Good questions, everyone. I hope my answers will illustrate how I intend to handle the various issues brought up at this juncture.
As for Polon, here is the relevant quote:
Return Noxias to Faerie
- Advantages - clear success condition (Noxias returns to Faerie); clear reason for doing so (desire to help a fellow party member)
- Disadvantages - what happens next requires high impact and/or requires high commitment (Noxias leaves the party? Party accompanies Noxias in Faerie at the expense of their other goals?); difficulty of accomplishment (expense of gathering ritual components alone necessitates sub-missions; time to eventual accomplishment may affect other characters' goals)
- Special - Parties tend to gather wealth as they rise in level. The habit of adventuring can bring you closer to fulfilling this goal by itself. Therefore, this might be more appropriate as a long-term goal rather than an immediate goal. This is, in essence, similar to the idea you put forth that it would be good to "level-up," first.
Head to the southeastern villages
- Advantages - easy to accomplish; has the potential to advance many personal goals at once (but how much potential?); what happens next has low impact (Assuming no critical information is uncovered, the party can reevaluate their goals and decide on a new course of action without much consequence.)
- Disadvantages - benefits are unclear (Unless you have business there, what are the chances that your goals will be served by this?); potential for failure (no useful information found); success condition unclear (When do you know it's time to move on?)
- Special - Although this goal has little risk to the party, if there is no clear information to be found, i.e. if this is just a fishing expedition, then it presents a big risk of being a potential time-waster which must be considered in light of the slow pace of a pbp game.
Now, there are some goals that are clearly worse than others. I think "head to the southeastern villages" is probably one of those; there are other destinations that should be identifiable as having more potential value to the party. However, I doubt you will find any goal whose advantages outweigh its disadvantages by such an extent that it becomes the automatic choice.
Also, it's not a downright bad choice. I will identify and recommend against "bad choices." I define bad choices as those that will move you further away from both your own goals and from the action of the campaign. The obvious bad choices are to return to where any character first came from (with an exception made for Noxias), namely from Byswell Town (Konstansz, Yrisz, Zephyr) or the Yu Valley (Rogur). If a character came from there, that means they had reason to leave in the first place. That's why Noxias is an exception, as he was forcibly tossed out. In the course of the campaign, you may eventually want to head to one of those two locations, but only after the situation changes to warrant it, i.e. something important is found or learned that explicitly leads the party in that direction.
Whatever the choice, it must be something that everyone can willingly work towards advancing, whether it's something as grandiose as traveling to another world, or as prosaic as traveling down the river. One of my pet peeves is when a player character suddenly "realizes," in the middle of an adventure, that they have no reason to be where they are.
Spending time at whatever passes for a library - Noxias is welcome to spend his time at the Library of Saint Ioun, the building where he wound up when he first arrived in this world. The teleportation circle they can be used, but not freely. A magic ritual is required, and as with all rituals, it requires an outlay of components, which are expensive. The last of the components were used up by the party to get to Faerie, or destroyed in a recent fire when the party fought the Magus. As Noxias becomes familiar with the local currency and the scarcity of precious metals, he comes to realize that the replacement components might cost several hundred or even thousands of "staters," silver coins that have roughly the same value as the golden ducats of his homeland. The other problem is that Noxias needs to know the sigil sequence for his destination. Unfortunately, Noxias never bothered to learn teleportation rituals, and consequently does not know any sigil sequences. As for the ritual itself, there's a bit of good news. Polon has one more scroll with the ritual in his possession, and he will be happy to freely give it to Noxias. Noxias just needs to come up with the components and a valid sigil sequence.
Searching out wizardly types - If Noxias still needs to consult with wizards, he has the option of making a Diplomacy Check to search for them in an orthodox fashion, or a Streetwise Check to inquire through more unusual channels. There is only time to make one such check, so he'll have to choose. Other character may assist him through Aid Another rolls, but that will consume all their free time, too.
