and a final click on the number 5.  By that time, I've done the math in my head.  I think I am going to be using Combat Manager with The Keep in order to handle rolls and combat.  The Keep wants to have everything a GM would need in one place, and it comes pretty close, but I'm unsure that its dice roller will be efficient enough to use during game time.

As I hinted above, I'm unsure about the GM Screen.  I like it, but I don't know that it will do everything that I would really like it to do.  Ideally, I could have my map, and I could have a fog of war type function that would let me reveal parts of the map as it is explored.  I think NBOS offers another piece of software that can do this, but it also has a cost, and I am not ready to give them more money yet.

I'm not sure how it is going to work during the game, but I will post part two of this review after it is giving its test drive on Sunday.  I don't anticipate problems, and I think I will like it, but I don't want to assume too much yet.

What I don't like:
The cost.  Its only 30 bucks, but then again, it is 30 bucks!  19.99 and I wouldn't have an issue at all with the cost, I also fear that the price tag will scare people away who could probably benefit by having a pretty good piece of software added to their arsenal.

The "uh..." moment that I had when I first loaded it.  A tutorial, a "start here", or even a built in campaign would have been helpful so that I would have a clue where to start.  First impressions are important, and this one sucked.

The 'other programs' that you can integrate with The Keep.  NBOS produces a character sheet creator, and a random table generator that can integrate with The Keep.  I have played, albeit briefly, with these other two programs, and they are intimidating.  They rely on a lot of coding, a lot of manual reading and referencing, and are very unfriendly to a new and casual user.

I do like The Keep.  A lot.  It can do a lot of things, and I constantly get new ideas to get even more functionality out of it.  I would certainly recommend it, if you have the cash to drop on it.  Don't let its first impression scare you away, it's worth a second look and worth taking some time to play with and figure out.

What software do you use to GM?  Are you using The Keep and have more ideas, further input?  Comment below!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A review of "Pathfinder Society Scenario #2-11: The Penumbral Accords"

Note:  This review is made entirely from the player side of the table.  I have not 'seen behind the screen,' so there will not be much information from that perspective.

There are also very big spoilers, so if you are planning on playing this scenario, and want to be surprised, you should probably not read much further.

Overview:  The Blackros family entered into a slave trading agreement with some 'bad guys' from the shadow plane.  Now that agreement entails giving over a couple of their own daughters, so the Blackros family wants the agreement to be broken.  The pathfinders are hired to go into the museum at night, and break the agreement and save the daughters.

Combats:  The combats were pretty good, though our particular group had a harder time with the golem than we did with the "boss" at the end.  The DR possessed by this golem made the fight take longer than it probably should have.  The raptor that we encountered at the very beginning of the encounter can also hit pretty hard.  It one shotted our party's eidolon, and it has quite a few natural attacks.  Fortunately, once we got some hits in on it, it didn't take long to get down.  The alchemist knocked our cleric unconscious, but our bard was able to save the day in recovering him.  So, at the end of the day, the combats were good.  They were challenging but not impossible, dangerous, but probably not pushing the TPK risk.  Of course, our GM may have been fudging some rolls, but I didn't perceive this from where I was sitting.

Role Playing:  There are some great opportunities to role play, and there are some moral decisions that have to bed made along the way.  The group encounters several slaves along their journey in the museum and these could really be played out if that's how your group likes to play.

Faction Missions:  Since this is a season 2 scenario, the newer factions will have to share missions with one of the original factions.  That's OK  but something to be aware of.  We had 3 people all doing the Taldor mission.  There is also some tension between a couple of the missions.  The Cheliax mission requires silence of one particular slave, whereas one of the other factions requires getting a slave to tell 'his story.'  This made for some RP tension between a couple of our characters.  If your group can handle that maturely, then it can be fun, otherwise it could be a bit of a problem.

Time/Prep:  Our GM had maps made ahead of time, but they didn't seem super complex.  There are a couple of mechanics from classes that a GM would have to be familiar with, the monk's ki, the alchemist, construct traits, low light fighting, and balance on slippery surfaces.  The entire scenario also only took our group 3 hours to get through.  I do not know if there was an optional encounter that was skipped or not, I didn't get a look at things from that end.

Overall:  I had a great time playing this mission out.  There is a little bit of a go to room, kill the bad guys, go to next room, kill the bad guys, but our GM did a good job of playing these out and not making them tedious.  The missions were fun, and made for some good RP options in our group.  The difficulty was challenging but never felt impossible.

I would recommend giving this one a play through, it was a good time as a player.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

H4X Android Magus

I have to admit.  I'm a softy for all the different races that exist in the Golarion Universe.  The Inner Sea Bestiary presented 4 new playable races, and I really liked 2 of them, was ok with 1 of them, and not impressed with the other... but that's another post all together.

