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Pathfinder 2E Exploration mode discussion


Wait, does age of ashes' hexploration segment have time limit or random encounters? I don't remember either of time

Paizo APs often follow the "players happen upon ritual at the exact right time!" method of storytelling with some rare exceptions so I'm surprised if it does have time limit. On random encounters I'm pretty convinced it doesn't have them because 2e in general doesn't have random encounters.

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Wait, does age of ashes' hexploration segment have time limit or random encounters? I don't remember either of time
Although Age of Ashes uses what appears to be a prototypical version of hexploration, it does not have random encounters like the hexploration in the GMG does. I don’t know about time pressure, but other discussions here have indicated there wasn’t much if any in that AP.


Not sure if I can even post this but, if anyone is interested: My Time Wheel. My plan is to put it on a wheel and mount it so that it spins and thereby give a physical representation of time passing as the PCs travel.


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If the question is whether it worked, it worked for me. As for appropriateness, I think tools for use at the table when doing exploration are more than appropriate given the topic is exploration mode. 🙂


I was wondering if the upload would work. The actual file is an absolutely massive drawing, but I turned it into a png., to try and get it to upload. Glad to see it did!

I ran my jungle game today and I tried the time wheel out but instead of a spinner I just put a token on it. Much easier and, if necessary, I can split the players up in the time dimension by adding another token. It worked perfectly and the feedback I got was that having a visual tracker was a great help and the players were mostly getting confused by the third watch when only two of the PCs could act because of the heat.

I also prepared something I thought of last minute that actually didn’t come up in the game: an outdoor dungeon. It was an small island connected to the mainland by a low tide causeway. I put a hex grid on the island with quarter mile hexes (takes about 10 minutes to cross so each hex is a turn). The island is also covered with mildly toxic fungus so the characters have two clocks: the causeway (12 turns) and their fortitude saves. There are also wandering monster patrols triggered by a dice roll and a pair of two room dungeons on the island holding the boss monsters. I didn’t get to use it though because my evil smile gave me away and the players decided to avoid that plot hook, so I get to try it next time.


Despite a horrible week at work (covering for multiple people out with covid :( ), I managed to run the mini-hex “dungeon” from my previous post. It went okay but it could have gone better. I implemented a variant of the scout action in which each person scouting got to see the hazards of one of the adjacent hexes and that worked pretty well. What didn’t work was the environment- it was a very boring fungus covered island. I added some terrain and scenery and hazards to improve it, but couldn’t really get it to gel (it didn’t really help that I was exhausted when running it and my voice was almost gone from doing NPCs). I think the base idea is sound, and my players had fun, but next time I try this I am going to use a more dynamic environment- I think a village raid or a riot or something similar would work a little better than a dead, silent island.

On the plus side players had several Eureuka moments where they put things together. The first was when the Wizard - who always asks about the lore of the shipwrecks they found - used the lore of a recently discovered shipwreck and some other clues they found while exploring to realize there was another survivor on the island. The second was when the players realized that what they were looking for on the above mentioned small island was probably in a ship wreck and so they traveled along the coast to find it (and headed right to it). Very smart and I love it when my players reason their way through problems.


So two Saturdays ago, I played my Jungle game in which the PCs assaulted an enemy camp and managed to kill an old woman (deemed an acceptable loss) and a monkey (their primary target) before retreating back into the jungle. At first I didn't think I did anything interesting with exploration so I didn't post anything here, but after reading the discussion about dynamic encounters in the other thread, I realized that I absolutely did something worthy to post with the camp assault. So I started writing up what I had been doing instinctively. Then I realized that with Pathfinder 2e I could 'mechanize' what I had been doing using encounter mode, hazards, and subsystems. So I did that instead. Hopefully, people find this interesting/helpful. I intend to do the same with how I run “skirmishers in intricate environments” when I find the time.


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Interesting. Looks like a hybrid of a couple of VP-based subsystems. Did you do the whole thing using your raid subsystem? How’d it interact with class abilities?


