Calculating the XP treshold for a party with “monster” companions

Suppose that a member of an adventuring party has a companion. I can think of the following broad categories …

  • Something that came with his/her class (familiar, beastmaster companion)
  • Part of a spell (summoned/conjured creatures, raised undead, Homunculus, awakened something, etc.)
  • Purchased mount (war horse, hippogriff, etc.)
  • A bound golem

… then are there cases (and perhaps there are others besides the ones I could think of) in which I should I calculate the XP treshold (DMG, page 82) differently (increasing the treshold), and if so, by how much?

Personally, I feel (but I’m quite inexperienced) that companions that originate from classes and spells are already calculated into the character level of the XP difficulty matrix. And that mounts may not be powerful enough to unbalance the encounter difficulty. But a party member that brings a golem, might be a different story.

I’m fairly sure that there is no rule for this, if so, then suggestions are welcome too.

How do I run an adventure with the party in competition with an NPC party in a race for the MacGuffin?

Hoping for advice:

I’m looking at the next leg of our campaign being a “race for the MacGuffin” scenario. The PCs (Rolemaster) have been chasing an evil sorceress for a while now. I want to let them catch up but put them in a position where they can’t actually kill her. She’s working for someone powerful who will come after them if they kill her. But it’s in a mercenary role so if they can get the MacGuffin for him he won’t care what happens to her after that.

The problem: I’ve never run or even read an adventure like that. Can someone point me to some good resources? Advice from the geniuses here is considered good as well.

How does my character’s awakened mount and 2 awakened companions affect what CR the party can handle?

So some things happened and now I have 3 awaken scrolls. The rules say I don’t have to use material components so I can just use them. I also switch with the dm occasionally and run it myself. How would this character + their companion effect how much xp the party can handle? So, for balancing the CR of encounters, how does a lvl 5 optimized hexblade warlock riding an awakened Giant Crocodile with 2 awakened Giant Scorpions to their side effect CR?

How to manage a party that runs better in smaller groups?

I’ve been running a pathfinder campaign for close to 4 years now. In my mind it has been quite successful and my players are generally active and engaged in the story. However, over the course of the campaign I have noticed a strange trend that I’m not sure what to do about. It is kind of strange but I’ll do my best to explain it.

Group Composition

My player group consists of 4 (sometimes 5) players; my wife, my sister, my best mate and his girlfriend, another friend also plays but is currently overseas for a year. The age range is between 25-32 and the group all get on well. I love this group and want to see this campaign through to the end. Therefore splitting the group is an absolute last resort.

Campaign Details

I run a large scale open world campaign, with lots of sandbox play and opportunities for the players to explore. There are plots and threats throughout the world but where they go and how they deal with them is entirely up to the players.

Typically the party spend about 50% of it’s time exploring or traveling; 30% in towns, shopping or interacting with NPCs; and 20% in dungeons or on specific quests. I would like to adjust this slightly to reduce the amount of time spent traveling, most of the time is lost to indecision where the party can’t agree on a single course of action. More accurately they like to carefully examine every possible option before deciding, which takes a lot of time to reach a decision.

The Issue

Throughout the campaign there have been a few times when the party was split up, either for a scene or two, or for an entire session where I ran separate sessions for each half of the party. Most recently they encountered a pit trap that left the party separated in a dungeon. I switched back and forth between the parties until they could rejoin and it went quite well. Previously I’ve had two characters enslaved and forced to fight in an arena while the rest of the party worked on the outside to tilt the odds in their favour. These are just two examples from across a long campaign.

The pattern I have noticed is that almost every time I run one of these sessions the feedback I get is something like “That was the best session ever” or “best session in a while, I got everything done that I wanted to”. Basically the players constantly seem to enjoy sessions where they are separated more than ones where they are not.

Some reason I think this may be happening:

  • Faster decision making in smaller groups
  • More focused narrative where they always have a role to play in their scenes
  • Having less options forces them to think more creatively
  • Something to do with how I plan/run these session, though I am unsure what.

My Question

I’ve struggled with how to formulate this as a question so comments are welcome but here is my current question:

How do I best utilise the knowledge that my players enjoy sessions with smaller groups to improve my game?

Things I have considered:

  • Regularly splitting the party – I feel like this is the only solution that can reliably achieve this. But I’m having trouble thinking of ways to split the party often while maintaining a reasonable narrative flow.
  • Request for additional feedback – I’ve already tried this somewhat but haven’t gotten much that is meaningful. I can try for more targeted feedback with specific questions.
  • Changing the way I prepare my sessions – I think this is my preferred solution but I am struggling to identify what I am doing differently between the split and non-split sessions.

