Ebon Hand Cultist
(3/9/04 4:25 pm)
Party of Nine ...|
Well, not REALLY a party of Nine, but the "Party" has nine "things" in it.
We're down to 4 players and 4 PCs, from five.
The group hired an NPC they fought against, agreeing to give him a full share of treasure (and, I ruled, XP) if he would come with them. He is, however 3 levels lower than the rest of the group. He makes a reasonable front-line fighter, being a Fighter 4 ... Full Plate, Heavy Steel Sheild +1, RoP +1, and a MW Flail. He doesn't do as much damage as the two multiclassed Barbarians, but has the best AC of the party and has alot of nice tactical feats (Sheild Charge, Imp. Trip, Imp. Disarm).
The other NPC I introduced because my fiance was tired of her Rog/Clr being reduced to a rolling Cure Wand and being forced to burn all of her interesting tactical spells for Cures. So I recently put in a Healer 4 (from Mini's Handbook). The Healer is actually quite a bit of fun for my fiance to role play, and they've gotten alot of use and fun out of her non-Cure abilities and spells. It seemed a little "Cheese" to put in a healer, but, y'know ... it was a matter of household peace. Nobody wants to live with a pissed off S.O. so it was my call, and it seems to be turning out well.
One of the other Non-PCs is Alexander ... the Drd/Bbn's Bison animal companion... the WarCow is pretty powerful, adding another beefy fighter to the group, but more and more often is being relegated to a rear-guard role because of his single attack-type and how his 4-square Large size makes tactical movement in dungeons such a pain in the kiester.
New on the list is Zephyr.
Zephyr is a Spark Guardian that Jondar The Troubled Wizard has been bugging me for since we started the campaign. (Yea, Good ole Jondar, for those of you that've been keeping up with my posts around here.) Honestly, Jondar being a problem has become a running joke with our game.
As a group, we all sat down to decide if the Spark Guardian was overpowered. It IS, but we're trying to decide if it's TOO overpowered and is going to unbalance the party.
For those of you that don't know, the Spark Guardian is a new familiar from Complete Warrior (which isn't usually Complete Broken, unlike things like Book of Exalted Cheese). To get one, the wizard has to have taken Improved Familiar and spend around 10,000gp, as well as get somebody to build the thing for him (and enchant it, if he doesn't have the feat).
Well, Jondar didn't have nearly enough spells, feats, or cash to build the thing entirely on his own ... he had the flat caster level (7) and that was about it. But he was intent upon getting it, so the thing ended up costing him nearly 14,000 gp (the 4k in fees to various individuals for their parts in the creation process). He only had about half of this ...
Now, the bird itself is a battle familiar ... which seems wrong, in the first place. It's a small construct that flies around and shoots sparks. It's relevant abilities are: DR 5/-, Fast Healing 1, 14hp, AC 18, Atk Bonus +7, 2d6 Electricity damage.
IE, it's something akin to having a permanent Spiritual Weapon that does 2d6 Electricity damage. The DR 5/- makes it immune to most normal ranged weapons, the Fast Healing 1 means it never really dies, and because it is flying it won't be hit by ground combatants. The only way -I- can get rid of the thing is to hit it with spells for more than 14hp worth of damage.
I thought it was a little overpowered ... it has lower AC, lower damage, and far lower HP than The War Cow ... but it's being given to a WIZARD, as opposed to a Druid. Druids can't cast 7d6 fireballs 3-4 times a day. I took a poll and my players were evenly split on whether or not to let the thing in the game, but in the end they figured we could at least PLAYTEST it and see if it isn't totally broken.
Now ... remember when I said that Jondar only had about half the cost of the bird? He stopped in at the temple of Zilchus to see if he could get a loan for the rest of it. I'd already ruled that the Zilchites (?) were moneylenders and pawnbrokers and general banker-types (when they wanted to have a magical item put under wraps for a few weeks). I figured "what the heck" and gave him the loan at 7% per-month. ... The Zilchites aren't kind.
So here comes Party Individual Number Nine.
Stips Rutilus, Official Representative of The Hallowed Changinghouse and Temple of Zilchus, Verbobonc.
The idea for Stips came to me the night after the game, when I was trying to consider all the angles on this Spark Guardian thing and whether or not it's overpowered.
7,000gp is quite a large sum of money to lend an individual who isn't a resident of Verbobonc ... and the Temple wants their money. They don't want Jondar renigging on his loan for some frivolous reason ... like untimely death.
So Stips Rutilus is going to be accompanying the party on their travels, making sure that Jondar pays his monthly finance charges. Should Jondar die, he has two scrolls of Gentle Repose in his pack to cast on the corpse for transport back to Verbobonc, where Jondar's debts will be paid from his worldly goods (the cost of the scrolls added to his outstanding debts, of course). Stips also has a Wand of Cure Moderate Wounds provided by the church ... just in case Jondar is in a bad way, but salvagable ... after all, a working Adventurer brings in more money than a dead one. Each charge will, of course, be added to Jondar's outstanding debts at a rate of 100gp per use, and any spells Stips has to cast in aid or protection of Jondar will be added at the going market rate ( 50gp 1st level, 100gp 2nd level).
