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Dark Sorcerer wrote:
Change the Paladin's code to reflect two of their god's domains....
I've used a variation of this with great success. Rather than the standard code (aka paragraph that dictates all RP behavior), the Paladin selects one domain of their god (that makes sense) to be their "cause". If you pick Good, you're all about the greater good - local laws be damned. If you pick Animal, you're all about saving fluffy bunnies - rob the local mayor's house? Sure, as long as the pets don't get hurt.
I've also tried modifying the alignment restriction to "any Good" in some games, which when combined with the above, made for some interesting and fairly easy to work with Paladins.
I agree 100% and don't allow Manyshot in my games. Without that extra arrow of damage, Clustered Shots doesn't seem so OP (neither do the archers, for that matter).
I haven't been playing mythic for that long, but thought I'd share.
Deaths Adorable Apprentice wrote:
How do you balance regular dungeon crawls to continue to challenge the party? Should I have more puzzles or more dangerous foes?
I bump CR appropriately (see below) and actually found that longer crawls (more encounters) really takes its toll on the characters. They can't nova unless they want a tough time later. As a result, they tend to ration the mythic power which keeps them in check.
Do you think the CR modification is correct? Paizo says one tier is equivalent to 1/2 CR.
Nope. Not even close. So far, I've found 1 tier = +1 CR.
And my most important question. Where there any path abilities, weapon enchants, or spells that you removed from the game for one reason or another?
So far, the only change has been to Mythic Power Attack - I got rid of the complicated extra multiplying. But the PCs are only tier 2.
Mythic certainly gives the game a different feel and everyone is liking it. However, it puts the game on more of a razor's edge. Optimized characters do that (my players are fair optimizers). High point buys will do that (I use 25). Mythic puts all that on steroids and turns it up to 11. Most encounters don't get past 2 or 3 rounds, if that. The PCs are pretty beat up after each fight or untouched depending on luck and initiative.
I've only included one mythic monster so far and it was only a regular monster with the Invincible Mythic template. The players really noticed the difference (some had to figuratively change their undies). For that fight, the PCs were level 4/tier 2. The monster was CR 7 and came at the end of a dungeon crawl on round three of a CR 6 encounter already in progress (well, by round 3 it was over, but they had no time to rest/heal).
It only lasted another 2 or 3 rounds, but felt like an epic encounter. Had it not been for a lucky PC critical (no Mythic Improved Critical yet), at least one of the PCs would have been unconscious or dead - the monster hit like a Mack truck mounted to the front of a freight train.
I've been playing Pathfinder E6 for quite a while. I modified Rise of the Runelords for E6 and completed the entire AP. Did the same with Serpent's Skull and we're currently starting book 6. Personally, I wouldn't want to go with E8 because I think it gets a little out of hand even stopping at 6th. The final encounter for RotRL was CR 14 and was an amazing battle with a party of 4 (all survived). But we were starting to see the negatives of high level play - longer turns, hints of rocket tag, lots of book keeping. Those 20 extra feats with plenty of capstone abilities really added up - my best estimate is roughly +1 APL per 5 additional feats.
A problem I've hit is the undead in the CR 6-9 range who start dishing out negative levels. I opted to change that to Con damage since the PCs can't fix negative levels. Otherwise, E6 has kept things fast paced and the balance seems pretty good.
I don't use exp, so can't help on that. However, you don't want the feats coming too fast because it is very disruptive. I had them come too fast in RotRL - the party got a feat every 2 or 3 encounters near the end which didn't work well.
Next up will be Mythic E6 Legacy of Fire, going to tier 5 or 6.
I've found that the best measure of CR is to use the chart in the appendix of each Bestiary - the one that has columns for Hit Points, Armor Class, High Attack, Low Attack, Average Damage (High and Low), Primary Ability DC, Secondary Ability DC, Good Save and Poor Save. Very few monsters fit every column for their CR, but there is a fairly obvious "best fit" row for just about any monster. You'll have to consider the monster's role when considering what's important. For example, a combat brute would best be measured by attack and damage, while an ability or spell-based monsters would best be measured by DCs.
You should probably check out the section in the Bestiary on Advancing Monsters, as it covers how templates, class levels and other things adjust a creature's CR.