Interesting. Looks like a hybrid of a couple of VP-based subsystems. Did you do the whole thing using your raid subsystem? How’d it interact with class abilities?
The first part of the game was finishing up the small island and interacting with NPCs to try and decide how to fight the enemy, but the camp raid pretty much used the raid system, though the hazards weren’t in existence yet (because I thought of using them to codify things as I was writing it up for posting) and I was running that part based on straight experience instead. I did use different research results because I stripped out spoilers for the AP in what I posted (I was also using unique results from each vantage point instead of a single list), and didn’t do the chase at the end (which had different and more snarky cards). When I rallied the opposition I also used encounter turns because they seemed better. If you are interested here is what happened in more detail
  • The players waited until the cannibals inhabiting the camp had sent out a large war party to look for them, leaving only a skeleton crew at the camp.
  • I had the map in my head as a player unknown structure - if I were to run it again I would have set it up for the players to see - the advantages of box maps are that they are easy to draw after all.
  • From the first vantage point the players got a mostly complete view of the camp and I laid out the entire camp battle map (I have an oversized printer) for them. They also got a rough number of creatures and the locations of the sentries (mostly to the north) and glimpsed an old woman moving through the camp to the south. They decided to circle around to the second vantage point to inspect further and managed to do so stealthily.
  • From the second vantage point they observed what looked like an magic users hut on the outskirts of the camp. Through checks and their prior knowledge they determined that the old woman - who looked nothing like the massively inbred cannibals - was probably either first generation on the island or came from the cannibal’s original shipwreck and could probably speak their language.
  • After a couple of hours of them observing and not much happening they decided to head to the third vantage point, but the wizard unilaterally decided to sneak closer to cast detect magic outside the hut first. He got close successfully but then triggered the alert when he cast. When he tried to sneak away he then got spotted by the witch and her monkey.
  • At this point an encounter started (off the edge of my massive battlemap :( ) as the basically the party rushed forward to help the wizard and the wizard tried to retreat while under the effects of a spell that gave him only two actions a turn. The enemy also started to rally (using two rally points and rallying in encounter turns). The group was at the witches rally point and so her skeleton guard joined in on the second turn.
  • There was a ferocious fight: all of the players targeted the monkey (they HATE monkeys) and it died, the wizard went down twice, and one of the fighters was rocked by a skeleton and witch debuff combo. Then even though the witch had two mirror images left, she got hit by the alchemists last bomb AND a sling stone from him and went down and the fighters (one hasted by the wizard) tore through the skeletons.
  • At this point it was the end of turn 4 and the other cannibals had finished rallying and entered the battle. The party heavily damaged and out of resources decided to retreat. The cannibals didn’t pursue because there was actually only eight of them left in the camp and they needed to tend to the dead witch but mostly because we had 2 minutes left in the session.
And thus my chase cards and beautiful full map of the camp went unused. But such is the way of tabletop RPGs.


And here is “Fighting Skirmishers in an Intricate Environment”. This one is based on a system I use mostly for horror games and is much more experimental than the raid system because I have heavily rebuilt it to incorporated a bunch of pf2e improvements. The new version takes into account exploration turn structure, adds hazards, and, most notably, tightly couples the chase mechanics with the environment. Hopefully, we will see how it runs next Saturday.


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  • PF2E Sea Cavern Chase Cards with No Spoilers.pdf
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So I didn’t get to test the experimental modifications to my old skirmisher rules in yesterday’s jungle game, but because of the discussion in the other threads about the system being unable to handle stacking encounters and fight-rest-fight-rest-fight-rest being the only way it can run (and me strongly disagreeing with both these assertions), I figured I would write up some of what happened (there was other exploration stuff and conversation with npcs for about an hour in the beginning):
To start with while exploring the island the characters had discovered and done a few useful things:
  • Through the wise use of a potion of water breathing they managed to obtain a pirate’s buried treasure, said treasure including three powerful scrolls (two of which they already used, the remaining being a scroll of fireball) and a bunch of talismans.
  • They befriended a powerful dryad who was able to let them move more quickly through the jungle than they otherwise could.
  • They found an unhinged shipwreck survivor who greatly desired to kill the cannibals that were hunting them.
  • Their previous raid on the cannibal camp killed the enemy spellcaster (who was the brains of the outfit).

So three characters (two players couldn’t make the session): a wizard, a cleric, and a fighter decided to go to the cannibal camp and see if they could sneak into the (dead) witch’s hut and try to steal the magic items they previously detected. I used my raid system for this. At vantage 1 they determined that 17 enemies, including the leader, were in the camp but they decided to press on to vantage 2 (from which they had the easiest route to the hut), luck wasn’t with them and the enemy spotted them and rallied. The characters decided to retreat - but also to try and lure the cannibals out and head along a loop and so they could get back to the enemy camp while it was empty.

