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4 Ways to Merge Players and Play Styles

Image_Portfolio_104_Fantasy Jason Walton 57As a game designer most of my time is spent editing, reading, and writing; what little remains is for playtesting. One of the things that comes up often with gaming sessions that see so many different players is a matter of expectations—some players are prepared for a world to be opened up in front of them, and others are scions of modules, or entirely new to the concept of tabletop gaming.

Roleplaying is an amazing experience, but some folks have a rockier entry into it than others—be that to the whole concept of assuming the role of a fictional persona, adjusting to a new gaming system or a joining a new group of players.

There are a few tricks to make this easier on the beleaguered GM (not all of which are here; you are the GM, you can bring down the iron hand and send down royal decrees and what have you), but the best thing to do is just be smart, respectful and logical about it: talk directly (separately) to the frustrated player and get an idea of where they are at.

1) Notes
If you’re keen to the divide in player styles before the session starts, this is an easier plan to implement. Even on the fly, it’s not hard to do and if you’re up for a bit of spy games, go for it. Either way, use the plot or NPCs to inform the party member in question about whatever it is they’re looking for, be it the adventure route they expect or the means to break into the world with some freedom to roam.

fashion-middle-ages-72) Extra Checks
Struggling in the sea of freedom can be a real challenge sometimes, especially for folks new to the game—juggling different player styles isn’t easy if you’ve got a mixed group. If a seasoned veteran is having trouble giving enough of the spotlight to the newbie, give the latter a chance to wander around and sprinkle them with checks (preferably skills, but perhaps attributes if you need to) to get them to somewhere the rest of the group can enjoy as well.

3) Maps
This is the primary means I go about handling this in my games; I let the PCs know the lay of the land and subtly push them into this or that direction via geography that fits into the plot. The closer they move towards a locale, the more I reveal about it and the environs. Getting down into the valley, for instance, the party sees the ruins of an old fortress down by the beach—something previously unknown about and definitely drawing attention.

4) The “Subconscious” GM Slip
If you can’t keep a straight face or always lose at poker, skip this one entirely—you have to be able to bluff in real life for this to work out.

Academic Town-Color-FLet it seem like you accidentally let slip a secret about the game as you go through a routine description. Last week (and my Thursday group won’t be looking at this before game tonight, so I’m not overly concerned of them knowing) when investigating a damaged farmhouse, I mistakenly”said that it might have been a dinosaur that did the damage, after dropping several mentions of a dragon being complicit (as far as the villagers knew). 

Of course there was jeering but I saw the change in body language as soon as the table settled—the players sat down as a united group, ready to delve into the game full bore regardless of their preference in approaching it.

Remember, the goal of the game is always to have fun! If a player keeps having a truly tough time with getting dropped into a sandbox or stuck on a railroad, be adaptive, fair, and accommodating (to a point, anyway). The tips above are a good way to go about dealing with the problems that arise from conflicting player styles, but being direct and understanding is the best thing to do!



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WHAT?!?! – 4 Tips on Managing Player Frustration

Image_Portfolio_101_Fantasy Jason Walton 10Mischievous Meadows is about magical items; the adventurers are going to temporarily and sometimes permanently lose many of their treasured goods! In most games, these are essential resources for the PCs and a group may be less than pleased when their potions, wondrous items, rings and the like are pilfered away from them.

Sometimes however, the story calls for players to be denied of resources!
Naturally, this is going to upset some folks and any GM may find the response to one of these game sessions to be less than encouraging.

1. Temporary Compensation
As in the case of the biddlywink, the GM can dole back some of the resources removed and when doing so, give them some oomph to compensate for the loss. It’s a bit of an admission on your part but it’ll net some interest by making it clear that this isn’t a simple theft of resources, it has a greater purpose.

dragon-art-22. Intrinsic Rewards
Speaking of a greater purpose, let’s talk about expendable resources. This is essentially a trade-off: resources of one kind (typically gold) for greater access to other resources (experience). In some cases this can be very general, like potions but there are also the specific ones: arrows of slaying come to mind. This is a valid example to mention if a group throws up their arms—point out the precedent if things get too uppity.

3. Complementary Elements
Hide something that can be used to craft a stronger suit of armor in the corpse of the invisible, giant, advanced rust monster that ate away some +2 full-plate. After felling the biddlywink tree, maybe the adventurers find arcane components which can be used to craft a ring of protection that allows the creator to treat their caster level as four levels higher to get back the one the original biddlywink ate! Perhaps the knowledge garnered from their bizarre biological processes grants insight into a new spell or access to a disparate prestige class?
At its heart this is another resource trade, and the GM should be innovative in how they implement it.

4. Call Rank
The GM is also the ultimate arbiter of the story, and somsorcereretimes it doesn’t hurt to remind folks of that. If the group is getting really upset about being taken for a bit of a ride, assure them that you’re not just randomly stealing from them; greater things are in store for those with faith.

Do you have a contribution or idea for Meta Thursdays?  Send us your ideas (after reading the submission guidelines) to submit(at) with “Meta Thursday” in the subject line!

