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RPG Superstar 2014 Star Voter. Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber. Pathfinder Society Member. 380 posts (386 including aliases). No reviews. No lists. 1 wishlist. 1 Pathfinder Society character. 1 alias.


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Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

This thread has been quite scary for me. Fortunately, my party is still in book 1 (it's sad how much less you can get done in 4 hours when you have to play online), and is only 4 players. Plus, the cleric downgraded himself to warpriest (yes, one less person with 9th level spells to worry about!).

I may be shooting myself in the foot, but I'm not going to ditch mythic. I am looking at what I think will be a few relatively low-impact houserules to nip the worst problems mentioned here in the bud.

  • No Mythic Improved Critical
  • Remove the entire clause about crits from Mythic Power Attack
  • No legendary items (or, at the absolute minimum, ban the Foebiter property)
  • Remove that double damage on first attack clause from Smite Evil (a little less burst, a little less "oh, wait, I did 15 more damage that I forgot about")
  • The ability boosts from Mythic are +1 to 2 different stats, rather than +2 to one stat.
  • Eliminate all abilities that partially bypass DR (i.e. treat DR as 10 lower) - these are just a hassle.
  • I'm pretty sure I'll make DR/epic impossible for the PCs to bypass.

That's my list so far, plus, of course, borrowing a lot of adjustments from this thread as I progress, and regularly chaining encounters in a dungeon together to avoid the "here's 2 dudes, you curbstomp them. In the next room are 2 more dudes, who you also curbstomp".

My good news is that the players do a decent bit of self-censorship, and will (aside from one player, who leans towards the Combat as War approach) prefer fights that are not horribly swingy, so if I need to adjust around that, they'll be up for it.

I don't want to give up on this - this is the first campaign, though not first game, that I've run, and the story is something we're all interested in. So house rules, preemptively, and as-needed.

Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

I tend to prefer rituals for bigger spells; but then, I mostly think of rituals in cases where I'm, say, planning E6. There's no way you can cast earthquake if you're not going past 6th level. But maybe you and a few buddies can cast it over the course of an hour.

That's the sense I tend to prefer rituals in, but it's also good for smaller spells; it doesn't chew up those combat resources, and it doesn't have the advantages over mundane methods like being a standard action instead of a minute to pick a lock.

I didn't like the 4th edition approach because every ritual cost money for each and every casting, which seemed to me like it would make it hard to justify using rituals regularly. If you have alarm, you want to use it nightly, but the costs add up pretty quickly.

Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

Looks like most anything I would say has already been said.

I'm quite bad at being spontaneous. I attempt to compensate for that with preparation. It doesn't always work perfectly, but it helps. Plan out the NPC's voice, and it will be easier.

Never be afraid to ask the players for a short break to work something out, especially if they've thrown you for a loop. I mean, try not to take a 5 minute break every 6 minutes, but if you need to pause, then do it.

I'd definitely suggest getting some of the adventure modules or paths; I'm running an AP with the intent of having that chassis in place to build upon, to get experience modifying encounters to suit my party before I try building all my encounters from scratch. I feel like this is a good way to build my own confidence. (Your mileage may vary, of course.)

Work with your players to decide which aspects of the game you want to focus on, and which you want to de-emphasize. Perhaps nobody really cares about tracking carrying capacity in your game. Then just don't worry about it unless they're doing something ludicrous.

Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

I'm sure it's doable - in fact, it's essentially what I am looking at doing to Reign of Winter, so that it can fit into an E8/P8 setting of mine.

That said, you're very likely going to need to do a lot of reworking of encounters to accommodate E6 rules.

Some things off the top of my head:

  • Straight numbers. Enemy attack bonuses, save DCs, and ACs, and save bonuses, are going to be huge relative to the PCs. Attack bonuses are the least of your worries, since you could give the PCs all the gear they'd normally get. You'd either need to inflate the other PC values, or lower the enemy values.
  • Capabilities. Certain parts of the AP assume the players can cast a variety of high-level magic to solve problems. You'd need to provide a mechanism by which the players could teleport, plane shift, and similar.

Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

Another good thing to do is to combine existing encounters, especially in dungeon-like areas. Let the fights cascade in, with a couple of rooms worth of creatures joining the fight over a couple of rounds. This helps cut down on the repetitive, easy, grindy fights, makes the place seem a bit more alive & responsive, and they're not all on screen at once. Which means not only that you don't need to deal with a dozen monsters at once, but that they're not all eating the same fireball.

Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

These sorts of questions are near and dear to my heart as well, though I'm not as far along (we only manage to play once a month or so, and we're online, so the party just made it above ground again this weekend).

My biggest step, so far, has been to be prepared to adjust on the fly. I've reduced some enemies in power as I've realize the adjustments I'd made were too much, and I'm prepared to go the other way. I've also said flat out that if we get a TPK due to me making a mistake in encounter adjustment, then we rewind that.

Most everything has been pretty easy for my party so far as well. One thing I know I need to do is challenge the back line some; the two frontliners have been taking almost all the hits. Not that I've had a lot of ranged attackers so far; I'll need to adjust that.

Star Voter 2014

2 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

There's also the option of sitting down with the player and explaining exactly what you just said.

"I can tell from the character you're describing that what you want to do is get into melee and be a big, deadly bruiser. However, the build you've described is so good at melee that I'm concerned that it's impossible to challenge your character without negating his entire concept. Let's look at some constructing some house rules and/or adjustments to your build so that we can all be happy."

Of course, it's also possible the player is looking to design an invulnerable, ultra-deadly blender of doom, and doesn't want to be challenged; I can't say, as I don't know the player. Maybe he wants to feel like he's steamrolling everything in his path.

Unfortunately, nobody, game designer or not, is perfect. Games like Pathfinder tend to break down as more and more material gets released, and players have more time than designers to invest in identifying rules synergies. I've put together a couple of very interesting builds in my time, often by combining a couple of relatively obscure rules sources that were never really intended to be used together (at least in the sense that they were designed without knowledge of each other).

Couple that with the increased complexity of high-level play itself, and yes, there's a lot of potential for the game to break down. The best solution I'm aware of is to look at what breaks the fun of the game for you and your group, and look into addressing those things, quite possibly by banning them.

Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber
Tinkergoth wrote:
Belabras wrote:
Beary interesting.

Heh, I see what you did there :P

Ah Sir Bearington, truly a classic story.

I'm also a big fan of Lord Crabbington, the druid with a giant crab companion. Played as if the crab is the actual character, and the druid is just his translator/assistant/servant (the crab communicates by clicking its claws).

*Click click* "Very good sir, right away"

"Uh, why are you talking to that crab?"

*Click click clack* "No my lord, I'm sure they didn't mean any offense"

*CLICK CLICK* I'm not entirely sure that killing them is justified sir"

*Click clack click* "Please Lord Crabbington, show mercy!

I guess I did something sort of similar to this in a one-shot; I played a summoner who believed that his eidolon was a servant of the Great Old Ones, and he was there to serve the eidolon, not in an equal partnership. I'd made a pretty messed up creature; quadraped that I'd given arms (and weapon proficiency) to, a few tentacle attacks, and I'm pretty sure I'd added acid to the bite. So this crazy mad prophet type rode around on a slavering insanity beast seeking to bring his dread masters home.

Amusingly, the GM actually had a way-out-of-CR Lovecraft monster, a Mu Spore, I think, in the adventure, not as an enemy, but more as flavor. It was trapped in some Desnan priest's dream. After the climax, I went back and killed the sleeping priest, releasing a CR 21 monster on an unsuspecting world. It killed me immediately, of course, but that didn't matter. I'd done what my dread master obviously wanted.

I've seen more of the opposite, though; my fiance semi-recently played a summoner whose eidolon functioned as her butler (yes, it was inspired, heavily, by Black Butler). And I have a PFS summoner whose eidolon is a bodyguard / advisor (assuming I ever wander back to PFS games; might use them as a springboard to meeting some more people).

