Flying Foes

October 18, 2018

In one of my recent blog posts, I talked about how flying foes might not be appropriate for low-level parties? But why not? And when might flying foes actually be good to use?

You can’t win if your enemy can strike you, but you can’t strike back. Flying foes seem like the ultimate creatures that can attack with impunity while laughing at land-bound PCs, but they aren’t. Look at the low-level flying foes common in many games, and you’ll see melee creatures that need to approach the PCs to be a threat. Animals like bats or birds need to fly close to peck and claw at the PCs (this remains true for larger animal-like monsters, like rocs and griffons). Stirges not only must fly up to the PCs, but their tactics are all about latching onto the PCs and staying there. Harpies might not fly right up to the PCs, but their compelling song lures the PCs to them…where the PCs can immediately start swinging once the enchantment is broken. Flying monsters that spend their time next to the PCs are good threats for low-level PCs that don’t have any way to get into the air, even temporarily.

Mid-level flying foes can do some interesting things from a distance, but then usually have to close to remain effective. Dragons, chimeras, and similar monsters might use a breath weapon from the air, but their physical attacks are more powerful so they must eventually meet the PCs face-to-face. Manticores throw spikes from their tails, but these are limited in number and they eventually come down to bite with their super-creepy person-like faces. Ew. These monsters force the PCs to figure out how to outlast the ranged damage or use short-term flying solutions, like levitate spells or potions of fly. Ranged experts in the party—like a wizard with magic missiles or the ranger with a bow—can strike back, but the party as a whole is at limited effectiveness when flying foes remain out of reach. Some games—including the Pathfinder Playtest—have a mid-level spell called earthbind that can bring a flying monster down to the ground temporarily.

Monsters that can fight from the air with unlimited capabilities are the most powerful, and generally only confront high-level PCs that can meet them on their aerial terms. Nightwings can cast unholy blight all day long, decimating good-aligned land-bound foes. Erinyes devils have excellent bows and can stay in the air all day long.

When to use flying foes that hamstring the PCs? Sometimes that challenge is a welcome change of pace, helps the PCs learn new tactics, or might even be necessary for the story you’re telling. Some examples:

Teaching Tactics: It teaches PCs the tactical value of readying their attacks, particularly for foes that can swoop in, attack, and fly away.

Opportunity for Heroism: It presents a believable threat that beleaguered NPCs can’t solve, and must rely on the PCs to confront (city guards who are menaced by wyverns, for example).

Suggesting Gear: It forces a melee fighter to consider expanding her arsenal to prepare for similar encounters in the future.

Validating Archers: It’s a great experience for an archer or long-range warlock, who feel like his choices have made him useful and powerful.

Expending Resources: It’s useful to draw away the PCs’ long-range spells if you’d like them to have fewer of those in later encounters (such as if you’re planning to have a longstanding villain flee on a griffon or in an airship).

 

What Traps Say

October 17, 2018
Traps fill a lot of different roles in an RPG, and they usually say something. Be aware of the message your traps are sending in where they are placed and how they trigger.

Trap in an obvious place (like a vault door): "The builders were serious about this. You should take it seriously, too."

Trap in a not obvious place (like a hallway): "You weren't sufficiently attentive. Here is some injury. Move along."

Trap with effects over multiple rounds: "Pause to consider your abilities. This is an obs...
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Masked Mollusks!

October 16, 2018
The creepy mask-wearing Embri race were one of the handful of aliens I designed for the new Starfinder Alien Archive 2. There's a blog about the embri and much more here: https://paizo.com/community/blog/v5748dyo6sgbh?Alien-Archive-2-Eclectic-Boogaloo
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Bargain-Style Flying

October 16, 2018
I'm working on a faction of monsters for an upcoming project where, conceptually, they can all fly. But slapping a fly speed on a monster is often too powerful, particularly for low-level monsters. I instead had to do some thinking about what kinds of abilities give the theme of flying or aerial maneuverability, but are more limited in scope. In relative descending power order, here are some ideas:

* gains a fly speed; this is the most powerful option, especially if its fly speed is very fast
*...
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At the Forefront of Adventure

September 25, 2018
I don't think I mentioned this, but with the departure of the fantastic Crystal Frasier from Paizo about two months ago, I've stepped into her work. Instead of handling the backmatter for adventure path adventures, I'm handing the adventure path adventures themselves! It's a very different style of work--a series of single month-long projects instead of rapid-fire multiple-things-in-a-week projects, but I like being able to really dig in to these adventures.

I did the development on Cradle of ...
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Starships You Fly Around In

September 21, 2018
I've been doing a lot of writing for Starfinder, and that means a lot of designing starships. I've become pretty comfortable with the rules for this, which are different from (but overlap in some interesting ways with) the design of monsters. This is particularly noteworthy because I've been designing quite a few monsters that are so big they fly around in space and function just like enemy starships.

Starship-sized monsters are super interesting, but they pose a design challenge: they've got ...
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An Interview about Against the Aeon Throne!