The cannibals followed and a chase started - the characters dealt with the trackless jungle, angry monkeys (Level -3), dense foliage, a ravine, and a steep hill. Getting to the top of the hill, they decided that it was a good place to make a stand and whittle down the cannibals. Javelins rained down on them, most being deflected by the foliage and their shields, as the cannibals advanced in three groups of five (with the leader being in the second group). The first group got to the hill and began climbing while the characters focused fire on the pointman, then the second group got to the hill while the first was climbing it and they bunched up. The wizard decided then was perfect time to use the scroll of fireball and just devastated the enemy - five died outright. The cannibals kept coming though and an epic fight ensued as three waves of the enemy came up the hill and were met by multiple burning hands (cleric of Sarenrae) and the fighters sword. The end result was the characters standing with a couple hp remaining each (two had wounds), fourteen dead enemies (Level -1 each) and the enemy leader (Level +2) completely untouched. They booked it. After a couple more chase obstacles they stumbled into quicksand (level +1) but managed to escape. They then tried to lure the enemy leader into the quicksand but he saw though it and started around. The characters responded by circling around the other side and back the way they came, beating him back to camp. They were exhausted and wounded and they decided instead of entering the camp to retreat across the river to the dryad’s hill where the cannibals feared to tread.

The next day they grabbed their survivor buddy and tried to sneak into camp (I again used the raid system): two Critical fails on the final approach. The enemy railed (the leader and two level -1s) while the characters tried to quickly choose good tactical positions. The resulting fight was brutal and it looked like the leader was going to win: he had just under half hp left while the characters were barely on their feet with most wounded and their ally at 1 hp - then the Wizard hit him for insane damage with a critical shocking grasp and he died. They then rested and explored the enemy camp. There was some rp/moral dilemma with what to do with the cannibals unable to fight and the session ended with them deciding to descend into the cave system below.

So the overall the sequence went like this: Exploration (other stuff) - Rest - Exploration (recon) - Exploration (Chase + hazard) - Encounter (combat) - Exploration (Chase) - Encounter (hazard) - Exploration (chase) - Rest - Exploration (recon) - Encounter (combat) - Rest - Exploration (investigation and roleplay); and, if you crunch the numbers, the party to mostly defeat a group of enemies and hazards that on paper had a budget of 575 xp (for reference an extreme encounter for 3 characters is 120 xp) and then defeated a 140 xp encounter. And the game ran perfectly doing this - it was a fantastic session.


It's been a while:

I completed the island portion of the campaign and have moved into a brief city portion. For the city the player’s goal is to create an expedition (using the leadership system from the gamemaster guide) to head off into the jungle, so I decided to go with simplicity for the overarching structure:
  • I divided up the city into districts, which I marked on the map with red lines.
  • Watches are the same (and use the same wheel): 5 day watches and 3 night watches of three hours each. The city is cooled by a breeze off the sea so characters can act during all the day watches.
  • Each watch characters can move to a district and perform an activity.
  • For each group of characters I roll 2d6. If there is a 6 it triggers a random encounter with the other dice being the danger level of the encounter (1 being no danger, 6 being very dangerous).
  • Random encounters usually contain recruitable NPCs.
  • (implemented the second session) Each day watch a town crier cries out the latest news.

The first session went pretty well, with the characters splitting up and exploring the city, though they only voluntarily recruited one npc (a navigator) because they choose to simply avoid a couple of random encounters (they got a fortune teller, a Zura cultist, pickpockets, city guards, and Shelyn dancers).

Then they left the city to look for a guide in the nearby cliffs who sent them out to nearby areas to fetch items for him in exchange for his help. And so the second session was mostly not in the city because I violated the first law of city adventures: don’t leave the city!

The seconds session did have an interesting exploration section (climbing a sea stack) that didn’t quite work, and deserves its own post.


