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EWHM's page

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What you're saying is hardly unreasonable at all. Boiled to its essence, you're saying:

I want a character who doesn't require much suspension of disbelief be expended to explain why he runs with group X for an equal share of the treasure. (A very very few groups with level-shares or other 90s start-up like treasure division rules excepted).

So what you want is a character in the same general optimization envelope. If you're a more intrinsically powerful class, like wizard, optimize less than the party average, if less so, like a rogue or fighter, optimize more.


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Were I redoing all of the classes, I'd have this at the top of my mind:

It is REALLY hard to balance classes with burst/nova power against sustained DPR/utility power over the constellation of game types. The fighter, and to a lesser extent, the rogue, don't really have a lot of N times a day burst powers. This makes their balance point exceptionally sensitive to how the game is run. That in turn tends to make all sorts of metagame intrusion come into play (artificially forcing timetables and number of encounters/day for balance reasons rather than in-game reasons). So honestly, were I doing a rebuild, I'd arrange fighters and rogues to have significant 'burst-type' powers.


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The central problem with the rogue is this:

Very few GMs are willing to let success/failure/whether and adventure happens at all ride on a skill check. And, of those that are, very few don't consider the skills that the party actually HAS in setting the DC. Thus if you're incredibly tricked out for high DCs as a rogue, well, those challenges will either be optional and/or set to not feel trivial given your skills. These metagame issues seriously hammer the rogue in anything but a hardcore simulationist game (where, for instance, the DC for gather information about plot X is Y, no matter what level you are or what your party composition is because its the DC that is set by plot X's spymaster's skills and the quality of his counterintelligence network).
A lot of Gms even formalize this into things like the 'Three Clue Rule'---where there are at least 3 avenues to get from point A to B in an adventure. This is grand from a gamist point of view, but in my view, if a rogue who is really skilled isn't getting you more adventuring opportunities AND better ones (i.e with a better risk-reward calculus), he's not really doing his job, or more likely, being allowed by the GM and the metagame to do his job.


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The harshest setting-specific rules I've used for casters basically combined this:

Melee (and ONLY melee) full attacks took a standard action (thrown and ranged full attacks still took everything but your 5' step that round).
Spells by default took your full round, excepting the 5' step.
Concentration checks didn't exist, any damage or failed saving throw or grapple in effect automatically made your spells fail.
Melees were given enhanced ability to 'hold the line' through additional class abilities based on BAB (the main feature being the ability to designate an adjacent square as 'occupied by them', with an extra square if they have a shield, and extra squares at bab 6, 11, and 16 reflecting their ability to always 'be in the way' like an American football offensive line).

My observations with this is that groups of 6 STILL took an arcane and a divine caster, they just stacked the group with less of them than they usually did.
The balance


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My take is this: Are you sundering for metagame reasons or because it is reasonably the best option available for THAT particular NPC as he perceives it at this time? Most of the time when you do sunder, you could have killed or crippled the guy whose stuff you just attempted to sunder almost as easily. Pathfinder damage/SOS/SOD tends to be really fast. There are some exceptions (like the superarmored tank that for whatever reason you can't just SOD/SOS) where sunder is actually an optimal move. But you DO carry multiple holy symbols/spell component pouches don't you? All my players do, even if they're not spellcasters. All part of strategic deception.


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Bit of Luck really shines OUTSIDE of combat, when you want to minimize the probability of a really bad roll. The one for law domain that makes you 'take 11' is similarly good in such situations. Make sure you have one on hand if you do contact other plane with a GM that won't let you take 10 :-)


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The biggest strength of the 'God Wizard' style is this.
Unlike a highly tuned blaster or a SOD/SOS specialist, the God Wizard will RARELY encounter much direct GM or other player aggro, to borrow a MMO term. The GM won't get annoyed by a constant stream of 'Indiana Jones' takedowns on the BBEG with SOD/SOS spells with extremely high DCs, or by everything being evaporated by spell perfected (fill in the blank blasting spell here). The melees will also feel heroic longer than the system normally supports.

Here's an exercise for players. Estimate what the success rate is for your SOD/SOS spells used on BBEGs, Major minions, and minor minions as a function of the number of rounds that have passed in climactic encounters. I wager in most cases you'll find an upward trend as the encounter goes on that can not be accounted for by the various debuffs, dispels, etc that you've done or by expiration of limited duration effects. I would wager also that the slope would be steepest for BBEGs and nearly flat for minor minions. Frankly, future editions of the game ought to work this way---making such spells useful only after targets are significantly weakened.