Jondar's player has been complaining that nobody pays enough attention to the health of the wizard and he needs more healing than he gets. Now he can have it ... Mwa ha ha ha ha.
I designed Stips to be as useless and annoying as possible. He's an Expert 2/ Cleric 4 ... lots of ranks in Intimidate, Bluff, Sense Motive, Diplomacy, Hide, etc, with Trickery and Knowledge as his domains. He takes spells like Sanctuary and Obscurring Mist and Disguise Self so he'll never have to actually enter or engage in icky combats ... he's just there to follow along and keep track of Jondar (through a daily Status spell) ... and garnish all of Jondar's "ph4t lewt".
Personally, I think Stips is going to be an absolute blast ... but we've already decided that the bird will be a "possible". I'm not even sure if the bird will REACH playtesting ... the more I think about it, the more I'm not sure if the party Fireball-casting, Scorching-ray tossing, Magic-Missile-firing wizard needs a free 2d6 Electricity damage per round.
What's sad is that they're on a bee-line right for the Water temple ... y'know, with all them Kua Toa and their 10 points of Electricity Resistance. So I know he won't be over-powered there.
(3/9/04 8:02 pm)
I'm just curious. Is the bird considered to be on a lean by Stips until the PC pays off his debts? If so, you can also have him veto any dangerous use of the bird...including scouting and entering into combat with potentially dangerous (to the bird) foes. If you want to get really (Lawful) Evil you could require that the bird be insured as well.
My campaign also has an NPC healer and it's worked pretty well thusfar. Ironically, my PC's occasionally complain that he can't cast buff spells, until the 5th level healer saves one of their 10th level butts with a Sudden Maximized, Sudden Empowered Cure Serious Wounds or a timely Close Wounds spell.
(3/9/04 11:07 pm)
First of all, kill the bird. You said that the wizard doesn't have the feat necessary (that would be Improved Familiar) to get the bird. So he shouldn't have the bird. But you gave it to him. So give one of the enemy sorcerors a Scorching Ray instead of Flaming Sphere and cook that bird like a Thanksgiving turkey.
Second of all, Stips is going to hate the adventure and take it out on the party. He's a banker for crying out loud -- he didn't take this job so he could go camping with some smelly barbarians, druids and a freakin' bison in some old dwarven mine that's oozing with evil critters that like to eviscerate people. The only way he could have gotten stuck with this is to have gotten on the $h|+ list of somebody big back at the office -- so he's going to be sulking about that and discontent about the quality of the adventure and the quality of the adventurers ("borrowing how much for robochick to save the world?"). With the other low-loyalty NPCs (I didn't hear the word Leadership mentioned anywhere) this should be really grating. Compound that with an insurance policy on his head to make sure the company gets their "valuable human resources" back and the party may find that its fiscal burden takes a gross psychological toll.
Third, as alluded to above, it sounds -- based solely on info included in the post, so I apologize if I'm lacking the full view-- like your players aren't satisfied with their characters and rather than trying to figure out why their characters don't work, they're just trying to insulate them from the misconceptions that spawned them -- and you're letting them. Robotic birds without Improved Familiar, cohorts without Leadership, loans without likely ability to pay, and any manner of cheese with enough whine. Really, when are they going to stop adding new people to the group (all of whom should be sucking experience if they so much as cast a Cure Minor Wounds in combat) and start being heroes?
Really, if Meatshield von Tanko is soaking all of the attacks, Dr. McFixall is keeping everybody alive and Ebeneezer Stips is financing the whole shindig, then what's left for the would-be hero to do?
::Kaze (minimizing NPCs party members since 2002 -- because being a good DM is more than just playing with yourself. Er, yeah... um...)
(3/9/04 11:46 pm)
Re: Party of Nine ...|
My party's clerics were also burning all of their spells for Cure spells, but it's since been solved by the purchase of wands of cure light wounds. It's a very cheap way to give the party lots of healing post-combat, and is usable by a wide range of classes - but it sounds like your fiance is enjoying the RP aspects of having someone different to play, so maybe that's okay, even if you do have to run the statistical side of things.
