2020 GM Workshop: Merkabah

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2020 Merkabah GM Session

Wednesday, February 26, 2020, 8:26 PM

Tacomancer Supreme says, "One or two may be late. If this happens, I will award shamelessly to whomever can plop this onto the website. Shamelessly. As always, please feel free to ask questions or for clarification. So, tonight! We'll be covering a few items:

  1. Merkebah
  2. Mixed Level Scenes!
  3. Social Combat!
  4. Misc!"


Tacomancer Supreme says, "So...Merkebah? What the hell is this thing? Well, first. Dangerous. Secondly, Merkabah was crafted by the High Artificers and presumably crashed during their fall. What does that mean, exactly? It means it contains elements of High Artifice that at one point, the hubris of the Eldanar used to attempt to challenge the gods.

Tacomancer Supreme says, "Merkabah was at one time a floating fortress. It would have been forgotten to the world had not Saluven raised it. Saluven was one of the last known surviving High Artificers, or perhaps THE last. For some time, he posed as a Myrrish Governor under the name Lucien Shrike. He secretly worked to heighten the tensions between Alexandria and Myrridon until those tensions erupted into the war. His aim was to bring back the age of artifice, and the power within it. Obviously, this is a bad idea. His actions weakened the Seal on the Void. He was probably unaware of this. Worse, he was unaware that he was possessed by a powerful daemon of the Void. Every action with which he thought he would restore the great Kulthian empire, he was secretly preparing to hurtle the world into the Void itself."

Tacomancer Supreme says, "So...let's parse that for a moment. The Seal of the Void. The Void is what corrupted Maugrim and the other Gods of Evil. It took this...hubris/nugget within them, and made it go kaboom. When Saluven made a break in the Seal, it took Animus, Daeus, AND Maugrim to fix it....but that's the sort of power that's at play, here. And when Animus died....When Taara murdered him, that part of the seal weakened. It is a little confusing. In the end--this part of the story matters, but it doesn't. For purposes of running plots there--it mostly serves to illustrate that Merkebah is a dangerous, and also fantastical, place. This was an entire floating fortress, crafted of High Artifice. Of the finest High Artifice. ...and it got blown up, and scattered all over the mountains. There are giant towers shoved into the mountains, half sticking out. Or broken in two. Or floating in the air.

Tacomancer Supreme says, "Merkebah is a dangerous, beautiful place. It's a place with a lot of history, and a fantastical landscape. Imagine the floating, shattered towers. The sweeping mountain passes. The floating, fragments of quasi-animated artifice. There are areas with functioning magic. Areas with ...not-so-functioning magic. Or teleport blocks. Traps. Redirects. Think of it as a 3D, high-stakes dungeon scape. Funtimes with gravity. Going there is an opportunity to explore history. ...but it's also an opportunity to try anything you can imagine as a GM. When describing Merkebah--the two rooms off of the RP Nexus will do most of that for you. The details of it, or 'I take my party to a specific area,' are up to you as a GM. Make it multiple towers, break some of them, stab some into the mountains, and add whacky crazy half-functioning Artifice Creations, and you've got it.

Merkebah is a fun place. Its uniqueness and challenge is why we're handling Merkebah Month as we are. We're filing off CR limits. Play as hard as you like. Throw out what challenges you like--in Merkebah scenes. They're all standard PrPs, though. So, atm, there is no death. This month, we're hoping you'll experiment, try something different, and explore an unusual landscape that's usually kept locked away.

Tacomancer Supreme yep. And if you just want to experiment? Go nuts. Standard PrPs can't result in death (they're just KO'd). And, folks signing up for these know it will be hard and maybe, experimental. Focus on fun. That's the big thing. We're removing the brakes this month, for all Merkebah scenes. Run kaiju.

Q. Delilah says, "This... might be a 'dumb question' but what is the Merkabeth thing?"
A. Kaydin "giant artifice city with a gobber godzilla stomping about"
A. Tacomancer Supreme "Merkebah is a dangerous, explodified/fallen fortress city crafted from High Artifice that landed in the Redridge north of Alexandria. It's now open for plox, after being closed for something like 10 years. It's also a place that no one will ever, ever remember how to spell. Including me."
A. Cryosanthia "Typo 'Murky Bath' and you'll get pretty close.
A. Tacomancer Supreme points. Visit the RP Nexus, then TEMP3, to visit it. It is amazing and horrible all at once. <3

Q. Garrett says, "when is merkabah month? march? my birthday is on the 18th"
A. Tacomancer Supreme saw. :D And it is the first of next month. I've posted a BEGIN date to +events.

Q. Raethon "Is Heth a void dragon...and is he a part of this?"
A. "He is not part of Merkebah, but it is a good question. A very good one."

Q. Raethon:"So the void is the big bad overall?"
A. "The Void is incredibly bad."

Q. Raethon says, "Merkabah can have rifts and all that stuff, right?"
A. Tacomancer Supreme says, "Absolutely."

Q. Boshter says, "Yeah, it crashed. As I recall right, it was hit by the spellcannon back in the day!"
Q. Strike "So, I'm a little fuzzy on the whole timeframe, but was Merkabah at large during the Sorceress wars?"
A. "It was destroyed in the year 1003, Current year is 1022."

Q. Seldan "So, it is a place where near anything can happen, both good and bad, or mostly only bad?"
A. "Door #2. Mostly bad."

Q. Seldan "Things such as spellblights and dweomersinks are a possibility in such a place?"
A. "Sure, I don't see any reason why not. Constructs, half-functioning traps. The half-remains of some working Concept that some artificer had made. Spellblights, absolutely."