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One big meta narrative I've used a lot is this:
An empire or empires will rise. They will populate to their carrying capacity---Malthusian trap as it were. Through magic and bigtime infrastructure improvements, they'll extend their carrying capacity but they'll have a hard time keeping up with population growth. This in turn will lead to wars of expansion for lebensraum. Eventually some random event or war will lead to apocalypse as the rug of carrying capacity is pulled from under the empire (just the druids/nature priests/etc pulling plant growth for a year or two will do it, a mini ice age, etc). Then the four horsemen ride. Typical campaigns are set in the aftermath of this, delving in the ruins. But it is a cycle that naturally repeats itself.


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I've rarely had any problems with system mastery gulfs at the level of players <-> GM. I don't believe in or require deus ex. There is precisely one thing that will regularly and predictably get you killed in my games. That thing is going after things or going into areas that are out of your league, either by intention or lack of due diligence in doing your pre-adventure research. You see, if you're a level 6 party of highly anti-optimized characters, and all you think you can handle are garden variety orcs, well, you CAN target said orcs. As a GM I'll make challenges of all sorts available to your party, and if you've got initiative, you can often engineer your own, and most of the time, you get to choose what your party does. The exception is the 'red cell', where another faction actively targets you instead, but this usually happens only as blowback and usually only at higher levels. The only thing I use the CR system for really is determining treasure and experience. My encounters don't really give a damn what level or competence your pcs possess. The onus is on the players to identify and go after challenges that they can handle.


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Foxdie13,
Is a tavern a reasonable business in a big city? Almost certainly yes. Is it a particularly risky business? Not especially. Does the PC have some kind of economic moat to differentiate his business from the competition that isn't easily duplicated? You'll have to answer that question. In this case, that moat might be the PC's heroic reputation in that area if he's got one. You say he's a new player, so most likely the answer is no.
Since he has neither an economic moat nor a big risk premium, I'd say that 10,000 GP counts as 5% capital. That is, it produces a net profit after taxes, bribes, wages, depreciation, maintenance, etc of 5% of its total per year. That means the PC can expect average profits of 500 gp per year. Were he to have an economic moat, provided, say by his earned fame from adventuring, he'd have 10% capital instead, giving him a profit of 10%, or 1000 gp per year.
If he was in an especially risky business environment, he'd be in the 10% or even 15% class, but that gives you license to inflict more challenges on his business.
For a tavern, challenges might be the thieves or harlots guild trying to muscle or wile their way into his operation, law enforcement leaning on him, unruly customers, and 'blowback' on some of his customers for their adventuring activities. Adventurers frequent taverns like this, so people retaliating against them are likely to go there too. The ordinary amount of this sort of minor mayhem is factored into the regular cost of doing business, but it's an existential risk for a business if, for instance, an angry red dragon comes and razes it to the ground.
Sources used include 'The Intelligent Investor' by Benjamin Graham, considered the father of the school of 'value investing'.


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Going REALLY old school here:
“Out of every one hundred men, ten shouldn't even be there, eighty are just targets, nine are the real fighters, and we are lucky to have them, for they make the battle. Ah, but the one, one is a warrior, and he will bring the others back.”
Heraclitus

Our ancient Greeks are basically saying 10% of the male population are essentially 4-F...invalids. 80% are commoners. 9% might have some actual class, and 1% are heroic.

His observation is very old, but it still holds true today to a large extent. For instance, if you take the top few percent of fighter aces you'll find that they account for a ridiculously disproportionate share of the total kills achieved by an air force. Some WWII aces are pretty obviously the equivalent 4th-6th level in a world populated mostly by 1st and 2nd level people, many with NPC classes.

Take this guy, for instance:
http://www.badassoftheweek.com/rudel.html
Quoted
All in all, Hans-Ulrich Rudel flew 2,500 combat missions -- more than any pilot ever, for any country, in any period of time. His stats speak for themselves – 11 airplanes, 519 tanks, 4 trains, 70 landing craft, two cruisers, a destroyer, a battleship, and over 1,000 enemy trucks and transport vehicles met their ends at his hands. He received the Knight's Cross (Germany's answer to the Victoria Cross or the Medal of Honor) five times – they seriously had to invent s&@@ to add to his Knight's Cross, because there wasn't anything in the book for what you give a guy who already has the Cross with oak leaves, swords, diamonds, bells, whistles, etc.


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Kirth Gersen wrote:
EWHM wrote:
In most of my games, nearly every race has slur terms for nearly every other race, even the ones they like fairly well.
Ooh! Do share them, please!

Here's a few:

Humans frequently call dwarves squats. Sometimes also 'grubbers' (money or gold is assumed in front of it). Humans call kua-toa (a KOS race if there ever was one) 'gogglers', although that's something of an old-timer slur. Drow are often referred to by a word that loosely translated, means 'pervert' (although not in Golarion because most don't know of the existence of Drow).