For how class levels adjust CR, see 397 and 398 of the Core Rulebook.
Keep in mind that CR is not an exact science and is more of a general guideline.
My group is almost entirely paperless. Everyone has a laptop running Hero Lab in place of character/monster sheets. As GM, I also have an iPad mostly for visuals, but it doubles as a rulebook reference since it has all the pdfs on it. I suppose we aren't 100% paperless. I sometimes print out area maps (the pretty ones that come in Adventure Paths) and mount them on a foam core board. The community loot list is on paper. Some of us jot quick notes down on paper from time to time. But that's about it. We still use dice and minis on the battlemat.
While I agree that Hero Lab can be an investment, I can't see going back to making and adjusting characters, NPCs, and monsters by hand again.
I agree the trust issue or rather a "PC vs GM" mindset is the real problem here. I could never figure out where people get that "PC vs GM" idea. The rulebooks are filled with strict and rigid rules that restrict just about every aspect of the PCs while there is a chapter or two that amount to a vague guideline for the GM - "try to keep it under APL+4". "Fudging" dice rolls (aka cheating) is even discussed (but only for the GM, duh). And let's not forget that at any moment the GM could just say "All of your characters no longer exist. I win!" *sack dance*.
OP: You can try to point out the realities of the game to your player. It is cooperative not adversarial. I'm not sure how much good it will do, but you can try it.
Here's what I would want to see, as a GM: Give me the surprise, ugly, break-my-game run down on your character along with all the page numbers/references, etc. Something like "my level 2 barbarian averages 45 hp of damage per hit and misses only on nat 1's" or "My god wizard is going to use his knowledge skills to learn a monster's weak save and target it with a wicked high DC every encounter" or "my flying witch is going to put everything to sleep while flying".
I'm betting your GM's have been rejecting your characters not because of what the char can do, but because the GMs don't know what the char can do. If a GM knows what your character can do, they can work with/around it.
Gestalts are a great option, but they can become wildly unbalanced, if you aren't very careful - like a dex-based elf ranger/guide/alchemist/mindchemist with an elven curved blade. At first, it seemed well rounded (good combat, AOE, spell support). It ended up being ridiculously overpowered.
Another option that fits well with published adventures or adventure paths is having the player run a pair of characters and have a pair of DMPCs. Make each pair consist of a "primary" with a 25 point buy and a "sidekick" with a 20 point buy (or 20 and 15, if you like). Encourage the player to make characters that will be the primary focus (the "face", skill guy, god wizard, paladin, etc.) and then make the DMPCs the lumps that round out the group.
The advantage is that you end up with a true party of 4 (which is what published stuff tends to assume). But the player has only two characters to play and one is a sidekick (should be fairly easy). Likewise, the DMPCs should be tag-a-long characters who look to the group leader (player's primary) for direction and guidance. The trick with this method is to just make sure the DMPCs don't steal the PC's thunder and spotlight.
Mark Hoover wrote:
Rise of the Rune Lords. Not to spoil, at first I thought you were being sarcastic since you basically described the progression of that adventure path.
As for the recent modules, you can always turn ambiguous villains and dark horror into "blah, blah, blah, I split his skull open with my axe". And FYI, it is not childish, it is "Old School".
I can see how it makes sense to combine familiars and animal companions, because they are rather similar. However, you'll need to make some kind of adjustment (like Pathfinder does for Ranger) because Familiar < Animal Companion and without an adjustment, the classes will be unbalanced. A good place to start might be making the Familiar an Animal Companion with an Effective Level = Current Level-4 (like the Ranger) and see how that looks power-wise.
If you've ever played regular Pathfinder from levels 1 through 6, you've played E6. All the same things apply. There is no "works best" for E6 (or there shouldn't be).
However, E6 often includes a boat-load of custom and capstone feats, that vary from game to game, GM to GM. Without knowing what those feats look like in the game you are playing, it will be hard to answer your question specifically. For example, in my E6 game there is a feat that allows the druid to advance their animal companion as if the druid were 8th level. Without that feat, the druid is not as appealing.
I'd recommend you pretend you are playing regular Pathfinder and pick your character based on that. After all, the first 6 levels of E6 are just regular Pathfinder. Also, try talking to the GM (since E6 is pretty GM-specific).