Q. Cryosanthia "Are magic items/artifices that come out of there going to be mostly functional or safe, or are they 'cursed' in some fashion and more likely to be bad for you."
Q. Merek says, "Black-tech is badwrong. Necromantic in nature."
Q. Seldan "Magic is tricksy/messy, then. How likely is it that anything living hides in it?"
A. Yes, it is entirely possible and likely. But the specifics of that are up to you as a GM.

Q. Zapolklnex "so it's the Necrohol of Nabudis?"
Q. Seldan nods, very good. :) I have the image of a mix of Babel Tower from one of the really old Final Fantasies, and Shinra Tower from 7, with wonky magic/artifice thrown in for good measure.
A. Boshter "Yeah, Seldan, FF is always a good place to draw from for inspiration here. Mael diod it."

Q. Seldan says, "It sounds as if traps / environmental hazards are viable encounters in Merkabah. How do staff adjudicate those when rewarding PrP's?"
A. We'll be awarding these PrPs a level higher than usual. This bonus stacks with others such as roleplay, challenge, and so on. So basically. It could end up being worth a lot, added together.

Q. Cryosanthia "So, Horror / SCP type things with the serial numbers filed off are Ok long as they're somewhat reproduceable with the rules?
A. yep.

Q. Cryosanthia "What about consequences? Like a magic blight bug burrows into a PC at 0HP or -10HP 'not-death' and they're stuck with it until something happens in another log. So, it's okay to go crazy, but don't kill and don't be overly mean without asking?
A. "Mind, the purpose of these scenes is not to punish PCs--it's to throw the door open, play, and try something new. Anyone going into them will know the stakes are upped. If you'd like lasting effects, just file a +request ahead of time.

Q. Cryosanthia "It's a crashed floating city in dead volcano, size / scale? Do you have a cross/section or otherwise general thing, area names, or it will develop as explored?
Q. Raethon says, "I imagine the depth is pretty deep too. Anything that sized hitting the ground is gonna leave a decently sized hole."
A. "And it's at least a mile wide, the crash site. The overall description is provided. The depth of it is open to you as a GM. If we mapped out the entire thing--we'd end up stepping on a lot of creative toes. Such as: why no, you can't use a five-story death machine because it wasn't spec'd. >.>"

Q. Caim says, "so yea how do I put logs onto the wiki?"
A. http://tenebraemush.net/index.php/How_to_Post_a_Log
For the moment you need to log them manually.
The loggers are not broken, the loggers just pre-format the text for the wiki, but it won't set it up on the wiki automagically.
They have issues with long logs full of ooc. The loggers can sometimes lose poses with long logs and lots of OOC. You can +log/create -ooc to get around that. If you need some help, Cryo and AF are good ones to ask.
Recommended to use a client-side logger for PrP's.

Q. Raethon says, "So...we're allowed just about anything in Merkabah, if it strikes our fancy, right?"
Q. Raethon "Well...not all brakes, I think? No facing and killing gods."
A. "So long as it's in theme, absolutely. Not the death one, without pre-approval, no. And well, No Godkilling, yeah."

Q. Merek says, "Can we find uh... Mecha golem to drive around."
A. "You could, as a Plot Device (TM). It wouldn't be a permanent arsenal piece, though. It wouldn't belong to anyone. We're lifting CR, not the rest of the MU guidelines, I'm afraid. :/

Gobberzilla and Goblins
Q. Seldan says, "What is kaiju?"
A. "giant monsters. Godzilla

Q. Cryosanthia says, "The Gooberzilla, staff is handling that? It's killable, not being saved for an end of month theme, or we ask and find out?
A. "The Gobberzilla is open to use for player GMs. Just talk with me or Bols. Last door. <3"

Q. Merek "I would feel very very meh if someone killed a kid transformed into gobberzilla."
Q. Strike says, "It presents moral dillema"
A. "So, there is a Colossal gobber stomping about Merkebah atm. It's effectively a kaiju, transformed by a gobber curse, and warped tech-magic. The endscene made pretty clear that it wasn't what it used to be anymore. Whatever the kid was, is long gone. If someone wants to run it, I can fill in some details. /Technically/, gobbers mature at around age 7. It's just their brains are too smart, too fast. So technically, it was not a child, to begin with. And then it transformed into something entirely different. Tacomancer Supreme will give folks details, who wish to run it. But, there's no need to focus on the gobber-kaiju, either. Merkebah is plenty dangerous enough even aside of that.

Q. Azog says, "How old would the equivalent human be?"
A. "17ish or so. Gobbers don't let their own out until 18 though, to force time for the brain and body to sync up. The entire 'gobber curse' exists because of basically, the power of Mad Science. Too-young gobbers are basically mad science bombs, ready to go off. (Also, we don't allow underage PCs. So. ^^;)

Tacomancer Supreme says, "Ok! So, general announcements--Merkebah Month starts first of March. It runs all month. Plots don't need pre-approval unless you want to kill ppl. :| We're removing the brakes--have fun, wreck things. Go into these scenes knowing it's possible. ^^; Experiment. Use Mad Science (TM!)! We'll be adding extra gp/xp for doing this. The purpose is to Have Fun (TM). So, that's all of the big stuff. I have one more thing after all this is over. Any questions before then? We have Aftershock duct-taped to a chair!! Ask her questions!

Skills Combat

Tacomancer Supreme says, "This takes us into a related area. I'm going to invert things a little, though. Skills Combat. We'll hit multilevel scenes, next. ^^; This will be a full evening, and I apologize ahead of time. ^^; So, Skill Combat. Also called Social Combat. ...it's an odd tie-in to Merkebah, but--considering the number of traps in Merkebah, it can work very well.

So: The main issue with Diplomancing, Trapfinding, and Stealth, is it risks coming down to 1 character, 1 roll. The rest of the party is left out. It can also be rather boring for other characters. It often lacks the sense of 'danger and dynamism' that combat can have. To make Skill Combat fun for everyone, we focus on fixing these issues. Finally, Skill Combat isn't always appropriate. Use it only when you want to add depth and tension to a scene.