Elves frequently call humans 'mayflies'. Longer lived races than elves (or immortal elves) refer to humans as 'ephemerals'.

Dwarves view humans as soft, and halflings as even softer. Marshmallow is the slur they use.


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Lemonfresh,
The diminish plants could always be reversed, via plant growth, should the town's population deal with the problem. In my view, druids aren't terribly nice folks. They're frequently as uncaring as nature.

But if you want something less extreme, perhaps send a few skunks with animal friendship to take up residence in the inn's basement or crawlspace?


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Shoulderpath,
He flies at 200, they fly at 100. They're more maneuverable than him, but he's WAY faster. So he's likely to use jet fighter like tactics against him. Had to look that up, I'd assumed that air elementals OUGHT to be faster than him, but they're not. If he turns it into a straight melee slugfest he loses. If he keeps the range and uses his missiles---I mean, breath weapon, he'll probably carry the day.


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ShoulderPatch,
Dragons are pretty smart usually, especially ones with class levels. In your world, how common are elemental attacks that AREN'T summons? If he estimates the maximum likelihood is that they're summoned, he might prefer to just use his breath weapon and speed (how much faster are they than him) to run out the clock while avoiding full attacks. If he thinks he can't do that, he'd be advised to buff while they close, try to catch both of them in his breath (good luck) when in range, and then hopefully only engage one at a time. When the lightning elementals show up, his certainty that they're summoned should increase a lot. Where's that damned caster?


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MDT,
Yes there's nothing in RAW, but very few of the tropes we see in modules, APs, and the like make any sense without it.
Retraining rules and the like in ultimate campaign (which I have decidedly mixed feelings about, I've long had my own set of retraining rules and they're way slower and more limited) are intending mostly for PCs---especially the one about getting Xp during downtime but only enough to 'catch up' to your party's xp total.
I'm pretty confident that the intent is that warriors outnumber fighter-type classes by a good margin, probably up to at least level 3 or so. Your typical warrior probably has a stat of 12 or 13, your typical fighter, 14 or 15. These aren't hard requirements, as you'll occasionally see less physically capable fighters or more capable warriors, but those are exceptions, not the rule. When your PCs decide to start meddling, you need to establish at least some guidelines as to what they can accomplish. I don't follow the YA fiction premise that everyone but the direct protagonist (and maybe the direct antagonist) is utterly incapable of displaying any initiative or understanding of the world they live in. Most lands will make at least a moderate effort to exploit what talent their people have. You can make a better and more systematic effort, and you will get somewhat better results and tradeoffs more along the lines you're seeking, but you will still have to deal with the reality as seen by NPCs (who are mostly NOT exceptions) rather than that seen by PCs (who are by definition exceptional).


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I've actually made some bones as a teacher before, in several areas although mostly in engineering. Here's my observation.

For just about every discipline there exists a talent. Sometimes it's intelligence, sometimes it is musical aptitude, sometimes it is mostly athleticism, but pretty much always it exists and it is very important.

A discipline or a task has an intrinsic difficulty. If your talent is equal to that difficulty, you will find learning that task 'challenging'. In a non-grade inflated world, if your talent equals the difficulty, and you work the average amount, you're probably a C student. If you're a sigma above (in PF terms, +2 attribute) you'll find it easy. If you're 2 sigmas above, it is very easy, 3 sigmas, trivial. If you're a sigma below, you'll find it hard, to be a C student requires twice as much effort as someone a sigma higher. If you're two sigmas below, you'll find it nearly impossible. Four times the effort (sweating blood) MIGHT get you there.

NPC classes have lower levels of intrinsic difficulty. For instance, the nominal difficulty level of 'Warrior' might be (Str or Dex) 12 with the other no lower than 10. For fighter it might be (Str or Dex 14 with the other no lower than 12. Thus warriors greatly outnumber fighters despite a fighter being 'better'.

Games that do stat + skill where skill has exponentially increasing costs to raise are in my experience, VERY close to reality. You can normally make up a sigma of talent by working twice as hard, but at some point, you just plain can't work twice as hard because you have only so many hours in a day. This is particularly true in music. Say you're a guy with +0 sigmas in musical ability. Someone with, say +3 sigmas will start out better than you, learn way quicker, and top out (hit their wall of very slow further improvement) way higher than you. The +4 and +5 sigma folks are just plain sick, sometimes being able to gain proficiency in new instruments in a matter of a few days.


