Smith Legacy–Chapter Eight

It wasn’t long until Alexandra (left below) and Elizabeth (right below) became toddlers.

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Alexandra seemed to be the more stylish baby at this point, but only time would tell who would be the more worthy heir.

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Smith8-03The Smith household had an unusual visitor a few days later. Magenta tried her best to make their guest feel welcome, but this alien seemed more interested in scanning their garbage can.

Magenta, with Quinn’s help, tried to raise both girls to the best of her ability. She still had a demanding job at the hospital as well, but she was climbing her way to becoming a world-famous surgeon.

Soren tried to enjoy his last few days at home, not realising the bus from Fort Starch military boarding school was already on its way. It seemed like a good fit, as one of his favourite childhood games was chasing bandits on his trusty steed, Zebra.

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Alexandra and Elizabeth soon grew up and started building a strong friendship. Their teenage years were not far off, so they took advantage of their time as carefree youngsters.

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GM Essentials: Background Music

Today I wanted to share a great tool that I’ve started using in my Pathfinder sessions lately. As the title of this post suggests, that tool is music.

I started out playing the odd CD during a session, but CDs are very short compared to a 3-4 hour game, and I didn’t enjoy the distraction of getting up to change discs. Then I tried using my existing collection of soundtrack music and loading those onto my iPhone so I could play them on a random playlist. This worked a little better, except most of my collection of soundtracks included CDs that I had listened to many, many times before. They also had very memorable and recognisable themes: Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean. They were a bit too distracting for the players (and me as well) as many of the themes immediately led them to think of the films they come from instead of what we were doing in the game.

Next I started checking out what was available on iTunes (after a couple of pointless visits to a physical music store – their soundtrack selections were pretty grim). It was there that I found a fantastic selection of music at reasonable prices. [Though it is worth noting that the South African iTunes store inexplicably lacks random albums, for example the Stargate Atlantis soundtrack.]

   island_soundtrack   SerenityCDcover   Thor_The_Dark_World_soundtrack

So far I’ve created a playlist that includes, to name but a few, the Iron Man 3 and Thor The Dark World soundtracks (Brian Tyler is one of my new favourite composers), plus the Firefly, Serenity, The Island, Donnie Darko, Gladiator and The Hunger Games soundtracks. I even have some of the Lego Movie soundtrack in there, which tends to appear just when our sorcerer is about to do something crazy.

This mix of awesome-sounding, but not immediately identifiable, music adds a nice background to our sessions. I don’t spend time choosing songs, as the speakers are on the far side of the room. This also helps keep the focus away from the music. Sometimes the random selections are not quite right for what’s happening at the table, which leads to a few laughs, but often, it’s just enough to bring a little flavour to the action.

Smith Legacy–Chapter Seven

Magenta’s second pregnancy also seemed to pass in the blink of an eye.

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But this time around, there was a pleasant surprise – twins!

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It seems like those fertility treatments really paid off. Or maybe it was the adrenaline from being set on fire?

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Meet Elizabeth and Alexandra Smith. Both fairies, though one inherited her mother’s lovely colouring. One of them will be the Smith family heir, and the other will be doomed to obscurity… Who will it be? Only time will tell…

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This is Mindy, a baby dragon who decided to join the Smith family as well. She’s extremely friendly, but no one is exactly sure how she came to join the family…

Magenta left the children in Quinn’s care while she took a well-deserved break to visit the gym and practice her ballet. The ballet hall is a lot more popular than Magenta remembers…

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How will the Smith twins develop? Who will be the heir? Watch the story unfold next week!

Smith Legacy–Chapter Six

The few days of Magenta’s pregnancy flew by… almost as if someone had sped up time…

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Needless to say, the baby was a boy, rather than the girl that Magenta so desperately wanted – and needed – to continue her legacy. Still, she named him Soren and decided to enroll him in military school at the first opportunity.

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Later, while working on improving her skills, Magenta spontaneously caught fire… the only logical explanation was that lightning struck her while she was on the… veranda…?

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Fortunately Quinn was on hand with a fire extinguisher! It would have been rather tragic if the Smith family legacy had ended with the fiery death of the first generation.