Tacomancer Supreme says, "That is its core issue. BUT. We're going to focus on fixing that. Fix those issues, and it becomes not only enjoyable, but dynamic, challenging, and fun as hell. Are there rules for Skill Combat? Sort of. ^^; We have rules on the site for skill-based "combat." You are welcome and encouraged to use them! They can be found, here: http://tenebraemush.net/index.php/Skill_Combat .

Tacomancer Supreme says, "You're also encouraged to make your own. In a moment, I'll be hitting the core elements of doing this. If you've run regular combat before, it should sound pretty familiar. So, how do you make Skill Combat dynamic and interesting?

  1. Involve everyone, even if there's a leader."
  2. Treat it like regular combat. This one is important. ^^; But, what does it mean, exactly?"
  3. If you like, raise the stakes now and then by using the environment, antagonistic NPCs, reveals, and the PCs' own actions. A collapsing building works just as well to create a sense of urgency in skill combat as it does regular combat. An antagonistic NPC changes the social landscape. PCs...oh man, PCs. PCs make a story. Respond to actions just like you would in regular combat.
  4. As each PC (or group of PCs) is about to pose--step OOC and remind them of the situation, and ask how they might hurt or contribute. This reminds them their actions matter. This is one of the most important items, so please hilight it. I'll come back to this, later, too."
  5. Add and subtract bonuses, or alter responses, based on this teamwork. Treat it like Aid Another, or Failed Aid Another (-2!). ...or have it change the landscape.
  6. Don't let one PC's skill, spell list dominate. This takes practice. While we don't want to make an ability someone invested in useless--but we don't want it controlling a scene either, or making everyone else feel noncontributive. One way to achieve this is diversification. For example: Allow multiple skills. Someone's k/local or prof/merchant could add needed insight. Prof/weaponsmithing could help them relate to the NPC."
  7. Villains don't just stand there. This is combat.

Tacomancer Supreme says, "Primarily, it means: keep some sort of order, +timestop or otherwise. Just like in combat, ask players to state their intent OOCly before posing. Pose reactions of the villain dynamically--make it obvious their actions influenced the scene's action. The rest of what our approach will do that, too. The prompts, for example, which I'll cover in more detail WHY that works, in a moment. And yes, exactly. Require more than one success on a roll, with each roll influenced by party actions and decisions. Usually, 2/3 is a good rule. Combat lasts multiple rounds. "One roll, done," lacks dynamism. And finally, before we get into details: It's "skills," but for many intents and purposes--treat it like combat.

Q. Cryosanthia says, "So use +timestop?
A Not necessarily. You can use +timestop, or something more loose. I'll cover in more detail in a moment. Aftershock prefers to maintain a fairly strict 'one pose per DM pose' order to things that helps make sure everyone gets a turn even out of combat-combat.

Q. Seldan has an idea to mitigate that. Seldan says, "Require multiple skills to beat the combat."
A. Aftershock prefers something like that Seldan. Where a number of skills are needed/able to uncover the trick. Like using linguistics to figure out the villain's dimplmatic 'nice doggie' rhetoric has a cypher to it?

Tacomancer Supreme says, "Doing the above will result in you "stepping OOC" more than you might be used to outside of regular combat. That's because skill combat -- is a style of combat. Stepping OOC helps you prompt for action, just like in regular combat. It also reminds players of the stakes. Back to Point #4: One of the reasons to for OOC prompts and going "turn-based," even loosely (this group goes, then the villain goes! for example), in skill combat, is not only does it up the stakes, it also helps eliminate the paralsis-discussion issue. Remember paralysis-decision issues? >.> By using OOC prompts in skill combat, as you do in physical combat, you as the GM are prompting ONE or A FEW PEOPLE for their responses, and keeping the group responding. Keep them focused on the social event as a problem. Do it well enough, and players will play off of one another. Keep them in the action mindset. Finally, these prompts ensure everyone has a piece of the action pie.

Q. Cryosanthia "So. When a battle is on-going and a PC uses Diplomacy to stop it, resolution turns into it might work if multiple PCs decided to do that, forgoing attacks, or it's mostly 'Dip doesn't work in combat'? Essentially, does skills-combat mix with combat-combat, or they are separate things?
A. That's a good question. :3 Let's walk through a quick scenario. ^^;"

Setting: Grumble the oruch is mad that the PCs insulted his grandmother! Grumble is pretty tough. So I as the GM, pose Grumble's anger and upset at the PCs. Grumble raises his frying pan, threateningly, right? The PCs have a mixed reaction to this. Someone rolls Diplomacy--but remember, Diplomacy has Huge Penalties when facing an aggressive NPC. It also has penalties if your party doesn't work with you. This sounds like a familiar set of frustrations, doesn't it? >.> So--as a GM, you've got a few choices. ^^; Well, let's remember the problems with these skills, too. As a GM, we're addressing those issues--taking them heads-on. We want to make this fun, dynamic, and challenging for everyone--while maintaining player choice. The same goes for Trapfinding, Stealth, and similar. But, that's why we're talking about Skills Combat. These guidelines can turn about anything into a challenging, dynamic scene that involves everyone, and maintains their choices as a character. This is important. Or enemy here is Boringness. As a GM--our scenario is Grumpus the Oruch. He's really, really mad, and he has a potential weapon.