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Another thing to consider. The tactic of using spells on scrolls higher level than you can cast scales very poorly for armies---ESPECIALLY low trust armies. Consider. a 5d6 fireball in the hands of a level 1 wizard. He makes a caster level check with a DC of 6 I believe. That fails about 25% of the time. Then a DC5 wisdom check for a backfire, with the stipulation that it always fails on a 1. So if you use a lot of these, you're going to get a lot of backfires by military standards, many of which generate 'friendly fire', or friendlies on fire. What's worse though, you're likely to get a fair number of 'backfires'---where it didn't really backfire per the roll. The unpredictability of the weapon creates a very useful 'plausible deniability' mechanic does it not? They're great for adding punch for small groups where trust is implicit, but large organizations IMO will steer clear of them most of the time.

In general though, the higher the magic level in an engagement, the more the tactics are going to migrate towards skirmish formations and more modern tactics. Lower magic levels (or groups with really really good counter-magic capabilities) will gravitate towards close order troops and massed charges (getting hit in skirmish formation or even open order by an attack column or even a line gets you massacred most of the time).


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Generally the way I run investments in my games is this:
Is the investment at least reasonably theoretically viable?
In this case, does the mine actually contain minerals of a sort likely to be viable economically considering the distances involved to any markets that could absorb them?
If so, and I'm going to assume the answer is yes, you have a potentially worthwhile investment.

Now investments have two factors that increase their profitability. The first is what guys like Warren Buffet call an 'economic moat'. That is, is there a substantial factor preventing your product from being a pure commodity (like a South Dakota wheat farmer)? Are the minerals from the mine particularly rare, is their access particularly easy (think Sutter's Mill from the CA gold rush), do you have access to super productive miners by comparison to the median miner? etc.

The 2nd is the risk involved. Given the infestation of demons and other monsters, etc in your mine, that factor is taken as given.

The next step is what I call 5/10/15. Investments neither risky nor with economic moats return 5%. With one, 10%, with both, 15%. This is after all taxes, wages, fees, bribes, normal security costs, etc.

So if a risky mine with an economic moat (say it's the main source of bloodstone gems, sound familiar?) would return 15% with an initial worth of, say, 10,0000 gp. Each year it'd return 1500 gp, and you could further invest in it (investment possibilities are pretty obvious, expansion of the mine, improvement of extraction, etc), all returning around 15%. But every few years, as it's risky, the GM is free to plague you with some new issues, like the deep earth gate to hell.


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If you're in a position to accept a surrender, ask them to. If you accept the surrender, honor your those terms agreed to and treat your prisoners mercifully. Honor prisoner exchange and ransom conventions for the culture you're in. If your foes show any inclination towards redemption once they've surrendered, encourage it. If they don't surrender, but you've got overwhelming superiority, occasionally subdue them and take them prisoner. Try to ensure that you've got the resources to allow you to take prisoners and accept surrenders as often as is practical. Never, ever, accept a surrender and then violate the terms of such. If you can't honor the terms of a surrender, don't accept it and let them accept the wager of battle.


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You know what I find funny about PvP?
I'm less hostile to the notion that probably 90% of the GMs I know, but I actually experience far LESS of it than most of them do.

The reason why is that as a GM I seriously frown on players attempting to exploit the 'PC' stamp on their character's forehead. A party in being isn't required to accept any new character from any player. I won't play narrative games generally to browbeat the other players into green-lighting your character. If, for instance, the four characters that form your group 'The Party of Four' want to expand to 'Party of Five', and you're making a new character, it must be at least reasonably credible that you're what they'd choose based on the options available to them. Pretty much never will you have a stalwart paladin in one of my games answering the question---why are you adventuring with those amoral rogues? with---well, they're PCs and social conventions require I game with them. This lack of default acceptance of new characters (or even of the other characters at game start, we generally have a metagame discussion on why these characters will throw in together prior to character generation) seriously cuts down the motivation for PvP. If you had the choice, would you create an unstable powderkeg of rage?


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What really terrifies Players, in my experience is the combination of this:

1) A GM style that doesn't give a damn about CR, APL, etc. While Narrativists sometimes achieve this via literary fudging, the alien inscrutable simulationist inspires a lot more terror because he is perceived as not caring.
coupled with
2) The forces of evil essentially have the strategic, if not the tactical initiative (in terms of how military types understand initiative, not that roll you make at the beginning of an encounter).