One of the two races I really liked was the Android.  I know it is a little too futuristic / Sci-Fi for the purists, but I think it is a cool idea, could be super fun to play.  Being that I had a chance to make a new character for an online game using Rolld20, I decided to give the android a test drive.

Below I present to you H4X the Android Magus.

H4X like most other androids emerged from the technological ruins of Numeria.  He is programmed to be a deadly combatant with a scimitar.  The magic that H4X has developed however, was never part of his programming.  It is unknown how he developed any arcane abilities.  When asked when he became adept at magic, he is slightly confused.  He fails to see the difference as to what animates him, the biological races of elves and humans around him, the trees in the forest, the beasts on the ground, or the birds in the sky.  To him, all of that is magic, so the fact that he was able to spontaneously cast arcane spells is just as mysterious and remarkable as everything around him.  It is unlikely that he truly needs to study his spellbook everyday to prepare his spells, but that's what everyone else does, and H4X desires to be more of a 'person' and less of a 'machine' so he goes through the motions daily.  He can be seen attempting to eat, drink, and sleep, those these processes are also irrelevant to his functionality.

Despite his best efforts to 'fit in,' H4X remains an emotionless android.  Sarcasm, and humor are completely lost on him, he will often try to rationally explain a joke, or a pun, ironically to comic effect.  He is confused and intrigued by the randomness of human behavior, so creative plan making is sometimes difficult for him to carry out.  To him, most problems are black and white, problem - solution.

Once he acquires his familiar, it will be some sort of living creature, and H4X will go to great lengths to care for it and protect it.  Its well being will be a reflection of his desired humanity.

His stat block can be found HERE.  It is also copied below.  As H4X advances he will likely choose the following feats and Magus Arcana:
3)Extra Arcana - Familiar
3)Spell Shield
5) Weapon Focus - Scimitar
5) Arcane Magic
6) Empowered Magic
7) Improved Familiar
9) Intensify Spell
9)Prescient Defense

From here on out, damage, and survivability is key.  There are a lot of good guides to aid in feat and spell selection for a Magus.  Don't ignore those, and don't worry about mixing and matching ideas.  He starts out fragile but a good spell selection and careful play should balance him out as he progresses.  Get some wands, and some gaze spells for the familiar to abuse the action economy that the Magus already has.

The build presented was created with a 20 point buy, it also assumes you are comfortable with a big dump to Charisma.  This is mechanical as well as for RP flavor, H4X lacks emotions, and humanity, his ability to be diplomatic or intimidating, or even to bluff all rely on a more complex understanding of those things, which he would lack.

Regardless of ability score generation method you should prefer:

In a 15pt buy, I would build him:

For Traits:
I took Reactionary:  Explained as how he was programmed to be deadly with a sword, so when a threat arises  he is quick to respond.  It's not an emotional reaction, its part of his programmed combat abilities.
Focused Mind:  Doesn't let external things distract him, easy to explain from an RP standpoint, important to be able to cast in melee as that's whats a Magus does.

You don't have to spend a ton on the scimitar, you'll get abilities to buff it.  That said, don't neglect it, it is THE thing that H4X is most familiar and trained for.
Celestial Armor, or other buffs to the Chain Shirt are good early.  As your armor proficiency increases, progress with it.  AC bonuses are good. He doesn't have a high dex, so you'll have to compensate for that.
Pearls of Power:  Yes.  Get them.  Yes you can recall some spells, more recalls are always good.  The lower level the better value of a Pearl of Power.
Blessed Books:  Also good if you want to put a bigger focus on your spells, lets you add more spells more afford-ably to your book.
Items that boost Str and Int are the other ways to go.

Early on, your tactics have to be smarter.  He starts fragile at level 1.  His AC and HP will get better, but he'll never be a 'tank.'  Using the scimitar with 2 hands when you aren't casting helps a lot with damage, without any risk to hit, so use it frequently early on.   Once you're able to spell strike, shocking grasp is the way to go, Walter's Guide to the Magus talks about keeping it relevant.

You're a great watch at night, your perception is low, but you don't have to sleep.  How this interacts with getting your spells back is up to your GM so iron that out before you neglect the normal night time routine.  My guess is that any reasonable GM will let you get your spells back 'each day' as long as you aren't abusing the fact that you don't sleep.  So don't do things like crafting while everyone else sleeps.

Use his Nanite surge responsibly.  It doesn't have to be used for an attack roll, it can be used for a SV or a CL check to overcome SR, or an important concentration check.  Use it responsibly, you only get it once a day.

