Mythic Adventures Playtest

Last Wednesday Paizo released the much anticipated Mythic Adventures playtest. The book is not due out until a Gen Con release in August 2013, but true to Paizo fashion they allow plenty of time for playtesting new rules.

I must preface the comments in this post as being based on a read through of the playtest document and not actual play. My comments are more an overview and overall impression of the new rules and less a dissection of what does and does not work at a finely detailed level. For people seeking to playtest the rules in their game, please read the announcement post and follow the directions there for a proper playtest.

Mythic Adventures will add significant power to your Pathfinder game through the additions of a mythic tier. Many D&D gamers are familiar with epic level rules that kick in beyond typical levels in D&D play. The mythic rules are a little different in that you could start a campaign with mythic powered at level 1 or your could apply them partially through a campaign or you could even apply them temporarily during your campaign.

I readily admit I have rarely had any interest in epic level play. I typically feel a D&D or Pathfinder character starts to become a little too superhero-ish in the mid-teens levels of play. It is fun for awhile, but mainly as a pinnacle of a character’s adventuring career. Playing extended campaigns at “epic” levels is not an area I have historically had a lot of interest in.

This is one of things about the Mythic Adventures rules that is really unique. They offer a way to apply these power boosts right at level 1. No need to play through 20 levels of play and then become “epic” or “mythic”. No need to build pre-gens at levels 20+ just to start there with “epic” or “mythic” level characters. I think the way Paizo has figured out a way to layer these mythic rules into play is quite significant.

I also like that for people like me, that don’t necessarily want to play a whole campaign at “mythic” levels can craft ways to add these rules in on a temporary basis. There are some examples of this in the playtest. A perfect way for players or GMs like me to make use of these rules without committing to an entire campaign at “mythic” levels.

Another tool for the GM is the option of only applying mythic rules to particularly noteworthy opponents or creatures. They could be applied to a human adversary or even an animal-like adversary if the GM saw fit.

There are a multitude of ways to use the mythic adventure rules in your game even if you do not want to commit to an entire campaign at that power level. Very flexible, much more flexible than I thought the rules would be.

The playtest is freely downloadable from Paizo for those that wish to see the details of the rules. So I am only going to hit some of the highlights without going into significant detail.

The mythic rules use ten tiers to scale the power level of the mythic character upwards. These tiers do not necessarily correlate to character (i.e. you could have a 10th level fighter that is only at the 2nd level mythic tier). Tiers are gained by lesser and greater trials.

Each mythic tier grants base mythic powers that are independent of the mythic path you choose. Base powers include things that make you more difficult to kill, flaws, mythic power itself, initiative bonuses, and more as you advance.

There are six main mythic paths a character can choose to apply to their character. Each is geared towards a specific genre of class. The mythic path is what more specializes your mythic power to your class abilities. The paths can include access to mythic flavored spells, feats, and such. Paths also include mythic abilities a player can choose as they advance tiers.

The playtest document also includes many examples of lesser trials mythic characters can choose from to gauge their advancement. The GM is welcome to create their own as well.

Tips on running a mythic game gets a chapter in the playtest document. These tips help show how versatile the system is. From running a game where only creatures can be mythic to temporary use of the rules to running a whole campaign with mythic characters and creatures.

Some example mythic magic items and monsters also get a couple of chapters in the playtest. Mythic magic items and monsters open up whole new realms of play to design in and craft clever challenges for your players.

The playtest document wraps up with a short adventure allowing a GM to tryout the playtest rules with their group. It also is another example of the flexibility of the rules for those GMs that only want to dabble in the mythic realms of power instead of running entire mythic campaigns.

The playtest document weighs in at 52 pages. The layout is excellent, even Paizo’s playtest documents ooze quality. There is some artwork peppered about in the document in the form of sketch art.

When I first heard about Mythic Adventures I was a little skeptical. But after reading through the playtest document I certainly admire the framework. It appears to be extremely flexible for GMs and players and has made itself readily usable by new campaigns and old campaigns already well under way. I am anxious to see how it evolves over time. It looks quite promising even at this early point in the playtest process.