Normally in simulationist games, the party has the initiative the overwhelming majority of the time. Sure, evildoers and otherwise are doing their thing all the time, but most of the time, that thing is reasonably orthogonal to what it is that you're doing. Often it's not even local to you and even more often, you're oblivious to it. But when you're running horror, those zombie hordes are COMING TO YOUR NEIGHBORHOOD. If you look at the plot of a lot of these movies, books, etc, the turning point is essentially when the protagonists regain their balance and start executing a plan to take the initiative. Essentially you're in a box (in truly global horror, that box is the whole world), and the forces of evil are setting fire to it. If you're outside the box, it's not really horror to you, you can usually at least contest the initiative.


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Make up a bunch of set piece encounters at various levels of power. For instance, orcish outpost, goblin lair, ogre family, troll den, giant steading, etc.
Make up a list of complicating factors. For instance, I normally follow the 80/20 rule, which is to say, 80% of the time, a given type will behave pretty stereotypically for their type. That's why stereotypes exist. But 20% of the time, things will be a bit different, e.g
Particularly good (or bad) leadership
Alliance (or feud) with another set piece group
Natural magical defenses (e.g. underground, perhaps with favorable protective mineral content in the soil).
Particularly good (or bad discipline)
Particularly strong (or weak) fortification
20% of that 20% of the time (4% for those who like math), things are more weird than that. Take the examples before and apply steroids. You can even have things like a group with a cultural alignment a step from the normal. For instance, instead of EVIL drow, you might just have evil drow. Your orcs might just be vicious and mercenary but not particularly evil and more willing to negotiate than normal. A normally slightly good group might be kind of like the previous orcs due to exile (or maybe that's why they were exiled in the first place). Place these spots and let information leak about them at typical gather information difficulties.

Random encounters that aren't set piece are even easier. Just make a table for each area with natural CR segregation plus niche segregation. Apply the 80/20 rule. Try to have a big bag of encounters to make use of. I'm still using a lot of the same encounters I outlined back in 1st edition and BECMI, with some minor conversion required for each edition. The key is, in sandbox/simulationist, it doesn't matter what your APL or party size is (although bigger parties will be seen further away). If the standard patrol size for monsters of this type near their lair is X, you're likely to meet X of that monster. You spend a lot more time in this style worldbuilding, but way way less tailoring. Your PCs have the onus on them to gather sufficient information to determine what risks they're willing to hazard.


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Here's my perspective.
The relative balance point struck between casters and martials is in NO way sacred. It is simply a matter of preference, where preferences range all over the place for gamist, narrativist or simulationist reasons. If you want to nerf casters hard in your game, go ahead. You'll probably find that even if you nerf them harder than I have in SOME of my games, that people will still want to play them knowing the exact details and scope of your rules changes. My observation is that the more typical nerfs will adjust your typical party composition down from around 2/3 caster to around 1/3 caster. Your mileage may vary.


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Actually Mr Fishy, I'd disagree. Player competence IS a class issue. Casters are no problem even for fairly inexperienced GMs in the hands of players of low competence and system mastery. The majority of the caster-martial imbalance comes when the levels of competence and system mastery are high. While martials benefit a fair bit from having a better player, casters benefit exponentially.


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Almost forgot, another traditional response to stealth is to hunt him with dogs (although anything with the scent ability will do). Dogs are cheap.


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Evil Lincoln,
An awakened horse with 2 fighter levels? Sounds positively Narnian.


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Marthkus,
With my wife, if she wants to talk to me about her troubles or what is bothering her, she does NOT want a solution. She just wants me to listen sympathetically and maybe hold up 1/4 or so of the conversation. She probably wants me to hold her or reassure her if she breaks down into tears. The same is true of my daughters. Under the rare conditions when she actually WANTS a solution, she'll tell me--which is more than most of the women in my experience and is a good part of the reason I chose to marry her.

With my male friends, things are much more solution-oriented. The emotional support I provide is much more implicit than explicit, usually manifested as 'let's go do something totally unrelated to this together, which has the unspoken purpose of demonstrating that I have your back'.

I've tried using male grief processing techniques with women. Did it a lot in my earlier relationships as a teenager. Found that it doesn't work and it frequently blows up very badly.


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Meatrace,
This is something in my experience very few 'real roleplayers' get.
It must be credible that the other members of the party would value your services sufficiently to not begrudge you a full share of the treasure (exception: very rarely you will have a group of players that is willing to EXPLICITLY negotiate compensation per party member in a manner reminiscent of tech start-ups back in the 1990s, but this is rare and almost exclusively limited to cases where there is a level spread in the party). If you are built so suboptimally relative to the rest of the party that this ISN'T true, you're abusing the metagame PC stamp on your forehead. Don't do that.


