Session 1 – Thoughts from the GM


So, it’s the morning after the night before.  Hopefully you all had a good time last night and didn’t find the learning curve too steep!

Err what

It was interesting for me to watch and listen to you all coming together as a group and working out how best to manage and play your characters.  As time goes on, it will of course, get far easier and feel more natural to ‘become’ that character.  So, as the learning points from the first Session, here are my thoughts…

The main points that I have are the following:

  1. Movement Distances

  2. Understanding Spell Details

  3. Cover

  4. Imagine You’re Actually There

Now, bear in mind, that we are all learning a new system and there will be things that we all get wrong, and / or misinterpret!  Even me!!  No.  Seriously.  Occasionally I make mistakes too!

1.Movement Distances.

All races in the game have a maximum distance, or number of squares, they can move each round.  Movement is fairly simple, in that each square on the game board is 5 feet, and each race’s movement number is a multiple of 5! The only complication is on diagonals.

Simply put, if you move diagonally once on your turn, that’s fine, it costs you 5′ of your allowance.  But for every second diagonal step you take on a turn, it counts as 10′ of your allowance.

  • If you move diagonally once = 5′.
  • If you move diagonally twice = the first diagonal is 5′, the second diagonal is 10′, so the total for those two diagonal steps 15′ of your movement allowance.
  • If you move diagonally thrice = the first diagonal is 5′, the second diagonal is 10′, the third diagonal is 5′.  So the total for those three diagonal steps is 20′ of your movement allowance.
  • If you move diagonally fourice (?) = the first diagonal is 5′, the second diagonal is 10′, the third diagonal is 5′, and the fourth diagonal is 10′.  So the total for those four diagonal steps is 30′ of your movement allowance.

So to put that in the perspective of our team of merry men (or maybe, male people is more accurate!)”

  • Halfling – 20 feet
  • Half Elf – 30 feet
  • Human – 30 feet
  • Gnome – 20 feet

Oh, and on your turn you can make a Run action, which uses your Movement Action and your Standard Action, and that enables you to move up to twice your maximum allocation.  There are other Movement Actions as well (Charge, Bull Rush etc), but you can research, learn and check those out yourselves.

2.Understanding Spell Details

Spell details are complicated.

That comment deserves it’s own paragraph, so there you have it…  THAT is how complicated some spell information details can be.  So, to try and simplify the details, or show you how to read/understand them, I’ll give two examples, one is a spell that attacks Saving Throws, the other is a spell that attacks Armour Class.

Oh, and I’ve purposely picked more Complex examples.  Deep breath, here we go…

hypnotised_by_deviantnep

CHARM PERSON
School: Enchantment (charm) [mind-affecting]; 
Level: bard 1, sorcerer/wizard 1 
Casting Time: 1 standard action 
Components: V, S 

Range: close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels) 

Target: one humanoid creature 
Duration: 1 hour/level 
Saving Throw: Will negates
Spell Resistance: Yes 
This charm makes a humanoid creature regard you as its trusted friend and ally (treat the target’s attitude as friendly).  If the creature is currently being threatened or attacked by you or your allies, however, it receives a +5 bonus on its saving throw.  The spell does not enable you to control the charmed person as if it were an automaton, but it perceives your words and actions in the most favorable way.  You can try to give the subject orders, but you must win an opposed Charisma check to convince it to do anything it wouldn’t ordinarily do.  (Retries are not allowed.)  An affected creature never obeys suicidal or obviously harmful orders, but it might be convinced that something very dangerous is worth doing.  Any act by you or your apparent allies that threatens the charmed person breaks the spell.  You must speak the person’s language to communicate your commands, or else be good at pantomiming.

 

So, looking at the above and taking it step by step…

Under the spell’s name, it shows which school the spell is from (Enchantment);

School: Enchantment (charm) [mind-affecting];

this section is only typically relevant for Wizards as they can specialise in schools.

The next line shows you which Classes can use the spell;

Level: Bard 1, Sorcerer / Wizard 1

and what SPELL LEVEL that Class needs to have access to so it can cast that spell. (There is a difference between Spell Level, Class Level and Character Level).

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Awesome Web Comic

To show the difference in Character Level versus Spell Level, here is a link to the Sorceror’s Spell TableBards and Clerics for reference.