Tacomancer Supreme says, "I like to think that Skills Combat and Combat-Combat can go hand in hand. There's room for both in every scene. IMO First question as a GM:

  1. Do I /really/ need to move the PCs forward, to get to the Bigger Action? If yes, do the one-roll-solve and move on.
  2. No, or the scene has a lot of Potential, open it up to Combat. Whether this is Skills or Physical--well. Let's continue with the scenario. ^^;

Tacomancer Supreme says, "At this point, Grumpus has raised his weapon. The scene could go into either type of Combat. So, to determine which way it might go, test the waters! A good way to do this is, you might ask the PCs to pose their reaction. It's probably going to be somewhat chaotic. But, it will give you a feel for things. Then, based on that reaction, you step OOC again. If someone is wanting to interact with Grumble the Angry Oruch, then POINT THAT OUT, OOC. I cannot stress this enough. Poses fly fast and thick during a scene. POINT IT OUT. Then, remind everyone ooc that Grumble's reaction from here on out depends on their reactions. (And Grumble could start attacking physically, or verbally.) From here, ask them to Declare Intent OOCly, then POSE. Just like regular combat. It is SUPER important as a player to listen to your DM because they will point these things out to you btw. A DM is NEVER just saying "So you want to talk to Grumble? They are saying this so that everyone knows.

Tacomancer Supreme says, "So in our scenario--Grumble posed being VERY ANGRY and WAVING A WEAPON. We had the PCs respond. Some shook their fists. Kisaiya tried to sell him a better frying pan. Another tried to steal something from Grumble's kitchen. As a GM, hit pause. Point out: Okay. We have these 3 actions: some PCs are trying to fight Grumble. Another's trying to sell them an object to keep Grumble distracted, and another one is trying to steal. The latter may set off Grumble. 'What would you like to do at this point? If you'd like to try diplomacy, please include assisting Kisa in your pose. If you do so, I'll be adding to Kisa's chance of success. If you'd like to interfere with the theft, etc.' 'Stepping ooc like this is offering a prompt and saying, 'Guys, each of your actions here has a consequence.' Stepping ooc like this, and making the poses matter--makes each action and each pose, matter. It also brings everyone in on a Diplomance event. If someone doesn't stop the theft of Grumble's silverware, for example--well. Prompting them like this as a GM too, keeps a focus on the here-and-now. It's very demanding attention to current goings-on. It removes 'let's go off and make a plan' and places the action/consequence NOW. It probably would. ...you could also have it apply a large penalty. Tell the PCs that that applied a penalty, and give the rest of the party a chance to pose counter strategies. Raethon, Merek just stole the knife. It's likely Grumbles will attack next turn unless something happens. What do you do?' Turn it entirely over to them.

Raethon says, "I'd take the knife from Merek and put it back. XD" Tacomancer Supreme says, "Then I'd have you declare that your action, and pose it. Just like combat. If you'd had Rae try something more complicated, I might've forced a roll. Failure on that roll could throw /everyone/ into combat. So the stakes are very much there. It's just a little different on the surface. Underneath, it is very much: "Here is a situation. What do you do? Okay, pose. Okay, consequence." ...where consequence is a penalty or bonus to diplomacy or stealth. An utter failure. A quirk to the scenario, or so on. Skill Combat isn't appropriate to every situation. Sometimes, you just want to Roll and Move On.

Q. Merek says, "Is there the possibility for fallout for theft outside of plot?"
A. Tacomancer Supreme says, "Depending, yeah.
A. Aftershock has had players arrested before.

Q. Seldan says, "So, you mention having had PC's arrested. Can this really happen as part of a PrP, or does that require staff?"
A. "You would need to let staff know. I mean, it has happened. You'd need to tell us. Things /can/ get out of control sometimes. You can suggest it as a 'lasting consequence' of your PRP. Doing this would prompt a more indepth review of the log, too.

Q. Raethon says, "relatable to actions having consequences and such. I ran a plot, way back when...where the group came across a wolf that was bleeding in the snow. They could've easily passed it by, but they helped it out. Later on, versus the big baddy...the wolf helped out with the baddy....

Q. Merek "I've tried diplomacy before to have people practically open fire anyway."
Q. Boshter "Diplomacy can be difficult to get the chance to do, due to some PCs having different viewpoints, but also NPCS already comitted to a particular path can be very hard to sway as Beags says. We've had a lot of 'diplomancer' players who think a high enough die roll solves everything and are disappointed when it doesn't really work that way, either story wise *or* mechanically. It tends to be very overrated. Boshter does nod, though. More skill use in combat, more things to do than just throw a sword at something, is always good though :D
A. Aftershock "As a DM it's your job to determine if (diplomacy) would work in a given scneario. And if it is, how cooperative the group has to be to make it work. I've gon both ways."

Calculating CR and XP reward related
Q. Cryosanthia says, "I'm not sure if this is skills-combat, mixed level or misc, it could be any of the three. How do you calculate XP for a mob that could have been killed but was social maneuvered to back down, or was potentially hostile but not turned hostile by actions. Ie, bystanders that might step in if splashed with AoE damage."
A. That's a bit complicated but to break down Cryo. If the possiblity of combat is there then you calculate that the xp is there per normal. Because socially manuvering is/can be just as difficult as a fight. That being said, if they're 'easy' to not get into a fight with, or very low-level, you might handwave the difficulty of it. For example a merchant at a stall will fight you if you punch him yea, but a reasonable person won't punch the merchant in the first place. Thus he's not really a threat. But if he's part of a mob who's out to kill plague victims... then getting him to back down or otherwise fighting him might count. The concepts of 'Challenge' and 'Consequence' are very much key. So is indepth roleplay.

Q. Tacomancer Supreme says, "Calculate XP? You mean for a CR, or award?"
Q. Cryosanthia nods, "Exactly, re: the merchant. My thoughts are if a bunch of people show up with lots of levels you want a high CR, but then if not everything in the encounter fights, it seems like it was a lower CR in reality. Or if you decide ahead of time, when 1/2 die, the rest run, does that mean you essentially buy 2x the CR value but only award what they kill, even though they were taking some damage from the extras for a while?
A. Aftershock "It's actually fairly common that people will run if you get them down to 'half' so assuming this ahead of time you adjust the CR for the fact that they will in reality face only half the combatants for half the time. Does that make sense?"
A. Tacomancer Supreme reads Cryo's pose. "One of the risks of low-cr mobs is if you've got a caster in the group that's higher level. Effectively, they can fireball the lot of them. But, that's covered in your earlier comments--it's no risk to them, generally. So, that wouldn't be worth an award."

