JP On Gaming

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Responding to comments about chases

A few points mentioned in comments posted in my first "Tweaking Pathfinder" post, which you can find here.

First, from my good friend Daniel Mayrand:

DAN:* PCs are allowed to cast spells and use equipment (i.e. ranged weaponry) during a chase. One I ran as a DM (*sigh* yes, I will run them since some of my players seem to like them...) a few months ago ended when the Bad Guy got Charmed from 30 feet away.

JP: Actually, you CAN do that... and that is why they give a range between scenes. So you ran it right. If instead of trying to do the skill challenge part, you try to cast a spell or make a ranged attack, you definitely can.

That's part of the rules, but not quite clearly mentioned or explained - perhaps the biggest issue with chases is the number of unclear or GM-call ruling IMPLIED in the rules. For a home game, no problem, the GM says how things works and that's it. In an organized play campaign though you want to make sure every GM understand the rules you are using. The chases rules require a few extra lines to clarify, which was one of my goals.

PCs should be able to use whatever means at their disposals to work to defeat the encounter. That's why they generally work better at lower levels than at high level, when everyone gets hasted, drink a potion of fly with the other half of the party using dimension door... Yes that happens.

DAN:* "A party of level 5+ faced with a DC 10 Perception check is wasting your time". Not necessarily: your level 6 ranger might see just fine, but my level 6 Cleric who did not put any ranks in Perception ("why should I ?") might see f**k-all.

JP: Actually it is... PFS has taught us players that Diplomacy and Perception are the top 2 skills you need in the campaign. Acrobatics, Disable Device, Intimidate, Sense Motive, and Spellcraft are useful, but you can either focus on them or ignore them.

Knowledge skills are also useful, but the way they are written you don't *REALLY* need them to succeed. It might be a tad harder, but you'll win in the end. Local and religion are CLEARLY the most used skills in PFS, with arcana and dungeoneering next, nature pops up, but engineering and geography are generally wasted skill points.

Appraise, Disguise, Escape Artist, Craft (other than alchemy), Heal, Profession, Sleight of Hand and Swim are generally useless, unless you really try to use them - or as a day job. Since it's part of the BIG THREE DC 10s are useless. exp at level 5+.

PLEASE, do not comment or email me with "*MY* character uses that skill all the time!" Ask yourself if you've ever seen someone - OTHER THAN YOU - use these skills?

Try to "challenge" your PC with a Perception DC 10 at level 5+ see how many cannot fail. Even your cleric with his Wisdom of 14+ is likely to get a bonus on the roll, making it a DC 5-8, depending on your stats... That's 75-60% on a skill you are not good at.

That's part of the culture of the campaign. After you play a LOT you see these trends where certain skills keep coming back over and over: Perception and Diplomacy, Perception and Diplomacy, Perception and Diplomacy.

Don't read me wrong. That's just the STYLE and CULTURE of the campaign. While those two skills are valuable in NeoExodus Legacies as well, I make a conscious effort to try and create situations where the players don't just rely on Perception. It's important, yes, but not to the point where EVERY class should get it as a class skill through trait or fear and dump a ton of points.

Next from Mattastrophic with whom I got the pleasure of adventuring a LOT, in the days leading to the retirement of Naadhira... He's the one responsible for Naadhira's famed Book of Lichdom. Yes. Blame him.

MATT:You're on a good track, JP. I've been fortunate in PFS in that when I've run chases, I've managed to make them fun for my table largely by being willing to step away from the constraints-as-written and be accepting of creative solutions.

JP: Of course, going off script in PFS is usually when I had the most fun. Makes the adventures feel dynamic and vibrant. But doing that you clearly go against the rules of the campaign.

That one thing is perhaps one of the biggest philosophical differences between PFS and NeoExodus Legacies. We encourage our GMs to make the adventure fun, while trying to stick to the script as much as possible. GMs are good and love what they do - for the most part - and that should be encouraged. Not just for Organized Play campaigns, but for role-playing as a while. That's one of the things I believe LFR did right with their MyRealms (a format I will most certainly emulate in Legacies).

MATT:Also, I flipped when I heard that the Chase Cards had pre-printed DCs. Challenges have to scale! My thoughts so far on that note differ from yours in that I'd scale the DC based on the skill modifier of the opponent instead of by APL. This way would represent having to possess a high level of, say, climbing skill in order to keep up with an expert climber.

JP: The chase cards were a good idea. Really they were. The problem is that by scripting the skills and DCs like you said, they put the players in a level-dependent manner and a mindset. Put a 10th-level monk in there and see how quickly he blasts through your "challenge". Daniel's comment at the top with his dwarf cleric (generally not the one to make the most of these high-speed encounters) is basically screwed.

I'll admit that I found myself in that type of thought process when I had to deal with such things. Lucky for me, my Samurai mounted his horse and I went on a rampage of skills that made no sense: he climbed a wall, acrobatic'd through a crowd and finally I stealthed around something. Yup... all with +4 bonus. It made no sense to me, but that's what I had to do.

Could they have used a non-quantitative but qualitative method to define the challenge? "Easy/ Moderate/ Hard/ Very Hard/ Impossible" each of these mapping to a level-dependent number you could find the booklet?

LPJ actually did this in his Ultimate Maze Decks: Crypts, a product I like much more than the Paizo Decks. You will say I'm partial - and I am. But the UMD, has a DC X+CR for skills which is really cool.

MATT:Something to think about... I've wondered, has there ever been a chase scene published where the PCs are the ones being chased? Now that would be interesting.

JP: Not that I know, but I plan to used the rules above in an NeoExodus Legacies adventure where the PCs and the bad guys are both trying to reach a given place first and the follow encounters play out differently based on what happened. I think that such a chase could be potentially deadly but extremely fun. I'll see the players' feedback to the chase I'm working on right now (when it is done).

I think a chase like that would work MUCH better with a chase deck to give the players an idea of the challenge they face... Why not have a booklet, like the Harrow Deck that gives information about the cards? We can do it for a fake future-reading deck but not something we are actually likely to use more quite often.

I had a chase deck I simply turned over to a friends as "something I'll never use". And guess what... I never had a reason to use them!


1 comment:

  1. interesting set of articles. Two things.

    When you mentioned a horse climbing a wall, my head exploded.

    Also, I got the chase cards as a gift and the first time I used them was when the PC's were being chased -- out of the Moathouse by a gang of gnolls and an ogre! It was loads of fun, but I could never use those cards as written for all the reasons you expressed and more.