So I am experimenting with chases and similar sub-systems. The session before last one of the PCs objectives was to get to the top of a sea stack and retrieve the feather of a monster that lived there. The stack was comprised of chase obstacles with different number of chase points needed, different difficulties, and some had linked hazards. For example the PCs could try and climb the sheer backside of the stack (a single obstacle with a very high DC and a large number of chase points needed) or go up the rugged front face (multiple obstacles, some linked to hazards like handholds crumbling away beneath the characters, powerful updrafts attempting to knock them off the cliffs, or angry seabirds defending their nesting grounds) but had a sub-level to rest on. There was also a hidden 'brave trail' (from horizon: zero dawn) leading up that the PCs could (and did) find. The PCs roped themselves together (using my Roped Together hazard) and started up: taking the crumbling cliffs, the brave trail, and the seabird nests. They got very lucky and made it to the top without triggering a hazard. There they found the monster's empty nest (except for some eggs) and began looting it for the feather. The monster noticed and began attacking. And here is where the encounter fell apart: the PCs cut the ropes, the wizard grabbed the feather, and then feather fell to safety (he had to cast it twice). Meanwhile, the other characters were attempting to slowly climb down the cliff in encounter mode – essentially using their actions every turn to do nothing but athletics checks – while being attacked by a flying monster. And to make matters worse they began to trigger the hazards that they bypassed. So not only was a monster attacking, but also a flock of angry seabirds. The wizard meanwhile ran into a bunch of locals who were coming to see why the monster was upset. It was almost a total party kill as the bird knocked the characters off the sea stack one after another (I had it take it easy on them until they could get a little ways down because a full fall would be instant death) while the seabirds inflicted heavy damage. Fortunately, the locals agreed to a contest of skill versus the wizard's champion for the feather. The locals then signaled the monster to tell it what was going on (and so it stopped attacking) and everyone survived. In hindsight, I would have either made the seastack shorter or immediately moved to ‘a getting down the cliff safely’ chase using variations on the obstacles that they bypassed.

Overall, I was not happy with my design/execution of this portion of the session (there was also an underwater adventure that went pretty good).

Then, this last Saturday, the character were back in the city and I ran my city exploration system again, and it worked pretty good; though once again I came up with something that I should have done differently: I am giving out too focused news (conservation of detail) and I should really be giving out two pieces of news per watch: one specific to the PCs and one not of immediate importance (worldbuilding).

I also used the chase subsystem in this adventure: I was going to have this one as multi-path race across town (based on Cross Town Race) but in the end I went for something much simpler: just six chase cards with two encounters interspersed (rabid dogs causing a panicked crowd hazard in a market and a soon to be burning warehouse) and one at the end using a raid system variant with short turns and a ticking clock. We only got to play through the first part of the chase as we ran out of time, though it was a lot of fun. Hopefully, the momentum of the scene won't be lost in the gap between sessions.

Finally, I am working on an expedition overland travel system (partially inspired by Teddy Roosevelts' River of Doubt expedition). It is going to be using the leadership subsystem (and I'm making cards with each of the characters followers on them: to give the NPCs faces so losing them has more of a sting. The cards will also list their special abilities for more cynical players) and I know I want to have obstacles, hazards, opportunities, encounters, set pieces, and interpersonal events. What I have worked out so far is:
Each day:
  • Is there a set piece based on the days travel? If so do that for the day.
  • Roll 5d6. The first dice corresponds to obstacles, the second hazard, the third encounters, the fourth opportunities, and the fifth interpersonal events. If a dice comes up a six then that event happens (I might just limit it to one in which case lower number dice will take priority).
  • For each event triggered, roll on a random table to determine what it is.
  • Reroll any encounters (as per the Fortune Teller's special ability) and take the best one for the party.
  • Depending on what happened, calculate their movement rate and update there position on my map
  • Update the location on the players' map (as per the Navigator's special ability)
  • Make a camping roll to check for sleeping sickness/malaria (using system in age of ashes?) and subtract supplies.
But I will probably tweak it a bit between now and when I run it (session after next) because I want to emphasis decision making, choice, and consequence a lot more.


I have a question about your use of the VP subsystem. How do you handle tracking the VP (publicly, etc)?

When I used it, I kept it hidden. One of the other people in my group is running Scum and Villainy for us, and I’m not sure I like player-visible clocks.
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I have a question about your use of the VP subsystem. How do you handle tracking the VP (publicly, etc)?

When I used it, I kept it hidden. One of the other people in my group is running Scum and Villainy for us, and I’m not sure I like player-visible clocks.

I look at how well the characters can judge their progress to determine if the players know their vp totals. Examples:
  • racing across a fairly well known town with lots of landmarks they know the total.
  • the PCs are traveling 1000 miles across the wilderness. They don’t know the vp total but can find out with a skill check with an appropriate lore skill and accurate maps (or in my players case hiring a navigator who will do that for them).
  • In a tense negotiation with potentially hostile natives. They don’t know the total but can use an action to find out in general how they are doing.
  • A mad man has hostages and the PCs need to sneak up on him and rescue the hostages. They don’t know the vp total.
I also never use the term victory points or similar - I translate them into narrative terms: I say things like you are a quarter of the way there; you have traveled 35 miles - you should reach the river of burst souls at the end of the next days match, the men are ready to take the offer but the leader is going to try and hold out for just a little more, etc.