I recently read Complete Warrior, and I have to admit that I didn't like the flavour of the constructs - they had a much too technological feel to them for my taste. Is the spark guardian's attack a ranged touch attack? That would mean that its +7 BAB would hit most things more than 50% of the time. Still, even with its DR, it doesn't have very many hit points - it wouldn't take much from a spell or a big nasty creature to take it out. That's the problem with battle oriented familiars - I remember reading that the best place for them is somewhere out of harm's way, so the wizard gets the benefits without running the risk when they go down. Tell Jondar to have handy what his stats are going to be like if his familiar is destroyed handy - that'll make him think more carefully about it
I think Stips is excessive. The time and energy spent having even a half competent priest follow an adventurer around would be well in excess of the 7000gp loan. I would think that the Temple of Zilchus would have much more effective means of enforcing payment, like a mark of justice, plus regular divinations to determine if the loan is still in progress. If Jondar defaults on the loan, I don't even think the Zilchites woud go to too much danger to pursue him for it... he would, however, go onto a defaulters' list that should make it very, very hard for Jondar to do business with any legitimate merchant of any repute.
It sounds to me like you've introduced and allowed various things that were a good idea at the time, but have since outgrown their usefulness but are still hanging around. It sounds to me like you need to think of ways these folks can exit the action gracefully; if you do it really well, their departures can even drive the story forward...
Ebon Hand Cultist
(3/10/04 9:33 am)
Re: Party of Nine ...|
Well, to respond...
Jondar has Improved Familiar ... what I meant by "not having the proper feat" was that he didn't have Craft Construct. The way the entry read, it seemed to suggest that someone with that feat could construct and enchant the body for another individual to use, but that it would cost.
Honestly, I'm glad he doesn't have Craft Construct ... all I need is a bloody golem of some sort running around the game.
Nobody has taken "Leadership", true, but Saraphael the healer was MY call, so I wouldn't penalize one of the players by forcing them to take a feat to bring her in. Saraphael is there for my own peace.
They asked for Erik, the fighter, to join, for pay. I'm tracking his morale, as he has no ties to the group, but they're offering him quite a bit of money for somebody of his level and so far he hasn't been in a whole lot of danger. First night out they tossed him a +1 Heavy Steel Sheild and paid to have Full Plate refitted for him a week later, so if the loot is coming in and he's not regularly dying on the floor, he's still a happy camper. He recently had enough money to buy a Ring of Protection and is eyeballing a Cloak of Resistance back in Verbobonc. For a 4th level PC, playing trip-monkey and wailing on 1st-Level Human Warriors has been a pretty good gig.
((Those warriors are annoying me. There's not much I can DO with them. They're like, free XP ... they don't have enough BAB to hit most of the players on anything less than an 17 and if anybody hits, they die. They've already started running in fear regularly, though the occassional Invisibility Sphere'd, Ready-Actioned group of them with bows annoys the wizard. FIRE!))
As I read them, I'm not breaking any rules to let the players have what they want. Honestly, if Jondar's player wants a bird, I'm all for the bird, what I'm interested in is game balance and fun for everybody involved (that's the first rule). My worry is making sure that one character doesn't steal the show, or that I can provide a challenge for all the PCs equally without one person either defeating everyting, or everybody dying in a fight against something only one of them has a chane to beat. I want to make sure each player, and myself, is having an entertaining time at the table ... for some people that means kicking lots of monster ass, so that's in there. For my fiance it's fun chances to Role Play interesting characters and interactions. That's there too. For me it's finding new ways to use things in the game and to scare the crap out of the players with interesting monster tactics and interesting monster builds. We're all having fun, and I see it as my responsibility to maintain that fun for everybody by taking extra workload on myself to weigh the pros and cons of what is and isn't in the game.
For me, I think any power provided by the bird to Jondar would possibly be offset with a cranky Zilchite cleric following him around bugging him about his debt. The balance being, where stats-power and killing-stuff is increased, an increase in interesting and problematic Role Playing will offset the fun for everybody ... IE, Jondar kills more stuff, but we can all laugh as Jondar gets hounded by his annoying creditor.
What I'm dealing with is ... when is there too much on the table? Suddenly I've got nine things to keep track of. And folks are right ... perhaps some of them have served their purpose. Erik has been introduced, perhaps he can take a position in Rastor for a while until one of the PCs dies and wants to bring in him as a new PC. I'm sure everybody will find Stips amusing, and I'd find him amusing to play, but in the end, is Jondar going to end up ramping up the power and forcing me to make changes in the module? It's made difficult because I'm realizing I can't "Playtest" the bird for a session because, where they're heading, next session he's going to have a metal lightning bird in a water temple fighting Kua-Toa with electricity resistance ... the bird would be useless, but this is probably the one place where it would be.
I emailed the player, he's offered to change the PC, if I'd like. Drop the Imp. Familiar feat he took to prepare for the bird, undo the loan, and replace the Profession (Engineering) ranks he took last level to create the bird body.
If I do that, and put Erik on hold in Rastor, that'd make things simpler on me. Erik's always there if the PCs "need" him (I.E. somebody needs a new character) ... and I can save Stips for when some other fool asks for a loan. Mwa ha hahahaha.