Mixed Level Scenes

Tacomancer Supreme says, "That's a good question. That takes us unto our next and almost-last topic. Mixed-level scenes." Tacomancer Supreme nodnods to AF.

Morale and Will save
Q. Cryosanthia nods to AF. "I have a follow-on, is there a standard way to check intelligent NPC moral / will to continue fighting? Or decide ahead of time/ as RP occurs? DC of the will save is generally? 15? 20? I didn't know Troop existed, i have looked at Swarm.
A. Aftershock "You have two choices there: Either decide ahead of time, or make a will save when reasonable. You make the 'moral' check based on mob mentality not individual though!"
A. Tacomancer https://www.d20pfsrd.com/bestiary/rules-for-monsters/creature-types#subtype-troop can also be used to simulate groups. https://www.d20pfsrd.com/bestiary/rules-for-monsters/Creature-types/#Troop_Subtype then. The use of the Troop Subtype can remove some of those difficulties, and help address the fireball issue with low-level mobs, too. It's one of the more important subtypes in PF.
A. Troop is basically Swarm But For Kobolds.
A. Aftershock says, "Will Dave Depends on your CR! A well-led mob will have a higher DC than a poorly led one

Q. Raethon has....another way to counteract the 'fireball everything' trope. Collateral damage.
A. Aftershock "Yes reminding your group of the possiblity of Collateral Damage is important!"

Tacomancer Supreme says, "In general, it's important to have folks feel heroic and effective. So, here's another important point:"

Raethon says, "Lahar....I added a point for the mixed level scenes. When running a mixed-level scene, in general, don't set out to negate abilities as a means of balance. Folks should feel heroic and effective. Collateral damage is one method. Be judicious in its use, to not to paralyze them, though. If they feel too paralyzed, they can feel powerless, or uncertain of what to do. The first one is undesirable, the second one can slow down a scene. But reminding of consequence can heighten tension, too, in a v effective way. It's not a matter of making the hero sorry they did something, it's about heightening tension so they can be more celebratory when they win. So too can 'spinning plates.' ^^;"

Tacomancer Supreme says, "It's a bit of a bad name, I admit. What it means is, making a battle multi-faceted. The most direct means is having a mixture of CRs in a scene. Another means is having multiple difficulties that require different skillsets. If you've a new or lower PC in a scene--this is a good chance to hand them a chance at a spotlight. When you have a mixed level scene on Tene, you're in luck in some ways. Spidermanning carries with it an expectation--with great power comes great responsibility. Yus. Part of that is, if you run a scene and it's all L4s and one L17--and the L17 goes, 'I just destroy everything, boom, do this on my own, and ignore other characters,' it's unlikely they'll get any reward for the scene. It also means, 'as you were uplifted, so you uplift others.' So, the L17 might make a point of buffing the L4s to hell. Or, helping hold back a challenge, while the L4s wade in. Everyone gets a chance to shine, but Spiderman means: make room for everyone, and uplift as you go. If you've got a lot of power, help other people.

Q. Raethon "and....it makes the lower levels feel like they're useful when a level 11 wizard doesn't come in and just start fireballing everything. Raethon has been on both sides of that particular scenario.
Q. Strike "You're chasing the big-nasty through a busy thoroughfare, fireball is off the table, but the low level bloodrager might be able to get off a quick web bolt"
Q. Azog "The implication is that the higher level PCs ought to go after the higher level enemies. /If/ there's a way to tell."
A. Tacomancer Supreme rar. That leads to Spidermanning. ^^;
A. Raethon "With great power comes great responsibility."
A. Raethon "it's why Svarshan is a mentor to Durrankar, of a sense."
A. Merek "Taco that's what I did recently. Cryo ran something and it was low-level so I focused upon buffing/non-combat. Since it was open to all."

Aftershock nods. Which can be a huge challenge, but is also really fun Aftershock loves running mix-level scenes. Aftershock has a certain expectation in mix-leveled scenes that everyone will get a chance to shine. I'll literally wait for everyone to get their shot if I have to. It's like... Kol is a big bad yes? Everyone agrees that he is a huge pain in the butt and they want him dead. So I made sure he had a character flaw that would make sure that low-level characters COULD hit him! So even though he has crazy AC and is super fast - low level characters have a chance against him"

Tacomancer Supreme says, "So far we've covered: Mixing up CR baddies in a scene. Spinning Plates (but in a good way), and Spidermanning. AF touched on another one--making sure there are weaknesses that lower levels can exploit. Here's another: thematic boosts. Someone's from Dran? Have them roll to gain added insight to a scene. That insight adds depth to a scene or roleplay. Perhaps it gives a bonus. In either case, it creates a spotlight."

Q. Stirling dissagrees a little with earlier statements, you like to give everyone a chance to shine but especially in like... a one shot PRP you may run into a situation where a character doesn't work well. Like if there is a pacifist character and you plan to run a simple kill-the-thing sort of plot. You may focus on them during taking/completing the quest but its not going to be a great time. Or if you have a fire sorcerer and you had fire elementals planned.
A. Aftershock "And, if you fail? Run another scene. Make sure that the NEXT time player x has something fun to do. Because now you're ready for it. Not every scene/player combo is perfect. That's why there's the next time
A. Tacomancer Supreme nods to Stirling. Sometimes, things just do not mesh. ^^;

Tacomancer Supreme says, "Mixed level is a large topic, and deserves more time given to it. We've covered a few options, but--it's entirely possible it deserves its own workshop. ^^; Aftershock does run more diceless mixed scenes. Because it's just flat out more fair to the beginning players.