September 4, 2018
Apologies for the long vacancy--working at Paizo is as fantastic as it is busy!

I was recently interviewed for my adventure "The Reach of Empire," the first adventure in Starfinder's Against the Aeon Throne adventure path. I had a lot of fun writing it, and I get to talk a bit about the adventure and a lot about working for Paizo in the hour-long interview here: 

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Starfinder!

March 29, 2018
Here at Paizo (for more than 3 months now! Yeep!), I've been primarily developing the articles in the back of the adventure paths, including both the War for the Crown Adventure Path and the upcoming Return of the Runelords Adventure Path (as well as a little bit for the As Yet Unannounced One After That). But I'm now picking up some development of Starfinder work, and that's pretty exciting! Currently, I'm not actually playing any Pathfinder games; I'm playing Starfinder, and some Pathfinder...
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Torg Living Land is Live!

March 28, 2018
Hey! I wrote an adventure for the Living Land realm of Torg, and I got to see it established--and surpassed--as a stretch goal in the first couple of hours of the Kickstarter. The Living Land Kickstarter is ongoing, and looks to have a lot of great stuff. To be honest, I always considered the Living Land the least interesting of the cosms, but this new incarnation is packed with adventure and is a great place to set an entire campaign of its own. The Kickstarter is here.


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A New Edition of Pathfinder!

March 16, 2018
Now, the news is very public that Paizo is producing a new version of Pathfinder. That doesn't come out until August 2019; in the meantime, Paizo is undertaking a very large public playtest of the new rules. The playtest rules come out on August 2018. Of course, being here in the office, I've gotten a chance to take the rules for a spin several times, and weigh in on my thoughts. 

Most of my play has been with a 9th-level gnome bard (in honor of my friend Ken, who shuns any fantasy RPG that do...
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A Month In

January 30, 2018
Well, I've been working at Paizo for just over a month now, and it's fantastic. It's just as much detailed-oriented work as I've done as a third-party publisher, but with vastly superior resources and coworkers that are friendly and helpful. I suppose it's like going from a garage band to the big time; you're still making music, but with better equipment, better support, and a wider audience. At the same time, I've been able to be involved in world-building as well--not a lot yet, but a littl...
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Paizo Bound!

December 1, 2017
I'm pleased to announce that I've taken a full-time job as a game developer with Paizo Inc., starting later this month. I'll be working on the Starfinder and Pathfinder lines. (I'm also moving with my family to Seattle, which is why I wrapped up my ongoing campaigns, as described in my last blog post.) This is the start of a new and wonderful adventure!
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Wrap-Ups

November 24, 2017
For reasons I'll announce in a later post, I'm wrapping up several of my ongoing campaigns this fall. This has proven remarkably easy, and I thought I'd mention briefly a few campaigns and their resolutions.

My Kingmaker campaign was nearing the end of book 5 (of 6) when I decided to wrap things up. As book 5 is an extended dungeon crawl, I simply cut that short by subtly guiding the PCs to a shortcut to the end. I condensed book 6 into two sessions--one outside the mythical fairy realm and on...
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The Horseshoe Calamity is Legendary!

October 24, 2017
My first adventure for Legendary Games is the 7th-level Pathfinder adventure called The Horseshoe Calamity. You can get it here. I'm quite proud of it, and happy to have suggested one of my favorite artists, Marco Morte, as the cartographer for it.

It's written to plug into the Reign of Winter adventure path, but it's also a GREAT plug-in to the Kingmaker adventure path, as I just described on the Paizo forums as follows:

How much, if any, of this adventure could be appropriated to fit with the...


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Torg as a Game

October 11, 2017
I've recently had a revelation about Torg that I wanted to share: it doesn't play like an RPG, but like a board game or card game.

One of the defining features of RPGs, particularly those like Dungeons and Dragons or Pathfinder, is the fluid start and stop positions, and preserving your state from game to game. Say you finish killing a bunch of kobolds in the Caves of Chaos and you know there's a minotaur in the caverns up ahead. You look at the clock, realize it's past 11 pm, and everyone dec...
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What's in a Name

September 20, 2017
The next product I'll be releasing is very likely A Troll's Life, a unique adventure where all the players play evil trolls. The adventure has sort of a soft ramp-up to teach players about having regeneration, and then a bunch of other surprising events the trolls can bumble through on their quest for revenge.

A Troll's Life started out as a convention adventure; I had a good time playing a pseudo-vampire at last year's PaizoCon, and I thought playing a different set of monsters would be neat ...
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City of Seven Seraphs is Closing

September 7, 2017
The kickstarter project for which I'm doing some exciting writing is closing in just a couple of days! If you haven't already, take a look at (and back!) the City of Seven Seraphs kickstarter here!
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City of Seven Seraphs Kickstarter

August 28, 2017
I've agreed to participate in an exciting project Kickstarted by a long-time friend of mine, Christen Sowards. It's a vast, unique planar metropolis with several exciting factions, rules, and adventure opportunities. I'm humbled by the great cast of freelancers that have also joined in on this project--Christen knows a lot of people with a lot better writing chops than me, so this will be phenomenal!