High Level Characters, Low Level Adventure

My local group recently finished up Council of Thieves. I did not run the campaign, the other GM in my group has been running it. This past week we started in on Serpent’s Skull. That sounds typical of a lot of Pathfinder groups I am sure. Finish one Adventure Path and then move to the next. The difference in this case is that our GM let us bring our characters from Council of Thieves to the Serpent’s Skull campaign. 10th level characters tackling a 1st level adventure.

My local GM has a habit of trying unusual things with his games. Our first game with him many years ago had the 1st level PCs finding a 150,000gp treasure hoard. Back in the 3.5 days he used to give us a feat every level. This time it is letting us carry over high level characters to a lower level adventure.

He has been planning this transition for several months, he mentioned it even towards the beginning of Council of Thieves. As the previous Adventure Path wrapped up he mentioned again that he was going to give us the option of carrying our characters over. Of the four of us, three chose to continue with their character. The three that chose to continue with their characters include a bard, rogue and inquisitor. The fourth had an urban ranger and did not feel he would fit in, so re-rolled an oracle. The fourth is entering the campaign at 1st level.

I have a lot of faith in our GM to pull things off like this. We have a good group, we trust each other and so far our GM’s experiments have typically been successful. The other advantage he had going for him was the premise of the initial module of the AP involving a PC losing nearly all of their gear. He had a built-in way to separate us from all of our magical gear. Prior to the session he advised all of us to redo our character sheets without any of our gear except for one item of our choosing.

The GM had a hook to blend the APs together by taking an object we found amidst the Council of Thieves and needing to take it to the Mwangi Expanse to destroy it.

With the adventure underway the group found ourselves on an island minus a lot of our gear. Immediately we faced our first combat encounter with some crab-like scorpion things. The creatures obviously had their hit points boosted as it was taking several hits to kill them. They were still easy to hit, so the AC was the same. They were able to cause poison damage and that DC was left alone, though a combination of poor rolls still left 10th level characters feeling the effects of the poison.

Afterwards the GM confirmed with me my suspicions. All he had done to the creatures to ratchet them up a little was increase their hit points. The lack of gear really reduced the power of the characters and a few bad rolls still made the creatures somewhat of a threat.

Survival on this island is another component of the initial Serpent’s Skull adventure. Even this has its moments of challenge. The survival rolls are pretty easy, but there are only two characters, one of which is an NPC, that have decent ranks in survival. There are still several logistics of survival on the island to figure out that require us to think as players regardless of level. So even with high level characters this element of the AP still retains its fun. Granted our party’s make-up has some influence on this as we lack a wizard or cleric.

We are only one session in, but so far the experiment seems a success. By stripping us of our gear and boosting the hit points of the creatures we face, the element of fun is still there. It has been an interesting blend of Adventure Paths and I look forward to seeing how the rest of it plays out.

Pathfinder Beginner Box Transitions

Today Paizo released a free supplement to their Pathfinder Beginner Box product called Beginner Box Transitions. This PDF release is designed to help a player that entered the Pathfinder system through the Beginner Box to transition beyond 5th level and into the Core Rulebook.

Readers of The Iron Tavern know I have posted a fair number of articles around the Beginner Box. While I have played Pathfinder with my son in the past, the Beginner Box was the set that allowed me to hand him a set of books and he was able to read them himself and learn to play and GM his own games. Even many months later, my son still can be found reading his Beginner Box rule books, creating characters and designing encounters. I was certainly curious to see what this Beginner Box Transitions PDF was all about.

The artistic quality of the PDF is excellent as one has come to expect from Paizo products. The PDF does include an index at the end to help find certain rules quickly. I was disappointed to see that there was not a bookmarked table of contents. Those can be very handy when looking to jump to a certain section of a PDF. Not a major issue, but it would be nice to see a Bookmarked table of contents, maybe in a future update.

The PDF includes 9 chapters covering a myriad of topics from new rules to know when moving to the core rulebook, reading stat block entries from the core rules and bestiary, adventure conversions, leveling your character, and more.

The PDF handles all of this in a very clear and easy to follow manner. New rules are covered in small sub-sections, graphics are used to help dissect spell and monster stat blocks. They really strive to make the transition as easy as possible.