I think you are bringing up two different issues. One is a "non-issue", the other is worth discussing (I'd recommend privately).
The "non-issue" is the GM customizing the monsters. That shouldn't make any difference. So what if your knowledge check reveals a Skeleton has DR 50/slashing? As long as your slashing weapon is effective, no worries. Or if the GM reads that as "DR 50 against slashing" and your club still works great, also no worries. And if the GM customizes the monsters to make the game a TPK-fest, or not fun for the players, that will resolve itself pretty quickly.
The second issue boils down to is your group playing Pathfinder or My-Own-Game-But-I'm-Calling-It-Pathfinder(TM)? House rules are often part of the game, but they have to be known by everyone and applied consistently. You should discuss this with the GM and be prepared for the possibility that your GM and group, like many people, want to play their own game with the Pathfinder name slapped on it. Also be prepared for them wanting to make up the rules as they go along and change them when it suits them - that is also common.
I've had similar problems (attendance, cheating, lack of responsibility) to varying degrees in different groups. This will sound harsh, but it worked for me: Find different players who share your style of gaming.
It looks to me like you aren't having fun because you are being turned into a baby sitter (been there myself). If you players are friends, great - hang out with them, just don't play Pathfinder together. Don't lower your gaming standards because you think you can't find other players. You deserve to game with people who have a similar level of dedication and responsibility that you have. Trying to change your players beyond what you've done already is just inflicting pain on yourself and them. It is pretty clear, many of them want to game one way (nothing wrong with that) and you want to game another way.
Have you tried playing PFS as a way to find players? Many of the issues you are raising are simply not tolerated in PFS play - the players you will find there are used to playing by the rules, being prepared, etc.
I've always taken the position that the PCs know more than the players in most cases. So I really play up the importance of monster lore knowledge checks. If you can even attempt the check, I give the monster's name and all type info associated with it (Zombie, undead). I let the players ask specifically about details in the type info rather than read it every time. I also have four levels of DCs ranging from CR+10 to CR+25, each giving more information, but a lot of it is fluff. At CR+15 and above, I allow one yes/no question about the monster's stats and abilities at each level (maximum 3 questions). Examples: Does it have DR? BAB more than 15? Touch AC less than 12? Resistant to fire?
To balance this out, PCs don't get to remember the results from the last check on the same type of monster and I don't allow metagaming. The result of each check is supposed to represent what the PC can remember at the time. If the PCs encounter some Skeletons and learn they have DR 5/bludgeoning and later encounter another group of Skeletons and don't learn about the DR, anyone suddenly choosing to use their spare bludgeoning weapon is going to have a lot of explaining to do.
It has worked well to keep the knowledge skills very relevant and strikes a good balance between the PCs know nothing relevant and the PCs know all.
As a GM who is currently preparing this book for my group, I have to echo what the others are saying.
Just because the areas are marked with the letter "D", doesn't make it a "starter zone", especially in a sandbox-style adventure like this one.
One of the dangers of a sandbox-style adventure is that the PCs can easily get in over their heads. PCs should be expecting this.
I can say that your GM does understand the adventure 100% and is playing out the encounter correctly given what has happened. I would second what Kelarith suggested and get more information about that ape, the area of the city, and so on. Clearly, there is something more going on than just a warrior ape.
As for advice on beating the encounter, all I can say is hang in there and do your best. You are facing a very, very hard encounter.
This looks like mistakes and the wrong expectations all the way around.
The GM should have known his PCs (priority number one). And should have been OK with the PCs' stomping his encounter - it happens and secretly, the GM should be on the players' side. Don't worry, an unexpected TPK will rear its ugly head sooner or later.
The players should be prepared for and accepting of GM errors in the moment. GMs play more unique characters in one game session than most players play in a year. On top of that, most are a one-shot deal, so GMs never get experienced with any of them. When it comes to playing monsters, GMs are basically "noobs". Expect plenty of mistakes.
As for retcons, doing one (uno, single, solo, lone) retcon every once in a while to save the gaming experience for everyone is OK (personally, I avoid them). Players should recognize that the retcon is so they aren't bored to tears due to GM error. GMs should recognize that frequent retcons foster player resentment because they feel (rightfully) targeted.
