I was recently talking with Eric about last campaign and how things went down. He was taking issue with some things I said in my post titled Coddling. The issues he took umbrage with were as follows: no one attempted to resurrect Kethranmeer or mark his passing, the unbalanced nature of the final battle, huge bonuses to stats I let them have, and their lack of magic items. With this post, I intend to kind of expand upon what I mean by my comments, and hopefully give my players a better understanding of my intent and how my mind is working.
No one attempted to resurrect Kethranmeer. Eric asked if there was any way he could bring Kethranmeer back to life, and I told him there was no way for him to bring Kethranmeer back to life. Probably something along the lines of, there is no way you can bring him back. Xein was a level 15 Alchemist. He has no potion or formual that can bring someone back to life, the most he could do in that room was make a Craft check, and Kethranmeer was a construct of sorcery. Craft won't do it. Xein made no skill checks to discern whether or not there might be some sorcerous method of restoring a fallen Soulless back to life. He did not ask a more accomplished alchemist or some sort of sorcerous smith. He asked if there was any way he could do it and I said no. I could have been clearer, but he did not make any skill checks. If you want to figure out something, you have to do something. If you ask me if there is a trap on a door without making a Perception check, would I tell you yes or no? Unless of course you just opened the door, then obviously, I would tell you. You can't just ask the GM a bunch of questions and expect him to feed you all the answers, sometimes you actually have to do something in the game world, other than kill kids and burn people alive while entombing them beneath the earth. This goes back to "we need information" and no one having any input on how the players actually go and get that information. Other than going to the library, which is honestly a good start.
Marking Kethranmeer's passage. They collected his corpse and laid it to rest in the bottom of the mansion. They said no words of passing. D'alton did not comment on the loss of a brother and Xein did not comment on the loss of a friend. They put him in the basement and left him there to collect dust until his sons came to get him. Some time in the last ten years, Xein built a tavern in honor of him called The Plated Dragoon, which means armored horseman. A nice gesture, if a bit after the fact, but the naming choice is...odd. I remember now that D'alton did say he would seek out the Rankethlek and try to help them, another nice gesture. My main issue here was role-playing. No one had anything to actually say about Kethranmeer and his death.
The unbalanced nature of the final encounter. Ha! Ha i say! Nakmander was level 19 and faced off against five 15th level characters. On top of this, if they had desired it and not fucked things up, Gonigi (a 19th level Psychic Warrior) would have aided them. They were also fresh out of the gate, all hit points maxed and all spells still ready to be used. The final fight should have been easy as pie, Gonigi had even said prior to that evening that he would look kindly on them if they would join him in battle against Nakmander, they opted to not pursue that. Eric said that Derf/Fred was at fault for their underpowered nature, because Derf started off the fight trying to kill Gonigi and Gonigi spent most of the rest of the combat attempting to restore his hit points and hold off Derf. Fred had been playing Derf as a sociopath since day one, and both Jeremy and Eric complained at length about the unreliability of Fred's character and how troublesome it was. However, neither of them did a single thing about it, not even talk to Derf to ask him to chill out. They just let him do the crazy things he did and live with them and kill people with them. Derf is on them. My NPC stood between them and death and had gone on record as thinking Derf was a liability. It isn't my fault they made poor choices in companionship and refused to address those issues, despite complaining about them constantly. I certainly wasn't going to quash Fred's efforts, for a while, he was the only one truly role-playing, and I refuse to punish good role-playing.
Huge bonuses. To create characters, I let the guys use the epic fantasy point buy system, with twenty-five points to build abilities. That is pretty epic. It more or less allows for three fifteens and three thirteens. After the Pathfinder race adjustments, which are generally +2, +2, and -2, you have two seventeens and four thirteens. With ten being "average" and such, the guys have way overpowered stats. They didn't have to make any hard choices when creating their characters, they had plenty of points to make them well balanced and without weakness. In addition, at fourth, eighth, fourteenth, eighteenth, twenty-fourth, and twenty-eighth, they get a +1 to two ability scores. At eleventh and twenty-first level, they get a +1 to all ability scores. Working from the previous example, and trying to keep everything more or less even, we have two nineteens, two seventeens, and two sixteens, albeit at twenty-eighth level. Those are good stats, far above the human(oid) norm. Conceivably, 4d6 minus the lowest die and arrange as desired, could result in higher stats. You could easily end up starting the game with all sixteens. Keep in mind, that Hekinoe would more appropriately be classed as high or standard fantasy, which use twenty and fifteen points to build character ability scores, rather than twenty-five.
Magic items. Magic items are plentiful in Hekinoe, and far cheaper and far more available than even in places like Forgotten Realms. The players were literally in the hotspot of sorcerous trades in Hekinoe. They could have walked into any run down shop in their district and come out with a literal ton of fetishes and potions and rings. They had the money to do it, and prices were generally fifty to seventy-five percent cheaper than in a normal DnD setting. They had limitless access to magical items, just chose never to pursue it. Possibly because magic items are as unreliable as magic, which is why they didn't really find them as loot everywhere, and why Nakmander lost a finger in the final battle. One thing to note, despite frequently fighting in the western sorcerous epicenter of Hekinoe, they weren't fighting badass sorcerers loaded to the gills with +10 Blades of Unending Vorpal Annihilation. They fought sorcerers yes, but ones that strangely did not arm themselves with the plethora of magic crap at their disposal, another example of coddling. Final point on this issue: what do you call a gun when you are the only group in a highly industrialized society that uses them: a very easily recharged wand of big fat magic missile. What do you call a keen adamantine mercurial bastard sword? A Savage Blade of Doc Managan replica. What do you call a +5 adamantine scimitar? Eloise. What do you call a fully upgraded steam cannon firing explosive rounds? Over-powered. They had plenty of magic items, I just bent the rules for them, changed the names, and came up with a non-magical system of magic items for them. Which they refused to use.
With each of these issues, I kind of turn it back around on my players, and I think that is fair. Hekinoe isn't my story, it is theirs, and it is my role as the GM to facilitate that story. Jeremy decided that D'alton needed to go back to the bank. The group agreed to their mutual blackmail scheme, and Xein and D'alton later pledged allegiance to Nakmander. They killed a bunch of drunk teenagers in the depths of The Fell Peaks for no good reason. They made choices to pursue these plot hooks rather than the others I threw out there, and to a certain extent, I made them deal with the consequences of their actions. That's called empowerment, heh, or at least Lewis Black would call it empowerment.
Hopefully, this time around they'll make a Sense Motive check while talking to someone instead of relying on their passive checks to play their characters and role-play for them. The time for plodding along has ended. The plot doesn't move or develop until they move it along or attempt to develop it. They want to be big damn heroes/villains with epic abilities and powers, they'll need to take their character's destiny into their own hands and determine their fate. This campaign is about them, I'm just here to facilitate it and flip the pages. If they are Hell bent on doing nothing with themselves and just walking around in Meroteth, well, that is fine with me, and we can fight Fell Human thugs for seven scenarios at one hundred or so experience points a pop. I don't want to do that, I have ideas, lots of ideas, a plethora of ideas. I just need them to take the initiative and go out and do those things.