Answer types that I am expecting:

  • Advice on how to run for the whole group the way I do for the smaller group
  • Suggestions on what the issue with the larger group may be so that I can fix it
  • Advice on how to regularly split the party in a logical and narratively maintainable way.
  • Something I haven’t thought of (that really the point of this I guess)

TL;DR

My party seem to enjoy sessions where they are split into smaller groups. How can I use this to improve my game overall?

What ability check is the most appropriate for disarming a weapon from a creature grappled by another party member?

It’s my first post here. I am a DM running a 5e campaign for my friends.

During our last session, the characters were surprised by a creature polymorphed to look like a friendly NPC. The creature took their friend’s weapon (a one handed mace) and was using it to attack them. One of the party members had jumped off a cart and put themselves and the creature into grappled and prone condition states on the ground.

A different party member approached and said “I want to grab the weapon from [the enemy] and toss it away.” In response, I asked for a Dexterity (Sleight of Hand) check to see if they could remove the weapon. Was this the best-fit ability check for this scenario?

My reasoning for the check was:

  1. The Grappled nor Prone conditions state anything about the enemy being disarmed or losing control of their weapon (Players Handbook, Grappled – pg. 290, Prone – pg. 292), so I saw the active fighting and resistance displayed by the antagonist as creating a situation where it wasn’t an easy feat to simply grab the weapon.
  2. I think the action would require precise, dexterous movement of the hand to grab it while the enemy flails and combats their assailant. PHB states Dexterity ability checks “measure agility” (PHB, pg. 173).
  3. Sleight of Hand use on pg. 177 of the PHB doesn’t state anything about removing a weapon, just subtly removing a coinpurse without the person knowing. However, I also interpret it as the ability to manipulate an object on another’s body in a tricky situation.

After thinking on it, I feel as though a Strength (Sleight of Hand) check may have been more appropriate because the PC wresting the weapon away was a dwarf not prone to stealthy actions, but I would love some feedback on more specific rulings I’m missing.

Thank you for any help you may provide.

What to optimize a Skald for in such a party?


Our party

I have formed a party to play in Pathfinder Society Organized Play with. It contains 7 players, including me.

  • Me, a Conjuration School Savant Arcanist. I’ve just hit level 2 and am allowed my last respec.
  • My friend, another Conjuration School Savant Arcanist, however, they might respec because it was a bit hard for them.
  • A party face Sorcerer with Charm Person and Color Spray (it was the player’s choice to play with this spell set).
  • A Summoner with Augment Summoning and Cha 20, generally focusing on actually summoning stuff.
  • A blaster, see this question to learn about their build.
  • An Inspired Blade/Empiricist X. The build is not set in stone yet, but it will most likely be a generalist doing some damage, and a second party face.
  • A Skald, about whom I am currently asking.

An eighth player has recently joined us, but they will play different characters depending on their mood, they are an active PFS player.

The Skald’s player desires

The Skald’s player clearly wants to:

  1. Be a Skald, as they love the theme.
  2. Deal damage using a bow.

Current experience of the said player

The said player has only played two sessions now, and has never played Pathfinder or any other tabletop RPG before.

Which combat and non-combat roles can their character take?

Basically, I ask for the list of options trimmed to things possible in such a party.

Dealing damage

While the character will deal some damage using a bow, it will eat a significant amount of their wealth and feats. Due to no Ranger bonus feats and medium BAB, the character will not be able to keep up with other classes.

Bardic knowledge

This seems nice, and might actually help a lot. However, a Skald cannot afford to have an Intelligence score above 12, maybe 14, because they need Dexterity, Strength, and Charisma a lot, and they cannot dump Constitution (brings HP) or Wisdom (garners Will save). At the same time, an ability to roll ALL Knowledges is nice. I might ask the Skald player to roll the first so they have more chances to succeed before the Int-based casters bring their rolls.

Lore Master

Well, kicks in really late. Still, it’s something helpful.

Raging Song

A really cool buff… but almost nobody needs Strength in our party, and almost everybody wants to remain concentrated. The Investigator will use a Dex-based build, and hence won’t care about Strength. Essentially, only Summoner’s units will like this buff. I have not learned much about the Rage Powers yet, but I doubt that more than a couple of people will benefit from them.

Versatile Performance

Well, allows to be another party face. But the Skald cannot afford a full focus on the Face stat, so they will fall behind the Investigator and the Sorcerer. Anyway, since the Discipline of our players is not very good, another person at least semi-capable of being a party face should be nice.

Spell Kenning

Nice and cool, but only one per day, and the Skald is kind of short on spell slots, and falls behind Arcanists, and the Arcanists can Quick Study… BTW, how can one even optimize for Spell Kenning?

Current build (subject to changes)

Race

Half-Elf. Player’s choice, this is not to be changed. Arcane Training as an alternative racial trait (it’s the only thing for which we can trade Multitalented (2nd Favored Class) without trading something else too.