Star Voter 2014

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

My biggest tip is to use technology.

I've transitioned to making all my character sheets be spreadsheets (I mostly use Numbers on Mac, but I still sometimes use Excel; Google Docs should suffice as well).

The big reason for this is that it lets me create a block where I can just check boxes on or off for various effects. This is better than trying to write up all the situations, because buffs and debuffs come and go, especially when dispels get going in high-level play. It's not trivial (but if you're proficient with spreadsheets it's not very hard either), and it can be time-consuming out of game, but it means that all I need to do is click a checkbox (in Excel, a Yes/No pulldown might be better; I've had issues with Excel checkboxes), and all the calculations are done for me. Likewise, all the weird circumstances you don't expect are handled.

Weaknesses are that a math error during setup is going to be concealed during play, and that the mentality can make it harder to account for a condition you didn't incorporate into the spreadsheet. (I'm going to add checkboxes for flank & charge tonight, so I don't screw those up.)

Likewise, you can speed up other hassles by having page references, or even links, all over your sheet. Casting a spell? Have a page reference for it, or with technology, have a clickable link to the spell itself. Pretty much all my character sheets contain a spell summary written by me, as well as a page reference, though I may as well convert that latter to a link. My current wizard's sheet is over-complex, but it has a short spell description (longer than the standard summary) alongside each prepared spell.

So really, a lot of the best help (for me) is in preparing out-of-session. These mostly help with reducing on-the-fly calculations, and time spent searching for a rules reference.

Another thing you can do is use an electronic dice roller for things like high-damage spells. Don't want to roll 24d6 by hand? Get a computer (or phone/tablet) and roll electronically; the math will be taken care of.

Non-technologically, you can, as a group, agree to avoid certain types of mechanics on both sides of the table. For example, mechanics that allow/require someone to roll twice and take the better or worse result for a round; just agree not to use those.

You can also do average damage, rather than rolling; this is primarily good on monsters with many attacks.

Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber
Paladin of Baha-who? wrote:
PhelanArcetus wrote:

For truly bad characters, I'd heard about Lord Bearington, a bear with such an obscenely high bluff that nobody can tell he's a bear.

I've actually played a session with that character. It was intensely depressing. I think the character was some sort of cleric, but really the only things that mattered were:
1. He was a bear, but everyone had to treat him as a normal human; I believe he actually couldn't speak, but could bluff so hard that we thought a bear growling was a human speaking common.
2. He and his friend, neither of whom we had back, made every single "bear" pun they could for the entire session.

How did a bear get to put ranks in bluff? Was this an awakened bear? If so, I think awakened animals get a language, don't they? *checks* Yes they do.

I don't have an answer for this. I assume he was awakened, and I have no idea why the GM let it be played. Well, aside from the following:

  • This particular GM lets almost anything be played, especially if it seems likely to produce interesting inter-party plot.
  • If I recall correctly, the GM didn't know this player was coming at all until he showed up; he basically tagged along with a friend who had been invited. Neither was invited back.

Star Voter 2014

4 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

For truly bad characters, I'd heard about Lord Bearington, a bear with such an obscenely high bluff that nobody can tell he's a bear.

I've actually played a session with that character. It was intensely depressing. I think the character was some sort of cleric, but really the only things that mattered were:
1. He was a bear, but everyone had to treat him as a normal human; I believe he actually couldn't speak, but could bluff so hard that we thought a bear growling was a human speaking common.
2. He and his friend, neither of whom we had back, made every single "bear" pun they could for the entire session.

Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

I've read SKR's system, and that I'm just fine with. The idea there is just to allow more upgrades withot actually causing level inflation. Basically, instead of leveling up every 4 sessions (hypothetically), you would gain the BAB, saves, skills, or class features associated with that level up after each session. Or something very similar. The end result is the same, except that instead of jumping from 1 to 2, you're going 1 to 1.25 to 1.5 to 1.75 to 2... essentially.