Male Android Magus 1
NG Medium Humanoid (Android)
Init +3; Senses Low Light Vision, Darkvision 60 ft, Perception +2
Languages Common, Elven, Goblin, Draconic
AC  15, Flat Footed 14,  Touch 11
HP 10
Fort +3, Reflex +1, Will +1 (+4 Racial bonus vs Mind Effecting, Paralysis, Poison, and Stun) Not
subject to fatigue or exhaustion, Immune to disease, sleep, fear, and emotion effects.  Cannot benefit from
a morale bonus.
Speed 30 Feet, 6 Squares
Melee   Scimitar +4 (1d6+4) 18-20/X2 One Hand or
              Scimitar +4 (1d6+6) 18-20/X2 Two Hand
Ranged Longbow +1 (1d8) X3
Magus Spells Prepared:
1st Level (2/day):  Color Spray (DC 14), True Strike
0 Level (At Will): Acid Splash, Arcane Mark, Mage Hand
Special Attacks:  Nanite Surge, Spell Combat
Abilities Str 18 (+4), Dex 12 (+1), Con 12 (+1), Int 16 (+3), Wis 8 (-1) Cha 6 (-2)
BAB 0, CMB +4, CMD 15
Feats Extra Arcane Pool
Traits Reactionary, Focused Mind
Skills Climb +8, Knowledge: Arcana +7, Knowledge: Dungeoneering +7, Perception +2, Spellcraft +7
SQ Nanite Surge, Arcane Pool, Cantrips, Spell Combat
Combat Gear Chain Shirt, Scimitar, Longbow, 20 Arrows.  Other Gear Backpack, Spellbook
(Contains: all zero level spells, Color Spray, Grease, Shocking Grasp, True Strike, Vanish) 33 gold
Constructed (Ex):  You can as a humanoid and a construct. You have a +4 bonus to resist Mind Effects, Paralysis, Poison, and Stun. You are immune to fatigue, exhaustion, disease, sleep, fear, and emotion effects. You cannot benefit from a morale bonus.
Emotionless (Ex):  You are emotionless and take a -4 to sense motive checks.
Nanite Surge (Ex):  Once per day as an immediate action, you can make your nanites surge to grant you a +3 bonus to a single d20 roll. You must declare you are using this ability before you roll, and it causes the tattoos on your body to glow for 1 round.
Arcane Pool:  You have an Arcane Pool of 6, you may spend a point to give your weapon a +1
enhancement bonus, this stacks with magic bonuses on your weapon to a maximum of +5.
Spell Combat:  You can attack and cast spells in the same round, as long as 1 hand is empty. You take a -2 to attack rolls when you use this ability.

A Reevaluation of House Rules - Ability Scores

It was about a year ago, when I decided "Hey, my table needs some house-rules, that's what all the 'cool' gms do, and ya... I'M that cool..."

In the past year, there have been some successes with those rules, and there have been some failures with those house rules, and now I am considering version 2.  Let's talk about one of those rules I have been using, and what changes I am considering.

The biggest rule as far as how impacts the game, as well as the rule that I want to change the most is the rule governing ability scores.  Right now, our house rules say that each character starts with a 15, 14, 13, 12, 10, and 8.  If they write a back-story, and include relevant traits, they get three free points to distribute however they want.  After racial adjustments, nothing can be higher than 20, there can only be 1 score less than 10, and nothing less than 7.  The original intent of this rule was to create balanced characters that really couldn't be min-maxed.  For those purposes, it has worked.

The problem with this rule, is that is has shoe-horned classes to certain races.  Having a race with a -2 becomes hard to use, as typically you would use a race that has a -2 to an ability score that you don't need.  So, that's where you want to assign the 8 as well.  However, this creates a 6 which is too low.  You can't let the -2 go to your second 'dump stat' and give it the 10, as then you would have two scores less than 10.

As I consider how to address this problem, I am considering two options.  The first is to go old school and roll for those scores.  That's how the Core Rule Book says to do it anyway.  The other option is a point buy, 15 or 20 most likely.  Neither of these options create definite character balance, and point buy certainly opens the door to min-maxing.  As I write this though, I ask myself, so what?  In the real world, some people are better at others at certain skills.  Even in fantasy fiction, some characters do some things better than others.  Balance is widely a myth, both for realism and for fantasy fiction.  Min maxing is the same.  Both methods, point buy, and dice rolling, are the methods advocated in the CRB.  So maybe the house rule that I used to make the game better, didn't really achieve that.  I should have just followed the core rule book all along.