The PDF includes a conversion guide for Master of the Fallen Fortress. Using those steps a reader can get a good feel on how to convert many other modules in the Pathfinder Module line. The PDF includes a list and short summary of several eligible modules.

There is a lot of information in this free download from Paizo to make a person’s transition from the Beginner Box to the Core Rules as painless as possible. My post here is based on a quick read (it has only been out for a few hours), but it looks like an excellent free product to transition those Beginner Box players into the full set of rules. Well done Paizo!

15 Minute Work Day

A frequent complaint one hears about D&D (and Pathfinder to a degree) is the 15 minute work day. The 15 minute work day is the potential for a party to want to rest after they use all of their big resources. This is often at the behest of the Wizard or Cleric of the party after they have used their more powerful spells.

This problem generally lines people up on two sides, both of which can be rather vocal about the issue. One side says this is a problem in nearly every D&D game they have played in and the other says they have never seen it in their games. These arguments usually fall between “it is a systemic problem it isn’t our fault” to “you are playing the game wrong, there is not a problem with the system”. This debate has been going on for a long time, occasionally resurfacing on various forums or twitter feeds.

Why bring it up today at The Iron Tavern? Conan. Conan and The People of the Black Circle actually.

Let me back up just a step though before I get into Conan and the 15 minute work day. I obviously have an opinion on the 15 minute work day, I think everyone does. I fall into the group of people that really has not seen the issue that often.

As a player our groups nearly always push onwards and our wizards tend to be conservative with their spells and manage their resources. That does not mean we adventure on until our resources are completely depleted, but we typically carry on for a good number of encounters before seeking out a place of rest. This has been the case for my local group, for the many organized play games I have participated in, a multitude of play-by-posts, and games I have played online in. Do the casters sometimes announce that they are running low on prepared spells? Yes. But the group as a whole typically pushed onwards.

From the GM perspective I have similar experiences. Players I GM for also tend to push onwards in adventures I run. Sometimes to the point where I actually think it might be best for them to rest up a bit before continuing. This experience is from many varied mediums as my play experience has been.

Given the number of different groups and situations I have a really hard time thinking this is a systemic problem as many like to state. To me a systemic problem would be widespread enough that I would have run into the problem in my playing of the game. I can see room for abuse by a 15 minute work day, but I don’t see it as being a systemic problem in the rules.

There has been one campaign where I found myself facing 15 minute work day scenarios. Kingmaker. The way the exploration portion of Kingmaker works the group will very often find themselves facing every fight at full resources. Now this is an example a systemic problem. As the Kingmaker Adventure Path is written, the PCs are only ever going to face one, two, maybe three encounters in a day during the exploration phases of the campaign.

Back to Conan. I recently started reading People of the Black Circle by Robert E. Howard. As I read that book a distinct thought tumbling around in the back of my mind was if GMs ran their games like that story, the 15 minute work day would never be an issue. The heroes (and even the enemy for that matter) have several moments during the story where they have no choice but to continue on regardless of the status of their resources or how depleted their forces were.

Conan and his companions cannot stop to wait or rest, even as they watch a good number of their forces perish. The girl must be rescued! To wait and recoup health, forces, or arrows is sure to meet with the untimely death or worse for the girl.

The defenders are heavy users of sorcery and at one point in the book are shown using various spells to defend themselves. As the battle unfolds Conan even remarks that they must have lost their capacity for magic as they further retreat. But those sorcerers cannot simply stop and rest! They have a fierce barbarian and his dwindling horde knocking at their doorstep!

Pacing as shown by example in People of the Black Circle is what GMs should strive to obtain. This puts the PCs in an exciting adventure with stakes that mean something to the characters. It paints that sense of urgency that will keep things moving forward and not a series of fight, sleep, fight, sleep and so on. The type of magic system simply will not matter, because it is irrelevant. The PCs must go on to be the heroes, to do otherwise simply ends in devastating failure.

Mini Review: Pathfinder Comic

While at Gen Con this weekend I picked up the new Pathfinder Comic from Dynamite Entertainment. While I have not been an avid comic reader for many, many years, I was intrigued by what Paizo and Dynamite had lined up.