It sounded to me like both the GM and the player had a case of "GM vs PC" going to some degree. That's only going to make things worse.
This is a great tool and it has been really helpful for me! My group enjoys E6 and the published Adventure Paths which means lots of monster scaling (lowering CRs). Your tool does all the grunt work quite nicely. Sorry, I don't have examples to share because I don't usually complete every aspect of the monster - I have the program crunch the critical numbers and I move on.
Possible Bug: I did notice that adding Weapon Finesse as a feat does not change the attack values to use Dex instead of Str with natural weapons (I haven't built anything with manufactured weapons that had Weapon Finesse, so I'm not sure on that - that could get complicated given that only certain weapons apply).
Gold Plating: For my purposes, it would be awesome to be able to adjust HD rather than target CR. Even better if adjusting HD could be done "on the fly" so it doesn't wipe out everything else. When scaling monsters, having that kind of fine control is really nice, but not necessary.
Keep up the outstanding work!
I've had a few players who were notoriously slow - their turn would take several minutes if hounded and upwards of 30 minutes to an hour if left to their own devices (analysis paralysis, anyone?).
So, I adopted the 5 second/1 minute rule. Initiative is visible to everyone and I often have a player run it - they collect all the players' initiatives and setup the GameMastery Combat Pad so all I have to do is drop in the monsters. As a result, everyone knows the initiative in advance (I'm usually last to finish initiative with often 2+ groups of monsters).
When it is a player's turn, they have 5 seconds (I count in my head) to begin. If they sit and stare, so does their character and they get delayed one spot in the initiative (not a huge penalty). If someone is regularly very slow in finishing their turn (they figured out to start in 5 seconds and then sit and stare), I break out the 1-minute hourglass and flip it as soon as they start their turn. If they aren't wrapping things up by the time it runs out (making the last of the dice rolls, etc.), I back out what they've done (which isn't much - often just a move) and delay them.
I make the obvious exceptions for things like very high level play (where turns really do take several minutes to resolve) or something significant happening - a spellcaster drops a spell that entirely changes the battle or a bunch of monsters just went and changed everything. I also use my discretion as it is pretty easy to tell when someone has a lot to think about or when they are just stalling. Overall, it is extremely effective and the players know to be ready for their turn. Either way, the combat doesn't drag on.
I should also note that I allow and encourage a pre-battle "time-out" where the game is put on hold so the party can discuss tactics or whatever they need to figure out before combat begins. I also encourage combat "cheat sheets", especially for characters with lots of bonuses that aren't always on, like an Inquisitor.
I use them and hand them out as "rewards" for things like good role play and as story awards. The players tend to save them up until they really get into a jam or to prevent a death. The most common uses are on critical dice rolls like saves and to buy another action to take down particularly vicious monsters (kill it before it kills us). It is a really nice way to handle those "Oh crap" moments where luck went one way, the encounter was too hard, or the players were epicly stupid and still stay in game space.
However, I don't allow the spells, feats, and items associated with them as I want Hero Points to remain a benefit and not a dependable game mechanic. It wouldn't surprise me if many people using Hero Points feel the similarly which might explain the lack of response.
OP: I hear you, but this is how the world works. If you want to participate in organized play, you have to follow the rules, whatever those rules might be. However, you should recognize that PFS is one of the least expensive organized play events. Just compare to say any tabletop miniatures wargame, most of which don't allow proxies and you have to shell out for a $300+ army.
As for Linguistics, it might be just flavor to your particular character build, but to a character build that is going to cast lots of language-dependent enchantments, that +1 means another language which is the key to being effective against the maximum number of creatures. By the same token, for the character build I'm talking about, BAB is basically flavor.
My point being that in organized play where anyone can walk in off the street, the GMs can't afford to evaluate every character to determine if an exception is relevant to the build or not. There is also the problem of each GM making an individual call, which opens up the situation where something is valid at one table, but invalid at another. For organized play, that kind of thing can't be allowed to happen.
If you want to play PFS, you have to obey the PFS rules.