Q. Azog honestly has found multi-tier scenes frustrating. When I was lower level and the scenes involved rolls, my contributions were pretty meaningless. I'd do 15 damage, and Jareth would do 75. As I've gotten higher up, it's been a lot more diceless, where I often am not very effective in a fight. There've been times when I was the big man in the scene. But ... not usually, I think. Azog was 15 at that time, though.
Q. Stirling "I think our issue there is a little Azog was a lot of 12+ scenes in a row. That level range is just a bit too big in my opinion. Being towards the bottom of any level range is often sucky unless your entire party is there. And then playing with you in a 11-15 and you were crushing combat.
A. Tacomancer Supreme "It can feel that way sometimes, yeah. I know when Sandy buffed Azog to heck and back--he was rolling crazy numbers. The old perception was there, though. We had to go back and go over it, and go, yeah, he was rolling +42. :3"
A. Azog expects to be on the high end when he's on top of the tier.
A. Tacomancer Supreme "Rar. Azog, if you like--you might try bringing some of Azog's abilities up in the GT, and work with folks on them, too. There may be angles you haven't looked at.

Tacomancer Supreme "Which brings me to another, and maybe final point for this. In lower level scenes, it's usual to point out options. GMs are much more open. At higher tiers, that starts going away--but it is not always a good thing. Azog, you are pretty familiar with playing a fighter. But, someone might be new to playing a wizard at that tier, for example. This is part of where community comes into play. If in a scene at any time, you're unusure what to do--talk with the GM about options. Talk with your party, too.

Tacomancer Supreme nods. Providing a mixture of enemies is a good thing.


Tacomancer Supreme says, "One of the last topics we have is misc."

  • Levels
  • GM NPCs
    • Detailed as you like
    • Keep your PC out of the scene
  • Railroading
  • CR & XP and Equiping NPCs
    • Random Loot tables
    • Awards handled by staff
  • How to see player levels
  • Character Tie ins
  • +pitch to get a GM to run things for you

Bolide Q&A

  • Characters setting up bases in Merkabah
  • Nobles, and perceived character importance
  • Uncapped CR

Q. Stirling can count on one hand how many times he has melee'd for example since hitting double digit levels. But I always have other abilities I can use instead, either helping the party or something more effective.
Q. Azog "Well, now that he's 17, it probably won't be an issue. But for the multilevel ones, I'm just saying that the PCs have to be encourages to fight the right opponents. If you have 3 CR 5 goons and a CR 10 goon, your tier 1 players need to be sent after the CR 5."
Q. Kaydin "should I force my chars to level up to better handle these events? I ask because I created kaydin march 31 2018 and I have only made it to level 3
A. Tacomancer Supreme "When a PC gets enough xp and gp, we ask they level. The pacing is generally up to you, Kaydin."

Tacomancer Supreme says, "Let's go ahead and address railroading. Stating things/options ooc as a GM, offering summaries. Is hugely important. It can keep things moving, and offer options--as well as maintaining PC choices. That said, the encounter with the charging wagon was always going to run into the bbeg demon. :3 So, railroading is not all bad if it ties into story/pacing. Railroading, particularly when subtle is a great tool.

Q. Cryosanthia "Sometimes when I'm pointing out options it feels like I'm railroading because I can only cover so much and usually it's what I think is the most likely from my understanding of the layout of critters. Usualy it's because I'm trying to rush the round advance. A. Aftershock says, "When it doubt Cryo: Slow down. Make sure people know they have those options. You don't need to rush things, you can take a DM moment to be like: Okay you have these options:"
A. Tacomancer Supreme rar's. Stepping firmly OOC and summarizing a scene and options is a good way to bring people back onboard, and make things move faster. Well, in general--I am going to say, railroading is not a bad idea. There was a scene I ran where folks snuck into an enemy camp. I gave them 2 rounds to find a way to hide themselves, or they'd get ambushed. Railroading can be setting a hard time limit, for example. On a MU--one of your enemies is /keeping things moving/.
A. Raethon says, "there have been times where I had to actually talk to Whirlpool about options with Durrankar cuz....I was out of them."

Tacomancer Supreme "One of those is GM PCs. Another one. Last one, GM PCs. ...basically, we don't allow it. If you're in a scene and start GMing, take the PC out of the room. Have them pose out, etc. It's been a long session already, so I'm going to keep that one short. Strike says, "One thing when I was Gming a scene elsemu* and my char was in the room, I'd have something take them out of the picture. Granted, the genre at the time was superhero stuff, but with so much artifice, magic, etc. the same thing could apply"

How detailed can a GM NPC be?
Q. Cryosanthia says, "I had a GM NPC Q. - Obviously not our own chars, but how detailed can we make a NPC? Effectively as a PC char, but without the high point buy. Equipment, can be level appropriate?
A. Tacomancer Supreme says, "As detailed as you like. Just don't fall in love with the NPC to where it's as special or more so than the PCs. ^^; It means not having to stat out just everything. The Monster Creation chart is one of the most important charts in PF. PF's designers have said outright--in theory, NPCs and Monsters use PC rules. In reality, no. You basically use what numbers you need to, and add on abilities that'd make sense for that level. ^^; Or yoink something using Combat Manager. <.<"
A. Aftershock says, "Okay! So personally I say go ahead and detail the heck out of them! More the merrier, but yea... don't get attached. Aftershock has an NPC guard who is pretty detailed but nobody ever asks about his life
A. https://pathfinder.d20srd.org/bestiary/monsterCreation.html

Q. Cryosanthia "Oh. So reading the CR, it said against intelligent mobs their CR assumes equiped appropriate for their level. Is there random magic item tables like there used to be in other eds, so I'm not picking stuff I know will/won't benefit the PCs if they get it?
Q. Donna "Note: She's talking about equipping the enemies. Also note, Cryo, Tenebrae's point-buy means that encounters are balanced for CR+1"
Q. Kaydin says, "can we loot said enemies too?
A. Tacomancer Supreme "Awards are handled by staff--so I wouldn't worry about that overmuch. There's little to no chance of them stealing the gear, so go nuts. <3 We used to allow it, but. We had a husband/wife pair where it, well. 'Lol, I found this ancient, ancestral bow on the beach! What are the chances?'
A. Aftershock "Don't worry about what'll benifit the players because they probably won't end up with it ;3"
A. Kaydin "its like metal gear solid...items are tied to chars and are lost when they die...."