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So, after some fertility treatments and her brush with death, Magenta wanted to try for a girl. While listening to a podcast about gardening. Hooray for technology?

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Meanwhile, little Soren grew up into a cute little fairy toddler with giant yellow eyes. Perhaps the next baby will inherit Magenta’s more interesting colouring?

Sims 4 Create a Sim Trailer

EA has finally released a substantial trailer for The Sims 4, mostly covering the Create a Sim 0ptions. It seems like they’ve made the process of making a sim a lot more intuitive, as you can just click on an area you want to change and reshape it as you like. The sims themselves also look pretty different from the sims in The Sims 3. What I’m really looking forward to seeing, though, is this easy-looking building system that they’ve hinted at at the end of the trailer below. I’m a pretty lazy builder, having always preferred to purchase ready-built homes for my sims (this also frees up actual play time), so anything that speeds up the process for me will be awesome.

Smith Legacy–Chapter Five

Magenta wasted little time in marrying Quinn. Unfortunately, by his normal-human-lifespan standards, she took her sweet time. Quinn was an elder by the time the wedding finally arrived!

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Still, that didn’t stop the newlyweds from getting straight down to business. The family legacy was at stake, after all. And sure enough, a few days later, Magenta discovered she was pregnant!

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Now that the Smith family has two incomes instead of just one, the Smiths are moving up in the world. They’ve managed to finish the construction of their family home.

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Unfortunately, the Spartan interior still left much to be desired. Still, it gave Magenta and Quinn something to work towards… furnishings, wallpaper… windows and doors…

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There’s only a few days left until the first Smith child is born. Will it be the girl that Magenta is secretly hoping for?

Pathfinder Action Economy

One thing I’ve learnt quite a lot about over my year or so of GMing is the action economy. When running the Rise of the Runelords campaign, I’ve noticed that there are several BBEGs (that stands for Big Bad Evil Guy, as I found out eventually!) who generally face off against the PCs alone, or with one or two guards.

Imagine my surprise when the powerful baddie (dragon, wizard, whatever) went down in just a few rounds, despite being seriously powerful. Why was this? The action economy was working against him (or her). Let’s first look at what a round of combat looks like:

In Pathfinder, a round of combat lasts 6 seconds. That’s not much time, so any character’s actions are severely limited.

Actions in Combat

In a round of combat, you can:

  • 1 Full-round action (usually taking multiple attacks such as a monk’s flurry of blows) OR
  • 1 Standard action (a single attack or spell cast) plus 1 Move action (moving up to your speed or standing up after being knocked down, etc.) (in any order) OR
  • 2 Move actions (effectively trading your Standard action for a Move action)

Plus a combination of :

A few special cases

The 5 ft step
Provided you don’t take any other action that actually involves using a move speed (walking/running/flying…) during the same round, you can take a 5′ step as a free action that does not provoke attacks of opportunity once per round.

Spellcasting
While most spells have a casting time of 1 Standard action, others can take a Swift action, a Full-round Action or more. For those spells that take longer to cast, you’re effectively using up a Full-round action each round for the duration of the casting.

Much of this information was found at a discussion here.

For a complete breakdown of everything that can be done in combat, check out d20pfsrd.

I also came across this nifty diagram made by someone on Reddit. It summarises all the actions one can take in combat into one page.

The Problem that Enemies (and GMs) Face

This brings us to the problem that your BBEG faces. He’s super powerful and super scary. But he still only gets to act once in a round. An average adventuring party might have 4 members, or even as many as 6. That means, for every turn the BBEG takes, 4-6 turns happen against him before he can act again. So even if he can incapacitate the party’s fighter on his first turn, he’s still going to get him 3 more times before he can take out the next party member. Even with a couple of peons to support him, the BBEG is probably going to go down disappointingly quickly.

What this has meant for me as a GM is that I’ve had to adjust the encounters with important enemies to make them exciting and memorable. This includes adding more powerful allies to support the boss, and making enemies smarter (though this is a difficult task as all the enemies effectively share one brain – mine – while my players have 4 brains among them).

Something that worked rather well in our last session was having powerful enemies attack at once (in this case it was a group of assassins), and not making it obvious who the boss was. The PCs then divided their attention between all the enemies instead of focussing on what they thought was the biggest threat.