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My working definition of game balance: As many of the following are true as possible

1. Combined arms groups (groups with martials of varied types about equal in number or slightly more numerous than casters) are more effective than more one-dimensional groups. I want a self-interested group of players with few hard class preferences to present me with groups like fighter, paladin, rogue, wizard, cleric NOT cleric, wizard, wizard, bard, druid.
2. The advantage of combined arms groups persists over the full level range.
3. This advantage doesn't require me as the GM to constantly manufacture reasons to limit downtime or enforce a breakneck pace to adventuring. Sometimes the pace will be fast, other times slow, I don't however want to have to set said pace for metagame reasons.
4. The systems of the game should not create absurd results breaking a typical GM beyond the range he can simulate with a moderate amount of handwaving when the presumption that the NPCs in the game mostly know the rules and try to optimize their behavior to obtain the results that they want is applied. This means, for instance, that as Kirth mentions, there shall be no ways of obtaining reproducibly via a spell another spell of higher level or greater cost than the first. I express this as there exists no way of reproducibly getting a wish for less than 25k gp.


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In the older traditions of my denomination, a wedding was really simple. The couple just stood up in church and announced that they were married. If nobody objected, it was just that, done. In more recent times, a pastor who is marrying at least one member of their congregation usually charges an exceptionally minimal fee---less than the equivalent of a gold piece or two. If the pastor is marrying people who don't have that relationship, the prices go higher (my pastor, for instance, categorically refuses to marry any couple that he or someone he trusts a great deal has not counseled for several sessions prior to the ceremony). Regular congregants also typically get a major break on the cost of the venue, sometimes a 100% one.


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I've done a fair amount of games with
16,16,14,12,12,10
That's technically 29 points, but it's a seriously non-optimized array. For SAD classes its about equivalent to a hyperoptimized 20 point. But as you might guess, it's a nice array for a MAD character.
Plus you don't have to deal with 20s at first level.

I'd also suggest using the option where instead of getting +1 to a stat every 4 levels, you get +1 build point (i.e. 1/4 of enough to go from 18->19, or enough to go from 10->11) per level. You'll find that it helps with the balance between SAD and MAD classes quite a bit.


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MrSin,
If your adversaries don't go out of their way to smear the spellcasters, the PCs are unlikely to learn this. But my players would be annoyed if all of their opponents used inferior tactics. They generally try to kill or otherwise neutralize casters first. Some of their opponents will have poor tactics, but the average tactical level tends to ramp upwards as CR increases.


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A lot of my players swear the best counterspell is a readied blast spell. Probably more reliable than a dispel or greater dispel honestly.


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In the old module D3, vault of the drow, there is a drow prisoner there who is neutral with a 'slight but terrible tendency towards good deeds'.
Consider that this guy is probably one in ten thousand, perhaps even one in a million drow. That's at least 4 sigmas, maybe even more from the mean. That means your average drow is evil, pushing EVIL. Combine this with their incredibly aggressive nature and gratuitous cruelty towards their slaves and it's really easy to see why they're considered Kill on Sight (KOS) by pretty much everyone else (honestly, the race that likes them the most is probably their 'friendly enemies', the mind flayers, who are also on nearly everyone's KOS list).

I'll put this to you straight. Most of us are products of a really high surplus 20th or 21st Century Western society. But if there was a society of Drow living next to you, you'd be calling for genocide. The same is true for bugbears and trolls. Only when they're at the safe remove of distance and fictionality can you honestly be too concerned with the tiny number of exceptions. Human history doesn't have any society even close to the drow, although there were a few ancient civilizations that successfully provoked the genocide response from their neighbors pretty justifiably (by justifiably, I mean that most of us in the same circumstances would've done the same thing, perhaps quicker).


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As a middle age married guy with three children under 5, I've got some suggestions.

You're not going to be able to game as much as you did before you had children. Them's the breaks. You may need to renegotiate your schedule to meet your other commitments. Back when I was in college, I could run several games and play in a couple more. Now I mostly just run games (at a much slower pace), although I do the 'guest star' thing occasionally (like a couple of times a year) in others.
Bowing down before her and submitting to her is NOT a good idea. She needs to respect you and see you as a source of strength, no matter what she might say. That said, see the above.
Do some of your fellow gamers have kids around the same age as yours, or who like yours? If so, you'll find that bringing yours over to play/have a sleepover/etc when you game will greatly reduce the friction of you being out for an evening/afternoon or the like. I do this with my eldest (a very sociable 4 year old who is good at charming adults that don't have to see him 24-7) quite a bit, and not just for gaming outings.


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I'm generally in favor of fixing anything that I think needs fixing via class abilities, preferably ones out of range of any minor dips.

You know, a couple of years back I did a bit of an experiment---call it revealed preferences as regards class power an balance.