Q. Cryosanthia nods to Donna, "Is there a random loot table?" Cryosanthia might dig out her old DMG or look around online then.
A. Donna "https://aonprd.com/RandomItemGenerator.aspx"

Tacomancer Supreme says, "Standard PrPs award gold and xp. BUT. A PC could craft or purchase an item with the story theme. DC PrPs (PrPs involving Chardeath) can have loot. You can request a loot theme for those, too. Staff uses random online treasure generators, Cryo. Sometimes, we roll dice on our MI listings on the wiki. Tacomancer Supreme tends to award xp/gp, because loot division takes a lot of time and adjudication.

Q. Merek says, "So I can find a magic bow ICly while OOCly it was paid for with my coin? That gives me ideas.
A. Tacomancer Supreme says, "DC PrPs require pre-approval because well, we want to make sure folks know what they're doing. And sure."
A. Aftershock has had a player request to have an axe that might have been weilded by a NPC for PLOT reasons and I was like: YES.

Q. Cryosanthia "Mostly I wanted to put some magic weapons/armour/consumables on the intelligent NPCs and have them do logical things with them in combat. Is this OK?"
A. Tacomancer Supreme says, "Do that to your heart's content, Cryo."

How to get people's levels
Q. Cryosanthia says, "How do I get people's levels without +timestop, ask?
A. Raethon "That's one way to get them. Some can be rather up front about it."
A. Aftershock "You can ask, or tell them to sign up for your event!"
A. Tacomancer Supreme "They'll show up when they sign up for an +event. They also show up when someone's set +rpok, I believe. When folks sign up for your event, you see their class and level. This will let you select and /confirm only PCs who are in range."
A. Azog "RPOK definitely shows it."

Q. Cryosanthia nods. She clearly needs to incorporate planning ahead in her lifestyle?
A. Tacomancer Supreme doesn't always plan. I have an autoimmune disorder and so energy comes and goes. But, give yourself a half hour or hour, and post to +events then. You can also ask Staff. That's another thing, too. Posting +events is important, even after the fact (you can backdate). This mostly lets us pull up if someone hasn't had a scene in a while, or has had a lot of scenes. It's paperwork, tho, so. Yeah. Good to know, people can help with it, and so on.
A. Tacomancer Supreme "+help events2 has an example."
"+help events3 has /way/ too many commands and abilities that open up for you via the +events program. ^^;"
"It's a fully featured crazy thing. ^^;"

Characer tie-ins with Merkabah
Q. Strike says, "Character story plots. Mostly in framing character story type plots, and/or how much can have anything to do with the merkabah thing. more the former than the latter, but the latter could bear some hammering out. I'm looking more in the narrative standpoint, though in hindsight, that would likely come up as a question, too Shiney."
A. Tacomancer Supreme says, "Alright. I'm going to have to throw that question to Bolide, and get back with you on it. I'd only considered PrPs for the bonus, but. ^^; In general, you're certainly welcome to incorporate Merk into any PoP, at any time. Normally? The only way to have a fully-fledged 'GM Scene' in Merk is via Staff, and it's a high-risk, high-chance-of-death plox."
A. Aftershock says, "If something comes up like that though, let staff know and maybe something'll be run ;3"

Getting a GM to run a plot for you
Q. Cryosanthia "Would that be a +request/pitch or +pitch, I forget the command, but essentially 'I'd like something along these lines to happen to my PC in Merkabah, would a GM run it?'
Q. Strike "I'll try to come up with a 'pitch' email or something once I'd solidified the concept some ....or that...?"
A. Tacomancer Supreme "Getting a GM to run a scene for you? Oh! If you'd like a plot point to happen to your PC, what I would do is post to the Rumors board. I'd also send in a +pitch or request. Basically, reach out as much as possible with a fishing lure, and find someone to work with. Posting to Rumors, talking in the GT too, is good. ALSO. If someone does help you? Or you help someone, please, PLEASE note that in the +request/prp.
A. Aftershock would actually suggest talking to a GM personally. Because details are needed. Both is good :3"
A. Delilah "Hey, Aftershock recently worked me into a plot, and did it in a way that I suggested, and it was *awesome* and a ton of fun and I'm totally grateful. :3"
A. Kira imagines that most staff or DMs are amenable to working with PCs for entwining personal things in events. "Especially those needing unpleasant things to occur in a plot. Blood for the Blood God and all that."
A. Strike says, "Can try and run little plot scenes for you if you want to manage a big plot or something"

Tacomancer Supreme says, "Bc we like rewarding people for helping others tell stories, here. Caveat to that--please do not ever, ever feel pressured to run multiple scenes for one person. In fact, please don't do that. Even if those people are GMs. If you include a plot point for someone in your scene, celebrate it. Ask them to help you with a PoP, next. There is give and take.

Tacomancer Supreme says, "We have some amazing staff, and an amazing community here. I'm glad everyone could make it, tonight. If you've further questions, please do not hesitate to bribe Aftershock copiously. They are amazing people. Combat dynamics, especially mid and high tier, duct-tape Whirl until he talks. He has a lot of experience in that. Story dynamism, AF, Bolide have a lot of xp in that, too. And, I am around also, just with caveats. <3 We are here for you guys.