A high-magic, loot-heavy, E1 game with no spellcasters could be do-able. Instead of the characters progressing via feats or levels, they get more and more powerful magic items and/or gold. If Mythic progression was allowed it could get crazy. A level 1 Fighter with a bunch of major artifacts, max-out magic items (+10 etc.) and 10 Mythic Tiers might be kinda cool to play. Until something gets past his AC and does even minimal damage. Then, not so much.
As I understand it, the AP was written for 4 players with 15 points for ability scores using the purchase method. Assuming 6 players with 15 points, you really need to increase the CR of every encounter by 1. If you used 20 or 25 points for ability scores, that gives the players even more of an edge.
One easy way to make the encounters tougher without doing lots of work is to just give them maximum hit points. It won't help the single-monster encounters from getting slaughtered due to action economy. But it will help all the other encounters. I personally prefer adding and/or advancing monsters, but that can be a ton of work.
I agree with not using Mythic to "spice things up" unless your players are really saying "kill us all". A lot of the Mythic stuff will flatten a non-Mythic group.
I have to chime in with the pro-E6 crowd. I've GM'ed games of just about every level, many in the 8th-15th range. Personally, I like E6 the best mostly because it stays fast paced. High level play can get extremely boring when every player's turn takes over 15 minutes to resolve.
As already mentioned, everything remains relevant in E6 - every spell a caster has (besides 0-level) is no more than 2 levels below your best spells (aka still very relevant and very potent).
How the game will be for casters really depends on the E6 feats that are being used by the GM. I've included ones that increase caster level to 8th when casting spells as well as ones that allow additional spell slots and spells known. Add in the two additional Spell Focus feats and you've got 3rd level spells being cast at CL 8th with +4 on the DC. Doesn't sound like much until you realize the monsters are only CR 6 to 8.
Thomas LeBlanc wrote:
You have to remember that many things in the game are abstractions. Knowledge (local) is a class skill for Bards, Gunslingers, Rogues, Summoners and Wizards. The last two kinda don't count as they have all knowledge skills as class skills. The first three are the types of characters that typically would get to know everyone in town either through direct contact or other subversive means - gossip, spying, etc. So, the party travels thousands of miles to a remote village and even if it doesn't come up in game time, it is assumed that the cleric prays, the fighter sharpens his sword, and the Knowledge (local) character gets the dirt on the locals.
In the recently updated bookmarks, there are two listings for "Goblin" and no entry for "Golem". The second listing of "Goblin" expands to show the various types of Golems.
A small typo, but an important one for anyone looking for a Golem (like I was).
I've been preparing for my RotRL game which starts in a few weeks. I'm not sure how it will work out, but I've gone through and turned much of the NPC info into rumors and will be allowing each player to use Diplomacy to gather info and get one random rumor each day.
Here is an example of a rumor:
Garridan Viskalai's feud with his brother Belor is over Belor's abandonment of his Shoanti name and tribal ways. Not because Belor is dating a prostitute.
My hope is that this will introduce more of the NPCs and bring some flavor without having the PCs actually interact with specific NPCs.
I'm looking for a few more adult players for a weekly Rise of the Runelords (Anniversary Edition) game. The first sitting will be Friday, July 19th, 2013 from 6:00 pm until 10:00 pm. The location will be mid-town, in the vicinity of Broadway and Tucson Blvd. All character concepts are welcome (within rules and reason). This adventure path is very deep allowing great opportunities for character development, role play, NPC interactions, and of course, combat. It is also a serious commitment as it takes players from level 1 up through levels 16-18.
If you are interested or want more information, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To be serious, there is an important issue being raised. Where is the balance and how do you deal with character death? Reading some posts, I wonder why track hit points if you are going to make death meaningless and let players just make clones (or improved characters). On the other end is a complete disruption of the CR system and game balance having level 1 and 20 in the same party. As a GM, I struggle greatly with this issue and have yet to find a "good" answer. Really, this issue only exists until level 8 when Raise Dead makes the issue moot. But until then there is a serious problem.
The OP's specific situation is a metagaming issue that should be handled with a talk. If the player can't get behind a character, maybe they need to find a like-minded group.
Pathfinder Monk: A class that struggles mechanically to live up to its ideal.
RPG Monk: Jet Li & friends - no armor, no weapons, small stature, but totally dominates in hand-to-hand combat using skill, not magic.
I agree that the Monk's issues are entirely mechanical.