How do you generate ability scores in your game?  What's your advice to a fellow GM?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

My thoughts on Goblinworks and Pathfinder Online

Those familiar with tabletop RPG gaming are certainly no stranger to Paizo and its flagship product the Pathfinder RPG.  Last summer the company announced that an online "version" of Pathfinder would be developed by a spin-off company, Goblinworks.  Over the summer, Goblinworks ran a hugely successful kickstarter to gain funding for a technology demo of the new Pathfinder MMORPG.  And in December, they attempted to capitalize on previous success and start a second kickstarter with the goal of speeding up the game's development.  With six days remaining the second kickstarter is over 300k short of its one million dollar goal.

Regardless of how this kickstarter ends, I can't wait for the week to end, and the kickstarter to go away.

This sounds harsh, and let me be clear about a couple things before I go into more detail on my thoughts on the matter.

First, I am big fan of MMORPGs... Or rather, I used to be.  I grew up on EQ classic.  "You died?  Hope you can find a necromancer to summon your corpse."  "Oh, you ran through Kithicor Forest at night?  Hope you can find a necromancer to summon your corpse."  I branched out in many other classic MMOs, Shadowbane, Guild Wars, EQ2, Dark Age of Camelot, and of course eventually World of Warcraft.

My wife and I played WoW nightly, we were in a raiding guild, we made "real-life" friends, it was "our thing" to do for a very long time.

The third member of our house changed all of that... It's really hard to raid when the baby needs to eat.  So, we drifted away from WoW.  It was soon thereafter that I discovered a way to scratch the itch that no more RPG left behind, when I discovered table top RPGs, which brings me to my second big point...

I am a big fan of Pathfinder.  I am still a youngin' when it comes to table top RPGs.  I had wanted to play Dungeons and Dragons for as long as I can remember.  But finding groups, especially if you don't know anyone else who plays can be daunting, especially for us old folks who tried to get into it before the explosion of social networking.  About 3 years ago, while investigating my curiosity I came across a program sponsored by Wizards of the Coast know as "Encounters" that was hosted at a game store not far from my house.  So I ventured out the front door, leaving the wife at home, and wandered into new territory.  From then on, I was an enthusiast.  As my appreciation and enjoyment with the hobby grew, I inevitably discovered Paizo and Pathfinder, and my group of fellow newbies (wife included by now) decided to give it a spin and try to save the world through the Carrion Crown adventure path.

We never looked back.  The small collection of D&D books I had acquired were sold off, as soon as possible once Wizards of the Coast announced "D&D Next," and though I took a loss, I was happy to have some money back in my pocket and the books off of my shelf.

Today, my collection is far from small.  I have 4 complete adventure paths, 6 or 7 big hardback books from the core line, and numerous player companions, campaign settings, and modules.  To say I love Paizo and Pathfinder would likely be an understatement.

So, a Pathfinder MMO should be a perfect fit for me, right?

Not so much.

When I want to be a hero these days, I don't rely on a digital representation of said hero.  I don't spend hours upon hours putting up with obnoxious internet users to gain some new pixels to adorn said hero.  I spend those hours around a table with my wife, and increasingly more and more our son, some good friends, and some dice.

The new baby girl needs to eat?  Ok, lets take a little break.  No need to worry about finishing a fight, or ruining other people's fun while you have to go "AFK."  We don't have to devote every night to gaming, we spend about 1 night a week.

I for one, have no interest in going back.  I don't want to have to log in and 'maintain' my character.  I don't want to risk griefers having their enjoyment at my expense.  I don't want to have to worry if my wife and I both have computers capable of running the new game and its expansions.

To be blunt, I have no interest in Pathfinder Online.

It is my hope that when this kickstarter expires, that Paizo will put just a little distance between itself and Goblinworks.  I enjoy using some free time to check the Paizo forums, and the front page is my window as to what's 'trending' right now.  More and more this window is dirty with discussions about an online game that is 4 years away, and that I don't care about. Yes, that's a small complaint, and I might be in the minority, I'm OK with both of those things.  I look at it at it this way, Pathfinder and Pathfinder Online are two different things.  Paizo and Goblinworks are two different companies.  Sure, they're related, but they're different, if I want to read about one of them and take part in one of their forums, I want to be able to do that without dealing with the other one.

Separate the games, separate their websites, clean my window! 

((In the interest of full disclosure, I did support the first kickstarter.  The dirty secret?  I only did it to get a cheap PDF of a dungeon that I could use at my table.  The second kickstarter really cemented my apathy for the whole thing.  I couldn't help but think, "I already gave you money once, and now you want a million more?"  I may, again, be in the minority here, but I'm pretty sure there are others who share my disenfranchised attitude towards another request for money.))

What are your thoughts?