Class

Skald (Fated Champion). We lose practically nothing, but get the ability to cast lots of Divination spells with a discount and a bonus to Initiative.

Ability scores

STR: 14

DEX: 16 (14+2 for being a Half-Elf)

CON: 12

INT: 12

WIS: 11

CHA: 14

Deity

Shelyn. The best Deific Obedience, access to Persuasive Performer. Alternatively, worship Irori and get a bonus to all Knowledge checks, but be a worse Party Face.

Skills

  1. Perform (Sing)
  2. Knowledge (History)
  3. Knowledge (Local)
  4. Knowledge (Planes)
  5. Knowledge (Religion)
  6. Use Magic Device
  7. Perception

Might sound sub-optimal, but I actually had to choose the skills in a hurry, as I owed a build to the Skald player and had to go already.

Traits

Reactionary, Talented (Sing). Yes, the choice of the second Trait was almost random.

Feats

Here is a list of feats that I have found to be fitting this concept.

Archery feats

Well, easy. Being an archer consumes lots of feats in Pathfinder. 1. Point-Blank Shot. This feat was the one chosen for the said character. 2. Precise Shot 3. Rapid Shot 4. Deadly Aim 5. Arcane Strike 6. Manyshot 7. Deadly Aim

I don’t know which of those to take, as a Skald cannot take all of them.

Other cool feats I’ve found

  1. Improved Initiative — obvious.
  2. Skald’s Vigor — fast healing.
  3. Greater Skald’s Vigor — fast healing for everyone.
  4. Persuasive Performer — choose Sing, still use it for Diplomacy, get a +2 bonus. Even with a rather low Charisma, this build can accumulate a lot of bonuses to Diplomacy, Bluff, and Sense Motive.
  5. Deific Obedience. +4 to Perform, which turns out to be +4 to Diplomacy, Bluff, and Sense Motive.
  6. Battle Cry +1 to Attack Rolls, +4 to saves against Fear, and ability to reroll one save.

My actual question

What is it a good idea to optimize in such a party so that the Skald’s player doesn’t feel useless? Is the way I have currently chosen a potentially good way?

How can I help my party find a secret path in a forest? [closed]

So, I’m trying to kinda plan out the main plots of whats going to happen in the next campaign. Currently my party are in a forest; they just got done traveling in the exact opposite direction of where they wanted to go, and found themselves back where they started at the very first session… rough, but they chose the path. Anyways to get the point, I want them to find a secret hidden path, in an area they’ve already been in, and that’s the route they originally wanted to go. its past a grove of trees; however its hidden in a valley, down the path know as the lowland path, however I cant think of anyways to help them go down that path. Let alone find the secret path. please help.

How do NPC’s of a faction know one of the party members is a member of their faction? (careful: minor spoilers in question)

I’m currently running LMoP for 4 players. One of them has already joined the Lords’ Alliance, and I expect another to join the Emerald Enclave in the near future.

I’m planning to run SKT next, and have already started reading the book. The factions are mentioned quite often, and usually in a way that if one is a member of the faction they can get free lodgings/special items/a special quest.

I wonder though… how would they know they are part of their faction?

  • Would they be wearing a symbol on their clothes (such as a pin)?
  • Would they have to explicitly state to the NPC that they are a part of this faction?
  • Or would the NPCs simply be already informed about the new member and his/her appearance?

Any other possibilities?

Need advice on dropping whole party to 0 hp in dnd 5e [closed]

So I’m a new DM running the Lost Mine of Phandelver for the first time, and the party somehow all got dropped to 0 by the ruffians in the Tresandor Manor. They entered the manor through the tunnel that Carp found which leads to area 8. The whole party was level 2. After the battle with the nothic, they suffered some damage and pressed on to to area 10, where they somehow kept missing their attacks and kept taking damage from the drunk ruffians in there. The characters have all passed one death saving throw, so I assume they are considered unconscious. I’m not sure what to do at this point. Can someone give me ideas?

Character abandoning the party

I have recently started my first D&D game using 5th edition (I’m the DM). For our first few sessions everything worked fine. The players all had fun and their characters were all developing. During my last session, one of the character’s had a falling out with another (characters not players) so the character left the other two.

During that session I ran the two groups simultaneously (more or less). While the solo character left to explore a nearby forest, the others almost got killed by the villain (one of them did but he was revived).

I would say that this is probably a form of My Guy Syndrome due to the character leaving the party because that is what his character would have done. However, it is getting annoying because, while the larger group is progressing through the story, the solo character isn’t really doing anything.

I can easily get the group back into the same place. My problem:

How can I get the party back together when two of the characters dislike each other?