I house rule something very similar in my games: Paladin align can be any Good and they pick a domain of their deity to be their chosen "cause" (no benefits, just the concept of the domain). Basically, they become the champion of that cause and their code of conduct and associates are loosened to allow anything that doesn't directly oppose their cause. So, the Paladin can participate in a wider range of party activities without be sent on a "shopping mission" any time the party decides to bend the laws. Of course the chosen domain must make sense. An example would be a CG Paladin who is the champion of Community. I think it makes for some more interesting holy champions and sidesteps the more literal interpretations of the RAW restrictions.
Of course, if your group is already flexible on how they view the Paladin, no change is necessary.
If the persistent enemy is predictable (is known to show up at a given place and time), have the party hire a squad/platoon/battalion of min-maxed Archers or even Gunslingers. One volley should do the trick no matter what the BBEG's CR is.
A less conventional approach is abuse of the Leadership feat to create an army of 1st level Wizards who each create a scroll of Magic Missile. Then at some later time, they all use their scrolls against the enemy. While I wish this was my original idea, it is not. I saw it in another thread here. However, it is some seriously stinky cheese.
As a GM whose first words at the start of every new campaign is "Leadership is banned", I did my best to read the original post with an open mind. And I think that the OP's methods would prevent many of the potential problems associated with Leadership. But where does it end? Might as well hand out pregen characters if you are going to start making decisions on what choices players should make regarding their characters, or how to play aspects of their characters. Animal companion, eidolon, familiar, cohort, summoned monster: why take control of one and not others?
I'll agree that it can be made to work. Probably with lots of work, arguing, hurt feelings, mistakes, blown game sessions, and who knows what else. For what? So a player can struggle role playing two characters when I'm betting they have trouble with one? Is all the potentially lost game time worth it to everyone involved? Seriously, what do the other 4 or 5 PCs at the table who don't take Leadership gain from all this while they watch the endless arguments over the cohort's details?
Sorry, this is why I ban it and will continue to. Three words, a few disappoints looks and we can all get down to actually gaming. It just isn't worth the cost of trying to make it work.
I ran a game from 8th up through 15th and the party had no full casters, just mostly melee types. At the end it was quite doable, but became problematic.
First issue was the level of skill required by the players and the overhead of managing a character with so many options. In many cases, a lot of viable options were never used by the players because they had too many special abilities to choose from.
The second biggest problem was the speed and pacing of combat which ground to a halt. It took most players several minutes with a calculator to resolve their turns (the Monk was the worst with all those attacks) and there was lots of recalculation due to forgetting a bonus or three. Also, the number of interrupts grew exponentially. We had a tripping fighter who made a mess of combat because of the attacks of opportunities and the complexities of resolving them all all during his "turn". It got to a point where everyone should have been using macro-enabled excel spreadsheets to assist them in resolving their attacks.
As GM, I was no better trying to effectively play several monsters that were loaded with nearly countless options. It often took me several minutes to plan out the monster's turn.
Last was the difficulty of balancing things. One wrong or right move by either side would end the encounter. This was made worse by the first problem. Far too many encounters were speed bumps or TPKs.
I didn't like it much, but it is certainly playable. It just presents a new set of challenges for the GM and players. I expect it isn't for everyone, but it can certainly be done.
I generally hand-wave the encumbrance changes due to coins as the party gains and spends their gold. However, in extremes (the giant pile of copper), I'll force the party to address the issue - no calculating or anything like that, but they can't just walk out with it.
I'm pretty strict on encumbrance at character creation and when dealing with those characters where encumbrance is a real issue (Rogues, I'm looking at you). Some of my players tend to run their characters right at the limit - one more feather and they start taking AC penalties and losing the use of abilities. For them, encumbrance is a constant issue, but it is their own fault. If they left just a little cushion (say 5 lbs), I'd hand-wave most situations.
I don't bother with the space aspect unless the players try something ridiculous. "You want to put the carcass of that Gargantuan creature in your belt pouch?"
Several other people have suggested this - keep play to low levels and very slow on the XP progression. E6 is just a variation on the concept, but the idea is the same - play at lower levels. The advantage to going with this approach is that you can continue to use the CR system and everything will remain as balanced as it is in the full game. All you end up doing is loping off the craziness of the higher levels.