SPELL LEVEL
CHARACTER LEVEL   1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
1   3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2   4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
3   5 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
4   6 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
5   6 4 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
6   6 5 3 0 0 0 0 0 0
7   6 6 4 0 0 0 0 0 0
8   6 6 5 3 0 0 0 0 0
9   6 6 6 4 0 0 0 0 0
10   6 6 6 5 3 0 0 0 0

So, for an example, from the table above you can see that a level 6 Sorcerer, can cast 6 level 1 spells, 5 level 2 spells and 3 level 3 spells each day. Personally I wish they’d change Spell Level to something else, like Spell Tier or something but they haven’t so, there you go.

The next line tells you how many / what type of Action you need to take to cast this spell;

Casting Time: 1 Standard Action

I don’t think I need to explain that one!

Components: V, S

Straight from the rules:

Verbal (V)

Somatic (S)

Material (M)

Focus (F)

Divine Focus (DF)

If the Components line includes F/DF or M/DF, the Arcane version of the spell has a Focus component or a Material component (the abbreviation before the slash) and the Divine version has a Divine Focus component (the abbreviation after the slash).

Basically, for this spell, you need to be able to freely speak aloud (V), and move your hands/fingers (S).

Merric_casting_a_spell

Range: Close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels) 

I wouldn’t worry too much about the word at the beginning, ‘Close’, for me it’s indeterminate, so just look at the listed distance.  So at level 1, you can cast this spell on someone/thing up to 25 ‘ away from you; every 2 levels beyond attaining the spell (Character Level 1) you can add 5′ to that distance.  So, at level 3, the Range is 30′, at level 5, the Range is 35’ etc.

Target: one humanoid creature

target

This section will basically tell you what you can effect with the spell.  Sometimes it will effect an area (AoE), sometimes it’s a single target.  The other important factor is the type of target that it will effect, ‘humanoid’.  Other types of target can be Aberrations like a Bone Cobbler, Dragons like a Wyvern (you thought I was going to say Dragon huh?), or Plants like a Shrieker.

Duration: 1 hour/level 

This should be pretty obvious..?

Saving Throw: Will negates

If the spell is versus AC, this usually won’t show anything – unless the spell has an ongoing effect on top of damage.  What the above means is this…  Your “Attack Roll”, is actually a Saving Throw that the target (me) has to roll.  The DC that determines whether or not the target saves is on your character sheet.

It’s calculated like this:

10 + the Spell’s Level + The class’ Relevant Attribute’ for Spellcasting + Relevant Effects

The DC can increase as your Character levels up, finds certain equipment etc.

This spell attacks the Target’s WILL.  So the target would roll 1d20+WILL in an attempt to equal or beat the Caster’s DC.

Spell Resistance: Yes 

Some creatures are resistant to certain types of spells, a Fire based creature for example, is more than likely resistant (and potentially Immune) to fire damage.

Y'shtola_Barrier

Prose, the last section is usually a sentence or ten (!) detailing damage and/or other spell effects or rules.  This one is a little long winded so bear with me…

This charm makes a humanoid creature regard you as its trusted friend and ally (treat the target’s attitude as friendly).  If the creature is currently being threatened or attacked by you or your allies, however, it receives a +5 bonus on its saving throw.  The spell does not enable you to control the charmed person as if it were an automaton, but it perceives your words and actions in the most favorable way.  You can try to give the subject orders, but you must win an opposed Charisma check to convince it to do anything it wouldn’t ordinarily do.  (Retries are not allowed.)  An affected creature never obeys suicidal or obviously harmful orders, but it might be convinced that something very dangerous is worth doing.  Any act by you or your apparent allies that threatens the charmed person breaks the spell.  You must speak the person’s language to communicate your commands, or else be good at pantomiming.

Relevant things to take out of the above description:

  • If the target is adjacent to you or someone in the party, it gets a +5 on it’s Saving Throw against the spell.  So it would roll 1d20 + WILL Saving Throw bonus (as normal), but it also adds the +5 too.
  • If the spell succeeds, the target doesn’t not turn into a mindless idiot for you to play with, but you can force it to do things, based on an opposed Charisma Check (your 1d20+CHA versus it’s 1d20+CHA).
  • If you try to command it to do something and it fails, you can’t try the same thing with it.
  • You can’t command it to kill itself.
  • If someone in your party attacks or threatens it, the spell will break.
  • To be able to Charm it, you must be able to speak it’s language (duh!).