Panhandling - Anyone who appears idle over the next two weeks will be summarily pressed into a work gang where they will receive food and board in return for heavy labor. There is a lot of building that needs to be done, and anyone who has time to spare can engage in it. This has three major drawbacks. The first is that you will not have time to engage in any other behavior such as searching out wizards. The second is that if you seem to have valuable possessions (which you do), someone may decide that they will help themselves to it. After all, nobody is going to tolerate you hauling lumber while carrying a sword and staff at the same time. Finally, there is the logistical issue of how to get back into the party at the end of two weeks' time. Run away? That will have repercussions, later. However, it is important to remember that no character is in a vacuum. Duvek, Polon, and the rest are more than happy to put a roof over your head and share their bread with you. (Though Duvek is fretting about some major debts that he believes he will be held accountable for, soon.) Also, the other party members may be good for loans to get you back on your feet.
For level 4, the following occurs to advance your character:
I. Choose two different ability scores, and increase each of them by +1. If you increase an ability score from an odd number to an even number, the Modifier for that score will increase by +1. Increase all relevant statistics affected by that ability score accordingly. (See the list provided in the notes below.) If you increase your Constitution, your total hit points will increase by +1.
II. Your "level bonus" increases from +1 to +2. The following statistics are affected by the level bonus, so they all go up by one:
- Ability Check bonuses (this is not the same as ability score modifiers)
- Attack bonuses (that is, the bonus to hit; not the bonus to damage)
- Defenses: AC, Fortitude, Reflexes, Will
- Initiative bonus
- Skill Check bonuses
III. Increase hit points. Noxias gains 4 hit points.
IV. Select a new Feat that you meet the qualifications for. Apply any bonuses of the feat.
V. Retrain. If desired, replace one Feat, Power, or Trained Skill with another one of the same category that you are qualified for. Note the changes to your character from losing the old ability and gaining the new.
Do not replace a Feat, Power, or Skill that is in itself a requirement for any of your Feats, Powers, Trained Skills, or Class Features. Do not replace a Feat, Power, or Trained Skill that is automatically granted by your Class, Class Features, or other Feats.
VI. Please send me an updated character sheet, noting all changes, as well as any changes to your equipment that may have occurred. It will probably be best to wait until after any distribution of spoils, should that occur.
1. Here is a list of what attributes are affected by increasing various ability scores, geared to Noxias:
- Strength - Increasing to an odd number has no effect.
- Constitution - Noxias's hit points will increase by +1.
- Dexterity - Increasing to an even number will increase the Base Modifier by +1. This will affect the initiative bonus, ranged attack bonus for basic weapon attacks, and all Dexterity-based skills.
- Intelligence - Increasing to an odd number has no effect.
- Wisdom - Increasing to an odd number has no effect.
- Charisma - Increasing to an even number will increase the Base Modifier by +1. This will affect all Charisma-based skills.
2. Do not add to bonuses and then recalculate them using your ability check bonuses instead of your ability score modifiers. In other words, don't apply the Level Bonus more than once when calculating bonuses.
For example, a 3rd level character with a Dexterity of 12 has a Dexterity Modifier of +1 and a Level Bonus of +1, which results in a Dexterity Check bonus of +2 and an Initiative Bonus of +2. At 4th level, the same character has a Dexterity Modifier of +1, and a Level Bonus of +2, which results in a Dexterity Check bonus of +3 and an Initiative Bonus of +3. Put another way, the "Dexterity Modifier" is solely based on the ability score: a character with a Dexterity of 12 has a Dexterity Modifier of +1, regardless of whether they are level 1 or level 30. The Dexterity Check bonus is equal to the Dexterity Modifier plus the Level Bonus.
No total bonus should wind up being more than one higher than it was before, at the end of step I. No total bonus should wind up being more than two higher than it was before, at the end of step II.
3. Recalculate your bloodied value and healing surge value. The total number of healing surges will not increase.
4. In all calculations, discard any fraction. A result of 3.5 becomes 3, and a result of 3.75 also becomes 3. This is particularly relevant for bloodied value and healing surge value, above.
5. Besides the long term benefit, one reason to consider increasing an ability score to an odd number is that many feats that have minimum ability score requirements have those requirements set to an odd number. Of course, it is more advantageous if you have a specific feat in mind before doing this.