However, if you start messing with the numbers and how they progress, you will not be able to rely on the CR system as a guideline for game balance. That is a ton of work (I've tried it) and gets very tedious. Also, each time you make a mistake, it can have a profound effect on the game experience. There are only so many "Oops, sorry" TPKs a party will endure before they decide to find another form of entertainment.
Do yourself a favor and stick to low level play (E6 or otherwise). Don't rewrite the game. I'm guessing your players probably want to play Pathfinder (a game they know) rather than Ninjariffic's Custom RPG Game System(TM) (a game they know nothing about).
I'm with AaronOfBarbaria on this one. My players would claim that I include plenty of random encounters. In some games, I even go through the motions of rolling dice and "checking" charts to see if they encounter something. But ultimately, every encounter is carefully planned out in advance. Nothing kills a game session like too many pointless random encounters when the GM's dice make it so.
I think the Pathfinder Society and its members would be entirely unlikable if encountered in the real world. They are a bunch of elitist jerks who turn a blind eye toward anything that doesn't fit with their greedy, selfish agenda.
Off Topic: The more troubling aspect is the unbelievability of the Society missions. If it were limited to spelunking in dangerous desolate places that no one wants to explore, it would be somewhat believable - they fill a niche. However, despite having standing armies, powerful spell casters, and vast resources, not a single nation can get through a day without the involvement of 4 - 6 low level Society members who could care less about the mission and just want their fame and loot.
Someone stole that old lady's purse. Oh no! Forget the City Guard and the local High Wizard, only those selfish, greedy bastards at the Society can recover it.
A more serious answer is: It depends on the party facing the monster. A CR 8 Nabasu Demon will have a field day against a group of fighters by using Mass Hold Person. That same ability is mostly a joke against a group of paladins, clerics, and monks.
Likewise, a Red Dragon can be nasty against almost any party. Except the one that has Resist Energy (fire) and Protection From Energy (fire) up on every party member...
Social skills in Pathfinder: How many members of the party need to be good at it and any other social topics?
Personally, I think PFS and home games are like chess and checkers - they both use the same board, but are entirely different games.
In a home game, depending on how you play, you may need no social skills at all. Your group can choose to ignore many of the rules regarding social skills and let role playing take over.
All of my PFS experiences have been 100% roll play. A well roll played interaction gets reduced to "make your Diplomacy check". Saying "I say some stuff" also results in "make your Diplomacy check". A party without a "face" in PFS is like a party without a damage dealer - you've got nobody who can reliably make the necessary dice rolls to resolve the situation. But even in PFS, more than one character with "face" skills is generally a waste. The catch is that you don't get to pick who sits down at the table.
In my custom games, having a solo encounter at the end of a string of encounters works really well. I don't do it every time or even most times. However, it works because the string of lead-up encounters are designed to eat up the party's resources, making the solo monster a viable threat. I also don't allow my players to rest before they really need it by having "wandering" monsters interrupt their rest or by repopulating the "dungeon" when they return perhaps even with reinforcements. My players know it is not worth resting until the party is completely spent or all the bad guys have been defeated. Also, I'm tailoring the encounters specifically to the party.
Published adventures are an entirely different story and I agree that largely solo encounters simply don't work. Sure, a savvy GM can make it work, but "low-tier" GMs seem to go hand-in-hand with published adventures, especially PFS adventures. Too many times the PFS GM is the guy who drew the short straw or lost at rock-paper-scissors and is stuck being the GM (not necessarily the most qualified person).
No matter who the GM is, I think the problem with published solo encounters is the author/encounter creator has no idea what the party makeup will be. And it is nearly impossible to pick a single monster that will present a proper challenge to any combination of 4-6 characters played by people who range from die-hard role-players to min-maxing munchkins.
The GM's "house rule" does more than just nerf spell casters and ranged combatants, it basically eliminates the benefits of a 5-foot step, especially if the monster/NPC in question takes Following Step and Step Up and Strike. That is going to kill martial characters above 6th level, when they gain iterative attacks and are doing the "5-foot step shuffle" for positioning while making full attacks.