You should check out (and back!) The City of Seven Seraphs here
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Another AP Chapter is Away!

August 28, 2017
I ended up smooshing four different vacations together recently: two family reunions out west, a weekend trip (and exhausting bike ride) up in Wisconsin, and GenCon. Somewhere in there was my final turnover date for my chapter of the War for the Crown adventure path, Pathfinder #129 The Twilight Child. I had to spend a few vacation days working--and neglecting this blog a bit--but I finished that up and sent it out.

I came home from those peregrinations and immediately realized that another tw...
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Blog about Blood of the Sea

July 12, 2017
A few weeks ago, Paizo let me write their daily blog about a project I developed called Adventurer's Armory 2. They've done it again, letting me blog about the development task I had after that--a product called Blood of the Sea. That blog is here.

Adventurer's Armory 2 was packed with crunch--so many tables, items, and rules that I felt I had to make sure there was some world flavor around the edges, so to speak. Blood of the Sea was very different. The author, veteran Amber Scott, had includ...
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Branching Out into D&D

July 12, 2017
My first Run Amok Games product for Dungeons and Dragons is now live. It's an adventure for low-level characters that hints at further adventures to come--whether those materialize will depend a lot on how this one is received! It's called the Sawmill Horror, the first of the Clockworker Chronicles series, and you can get it at DMsGuild right here
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A Halfling with a Mission!

June 23, 2017
Who's got a shady relative and a job to do? This guy! (Art by Sarah Menzel.)
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Blog about Adventurer's Armory 2!

June 21, 2017
This isn't the only place I occasionally blog; I've written for Paizo's blog a couple of times--including today, where i mentioned two of my favorite bits about developing Adventurer's Armory 2. You can see it here!
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Torg Kickstarter is Live!

May 31, 2017
I'm super excited that the Torg Kickstarter has begun...and it's crushing all its stretch goals quite handily! The storm has a name...and it's a popular one, apparently!
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Another PaizoCon for the Books!

May 30, 2017
I'm freshly back from PaizoCon and, as always, it was a great weekend of gaming. Lots of the buzz was about the upcoming Starfinder game, and I'm doing a lot of writing for that, so it was good to get that energy.

This year, more so than most, I spent a lot of time running games. Thanks much to my great table for the author-run Pathfinder Society game, my crazy table of bumbling trolls trying to get revenge, and both of my Torg Eternity demo tables. I had a blast at each.

I also played a lot of...
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Pay for Play, and Exit

May 19, 2017
I don't know whether I've mentioned it here before, but I'm a big proponent of my friend Joshua's idea of a fair cost of "pay for play." In short, I expect to be reasonably entertained for an hour for $5. (If I go to a 2-hour movie, I'll spend around $10, for example; a novel that costs $20 but is an enjoyable read for about 4 hours feels fair.) If a game or activity costs less than $5 per hour per participant, then it's a good "pay for play" ratio.

In this line of thinking, board games and RP...
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To the Stars!

April 26, 2017
It seems like it's all space-themed RPGs these days! From some development for the Legendary Planet adventure path, to receiving the gorgeous Aethera book, I had more than enough space fantasy to go around--but now I'm writing for Paizo's Starfinder setting, too! More details on that later, but I wanted to drop a note to say I'm keeping my head in the stars!
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Development Reflections

April 12, 2017
I had a heavy load of RPG development for a few different companies recently (development is taking an author's turnover and ensuring it's consistent in tone, high-quality, and appropriately styled to go to editing and layout), so I've been seeing a lot of great work from a lot of great authors. Here are a few takeaways from that:

* Authors plainly have strengths. Some are super tight in rules knowledge but don't have great prose; others have super evocative prose and naming, but don't think t...
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Getting Legendary!

March 28, 2017
I'm deep into some development work I'm doing for Legendary Games' sword-and-planet adventure path, Legendary Planet. It's neat! I think there's something of a steep learning curve for the world they're creating--learning the Accord from the Hegemony and the elali from the jagladines from the klaven from the bil'djooli--but once you get a mental picture of who's who, the themes are easy to grasp and the overall plot is strong. It's worth checking out!
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Fangs of War is Coming!

March 15, 2017
As an author, I sometimes get advance copies of Paizo products (in pdf) before they're generally available. I just received the first two issues of the Ironfang Invasion adventure path, including my adventure, Fangs of War. It looks fantastic! I love the layout of this AP--the page borders remind me a lot of Warhammer Fantasy volumes, and in a good way. The text of my adventure was tweaked in ways that make for a better overall experience (particularly in making some of the NPCs less static, ...
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About Me


I'm Ron Lundeen, developer for Paizo, Inc., active gamer, and RPG freelancer. I've recently had products in print for Paizo, Wizards of the Coast, Raging Swan, Open Design, Headless Hydra Games, and Rite Publishing. I'm still taking freelance writing assignments, but also focusing on writing for Run Amok Games.


 

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