In an effort to preempt any misconceptions about what to expect in this campaign, here's a list of some of the expectations one should have going into it. While it's impossible to list every single thing, I'll try to call attention to things that might be different than the norm.
- 1 Rule -1
- 2 Adventure Path
- 3 Alis the GMPC
- 4 Backstory
- 5 Characters
- 6 Dedication
- 7 Dialog
- 8 Difficulty
- 9 Fun
- 10 Homebrew
- 11 Influences
- 12 Narration of Die Results
- 13 Optimization of Characters
- 14 Pathfinder RPG
- 15 Politics
- 16 Roleplay vs Rollplay
- 17 Stealth
- 18 Tactics
- 19 Teamwork
- 20 Wealth
- 21 TL;DR
Even though I'm something of a perfectionist and try to avoid it, I make mistakes sometimes. I'm a person, not a computer. While I'd like to think that I'm a pretty objective GM, if you've got a concern about something, I'd really rather you raise it via Google Talk rather that in the PbP thread. Dirty laundry doesn't need to be preserved for all posterity. If there's something I 'don't get' I'll usually try to hit you up on chat, but if you're never online and you post infrequently... well I'll probably just rock on with things and interpret them as best I can.
We are playing the Serpent's Skull adventure path written by Paizo Publishing. While there are individual chapters in the 6-part story arc that are sandboxes, there is still a coherent storyline to be explored. By playing in this campaign, you would be consenting to willingly stay on the rails to a certain extent to facilitate playing thru the story all of us are interested in telling.
Alis the GMPC
The whole reason why I enjoy RPGs is to further explore the characters that the players and I imagine. That's right, the GM will have a PC in the party. Alis Kirmoon** (character sheet here) was the character who originally sought to recruit other heroes to join her on an expedition to an unexplored jungle, so it's only natural that she would not merely tag along, but actively participate.
If you resent GMPCs or have some notion that they are just window-dressing then this is not the campaign for you. While I do my best to avoid railroading, see Rule -1.
Right now we've produced over 6500 posts in just under 1 year. I'm not suggesting that anyone should feel compelled to read thru all of that, and you could make a convincing argument that it would be meta-gaming to do so.
However, if you would like to see for yourself what sorts of scenes, combats, and dialog have comprised this game, I keep a sort of 'table of contents' that I update every few weeks. You can find it within Alis' profile on the Paizo site here: Party Tracking List.
Just as the name of the campaign setting should imply, your characters are Heroes! I'm not interested in running a campaign where characters backstab one another or pursue evil goals or perverse schemes. If that's your cup o' tea, then you'd be happier with another group.
While other people in the world might be able to pick up a sword or spellbook and become adventurers, Alis and those she associates with are decidedly a cut-above the vast majority of Elsemar's populace. Normal people might have a point-buy of 15 to 25 and advance in one class at each level, the heroes in this campaign are gestalt characters with a point-buy of 40. In each case they are either touched by the gods or the raw forces of the planes themselves.
Rumble in the Jungle** has a pretty fast pace for a Play-by-Post. If my calculations are correct, it's actually the fastest paced game hosted on the Paizo messageboards. This is because all of us are able to post and reply every day — generally several times a day at that. While I understand people needing to spend time with with spouse and kids in the evenings or on the weekends, if you don't feel like you'd be able to keep us posting-wise then that creates a very uncomfortable situation for all parties involved. Only you can gauge your 'free-time' (as if such a thing exists) so please be honest with yourself about it.
Eric is located on the west coast of the USA, Jason on the east coast. I'm on the east coast and a night-owl. Generally we post a lot through-out the work day, and again in the evenings after folks are home from work.
If you are new to PbPs, dialog may be handled a bit differently than what you are used to in a Face-to-Face (F2F) game. In a PbP, all dialog is done in-character.
- The player rolls Diplomacy and says...
- "Ragnar approaches the mayor, bows in greeting, and asks about the trouble the town is experiencing."
- The player rolls Diplomacy and writes...
- Ragnar approaches the mayor, bows in greeting, and says "Well met, your honor. We heard that your town is experiencing some hardship. What seems to be the trouble?"
Not every creature or encounter will be beatable. The world does not revolve around and scale around the party. Therefore, there may be times when the best course of action is to retreat and live to fight another day.
Game vs. Story
Some GMs see an RPG as a game foremost and a story second. I'm not one of those GMs.
I'm more interested in creating a story with the players that would actually be interesting to be told about. Therefore, verisimilitude and all that 'dialog stuff' is pretty important to me. If you are only interested in posting combat actions without putting any heart or emotion into it, then you might be happier elsewhere.
This also means that I see the rules and game aspects of Pathfinder as an aid to assist the storytelling — the story isn't simply an incidental byproduct of it. Therefore, if something that is permissable in the rules just defies all good sense and believablity, don't be surprised if I call BS. At the very least I'll give you a chance for a re-do after you've heard me out.
With that said, as heroes with a wealthy sponsor, you are decidedly better-equipped to face overpowering challenges than others of the same level. Where experts might need to be called in or normal adventurers might face doom, there is a good chance that you may very well be able to persevere.
Yes, Pathfinder/D&D is a game. All things considered, each of us only has so many hours of the day we can dedicate to various pursuits. If the game is more work or more frustration for you than it is enjoyment, then it's probably time to step away. Like I said, I'm not perfect and my style of GMing isn't for everyone. Plenty of fish in the sea, as the saying goes.
The game is set not in Golarion or Forgotten Realms but in the setting that I'm fleshing out here on this website. Even though I've been working on it for about 22 years, there's still a LOT that I haven't yet figured out about the world. Thus, both your characters and mine are essential to me in expanding Worlds Unknown and making it real.