The comic is written by Jim Zub and illustrated by Andrew Huerta. There have been multiple covers illustrated by various artists, I have the Gen Con Edition which depicts a fierce looking Paizo-style goblin with a short bow.

This issue comes in at 40 pages long, though not all of that is comic. The comic book includes 10 pages of Sandpoint Gazetteer material, we will get to that in a moment. A small poster of the cover of the Pathfinder Core Rulebook comes folded up in the comic, a tactical map is on the flip-side of the poster.

I thought the illustrations in the comic were very good. Several of the iconics are included in the initial story. The feel of the art is different than one would find in the Pathfinder rules and supplements, but the essence of them is there in this comic book format.

Gen Con Cover

The writing was also good in this first issue. The story moved well and helped give a feel for the local environs before moving into the coming problem. I found myself smiling in amusements at several portions of the story!

The 10 pages of Sandpoint Gazetteer was a surprise to me. This portion was like a mini-Pathfinder sourcebook and written by James Jacobs. The Gazetteer is chock full of information about the locale the comic book story is taking place in. The stats for the town is included, sections on crime and justice, shopping, adventure hooks, NPC stats and more. There is even a one page full color map of Sandpoint included in the comic. 1st level stats are included for Seoni, Valeros, Ezren, and Merisiel are also in this section of the comic.

I found the comic a fun read and the Gazetteer was a neat addition. I am looking forward to see what the other issues in this line of comics has in store for the reader. Looking at the product listing on Paizo’s site appears to show that a similar format will be used in at least the next issue. I was certainly pleasantly surprised by this comic.

Updated Guide to Pathfinder Society Organized Play

Late yesterday afternoon Paizo released version 4.2 of the Guide to Pathfinder Society Organized Play. Pathfinder Society (PFS) Organized Play is Paizo’s form of organized play for the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. The Guide is the “rulebook” for participating in PFS. The Guide sees updates throughout the year with the larger one typically coming shortly before Gen Con. This year has proven no different with the release of this version 4.2.

There were several major changes made with this release of the guide along with general clarification of rules in the guide. The major changes were listed on the Paizo Blog and a complete change log was posted to the Pathfinder Society Forums. I encourage you to check those locations for the complete details of the changes as I only intend to mention the larger changes and a couple of the smaller changes.

The larger changes that Paizo calls out on their blog are as follows:

  • Added three new races to character creation for all players to choose from: aasimar, tengu, and tiefling.
  • Scenarios and sanctioned module now have one unified set of rules for applying Chronicle sheets to pregenerated characters.
  • Added all hardcover rulebooks to the Core Assumption for GMs and advised that GMs can refer to the Pathfinder Reference Document for rules from any books they don’t own.
  • Updated text so GMs are now allowed to take boons when they are offered on a Chronicle sheet.

I am glad to see the scenarios and sanctioned modules having a unified set of rules for applying chronicle sheets to pregens. That just helps simplify things and make things a little easier to understand and handle correctly. I also think it is great that GMs can now take boons when they are offered on a Chronicle sheet. GMs work hard and it is good to see a GM able to get rewards to apply to their own character.

I am certainly not thrilled about the addition of the three races. I know a lot of people do like that change, but I have never really grown use to what I still consider “fringe” races. I am not a fan of GMing those races and even less of a fan of playing a character next to one of those races. My dislike of this rule is of course a personal bias. I suspect Mike Brock and Mark Moreland have heard frequent requests for these races and are just listening to the community.

While adding all hardcover books to the core assumption is likely a good thing, it does really increase the hurdle for a new GM to PFS. It is nice that Paizo says the PRD is a valid source for the rules removing the monetary hurdle of needing to own all of them, it still is a lot of rules for a new GM to PFS to be expected to know.

With this release of the PFS Guide several archetypes were cut from allowed for play:

  • Gravewalker Witch
  • Master Summoner
  • Synthesist Summoner
  • Undead Lord Cleric
  • Vivisectionist Alchemist

These archetypes are being removed either for not fitting with Golarion thematically or for power imbalance within organized play. I can respect that and think it is good that the campaign takes steps to correct some of these imbalances. I know I have heard numerous complaints about the Synthesist Summoner and it being ripe for abuse.

