Shadows of Thassilon House Rules

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House rules and policies for the Shadows of Thassilon campaign. More to be added as necessary and discussed.

Absent Player, Absent Character

If you can't make it to a session, that's not a problem; I'll do my best to keep the Events Calendar up-to-date and make it easy for players to indicate planned attendance or absence. If you can't make it to a session, your character, as far as is possible, takes no part in the action of that session. They're doing other things – “watching the horses,” or “guarding the camp,” for example – or they're following along in the background, such that they're in the same place as the rest of the party at the session's end, ready to join in with the action at the start of the next session. Access to the skills, abilities, and resources of absent characters is limited – this is something to discuss on a case-by-case basis.

Character Choices and Change

A lot of character classes have features or abilities that grant the player some degree of choice, accompanied by the wording, “once this decision is made, it cannot be changed.” I'd like to be a bit more flexible than that; in general, I would suggest that you can change such a decision, made when you gain a level, at any point before you gain your next level. This should happen at the start or end of a session, or between sessions; I'd prefer for changes of this nature not to be made in the middle of a session. Similarly, “I thought I would use this ability, but I haven't,” and “I misread the ability when I chose it and it doesn't work the way I thought,” are good reasons to make such changes, but I'd rather people not make such changes to their characters in response to information learned about dangers ahead, nor in preparation for a specific, anticipated encounter.

Encumbrance

I'm not going to ask that keep a running total of every pound of gear that you're carrying as you loot treasure, drink potions, and otherwise adjust your load. Try to figure out what load category your weapons, armour, and significantly heavy items put you in, and don't worry too much about the rest. If it sounds like you're carrying everything but/and the kitchen sink without magical aid, I may ask you to check whether you can actually carry that much when you're running from the next dragon.

Experience Points

Rise of the Runelords uses the fast advancement track, and I'm using a homebrewed method to award experience to characters absent from a session. All PCs present at a session earn an equal share of all experience gained during that session; absent PCs earn experience as though every PC had been present at that session.

For Example: Let's say we have six players, and four PCs attend a session in which 3,600 XP are earned. Those PCs present at the session earn (3,600/4) 900 XP each; those PCs absent from the session earn (3,600/6) 600 XP each.

This is the best method I've been able to come up with to ensure PCs are adequately rewarded for the greater challenges of facing encounters with a smaller party, without either excessively penalising PCs who miss sessions through no fault of their own, or creating a situation where they stand to gain more experience through absence than attendance.

New characters entering play after the start of the campaign (for example, if a player leaves and another joins, or if a character is killed and raise dead is unavailable or undesirable) begin play with experience points as though the character had been active from the start of the campaign, but absent from every session.

Quorum

As in, “How many players do we need, for this game to happen?”

Half of the PCs, rounding up, or three PCs, whichever is greater.

I'd like to have five or six PCs for this campaign, so that up to two PCs can miss any given session and we can still have a group of three or four PCs to face the adventure's challenges. If we can't get three players for any given scheduled session, then we can call it off if sufficient notice is given, or those who can make it can peruse the Games Hub's selection of board games, but either way, Pathfinder will not be happening for two PCs.

When Mistakes Happen

That's when, and not if.

Pathfinder is a somewhat complicated system with a great many feats, spells, class features, and monster abilities, the interactions between which aren't always clear or intuitive. Part of its design is deliberately exception-based, with specific cases overriding general rules at certain crucial moments.

What this means is that mistakes will happen, on both sides of the GM's screen. Exceptions will be forgotten, interactions will be misunderstood, restrictions will be missed, and modifiers will be improperly applied. My policy when this happens, and when the mistake is only noticed later, is as follows:

GM makes a mistake, to a PC's advantage: I screwed up, and because of this, you did something you shouldn't have been able to do, or succeeded at something you should have failed up. No big deal. I'll do my best to close that loophole, play closer attention to that part of the rules, or otherwise avoid making the same mistake again.

