PACG: Custom Starter Decks

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Together with our core team of adventurers (Cindy, David, Filip, PG), we’re just making our way out of the introduction campaign called “Perils Of Lost Coast” of the Rise Of The Runelords base-set from Paizo.

We quickly realized that the suggested decks in the rulebook are not the most optimal. Admittedly, Paizo had to use only the cards provided in the base-set not taking into account additional sets that players would by. As Vic Wertz mentioned on the Paizo forums :

“Optimal design” is not our primary concern for the starting decks…the single most important consideration is actually that you can build any 4 Base Set character’s decks out of the Base Set box at the same time (and any 6 characters if you’ve added the Character Add-On Deck)…

And if you follow this logic through, you’ll quickly realize that it means if we give one Divine caster a spell, we can’t also give it to another unless there’s another copy in the box. So a lot of horse trading has to happen.

Further, you may also notice that the total number of cards assigned to starter decks is pretty close to the total number of Basic B cards in the box (not counting Blessings of the Gods), which also means that almost all Basic B cards have to be assigned to *somebody’s* starting deck.

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So here comes then a key question for our group – keep in mind that we have all the expansions + extra characters decks at hand – Should we built custom started decks for our characters before we start the Burnt Offerings campaign ?

Alright, it’s a long question but I found actually an interesting answer from Boris Dvorkin on a BGG forum post back in November 2014. Below a reworked summary of his input !

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Melee Weapons

  • The good melee weapons are Longsword, Mace, and Longspear. The Mace offers a smaller discard bonus than the Longsword does, but the Longsword has a penalty when fighting Skeletons, which do come up in the third introductory scenario. The Mace also doesn’t require proficiency.
  • Kyra should load up on Maces, while the other melee weapon wielders — Valeros, Amiri, and Seelah, all of whom have proficiency — should load up on Longswords (and, optionally, the Longspear). For insurance against Skeletons, melee wielders should take a Mace or two if they’re available.
  • One exception to the above: Ezren should take a Quarterstaff. He’s probably going to discard it anyway, so he doesn’t care if it’s a d6 or a d8, and taking a staff doesn’t diminish the warriors’ already limited pool of choices.

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Ranged Weapons

  • Ranged weapons are a bitch. The only good one is the Light Crossbow, which is better than the Shortbow even though the bow requires proficiency and the crossbow doesn’t.
  • As a result, Lem, Merisiel, and Harsk all want Light Crossbows, which are in limited supply. Priority should be given to Lem and Merisiel. Harsk has to make do with Shortbows and Daggers until better weapons can be found.
  • Don’t take Darts or Slings. They just plumb suck

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Armors

  • If you’re not proficient with any armor, you might as well take Chain Mail. You’ll be just as un-proficient with it but the recharge power is better. Chain Mail’s recharge effect is better, and it works whether you’re proficient or not. On the “big” use, Chain Mail will be banished instead of buried, but this difference isn’t likely to matter.
  • Load up on Chain Mail if you have heavy armor proficiency; take Leather Armor otherwise. Chain Mail is better than Leather Armor even if you don’t have heavy armor proficiency.
  • Only take shields if the appropriate armors run out. Either you take so little damage that armor will suffice, or you never take any damage at all, or you take so much damage that you need to bury your armor to reduce it all to zero anyway, or your don’t have the shield in hand at the right time.

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Items

  • Most likely you will find out that Potions sucks. The only good one is the Healing Potion, but it’s not basic. Actually, while items get good later in the game, the starting items generally suck.
  • The best starting item is Thieves’ Tools. At the beginning of the game, Thieves’ Tools will take out nearly any barrier, which is a huge boon. Barriers either give big positive effects (e.g. draw 1d4 random weapons from the box) or avoid negative effects (e.g. take tons of damage).
  • Crowbars and Mattocks may seem tempting as a guard against barriers, but only take them if Thieves’ Tools aren’t available.
  • The Amulet of Life is a nice healing item and it is almost as good as the Sihedron Medallion, which is given out as loot much later in the game.
  • The Amulet of Mighty Fists is an obvious choice for Sajan the monk; Merisiel can take it as well, as insurance against drawing a hand without weapons. She can recharge it with her power once a weapon enters her hand.
  • Caltrops are a good choice for characters who don’t like to fight. Using them for evasion isn’t great, but it’s better than taking a pounding from a Combat 13 Werewolf. Also, Caltrops will kill the henchmen in the first and third introductory scenarios.
  • The Holy Candle is a fantastic item. If it pops up in your game, the group needs to make every effort to acquire it. Rolling 1d6 random blessings back into the timer deck? Yes please. This will greatly help any group to keep up the blessing stack running.
  • Some people swear by the Sage’s Journal for fighting villains and henchmen; other like the Codex for getting boons. They’re both undoubtedly better than any of the potions.But overall, avoid taking potions that will clutter your hand.
  • If the good items run out, the players who take the bad items (i.e. potions) should be the players who can profitably ditch them. Seoni, who can pitch any card as a Fireball, is a classic choice. Lini, Harsk, and Merisiel can also ditch their crappy cards pretty easily.

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Allies

  • There are two main categories of basic allies. One type gives a d10 to one skill (e.g., Perception); the other gives a d6 to a choice of two non-combat skills (e.g., Intelligence or Wisdom). The second type is good; the first type is less effective. Thus, load up on Sages, Troubadours, and Standard Bearers; avoid Night Watches, Burglars, and Guides. There are two exceptions to this general rule:
  • 1) Lini, who wants animal companions, is obviously exempt from all this. Take 2 Crows and a Dog.
  • 2) The Guard is an acceptable choice if you’d like to have some armor (and a way to help out your buddies in need).
  • It is worth noting that the Burglar’s d10 bonus can apply to any barrier, so he’s going to be applicable more often than the Night Watch and the Guide. A Burglar is a good consolation prize for not getting a Thieves’ Tools or if you want to carry extra insurance against barriers.

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 Spells

  • You really can’t go wrong loading up on attack spells, because a lot of the starting utility spells pretty much suck. At least half of your spells should be attack.
  • For the remaining slots, choose Strength or Detect Magic.
  • Avoid evasion spells like the plague. While they may look sexy, it is better to take an attack spell and just kill a monster than to waste your turn shuffling it back into the deck.
  • Divine attack spells are incredibly limited. There are only 2 Inflicts (and that’s with the character add-on). Load up on Inflict, Cure, and — if necessary — Strength and Detect Magic. Lini might be forced to grab a Sanctuary out of desperation.
  • Avoid Guidance, Mending, Levitate, and Arcane Armor.