This is a difficult one yes, but when you break it down, it’s not actually that hard.

Now, an easier spell that is vs. AC:

commission___fireball_card_by_tanathiel-d4ky1fw

SCORCHING RAY

School: Evocation [fire]

Level: Sorcerer / Wizard 2

Casting Time: 1 Standard Action

Components: V, S

Range: Close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)

Effect: One or more rays

Duration: Instantaneous

Saving Throw: None

Spell Resistance: Yes

You blast your enemies with a searing beam of fire. You may fire one ray, plus one additional ray for every four levels beyond 4th (to a maximum of three rays at 12th level). Each ray requires a ranged touch attack to hit and deals 4d6 points of fire damage. The rays may be fired at the same or different targets, but all rays must be aimed at targets within 30 feet of each other and fired simultaneously.

 

OK, most of the above is the same kind of thing as the Charm Person spell above, however the attack type is different.  There is no Saving Throw on this spell.  It is essentially a Ranged Attack BUT, an important factor with spells like this, is that the attack is versus the TOUCH AC of the Target, not it’s full AC.

Touch AC is calculated as: 10 + Dexterity modifier + other modifiers

– The benefit of an Attack versus Touch AC is that the target’s armour makes absolutely ZERO difference to your chance to hit him.

Your chance to hit it is calculated as:

1d20 + Base Attack Bonus (BAB) + Dexterity Modifier + Size Modifier of enemy [Big things are easier to hit, small things are harder to hit!]

So, going back to the description above, you can see that there is a chance of Spell Resistance if the target has either Resistance or Immunity to the type of damage it does – which would be Fire.

The prose at the bottom tells you the following:

  • You can cast 1 ray at (Character) Level 4, 2 rays at Level 8, 3 rays at Level 12.
  • Each ray does 4d6 damage.
  • If you can cast multiple rays (so level 8 or above), you can fire the rays at the same target OR split them between others.
  • All targets need to be within the range of the spell (25′, and an extra 5′ for every 2 Character Levels above 4).
  • The rays must be fired simultaneously – so you can’t fire the first ray, roll damage, then decide who you will target with the 2nd / 3rd rays.  You pick your target/s, including the number of rays you will cast at each one, THEN roll all the attacks and damage.

3.Cover

HIDING-BEHIND-A-TREE1

Cover is a tricky one, but last night, we were playing it almost correctly (there were some instances of Partial Cover – see diagram below).  I’ve cut and pasted bits of Paizo’s official Cover rules below:

To determine whether your target has cover from your ranged attack, choose a corner of your square. If any line from this corner to any corner of the target’s square passes through a square or border that blocks line of effect or provides cover, or through a square occupied by a creature, the target has cover (+4 to AC).

When making a melee attack against an adjacent target, your target has cover if any line from any corner of your square to the target’s square goes through a wall (including a low wall). When making a melee attack against a target that isn’t adjacent to you (such as with a reach weapon), use the rules for determining cover from ranged attacks.

#1: The Fighter is adjacent to the Ogre, and nothing blocks him from reaching it. The Ogre does not have cover against the Fighter.
#2: The Rogue is adjacent to the Ogre, but lines from the corners of his square to the corners of the Ogre’s square cross through a wall.  Therefore, the Ogre has melee cover from him (+ 4 AC), but if it attacks him, the Rogue does not have cover from it, as the Ogre has reach (so it figures attacks as if attacking with a ranged weapon).
#3: The Cleric attacks at range, and must pick one of the corners of her square to determine cover. Some of these lines pass through a solid surface, meaning that the Ogre does have cover, +4 AC.
#4: The Sorcerer attacks at range as well, but her lines reveal that she can clearly see more than half of the Ogre. This gives the Ogre Partial Cover which gives the Ogre a +2 AC rather than +4.