GM makes a mistake, to a PC's disadvantage: I screwed up, and because of this, you suffered something that you shouldn't have, or failed at something you should have succeeded at. I'll do my best to avoid making the same mistake again. If the consequences you suffered due to my mistake were serious ones, I'll also see what I can to do remedy the situation. For example, if your character is killed by an attack of opportunity that (we later realise) should not have been provoked, and the party recovered your character's body, the minimally invasive solution is simply to rule that the character was simply knocked unconscious rather than killed.

PC makes a mistake, to a PC's advantage: You made a mistake, and because of that, you did something you shouldn't have been able to do, or succeeded at something you should have failed at. Again, no big deal. I'll ask that you try to avoid having the same mistake occur again. That's all.

PC makes a mistake, to a PC's disadvantage: You made a mistake, and because of that, you suffered something that you shouldn't have, or failed at something you should have succeeded at. I'll ask that you try to avoid having the same mistake occur again, and if the mistake has serious consequences, I'll see if it's possible to remedy or mitigate them.

Grab Attacks

The Grab (Ex) special attack works as described in the Bestiary (p. 301), with the following exceptions, which apply primarily to creatures with multiple Grab attacks:

  • The Grab property of an attack cannot be used against a target which the attacking creature is already grappling; in this case, the attacking creature does not attempt to start a grapple as a free action, nor do any additional special attacks trigger which depend upon a successful grapple check, such as Constrict (Bestiary p. 298-299).
  • The Grab property of an attack can be used as normal against a target which the attacking creature is not grappling, even if the attacking is already grappling another creature, or has made a successful Grab attack against another creature in the same turn.
  • The attacking creature may choose to release the grapple as a free action as normal, but doing so ends the sequence of attacks; it may not make additional attacks during its turn. The creature may not, for example, Grab and Constrict a creature with one attack, release the grapple, then Grab and Constrict the same creature with a second attack.

There is something of a gap in the existing rules as far as concerns creatures with multiple Grab attacks or which are otherwise able to grapple multiple opponents in a single turn: maintaining a grapple requires a standard action, and while there are feats which allow grapple checks to be made using other action types (Greater Grapple enables this as a move action; Rapid Grappler, from Ultimate Combat, offers a grapple check as a swift action) these feel like they're written to address the needs of a PC or other humanoid grapplers. In the rules as written, there doesn't appear to be any way to maintain multiple grapples as part of a full attack action or other full-round action; a kraken, for example, can Grab up to ten targets using a full attack action, but can maintain only one of those grapples on its next turn, and must forgo its many other possible attacks to do so. I'd like to offer a way for creatures with multiple Grab attacks to maintain those multiple grapples.

Please note that this section of the house rules differentiates between grappling a creature (a "standard" or "full-body" grapple) and merely holding a creature as outlined under the Grab rules. An attacker that attempts to hold the target creature (using the body part associated with the natural weapon with the Grab property) takes a -20 penalty on its combat manoeuvre check to establish and maintain the grapple, but does not gain the grappled condition itself.

  • A creature which begins its turn holding one or more opponents through the use of natural weapons with the Grab ability can, as part of a full-attack action, make grapple attempts against each of the creatures it is holding. The natural weapons originally used to Grab and hold those creatures are engaged in maintaining the holds and cannot be used to perform other attacks as part of the full-attack action. These attempts to maintain the grapples against held creatures are made at a -20 penalty to the attacker's CMB, and if successful, each deals the damage indicated for the attack that established the hold, as described under the Grab universal monster rule. Natural weapons not engaged in maintaining the holds can be used to attack held creatures or other opponents as the attacker wishes. A creature that possesses the ability to grapple opponents without gaining the grappled condition itself, such as a kraken's Tenacious Grapple extraordinary ability, does not take the -20 penalty to maintain a hold on creatures provided the limitations of its ability are otherwise adhered to.

This may be subject to revision in case of unforeseen consequences.