I ran a game wherein I used 1st/2nd edition interrupt rules and movement rules. This is to say:
Any hit that actually did damage or any grapple or spell that you failed a save against would interrupt your spell. Basically, nobody could make concentration checks.
Most spells if you cast cost like a full attack action, 5' step only, only a few spells stayed standard action cast.
All characters and monsters could full attack and single move. Barbarians and fighters could charge and full attack also.
All of the rules were thoroughly explained with examples and a few sample battles beforehand. It was also explained that this was just to be applied to this particular campaign, not pushed to any other games we had pending or necessarily in the future.

The result was that fewer players made casters---the party wound up something like cleric, mystic theurge-like homebrew, fighter, barbarian, ranger, rogue. Normally the party would've been something more like: Cleric, wizard, druid, paladin, ranger, bard, sometimes even more skewed towards the more full casters.

But the party still desperately wanted their casters. It's telling when you nerf the hell out of something and people still queue up to hire them.


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If you go back to King James English, you'll note a big difference between to Kill and to Slay. David, for instance, is said to have slain tens of thousands and that this was a praiseworthy thing. To Kill meant basically to murder---to slay implied that there was more or less acceptable justification for it. This is why a lot of moderns are confused about 'Thou Shalt Not Kill' (newer translations render that as Murder rather than kill).


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A party of all rangers would probably do ok. Play them like a special forces unit. Wands of CLW are no problem, and a high universal party stealth and perception means usually getting the drop on your opponents.


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By modern standards I'm unspeakably evil as a GM, because I don't give you replacement characters of equal level to the APL when your character expires and raising isn't an option. What I'll do is one of these:
1. You can 'animate' one of your henchmen, established family members, or heirs.
2. If your party has cultivated an ally sufficiently, sometimes I'll let you 'animate' that ally. NPC reflagged to a PC.
3. Your party can attempt to recruit someone, you get to play that someone. This usually results in you being a few levels lower.
If none of these are true, you can make a PC at whatever level PC's are started at in this game (usually 1, but I've been known to do as high as 3rd).

But I run sandbox, not AP or the like. Such environments are more forgiving of a level spread in the party.


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I've heavily nerfed simulacrum in my games, but people STILL queue up to learn it and to use it. Under my rules, you can make simulacrums of things up to your own level (no caster level shennanigans), not twice your level. You also generally lose most of the exotic special abilities on a monster simulacrum, and I have a meta rule that there exists no way to repeatably get a wish for less than 25k gold. Even so there is tremendous demand for 'mini-mes' and 'mini yous'. One mystic theurgist uses a large number of simulacrums of herself to greatly extend her transnational reach.


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I think people are seriously underestimating how fast someone with:
a) A truly exceptional stat in the prime requisite for a class---like an 18 or a 20 before age adjustment but after racial and
b) Intense early training
can learn a skilled trade better than or equal to the average adult who practices it.
One family in the news here recently had sent all of their kids to college on or before age 12. The Middle Ages used to occasionally make knights and frequently make squires out of 12 year olds. Some of those who 'went to see the elephant' would have been 1st or even 2nd level fighters. Just because our society generally infantilizes teenagers doesn't mean this is a universal norm. Hell, most societies never even had the notion of a teenager as such.


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If strategic stat dumping annoys you as a GM (it annoys the hell out of me), I suggest you do what I've done in recent years. Make several sets of templates that you're ok with and offer those to your players. Typically for my templates the total cost equivalent and the min-maxedness of the template are inversely correlated---which is to say that you get more buy point equivalent with the templates that are more rounded...i.e. that have high overall stats but no 17 or 18s or 7s or 8s in them.


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I don't have a problem with stunning assault as long as it only forces one save per target per round. So I'm ok with the whirlwind assault/reach/enlarge/lunge/5' step in the middle of it move allowing a melee to dole out a very large AE stun with a 26-30 DC. I do have an issue with allowing 5-6 attacks against a single target forcing that many saves though.


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In most of the dungeons I run---those controlled by one or more active factions, this is how things usually go down.
The party, having done preliminary scouting via stealth and magic enters the dungeon. They attempt, typically incorporating things like silence 15' radius and similar magics to prevent an alarm from being raised. As long as an alarm isn't raised, you can continue to pick off sentries and little room garrisons without any organized response other than the guys you're fighting. As soon as the bell goes off though, you're in for a running fight until one side wins, loses, or retreats. It's during these epic battles that your short duration buffs really shine. Also, the main use of traps is NOT to kill your opponents. The main uses are controlling their movement, delaying them (giving more time to martial forces), and insuring that an alarm is raised. A large fraction of your rogue's contribution during an adventure is delaying the onset of the enemy's defensive response.
For a good example of a published adventure with a coherent response by the defenders, check out the 'Forgotten Temple of Tharizdun'. It had a reinforcement schedule and everything for once the alarm was raised.