4.Imagine You’re Actually There

There were a few times last night where you had the chance to ask questions or clarify things with NPCs, and you didn’t take the opportunity.  Now, realising that, for whatever reason, you wanted to charge off after the 3 basic leads you were given, I weaved in a few comments to questions that you didn’t ask to help you out a little.

Now obviously, this was the first session, some of you are completely fresh and some are a little rusty, but I want to try and give you advice early on to help out going forwards.  So, if this type of scene comes up again, try and think about how YOU would deal with that type of situation in your day to day life…

You’ve been asked to investigate something nefarious by security or whatever.  You have practically zero knowledge of the area you’re in and absolutely zero knowledge of the people that you’ve just been asked to  talk to or how they might react.Law & order svu undercover mother ice tmariska hargitay peter scanavino tracy arrest

  • Wouldn’t you ask for some information on the people first?  
  • Wouldn’t you want to know more about the situation surrounding this investigation?

Thankfully (I think), the storyline is not a simple D&D / Scooby Doo, “Where’s the bad guy..?  Over there, in that castle!  Let’s go get him then!!”, it’s far more cerebral than that.  That will become pretty clear as we get further into the story and I won’t spoil anything in regard to that, but do take advantage of the knowledge NPCs might have, have a think about what you need to know and what might be of help.

There will be times to rush forwards and get things done, soon, sooner, soonest; …for example, when a diseased wolf is trying to chew on your leg; but there’s also a time to ‘sponge’ as much information as you can so that you can be better prepared for what’s coming.

Oh, and it’s coming…  Oh yes!!

It.

Is.

Coming.

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Errors I Made

I forgot the rule around being Flat Footed.

Basically, in the first round of combat, before your turn comes about (as determined by Initiative Order), you cannot add your DEX Modifier to your AC because you’ve been caught flat footed, (Flat Footed AC is 10 + Armour + Shield).

Once your turn comes around during the first round, your AC goes back to normal.  Unless it’s a surprise round – but I’ll leave that for now.  Essentially, it gives a bonus to those with quicker reactions – and is more realistic.

So, “Captain Armour Class” last night, would have had to subtract his DEX Modifier from his AC, which would have reduced his AC to 427; a far easier target!

 

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2 thoughts on “Session 1 – Thoughts from the GM

  1. zhap77

    Nice write up mate. Funny man aren’t you!!

    Yes spell knowledge is essential and proved to be the slowest thing about our night, and will forever unless we know our spells inside and out.

    Yes, forgot about partial cover. That was the missing link.

    I still think it is essential that our characters have a voice or accent. Mainly because it helps to get into character and immerse yourself better and easier, rather than just as a way to know whether it’s you or your character talking. See if you guys can work on one. I clearly need to work on mine. Try a few and give them a test run with us before we start our next session.

    1. I try!

      I had a feeling spells would be the most complex part of the evening as there are a lot of words in the details. When you get right down to it though, there are 3 varieties; 1. Attack vs AC (Touch), 2. Attack vs Saving Throw, 3. Passive.

      The most important part of using spell type 1 is knowing what your Spell Attack bonus is (your bonus to the d20 attack roll) and what kind of damage it does. The Spells Attack Bonus is calculated like this:
      >> Melee weapons and melee touch spells- BaB+str mod+size mod
      >> Range weapons, rays, and range touch spells- BaB+dex mod+range mod+size penalty
      >> Area spells have no attack check – they are a Save vs Spell DC (Type 2).

      The most important part of using spell type 2 is knowing what your Spell Save DC is and what kind of damage it does. The Spells Save DC is calculated like this:
      >> 10 + spell level + ability modifier (e.g. Wizards use INT, Clerics use WIS, Bards use CHA)
      That number is the DC that the enemies have to roll equal to or above to succeed. Bear in mind, that even if they succeed the roll, some spells will still do something – like half damage or similar.

      Spell Type 3 – are spells like, Light, or Detect Poison.

      With Cover, something else I read says this, “You can’t execute an attack of opportunity against an opponent with cover relative to you.” The important part being, “…relative to you.”

      Voices can be good if used, most (not all) of the podcasts I listen to adopt voices for their characters, Irish / Scottish / Welsh / French… Doesn’t need to be anything “out there”, just something different to the way YOU typically speak.

      Thanks for the response!

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