Invisibility and Attacks

The spell invisibility ends "if the subject attacks any creature," and CRB p. 208 notes: "All spells that opponents resist with saving throws, that deal damage, or that otherwise harm or hamper subjects are attacks." As a house rule, I feel that such spells and effects shouldn't be considered attacks if they are cast or created in such a way that no opponents are within their area of effect, even if opponents subsequently enter that area. For example, a web spell cast by an invisible wizard to fill a corridor and cut off a creature's escape route, without including that creature in its area of effect, would not be considered an attack, and it would not become an attack if the creature attempted to push its way through the webs. The spell does count as an attack if its area of effect moves or changes to subsequently include creatures either at the caster's direction (e.g. flaming sphere) or as part of the spell's inherent behaviour (e.g. the slowly moving area of effect of a cloudkill spell), but not if a creature is forced into the area of effect by the actions of a third party (e.g. an awesome blow or bull rush combat manoeuvre performed by an ally of the invisible wizard).

Magic Item Creation

For avoidance of doubt, the circumstances of magic item creation ("the creator also needs a fairly quiet, comfortable, and well-lit place in which to work,") and the requirements for Taking 10 ("when your character is not in immediate danger or distracted, you may choose to take 10,") are entirely compatible; yes, you can Take 10 on your Spellcraft or other Craft skill check to create a magic item.

I think it makes sense to treat the supplies/components for the crafting of a single magic item as a single purchase/item when it comes to "Can you get this here?" as determined by a settlement's base value. For example, Sandpoint has a base value of 1,300 gp; the base price of a +1 weapon enchantment is 2,000 gp, so the cost of supplies is 1,000 gp and thus the supplies needed to create a +1 weapon are available here. However, the base price of a +2 weapon enchantment is 8,000 gp, and with supplies thus costing 4,000 gp they're simply too expensive and exotic to be found in Sandpoint; you'd have to travel to a larger settlement to find them.

The other implication of this is that magic item supplies must be purchased and used for a specific project/item or for one of several broadly similar possible projects/items; this won't cause any trouble in a settlement, but there isn't any such thing as "generic all-purpose interchangeable crafting ingredients" that can be bought in a city and then carried out into the wilderness or a dungeon so that you can craft whatever you discover is needed while still out in the field. Assume that you don't have to roll the 75% "Is this available this week?" chance that you would for a magic item, since while supplies are project/item specific there are probably multiple viable “recipes” for each enchanted item allowing for some substitution of components.

Pathfinder doesn't actually specify the nature or weight of magic item supplies; they're simply "supplies," and not "a hogshead of red dragon's blood, which will be used to repeatedly quench this masterwork breastplate following dozens of separate heatings over the three weeks it takes for me to enchant it as a +1 fire resistant breastplate." I choose to interpret this as an omission of convenience, since most PCs are going to be more interested in the results of magic item creation than the process and components, and there are better things for the CRB to spend its word and page count on than detailing crafting components that are probably going to be used in the same settlement where they're acquired. I don't think the lack of details of nature or weight is meant to imply that the "supplies" are some portable and fungible material like the residuum of D&D4E, or the Strange Dust and Magic Essences of World of Warcraft.

Some spot rules for specific cases:

  • When adding new abilities or properties to an existing magic item, use the difference in price between the existing item and the desired item to determine the availability of the needed supplies; it costs more to add the frost property to a +1 longsword than to a +2 longsword, and thus necessary components are rarer and less widely available.
  • When considering the supplies needed for magic ammunition, use the cost of 50 units of ammunition when determining the availability of supplies, but you can buy supplies and craft ammunition in smaller batches if desired.
  • When considering belt and headband slot items that improve the wearer's ability scores, these can be upgraded in the same way as a magic weapon or suit of armour, e.g. a belt of giant strength +2 can be upgraded to a belt of giant strength +4. They can also be improved “laterally,” e.g. a belt of giant strength +2 can be upgraded into a belt of physical might +2 that improves either Constitution or Dexterity in addition to Strength. However, the enhancement bonus to all ability scores improved by the item must be the same; it's not possible to create, for example, a belt of giant strength +4 and incredible dexterity +2.
  • A bag of holding, necklace of fireballs, or similar item of which multiple different "types" exist, has its type fixed upon creation and cannot subsequently be upgraded or altered.

