This is a guest post by Chris Perrin. He will be reviewing an adventure path from Rite Publishing for Dungeon Mastering. Chris loves red dragons so he should fit right in with us!
In many ways, A Witch’s Choice is a dream come true for many Dungeon Masters. If anything, the guys at Rite Publishing are very thorough and have put a lot of thought into the adventure and have done most of the prep work so that DMs have what they need to run a successful game.
I say “most” of the prep work because every DM knows no adventure survives contact with the players, who all have an annoying tendency to ask questions no one thought to answer, or want to explore regions of the world no one thought to map. Not that I’m pointing fingers, I’m that annoying type of player just as much as I am the DM frantically trying to come up with answers that make sense.
The good news is that in a lot of cases, A Witch’s Choice has answers for those questions. It’s obvious the game was tested by a lot of gamers who all had a little kender in them because the book does provide so much detail about even the most mundane objects that you run across during the adventure.
That being said, something is going to crop up that the guys at Rite Publishing didn’t think to answer so you, as the DM, need to carefully consider how you are going to answer the question. Maybe the players will ask about more detailed questions about the history of an NPC or an item or want to spend time searching an area. This happens, especially in adventures with a bit of mystery to them like A Witch’s Choice.
The Rituals of Choice, of which A Witch’s Choice is but one part, is a huge twenty-five part epic and the game has always felt like the authors assumed characters would go from adventure 1 to adventure 25 straight through. This makes ad libbing on the DM’s part dangerous because if the DM doesn’t know the answer and makes up something, it could very well conflict with something down the road.
The good news is that because of Rite Publishing’s thoroughness, this situation won’t happen very often and when it does, the consequences aren’t likely to be earth shattering. However, when a player does ask something off the wall, it’s good to know the DM has several places they can go to answer the question.
The best piece of advice for any DM for A Witch’s Choice is to read the adventure several times. There is a lot of info packed into book, most of which can be used to infer answers to a player’s question. If A Witch’s Choice itself doesn’t have the answer, the entire Rituals of Choice Adventure Path has its own primer for DMs. It’s only a few pages, but it describes the entire story arc in enough detail that a savvy DM can come up with an answer that will work within the framework of the story.
Also, remember that the DM is the DM and sometimes the DM has to make judgments without having all the information. If you have to make a judgment without all the facts, you can always change the adventure down the road.
Last month saw the release of Pathfinder, from Paizo Publishing. For all intents and purposes, Pathfinder is the successor to the 3.5 Fantasy line, which Wizards of the Coast is no longer going to support. Currently, Monte Cook has no plans to convert Arcana Evolved (the base system that A Witch’s Choice uses) over to Pathfinder, however, not everyone has access to the Arcana Evolved core book. While a complete conversion between the two systems is far beyond the scope of this article, there are a few guidelines DMs can use if they want to use Pathfinder characters in Arcana Evolved and vice versa.
Players who want to play A Witch’s Choice using Pathfinder characters are in luck. The general consensus about the changes to Pathfinder from Dungeons and Dragons 3.5 is that the new classes are a bit more powerful than their older counterparts. This is actually a good thing if you want to slot a Pathfinder character into Arcana Evolved because pound-for-pound the Arcana Evolved classes tend to have higher saves and more powers at their disposal.
If I were the DM of a group who wanted to play A Witch’s Choice using Pathfinder classes I would simply give the characters an extra +1 to their saves every four levels. This would account for the differences in power level. I don’t think I would need to change their starting powers, skills, and powers the same.
That’s the easy part. The one major problem is that Pathfinder characters cap at level 20, while Arcana Evolved characters cap at level 25. As a DM, I would have three choices without buying an epic-level adventure book. First, I could combine two adventures out of every five (since each adventure is supposed to advance the party one level). Secondly, I could tell my players that when they reached level 20, they would have to multi-class. I would actually lean towards the multi-class option so they could play out each adventure, but I would allow them to take higher levels in their second class so they weren’t adding a first level class after having all the powers of a twentieth level character.
I think conversion of A Witch’s Choice/Arcana Evolved characters into Pathfinder is a much simpler proposition. The classes in Arcana Evolved are not so significantly overpowered that they would make Pathfinder classes obsolete. I would reduce their save progression by 1 every four levels so they progress at about the same rate as Pathfinder characters.
I would also take a long, hard look at the ability to take racial levels, especially for humans. In Arcana Evolved, you can take levels in human or verrik, which offer some great powers. Humans, for instance, get one Feat for every level of human they take. Given that Pathfinder already has stepped up the rate at which characters gain new Feats, a third level human would have six feats right off the bat and would be due their seventh at the next level. Given the right Feat chain, that could overbalance the game. It’s more something to be wary of as a DM than a hard and fast rule, though.
All in all though, not having Arcana Evolved is no reason not to try out A Witch’s Choice. It’s a great adventure, one that is thoroughly thought out, and is epic in scale.
Rite Publishing – http://ritepublishing.com/
Arcana Unearthed – http://www.montecook.com/cgi-bin/page.cgi?arcanaevolved
Paizo’s Pathfinder – http://paizo.com/pathfinder