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Countess Darah Veresovich

Cultus Sangineus full color

Countess Darah Veresovich CR 10

XP 9,600
Female Klavek cleric (undead lord) 8/rogue 3
NE Medium humanoid (human)
Init +2; Perception +14
AC 24, touch 13, flat-footed 19 (+7 armor, +1 deflection, +2 Dex, +1 natural, +3 shield)
hp 79 (11d8+30)
Fort +8, Ref +7, Will +10
Speed 20 ft.
Melee +1 dagger +8/+3 (1d4, Crit 19-20/x2)
Ranged +1 keen light crossbow +11/+6 (1d6+1, Crit 17-20/x2, Range 80 ft.)
Special Attacks channel energy 8/day (4d6 negative, Fort DC 17), sneak attack +2d6
Cleric Spells Prepared (CL 8th; concentration +11—defensive +17)
0th—bleed, detect magic, mending, virtue
1st—bane, command, deathwatch, doom, obscuring mist; cause fear
2nd—desecrate, silence (x2), spiritual weapon; ghoul touch
3rd—bestow curse, blindness/deafness x2, invisibility purge; animate dead
4th—freedom of movement, unholy blight; enervation
Domain death Subdomain undeath
Str 8, Dex 14, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 16, Cha 16
Base Atk +8; CMB +7; CMD 19
Feats Combat Casting, Extra Channel, Quick Channel, Rapid Reload (light crossbow), Selective Channeling, Toughness, Warrior Priest; Command Undead
Skills Bluff +17, Diplomacy +9, Knowledge (religion) +11, Linguistics +5, Perception +14, Sense Motive +14, Spellcraft +14
Languages Abyssal, Common, Infernal, Klavek, Vikmordere
SQ Aura, evasion, orisons, rogue talents (stand up), trapfinding, trap sense +1
Gear +1 breastplate, +1 heavy steel shield, amulet of natural armor +1, ring of protection +1
Corpse Companion (Su) Countess Darah has a corpse companion that automatically follows her commands and does not need to be controlled by her. She cannot have more than one corpse companion at a time. It does not count against the number of Hit Dice of undead controlled by other methods. She can use this ability to create a variant skeleton such as a bloody or burning skeleton, but its Hit Dice cannot exceed half her cleric level. She can dismiss her companion as a standard action, which destroys it.
Death’s Kiss (Su) Countess Darah can cause a creature to take on some of the traits of the undead with a melee touch attack 6 times per day. Touched creatures are treated as undead for the purposes of effects that heal or cause damage based on positive and negative energy for 4 rounds. It does not apply to the Turn Undead or Command Undead feats.
Death’s Embrace (Ex) Countess Darah can heal damage instead of taking damage from channeled negative energy. If the channeled negative energy targets undead, she heals hit points just like undead in the area.
Countess Veresovich channels energy twice in the first round her opponents are in range (four uses across two move actions), sparing Count Krev or her two nearest acolytes. She then casts silence on a crossbow bolt and fires it at the square the party’s spellcaster is located in (no attack roll is required). If the spellcaster continues to prove a threat, she has another silence prepared to repeat the maneuver.
Countess Veresovich's Corpse Companion CR 4

Image_Portfolio_101_Fantasy Jason Walton 18
XP 1,200
Kraujas, Exsanguined Slave [gnarled juju zombie]
NE Large humanoid (undead, orc) fighter 2
Init +5; Senses darkvision 60 ft.; Perception +2
AC 31, touch 11, flat-footed 29 (+10 armor, +1 Dex, +1 dodge, +6 natural, +4 shield, -1 size)
hp 15 (2d8+6)
Fort +4, Ref +1, Will +0
Defensive Abilities channel resistance +4; DR 5/magic and slashing; Immune cold, electricity, magic missile; Resist fire 10
Speed 15 ft.
Melee slam +9 (1d8+12) or +1 scimitar +10 (1d8+9, Crit 18-20/x2)
Str 26, Dex 13, Con, Int 8, Wis 10, Cha 12
Base Atk +2; CMB +9; CMD 21
Feats Cleave, Dodge, Power Attack; Improved Initiative, Toughness
Skills Climb +16, Perception +2; Racial Modifiers +8 Climb
SQ ferocity*, light sensitivity, permanent enlarge person (CL 14th)
*While within the mansion, Kraujas retains his form past 0 HP, and treats his Charisma score as his Constitution score for the purposes of the ferocity special quality (treat these as temporary hit points; when diminished, Kraujas is destroyed).
Gear +1 full plate, +2 heavy steel shield, +1 scimitar
Countess Veresovich’s prized corpse companion is a tank; he wades into battle as an impassable force and charges at the first target he sees not wearing armor.

Darah Veresovich is a calculating and cold negotiator, both obsessed with preserving her youth and expanding her power. She is a skillful diplomat and even more talented liar—her true intentions only seem suspicious to a very astute few. The elite of Mohkba see her as an influential trader and curator of exotic lore, but in the shadows she is best known as the leader of the Cultus Sangineus.

The secret cabal is a sect devoted to two things: achieving immortality through free-willed vampirism and seeing the return of a patron that has given Countess Veresovich guidance, the Exsanguinator. Darah has carefully orchestrated events over the course of years to prepare the most impressive sacrifice for her lord and while it may seem that events have spun out of her control, it is a rare thing for the cult leader not to anticipate every contingency.

Once her trap has been set, Countess Veresovich retreats from the Sanguine Ball to enact a retinue of rituals in the prepared chambers beneath her manor.

OGL Content

Section 15: Copyright Notice – Pathfinder Module: The Witchwar Legacy
Pathfinder Module: The Witchwar Legacy. © 2010, Paizo Publishing, LLC; Author: Greg A. Vaughan.