Spell Resistance and Saving Throws

I couldn't quickly find a definitive ruling about the order of operations when a spell both grants a saving throw and is resisted by spell resistance. My inclination is to roll spell resistance first, saving throws second. This saves time in situations such as casting fireball on a group of spell resistant targets: rolling to overcome their spell resistance first, there is no need for those targets that resisted the spell to subsequently roll saving throws, whereas if the saving throws had been rolled first, every target would subsequently receive the protection of its spell resistance whether it had saved successfully or not. There are probably some edge cases where this has further implications, which will be adjudicated on a case-by-case basis (e.g. there's probably an argument to be made that if the primary target of a chain lightning spell is spell resistant, failure to overcome that creature's spell resistance prevents the lightning from arcing to additional targets).

Note that CRB p. 565 states: "Spell resistance does not apply if an effect fools the creature’s senses or reveals something about the creature." I feel this is a guideline that informs whether individual spells should be written to allow spell resistance or not, rather than something that overrules that. For example, scrying as written allows spell resistance, despite the fact that it "reveals something about the creature" the spell targets (indeed, arguably it does nothing but reveal things about the target creature). If the designers of Pathfinder had intended that spell resistance should not apply versus scrying, they would have written the spell accordingly.

Note also that, while the Core Rulebook is silent on the subject, I intend to treat the failure to overcome a creature's spell resistance as equivalent to that creature having successfully saved against an effect, i.e. the creature feels "a hostile force or a tingle," and is aware that it was the target of an attempt to overcome its spell resistance.

Some Scrying Clarifications (Second draft 19/05/2019)

We have a wizard in the party who has chosen to specialise in the scryer focused arcane school, so it's probably worth taking a little time to clarify how scrying works and address some of the questions that might arise.

Unless you're scrying using a physical connection (see below), the scrying spell requires knowledge of your subject; you need to know and be able to define (via name, description, or other information) the individual subject of the spell, or it will fail. Actions, circumstances, status, or relationships are by themselves not enough information for scrying to succeed; the spell cannot "fill in the blanks," supply facts not in evidence, or solve or bypass unanswered questions about a creature's identity.

Nature of the target

First up, to examine the question of what scrying lets you see, or whether it works, depending on the target of the spell:

Living Creature: The spell targets the living creature that you name or define.

Dead Creature: There's a Dragon magazine column or article from the late D&D 3.5E era that suggests that scrying on a dead creature reveals its remains. This is from a previous edition and so I don't consider it authoritative or binding. As a house rule or clarification, if you cast scrying and attempt to target a dead creature, the spell simply fails. The failure of the spell may be informative in its own right, though other effects may also put a creature beyond the reach of scrying.

Undead Creature: The spell targets the undead creature, even if you don't know when you cast the spell that the named or defined creature is undead.

False Creature: If you try to scry on a creature that doesn't exist, the spell simply fails. This may occur if the creature is or was illusionary, or if you're trying to scry based on or wildly inaccurate or incomplete information, or if you attempt to scry based on information that you know is false or fabricated; you can't cast scrying in the hopes that an imagined face and collection of personal information is, by chance, close enough to a creature that actually exists that the spell will "lock on" to that subject.

Living Creature vs. False Creature: The distinction between a living creature and a false creature can become blurred if careful measures have been taken to disguise a living creature or deceive any witnesses to its presence or actions. Although certain spells, items, and effects can block scrying outright, it may also be the case that magical or mundane disguises or illusions can prevent useful and accurate secondhand knowledge from being passed along; this isn't "deception can prevent scrying," this is "deception can prevent you from knowing who there is toscry on."