Your welcome:
There are many ways in which exploration mode is used. I use it for overland travel and local area exploration, switching between the two and encounter mode dynamically. Exploration mode has basically a mechanical interface for switching to encounter mode that works pretty well.

Let me give you an example of how it works in practice for me. The players are F, V, D, Sh, and Sc. They have recently reached safety from a strange skull headed monster in a hunting lodge. This is a horror themed game.
GM: okay next turn, you only have about 6 turns before sunset, you have secured the door, and the snow is still falling, what are you going to do? (I go around the table from me clockwise)
F: I am going to head upstairs and see if anyone is there and make sure all the windows are secure.
V: I’m going to use detect magic.
D: I’m going upstairs with F so he doesn’t get killed again.
Sh: I’m going to go to the kitchen and see what supplies there are, and try to get the fires going if there is any wood.
Sc: I’m going to look at the books in the library to see if they have any information on the snow monster.

I then go through and resolve the actions in the most interesting order for me. I might, for example, start with V who detects magic from the library, then transition to Sc and resolve his action in the library (interacting with a research subsystem most likely). If necessary I drop into encounter mode: lets say, for example, that F and D find a creepy doll upstairs that is actually a monster. When that happens I look at the exploration mode actions that hook into the encounter mode and choose the most appropriate one. They are probably Searching so they get free seek actions to seek, potentially spotting it before it attacks. If they call for help I will let the other characters enter the combat if I think they can hear them or if they retreat to them. Once combat is over I transition back to exploration mode.

Travel mode is basically the same, except turns are longer and the party tends to stick together more. Behind the scenes I have a hex based movement system setup so I can easily determine how far the party travels (they don’t know about the hexes) and if anything interesting happens. If something interesting does happen, they find a mangled and frozen corpse for instance, I switch down to local area exploration mode.

Note: I am omitting a lot of narration here, this is just the bare bones structure. I generally try to limit discussion based on turn length - overland I allow a lot, while area exploration I allow less.

Edit: added note and joke.
This is what I think of when I read about explo-mo. A few folks I've asked about it tho think this is a waste of time and just want to get to the fighting...

Part of that could be past experience groups have playing the game. I'm guessing Paizo may not have supported the idea all that well either. I know many of the sub-systems in the APs have been a little rough around the edges and the typical response is toss it and get to the fighting...


So last weekend I ran the last part of the first city portion of my jungle game and started on the expedition to the next city. The game went really well, though instead of scoping out the building at the end of the chase, the players had the wizard and an NPC distract the enemy boss (on a rooftop with hostages) using social skills and spells while the others rushed heedlessly (for them) into the compound and fought their way non-stop through the entire place to the boss who they defeated with a series of lucky crits (I have never seen so many crits in a game, at least seven natural twenties over the course of the combat; and we are using the crit deck – the opposition just got wrecked).

Side Note: People complain about the wizard class, but the wizard in my group has been extremely effective. In this sequence alone, despite not being prepared for combat, he managed to do a good chunk of damage in the first combat encounter with cantrips, do an okay amount of damage and efficiently put out fires with an elemental summon, and then got off both a charm and a charitable urge against the boss (weak will save + poor save rolls overcame the incapacitation trait).

I am very happy with my city exploration subsystem. I was not entirely happy with my expedition system. It actually ran great for the three days of travel we got to, but I don’t think it will hold up over 40+ days travel over many sessions). One of my players was also very concerned about the expeditions morale, so I also want to add a morale subsystem (especially after reading about some real life Arctic/Antarctic expeditions).

The new (highly experimental) system is divided into five parts:
  1. The leadership system: which is basically straight out of the GMG, though every NPC has at least one special ability useful for the journey.
  2. The supply system: a very simple system to keep track of supplies.
  3. The encounter system: a day based system used to generate encounters and opportunities/hazards (based on a system by Dael Kingsmill)
  4. The morale system: used to keep track of morale and generate intragroup events.
  5. The camping system: a slightly tweaked version of the Camp in the Mwangi Jungle activity from Cult of Cinders.

The goal is to provide a sense of travel and adventure and new horizons with the encounter system, while maintaining continuity, giving more roleplaying opportunities, and emphasizing decisions plus consequences through the morale system. Both systems are highly experimental and I have attached them if people are interested.