This is also a big part of the reason why I have a GMPC in the party, Alis helps me to have an avatar in the world that I can use to explore it and build it up.
Some games are influence by Lord of the Rings, some by Conan, others by animé, or comics. While the setting for Heroes of Worlds Unknown is influenced heavily by Tolkien, in terms of character styling, and 'attitude' this campaign is much more strongly influences by Fritz Leiber's stories about Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, by animé shows like Bleach, and comic-book movies like League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.
This means that the general tone or attitude of the game is not as heavy as Tolkien, or as dark as Robert E. Howard. In fact, there's can be some downright silliness at times. Cheesecake, fan service, and bawdy humor happens. The party is also predominantly composed of highly charismatic female characters played by men. While I've never watched Charlie's Angels, the trailers I've seen tend to ring a bell. If you want a game that's grim and extremely stoic, or a struggle just to make ends meet, then I have no idea how you ended up here. Clearly someone was messing with you. ;)
Narration of Die Results
I use die rolls to determine how mutable situations will pan out. If I describe your character as banging up against something and making a racket when the party is trying to stealth, I'm not trying to be a dick. If you check the spoiler entitled 'Rolls', you'll probably observe that you not only failed your stealth check but you were the low roller for the party. I use the same technique when determining who in the party sees various goings on, who gets sea-sick and who doesn't etc. I do this because I believe it's important for the die rolls to have concrete meaning.
Optimization of Characters
If you want a super-strong, super-durable character and dump your Intelligence and Charisma to achieve that end, don't go roleplay your character like they are Don Juan. Just like how the results of the die rolls are reflected in the narrative, please reflect your character's abilities and training in how you roleplay them. If you've got a high wisdom, you shouldn't be an air-head. If you have a high charisma, you shouldn't be a depressed emo that no one wants to be around, etc.
The specific version of d20/D&D that we are playing is Pathfinder RPG. It is based upon D&D v3.5 and addresses many areas of 3.5 that were problematic such as managing skill points, class balance, grapple, and a host of other areas. The Core Rulebook contains everything need to play or run the game. Essentially it is the PHB and DMG in one. The book itself is $50, but the PDF is only $10. Furthermore, you can access ALL of the rules for free at the following sites: paizo.com/PRD (official reference site) & www.d20pfsrd.com (community-run reference site).
There has been a lot of politics involved in this game. This should be little surprise since Alis is a royal princess. That's part of the premise of the story. Yes, this does modify Serpent's Skull to a certain extent but largely the changes are additive rather that subtractive.
Another reason I mention politics is due to the importance of public relations in the game. Even if Alis is the sort of royal who likes to shake things up, she's still got a job to do and it's made more difficult if her confidants are miscreants or trouble-makers. Such individuals would likely be relieved of their commission and shown the door.
If your idea for a character includes hailing from nobility, that's certainly a background that I'm willing to work with. I'd really like to avoid master/servant relationships between GMPC and PCs as much as possible. Peers or friends are much easier to cooperate with as equals.
Roleplay vs Rollplay
There is a LOT of roleplaying in our game. The characters have known one another for several months and in some cases shared in romances and heartbreaks with one another. They have pasts — some parts of which they might prefer to forget, some that they are loathe to admit. If your idea for a character is simply an autistic killing machine with no interest in developing deep, meaningful relationships with the other characters, then this is not the group for you.
I don't expect that everyone's characters will always get along, even lovers fight. However, I do expect that your characters will grow over time and not be a static snapshot ever unchanging in demeanor and being a perpetual downer. Characters who are pedophiles, nymphomaniacs, kender, or just really creepy bastards are not going to do well.
Pretty much all of the characters are capable at Stealth, Acrobatics, and Perception. This is a party with a lot of emphasis on discretion moreso than brute force. If your character is noisy as a siege tower, that could be problematic.
As much as I enjoy all the roleplaying aspects of this group, I also really enjoy the tactical aspects of combat. Expect attacks of opportunity, crazy battlefield conditions, and enemies that will use their heads according to their intelligence scores. Animals will act like animals and not super-intelligent kill drones, but humanoids and other intelligent creatures may pull some nasty tricks. It will really throw off my ability to be able to fairly balance encounters to how tough I think the party is if your level of system mastery and tactics is such that you don't know what to do in a fight.
Even if the personalities of the characters clash (which can make for more interesting roleplay than if everyone are bosom buddies), I expect for each character to be able to pull their own weight as part of the group. That doesn't mean each character has to be equally capable in every scenario. I don't expect a ranger to have a sterling tongue for diplomacy nor a sorceress to have the ability to tank. However, I do expect for each character to be able to do their job well. After all, if a princess has sought your aid as part of her taskforce then it should be because you are an exceptional professional, right?
By the same token, doing what you do and doing it well should not habitually put yourself or the rest of the party at greater risk, nor should it counter the ability of other characters to do their job effectively. Players should therefore not only know their character's strengths and weaknesses, but be mindful of the capabilities of the other PCs as well.
Your character would either be working for or alongside of an elvish princess. As such, money is generally a petty concern. Therefore rogues who fit the kleptomaniac archetype are both unnecessary and undesirable. You should never have a problem meeting or exceeding wealth by level, and the princess' mission budget accounts for keeping her task force at least as well-equipped as that of any competition. For this reason, the rogue-types she would be most inclined to recruit would be intelligence agents, spies, or 'archaeologists' like James Bond or Lara Croft.
Honestly, the game has generated over 6500 posts in just under 1 year. That's a LOT of reading and authoring. While I'm not suggesting that you should read thru all of the backstory to this point, you will have to do a lot of reading (and writing) each day to keep up. If that's going to be a problem for you, then there's a good chance that this game might not be a good fit for you.