Bolide Q&A

Q. Merek says, "My question is, will anything we do in the city have lasting changes?"
A. Tacomancer Supreme says, "The standard PrP and game rules still apply. Everything but us busting open CR."
A. Bolide ponders, chin-scratch, "Well.... The short version is "it depends." The longer version is a lot more complex and kinda makes the question "what is lasting changes to the city?" On the kinda, literal, "can I destroy a building" side of things, not without staff permission if it's within Alexandria or like... a major city. If you mean "Can I fix all their problems?" It kinda goes back to "What city and what problems?" So it's a bit of a-" hand-waffle, "But you can have a lot of fun trying to fix things and hopefully it'll 'stick' but it also might not."

Uncapped CR
Q. Azog says, "I think I'm not clear on what changed with CR? What does uncapping it mean? If you make a CR+6 encounter, the PCs all lose, but it's not death consent so no one dies ... does anyone get anything from it?"
A. Tacomancer Supreme says, "We're uncapping it this next month for Merk plots. If folks are unsure what is going on with Merkabah Month, +events is a good place to direct them. And well, it means they could throw a CR+40 at you. ...not that that's a good idea, but.
A. Bolide says, "But yeah, for the moment, you theoretically could run a scene and have the CR of the creature be waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too high for the group, if it's based out of Merkabah. Mind you, that doesn't mean that you'll get more experience. It's fun."

Merek FOB in Merkabah
Q. Merek says, "Ya my idea was like 'let's set up a small forward base in Merk'."
Q. Kaydin says, "Can Merek organize a group to MAKE a forward base?"
Q. Merek says, "Probably. He has friends."
Q. Kaydin says, "if so I feel uncomfortable with that level of organization"
Q. Merek ???? I mean it's not like he's making an army. I like the idea of Skill Combat. Perhaps 'maze of the minotaur' style where you need to outrun a crazy thing.
A. Bolide says, "As far as the forward base...." hand-waffle, "We are very, err... it's a bit much. You /could/ for instance, participate in taking supplies out to a nearby area where someone is setting something up. I did that with Serraphine actually. But it wouldn't be "Merek is setting up base" it would be "These people out of Alexandria are trying to set up an encampment, and Merek is helping bring supplies. It's very much a difference in where the power is. Serraphine at one point ran with the idea to help set up a town. Other players got involved. And this was how Tref was born."

Goblinoid FOB in Merkabah
Q. Raethon says, "What about the goblinkind, Bolide? Would they? Like a waypoint for adventurers to arrive at. The idea is Felicia would put people to work trying to get some sort of temp fortification up, this work? The Oruch would probably look at it, /faserub, and then set up a barracks on the ou tskirts with much beer/ale/stuff.
Q. Merek says, "Wouldn't putting people to work to set things up be the same as organizing? Are people really a hero for like... Organizing building projects. So if I'm running the supply plotline, I can't be the one organizing it.
A. Bolide says, "So, like, treat is like a plot. Your character can't run it, your character can't be in charge, but your character could say they're helping out. And I would put money on the Arvek trying to organize something, and the Gobbers complaining it's too orderly and not enough explosions. You could have Felicia directing some people where to put the fortifications, or offering suggestions where at least. Probably better to say she's advising.
A. Abracadabrahil says, "A big no-no is making your PC the Fluttercape Heroman. Abracadabrahil points to Bolide. Will let them explain. And hee.
A.Azog says, "You can be a hero, just not in your own plot. You can be a hero in someone else's plot."

Organizing, Nobility, and perceived character importance
Bolide says, "So, organizing things definitely can be heroic. Being /in charge/ of the organizing though leads too much to giving your character an implied higher status, which we frown on. We like to encourage the idea that all characters are equal unless /they/ don't want to be. Not, all characters are unequal until you work up to the others. Like, you could think of it as... Every character, from level 1 onward, could be seen as someone who "matters" within Alexandria. It's only if you /don't/ want your character to matter that they don't. This is counter to the usual theme people go with, which is to say, "Every character at level 1 is a peon, and everyone higher than that matters more. And will always matter more until the character proves otherwise." Because that leads to a toxic environment of trying to "one up" people. This is part of the reason that we discourage nobility unless a few things are met:

  1. ) It's a spoof/joke on the character who has the title.
  2. ) You amount to a country-bumpkin level of nobility.
  3. ) There are so many nobility with the similar rank that it's of the same importance as a commoner."

Bolide says, "And sure, Merek, you can take on bigger tasks, you can deal with bigger threats, and you are "more powerful" in mechanics, but it doesn't necessarily grant any status or power over anyone else. That's the big take away to it. Like... Sandy is a great example. Sandy is, arguably, one of the most powerful characters in the game. You would never realize that just chatting or RPing with them. But, just... kinda remember the important part. No one is more important than anyone else. The only reason someone would be less important, is because it's a self-imposed less importance. :3 That's not to say we don't have growth, or that you don't grow more powerful (even amongst Social situations more powerful). It's just not greater on the player side of things. It's a bit fiddly at times.

Q. Hubert says, "Hey, I'm having a little trouble tracking this down... what is the avenue for submitting content for the Alexandria Tribune? All the posts are from 'Tribune Staff
A. Tacomancer Supreme says, "Just post, I think. Is it locked down? It auto-tags it as that. Staff can see the author, tho.

Q. Merek says, "I kinda want it just for the silly title. That said Merek's family was former nobility but it doesn't translate because they lost it when they ran from their homeland."
Q. Raethon has....one character that has any sort of Nobility. She just refuses to admit that she's nobility.

Q. Merek says, "Is using black-tech an 'evil' act?"