Also I made NPC cards for the last game! Picture included (I flipped a couple over so you can see the back).


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I ran the new expedition system last weekend and it worked really well. Some specific thoughts:
  • The days ran very smoothly and easily despite a couple of minor hiccups due to how I organized my notes: I had the days in one section of my game binder, but the monsters stats/event descriptions on my phone and was using a notebook to keep track of combat. Reorganizing and condensing everything into a two page spread per day should make it run even smoother.
  • I didn’t get through all the content I wanted to because we started late and a large number of weather hazards were rolled (wind storms, heat waves, dust storms, and downpours that caused flash floods) that really slowed down the pace of travel. So a four day journey became 7 and using this system that increases the play time significantly. Thus, instead of ending with a set piece investigation/fight, we are going to be starting with it next session.
  • The morale system is working as intended so far with a slow death spiral as the journey wears on. One thing I noticed is that the events naturally formed plot threads with one or two players engaged with each thread (players also began starting their own threads to try and improve morale via role play :) ) - and I needed to be generating events per thread instead of one per day. It reminded me very much of running Mage: the Awakening actually. This naturally increased the time it took to get through a day.


Some updates on the last couple sessions of the jungle game:

Session before last: This session took place in a village on the savanna and consisted of a 6 exploration turn murder mystery/village defense scenario. I didn’t have time to make suspect cards and the maps I was using were too small and so it didn’t run PERFECTLY but it was still enjoyable as the characters rushed around trying to accomplish everything before nightfall. They didn’t solve the mystery in time to be able to call off the monster(s surprise!) that were summoned however and so the characters got into a brutal fight with two Level +1 creatures with a significant mobility advantage that was really fun and challenging, though a little long, as the players got split up (the wizard up against one monster with the rest of the party against the other).

Side Note: I highly recommended Suspect Cards for any sort of who-dun-it mystery game. Suspect Cards are basically cards with a picture, a name, and a brief blurb about the characters on them. I got the idea from a cover of newsweek when I was looking to run a murder mystery in a Mage the Awakening 2e game and they work fantastically for keeping track of suspects. Colored string and a bulletin board are optional – I use the physical layout of the cards on the table to indicate the characters understanding of the relationship between the suspects instead since that is faster to manipulate in play.

Last Session: The characters were back on the road dealing with thunder storms (flash floods avoided), mosquito swarms (malaria inbound), dinosaurs (avoided), and lions (scared off). The system worked well with a couple of layout modifications. I think having a combat tracker sheet opposite my day sheets (which now have all the monster stats I need on them) and some rule reminders for the more exotic monsters (how much HP does armor have? What is the results of broken armor?) will make it run even better. Multi-threading the moral system is definitely the right approach and it worked well – though I need to make an effort to disperse the events throughout the day instead of clustering them all into the camp scene at night (which makes the camp scenes feel a little bloated).

I also got to try out troops! I had been foreshadowing a large band of gnolls and hyenas (they saw their campfire across the plains at night, then the discovered the camp and made Recall Knowledge rolls, then they found tracks and a site where they were attacked by ankhravs) and eventually the party was attacked – on the same day that they fought off an ambush by ankhravs. The gnolls made their attack at night: first a pack of Hyenas (Party Level -1 troop) attempted to sneak into the camp and then the gnolls (at Level troop) lead by a sergeant (with a variant Bark Orders ability that let the troops Form Up when it was used) attacked the camp from the other side. It worked pretty well! I had some problems initially with positioning (for the future I am going to make a template to try and speed Forming Up) and HP tracking with the thresholds but after a couple of rounds I got used to it. I do wish I had used an on level Hyena pack though as a sharp eyed PC spotted them early and they died before the gnolls could get into position which took a lot of the difficult decision making out of the pincer attack, though it was still really effective. We had to quit just before the surprise guest monsters made their appearance though because we ran out of time.

Second Side Note: The wizard continues to not be underpowered in combat. In the first session they consulted the villagers about the monsters weakest save (reflex) and, with a little help from an NPC caster, proceeded to do a massive amount of damage – about on par with the fighter, rogue, and cleric combined. In the second session, in addition to just exploding multiple lower level creatures (mosquito swarms and ankhrav) with lightning bolts, in the climatic battle they were able to get off a critical debuff on the enemy sergeant, essentially crippling them, and their AoE blasting devastated the enemy troops.

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