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Thejeff,
My experience is that once you get them going initially, they'll supply their own motivations to continue. Maybe they'll decide they want to establish an exceptionally lucrative international trading company--perhaps even interplanar. Maybe they'll decide they want something they and their fathers have never known: a nation of their own. Maybe they'll decide that their coethnics need more lebensraum. Maybe they'll just become addicted to the rock-star treatment afforded to SUCCESSFUL and well regarded adventurers. I've seen all of the above in my games. Maybe they'll decide that something one of your npc factions is doing is...worrisome. That's another key element in my opinion for a simulationist game---other factions want things and work with bounded rationality towards achieving those things.


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You could take a leaf from Babylon V and greet everyone in some sort of an encounter suit. Add a few lines like 'the avalanche has begun, it is too late for the pebbles to vote'.


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Pretty much everything we understand about God, other than what he has explicitly told us, is through metaphor. God as Father...God as King...God as Author...and, my favorite, God as Gamemaster, which is one with very interesting implications for those who think that the universe may be a simulation.

If you're a believer of any of various stripes, my opinion and experience is that you can get a better (note, I say better, NOT good) handle on what God is and His perspective by running a fair number of games in a fairly strict simulationist style---which is to say, any interference from you has to be credibly laundered, perhaps occasionally through some divine entity's machinations. You could also do the same by writing fiction in the 'world building genre', but frankly, more of us have the chops to run a game than write a book, and players are generally less cooperative than are literary characters.
Do it right and you'll find the patterns of the Old Testament repeating themselves again and again---especially the books of Judges, Chronicles, Samuel, and Kings, which are awesome adventure sources btw.


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If you run a simulationist style game, and you have magic item creation rules anywhere near RAW, it is VERY hard to prevent a magic item business from arising. If nothing else, your PCs will invent it and wonder why nobody else had done so before (been there, done that).

Even with 2nd and 1st edition rules where magic item creation was much more difficult, magic items were still bought and sold, just not generally 'to order'. Anyone ever wonder why even in the 1st edition DMG items had a 'gp sale value'?
Yes, that's because somebody bought them. Saying you can sell but never buy magic items is a total gamist construct. To reify that construct into something that makes vague sense in a verisimilitude sense took and takes a lot of work.


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In a lot of borderlands we call grave-robbing Salvage. If a previous gravesite isn't under the control of 'civilization', it is fair game. But if you're in a borderland as opposed to a total wilderness (i.e., civilization is providing a reasonably safe base camp for you), you are of course expected to pay a 20% salvage tax to whoever the local lord might be. This salvage tax isn't just expected of tombs you raid but loot in general. In some circumstances, that tax is reduced to 10%---for instance, the borderland in question is heavily beset by enemies from the wilderness and is keen to have adventurers do some attrition, or maybe the lord just likes you and your group. In a few circumstances the tax is waived entirely, as in the lord has asked you to do this and tells you that you can keep all the swag.

What do you get in return for paying the salvage tax...besides tax collectors not looking for your head?
Well, one of the things that the salvage tax is used for is to settle claims by the descendants of the last recognized owners of the loot. Most lords will ask for more of the non-fungible stuff taken in loot as their 20%, as that's the kind of thing that their subjects are most likely to clamour to have restored to them. At least half of the various lords will even do the appraisals and research for you if you ask. They get pretty big status from their subjects when they can actually RETURN something that their parents lost when the old barony was overrun by the 'Great Hatred' of orcs a generation ago. Think about it, many of you have experience with having your house robbed or things stolen. How often have police actually gotten anything back for you?
Another thing you get in return for being honest in your tax-paying is what amounts to indemnification for blowback resulting from your adventuring. You're not a band of murdering hobos and destroyers of the peace in the eyes of civilization if you regularly pay your salvage taxes. No, you are the heroes who avenged our fathers and grandfathers and who restored grandmother's wedding ring to our family to be given to my son's betrothed.
Also, should you find yourself in a bad way and require a ransom, a lord who you've regularly paid salvage taxes to has a strong incentive to ransom you. Beats the hell out of being blinded and chained to turn a grain grinding wheel doesn't it?
If you've got political ambitions of your own, it's also profitable to gain some cred among the lords of the borderlands. History shows they (the marcher lords) very often become the new overlords when its time to replace the dynasty. Marcher lords are usually more sane than those of the more civilized lands also, and tend to remember their friends. Darwin, you see, stalks even the fantasy world, handing out his 'awards' rather liberally.

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