Let’s take a look at some of the changes from the change log that stand out to me.

First up:

“The leadership of this campaign assumes that you will use common sense in your interpretation of the rules. This includes being courteous and encouraging a mutual interest in playing, not engaging in endless rules discussions. While you are enjoying the game, be considerate of the others at the table and don’t let your actions keep them from having a good time too. In short, don’t be a jerk.”

I love this addition! So many times rule discussions can turn into something that sounds like two lawyers tearing apart the language used to make their case. Really, at the end of the day, Paizo just wants us to have fun playing this game. While the English language can be torn down to a finite point, use some common sense and try to realize we are here to play the game and have fun. The rules should facilitate that. Great addition!

Another added section is in regards to the Pathfinder Society Community:

You may not simply ignore rules clarifications made by the campaign leadership, including the campaign coordinator and campaign developer, on the paizo.com messageboards. GMs are not required to read every post on the messageboards, but GMs familiar with rules clarifications made by the campaign leadership (which have not been superseded by the Guide to Pathfinder Society Organized Play or FAQ) must abide by these clarifications or rulings. If it is a significant clarification, it will be updated in the FAQ, and later in the Guide to Pathfinder Society Organized Play if necessary.

I think this is a good move at trying to determine how the rulings on the message board are to work. Pretty much if you know something has been clarified on the message boards, but hasn’t made it to the FAQ yet, still follow it. Every effort will be made to add significant items to the FAQ which all GMs are responsible for knowing and following.

First Level retraining is noted in the change log. This is a pretty big deal and a good move for those getting their feet we with Pathfinder or Pathfinder Society in general. This allows a character to change anything they want with their character between adventures and before they hit 2n level as long as the PFS number remains the same. Exceptions to this rebuild will be listed in the PFS FAQ.

A couple of allowed to carry-over spells were added:

A character may have one each of the following spells that carries overs from scenario to scenario: continual flame, masterwork transformation, secret chest, and secret page.

Another good change in my opinion. The continual flame question seems to arise a lot on the message boards. In following with the common sense reading of rules above it only makes sense that continue flame be allowed to last from session to session.

There are numerous other small changes listed in the change log that I am not mentioning here. I have covered what I consider to be the highlights along with some of my commentary on them.

The look and feel of the guide has really improved over the years as well. The layout and feel continue to more closely emulate one of Paizo’s normally released books. Very crisp and clean. The additional attention to the look and feel is important I think as people new to Paizo’s organized play system will have this guide as their first contact with the system.

While I am not a fan of the new races, there are a lot of good changes in the Guide this time around. Whether I agree with the new races or not it does show the Paizo staff is listening to feedback and not afraid to make changes. I do believe they have the best interests of PFS in mind when they make these changes.

Rise of the Runelords Unboxing

I was a bit of a latecomer to Pathfinder Adventure Paths when they started. Well, more accurately, I was one of the ones thinking no way will this ever work. Of course a couple of years later as I start getting into the Pathfinder ruleset and checking out the Adventure Paths I realized the error of my ways. By that time however, Rise of the Runelords was already getting slightly more difficult to track down.

So when Paizo announced they were doing a Rise of the Runelords anniversary release to celebrate ten years in business and the five year mark of the Adventure Path product, I knew I had to get that book. Today my pre-ordered book arrived!

Technically the Rise of the Runelords Anniversary book is a hardback, not a boxed set. But the book arrived in a shipping box, so this post gets the title of unboxing! Plus I was excited to see it arrive!

Before I move to the pictures, here is what the book contains (from the Paizo product page):

  • All six chapters of the original Adventure Path, expanded and updated for use with the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game.
  • Articles on the major locations of Rise of the Runelords: sleepy Sandpoint, the ancient Thassilonian city of Xin-Shalast, and others.
  • Revelations on the sinister magic of Thassilon, with updated spells, magic items, and details on tracking sin points throughout the campaign.
  • A bestiary featuring eight monsters updated from the original Adventure Path, plus an all-new terror.
  • Dozens of new illustrations, never-before-seen characters, location maps, and more!

And now the unboxing!