Knowledge and familiarity

Second, to examine the various degrees of knowledge and familiarity mentioned by the spell:

Secondhand Knowledge: There's an enormous gulf between "you have heard of the subject," and "you have met the subject," and a simlarly large gulf between "you have heard of the subject," and "you have secondhand knowledge of the subject." I want to err on the conservative side and say that your secondhand knowledge of the subject must be enough to identify or describe a unique creature or specific individual, or the spell will fail. This need not include a name! A description from an NPC who has met the subject, or a reference made by such an NPC, will generally suffice for the purposes of scrying. Assume that this level of familiarity also applies to a creature that you have met, but which has sufficiently disguised its true appearance or nature to the extent that you would not recognise it were you to meet it in another context.

Firsthand Knowledge: I think this level of familiarity requires that you have had some meaningful interaction with a creature and the opportunity to take note of its appearance; physical proximity and line of sight alone are not enough (I don't think you can claim this degree of familiarity and knowledge toward any of the hundreds or thousands of nameless NPCs from all walks of life who must surely have passed you in the streets of Magnimar during the weeks that you spent there, for example). Assume that you do have firsthand knowledge of any NPC with whom you've had a conversation or have been involved in a combat encounter, although an NPC determined to disguise their presence, appearance, or nature may reduce this to a level of familiarity equivalent to secondhand knowledge as noted above.

Close Familiarity: I think this encompasses friends, family members, and NPCs with whom you've interacted multiple times at some length. I feel it's unlikely that you'll ever achieve close familiarity with an enemy upon whom you might wish to scry as a hostile act; this seems most likely to apply when attempting to scry upon missing or kidnapped allies and the like.

Connections

Finally, to examine the various physical connections that can enhance the chances of the spell's success:

Likeness or Picture: In most cases, a likeness must be reasonably accurate in order to be useful. Paintings, statues, and other works of art will almost always qualify. Inaccurate likenesses may also qualify under certain circumstances; a voodoo doll will probably serve as a likeness for the purposes of scrying, for example, but goblin graffiti left in the wake of a raid is unlikely to allow you to identify and scry on a goblin champion or chieftain. Trying to create a likeness from a description provided by a third party that knows the intended subject of your scrying is possible; if a question arises as to whether or not this is possible in a specific instance, I'll probably resolve this as an Intelligence check by the NPC supplying the information, with a DC based on how well they know the subject, and a PC's Craft (drawing) or similar skill serving to Aid Another on that check. (A good artist can create a better likeness than a poor artist, but both artists can only work with the information they're given.)

Possession or Garment: "Possession" in this case doesn't depend on legal concepts of ownership; if you can define a desired or intended connection between an item and a possible subject (e.g. “the person who used this dagger to murder the victim,”) then the item counts as a possession for the purposes of making that connection. Attempting to scry on “the person to whom this item belongs,” or similar definitions, may depend to some extent on who thinks the item belongs to them, who others might widely think the item belongs to, or who you think the items belongs to... but in most cases it's a question with a simple enough answer. Legal questions of rightful ownership are outside the domain of the scrying spell. An item that rapidly or regularly changes hands, or one that's owned or used by an organisation or institution rather than an individual, may not be usefully connected to any subjects for the purposes of scrying, outside of those connections created or implied by circumstances.

To avoid endless permutations of "blind scrying," once a spellcaster has established an item's connection to a given subject, that item can serve as a connection only to that subject for that spellcaster. Attempts to scry on dead or false creatures do not “waste” an item's potential for connection in this case.

Body Part: I'm going to say this excludes shed blood or expelled fluids or their residues (no scrying using trace saliva left in bite wounds, injected venom, or the corrosive blood vomited up by the Koruvus the three-armed mutant goblin, for example) although blood can of course be used as the target of a blood biography spell.