My answer to this for a wizard/sorcerer would be nothing different than "normal" - good positioning to avoid melee and Vanish cast defensively when the excrement hits the rotary oscillator. DC 17 isn't that bad, especially at level 3+. A bonus is that most things will have a difficult time following as you walk away (+20 on Stealth checks), so you buy at least another round before the offending monsters is in your face again. If the GM also metagames, then this (and just about everything else) won't work. However, it is a cheap solution (1 x 1st level spell) that is useful in many different situations.
If it were me, I'd be looking for a different GM to game with. I generally support house rules and rule adjustments to make a better play experience for everyone - those that favor the players or pinpoint specific problem areas. This kind of sweeping change, unless extensively play tested, is just asking for trouble.
I don't think DPR as I've seen it used on these boards is very meaningful anywhere but on these boards. If you are going to have a contest of who can build a X Level character with the highest damage output, DPR is a critical measurement.
In an actual game, the DPR number isn't that important. At least until the DPR for the group is terribly low - then it is a critical factor. At the end of the day, a group's DPR is what kills the monsters and ends the encounters. You can mess the monsters up with spells and effects, but eventually they end and you still have to actually kill the monsters. If the party can deliver more DPR than the monsters (relative to each others hit points), the party survives. If not, the GM gets a "win" and everyone goes home sad. So, it is a good consideration when building a party or when building a damage dealing character. Otherwise, not so much.
Off Topic: Organized play can be even worse than that. If the scenario happens to include elements that make the game agonizingly boring for the particular group, the GM really can't make any adjustments. You are stuck with the scenario and if the individual PCs at the table form a group that doesn't fit with the scenario, it will be 4 hours of fun, fun, fun for everybody.
Back On Topic: I personally hate the term "Power Game". It is a negative label that is attached to anyone who builds a character that is good at what they do. Frankly, if you don't "Power Game" (by that definition), I think you are playing the game "wrong" by building ineffective characters which is as bad for the group and play experience as the munchkins who try to marginalize everyone else.
Most of the combats I've run and played in had about 3 meaningful rounds. They lasted about 6 rounds total, but one or two at the beginning and the end didn't have much going on.
The exceptions usually included some kind of special situation, like a flying dragon that strafes the party round after round until they figure out what to do with it. Or situations where several of the party members are ineffective (wizard vs golem, melee vs flying, etc.) Or where the monsters had some kind of healing.
Just my own take on this: I usually put monsters in one of three categories. Mindless (usually undead), Highly Motivated, and everything else.
The Mindless don't know to stop (mindless, duh). The Highly Motivated will act based on other motivations "Those pesky PCs foiled my last plan..." or "must...eat...now!!!". The rest will generally use survival instincts. Even the dumbest of animals knows to stop fooling with the dead/unconscious thing while there are still threats. There is also the question of can the monster even tell the difference between dead and unconscious in 6 seconds or less while in a battle for its life? In most cases, I think not.
There is also the meta aspect to the question. Regardless of how one may choose to play the monsters, there is the larger question of killing in general. If the party has fairly easy access to Raise Dead, etc. then kill away as death is merely an inconvenience. But there are some serious concerns if the party is say 5th level (too high to have a 1st level replacement PC, too low for Raise Dead). If you allow replacements of equal level (more or less), there isn't much penalty to death - the PCs just roll up a clone or something new. If you don't, you basically kill the game since now there is someone running around who is 4+ levels away from the rest of the party. I struggle with this question more than the one on how to play the monsters.
This topic is exactly why certain spells and abilities are really unsuitable to be used against PCs, especially PCs in organized play games. The "Pit" spells just get nastier and nastier as they go up in level as does their depth, duration and Climb DCs. Much like Stinking Cloud, the spell is an "encounter killer". If applied to players often enough, it can cause "Lonely GM Syndrome" where nobody wants to play in your games because watching paint dry would be more fun.
My snarky answer to the OP is "Get up, hit the bathroom, go get a snack and see if you can catch a quick Magic The Gathering game or something. By the time you get back, you'll be out of the pit."
More seriously, anything that involves climbing is going to end up pretty much taking you out of the fight. No matter how well you can boost your climb check, you are still climbing at 1/4 speed (1/2 speed at best). In which case, might as well stay wait for the duration to expire unless the pit is doing damage.