The end result is the same, it's just giving you partial levels incrementally.

And that is a solid potential approach to giving the players more frequent upgrades. It might be especially valuable in a low-loot game, because it helps give the players a sense of advancement.

The systems I really have a problem with are the ones that let you buy up anything, possibly charging more for each successive level in a given attribute. I've played a couple, and they've gotten frustrating fast, especially as several of the attempts to encourage a well-rounded character instead end up with people saving up points to buy up the thing they really care about.

Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

I have a weakness for force effects, so my wizard's secondary focus, to the extent that it's more than just spell selection, is force.

I regularly keep pilfering hand and chain of perdition prepared; having just hit 4th level spells, I've added resilient sphere and telekinetic charge. All of these spells are at least somewhat versatile. I especially like spells such as chain of perdition, because they let me stretch my spell slots through the fight; one spell slot provides actions for the entire encounter (generally), while not interfering with my ability to cast other spells.

Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

I've been tempted by the flexibility implied by a system like this. And then I've been turned off by thinking about just how much harder it makes it for a designer to set up challenges for an arbitrary party.

Designing challenges for your party, when you have access to their character sheets, isn't really any more of a problem. But designing challenges for an arbitrary party, the way someone looking to publish an adventure would, gets harder as you give players more flexibility.

The problem is that the more flexibility you give the players, the more they're going to deviate from whatever you think the norms are. And especially if there's something they think they can get away with neglecting entirely. For example, I've got a wizard right now, and due to terrible Strength and mediocre Dexterity, I simply avoid any spell that would involve me making attack rolls. (Lots of melee in the party and no desire to invest in Precise Shot contributes as well.) On this character, I might never, ever invest in increased to-hit, instead saving all that XP for caster level or feats. It wouldn't meaningfully lower any stat I have (my CMB & CMD are already utterly laughable), but it would increase something I do care about further.

Basically, the more opportunity & ability you give players to min/max, the more they're going to. You'll get a wide mix of total one-trick ponies and very well rounded characters, and it will be impossible for anyone outside the table to figure out what to expect.

It's a concept I look at periodically, but just can't get behind.

Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

If you don't want to just rely on "this fireball is now a lightningball", then your first step should be surveying the available lightning spells.

There are some, but not an amazing amount. Since this is, broadly speaking, the theme of my admixture evoker wizard right now, I'll list off a few key ones I remember being in his spellbook or wantlist.

  • jolt: it's just a cantrip, but still.
  • shocking grasp: I'm not using it, because I'm afraid to get close enough, and there aren't enough other appealing touch spells to make me go for Reach Spell. Though I'll revisit that just in case.
  • sheet lightning: 3rd level spell from the Rival Guide, I believe. Damage is negligible, but it's an area-effect daze, for a 3rd level spell.
  • lightning bolt: I've got this for completeness; I don't actually expect to use it much.
  • ball lightning: This is a pretty nice spell, so long as you're willing to do some damage each round, rather than trying for a knockout punch.
  • call lightning: This is for druids, and like ball lightning, it's for sustained, rather than knockout, damage.
  • chain lightning: This is where lightning starts to shine.
  • stormbolts: This is a nice big hammer, though you do need to get a little close to enemies.
  • ride the lightning: This is amusing, but I tend to doubt I'd end up using it.

As I hear it, the classical blaster build is one level of crossblooded sorcerer (dragon (blue or bronze), orc), followed entirely by wizard, evocation school, admixture subschool. You basically ignore the sorcerer level as far as casting goes, and your damage is increased by 2 per die from the bloodlines, and 1 per 2 wizard levels on evocations. Plus you can convert a few spells to electricity each day. Of course, that also takes some work to justify in the character's background.

I recall being unimpressed by the Stormborn Sorcerer bloodline. I hadn't seen the crossblooded build when I made my wizard, and, honestly, it's too cheesy for my tastes. Despite how tempted I am by anything to compensate for hp scaling faster than spell damage.

Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

A while ago, I ran a one-shot, using a PFS module. One of the players decided to be silly, moreso than he usually is in one-shots.

His character was named Murderhobo. That's about all there is to say. Granted, in what amounted to a one-time PFS game, there wasn't much need for backstory. In other similar one-shots, we've seen similar awfulness. When we were experimenting with ACG classes, he played a bow-wielding warpriest named Stirling.
I immediately said "G&^@!*$&% Archer!", and promptly renamed my character Lana. But hey, it's one-shots, I don't feel too bad about doing silly things there.

As far as Diplomacy, Bluff, or Intimidate, I do expect players to describe what they're doing, and what they're trying to accomplish. That doesn't mean they need to give a speech in character, and if they're trying to bluff someone unimportant, they don't necessarily need to come up with their own lie. But I do need to know what they're trying to accomplish.

(I'll also allow them to use the skills directly to assist. Having trouble coming up with a lie? Roll Bluff and I'll help you (actually I'll get the party to help; I'm pretty bad at lying myself). Making a speech and not good at coming up with proper phrasing? Roll Diplomacy and your character will clean up what you're trying to say, correcting some gaffes based on the check result. Both of these stand in good stead in my experience, with me just not being good at coming up with lies on my feet, despite sometimes wanting to play a character who is good at it, and some players I know phrasing things in awkward ways that can end up offensive even though they're intended to be diplomatic.)

With knowledge checks, I'm learning that I need to specify what I want to know, because my poor wizard keeps ending up getting useless or obvious information in place of useful. Last night, in fact, I got four pieces of information, including name of the creature type. Name in of itself is useless, and one of the other pieces was obvious from looking at the creature ("you mean that it uses those big lobster claws to attack?") Coming back and asking specific questions helps, but it slows the game down more to keep revisiting.

The paladin I'm playing in a short campaign right now has a backstory informed largely by the need to justify Skill Focus (Survival). All I knew initially was "Paladin + Eldritch Heritage (orc)". Quickly I figured out that the paladin was a half-orc, raised by an orc tribe, which he ran away from when he realized how much their morals and his diverged, spent much of his life living alone in the wilderness, and maintains a hopeful, optimistic, attitude even in the face of failure and repeated rejection.

Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

Recently I've just used point buy, because it's relatively easy.

In both campaigns that I've played with rolled stats, there were major disparities between the player characters. The first, I can't remember because it was so long ago, but I think my high stat was 15 and another player had an 18 and probably also a 16 as well.

In the other, we once calculated up 3.5-era point buys for the characters existing stats. My wizard had something like a 42 point buy (I had something like 17 16 15 14 12 10). The fighter/cleric, on the other hand, had more of a 20-25.

Ever since, we've used either simple point buy, or something more complicated but designed to ensure every PC has a stat array of roughly similar power. The one current game that isn't simple point buy used our choice of two randomly generated stat arrays, where all arrays were of a similar point buy (about 28-32 in 3.5, as this is a 3.5 campaign).

Getting back to the main topic, as usual, I'm undecided on the way skills work in 5e. I'm pretty sure that your average Pathfinder player character does in fact just max N skills, so for those people, there probably isn't much difference. I often end up trying to invest in a couple more skills than I truly have the skill points for. But it's that whole "fewer, but more meaningful choices" thing. You basically pick skills once, and that's it. There is no mechanism to be somewhat good at a skill and then stop investing in it while still progressing overall.

The thing is, I often find myself regretting what I end up doing to squeeze more options out of my character. Ok, the paladin I'm playing... not a lot of skill points, a few prerequisites, I don't actually expect to succeed on anything but Perception on this character (Survival, but I don't expect it to ever be rolled; in this case max ranks in Survival fits a backstory and helps justify the Skill Focus (Survival) feat investment needed as a prerequisite). I also find that figuring out how to best spend skill points was actually more interesting in 3.5, when cross-class cost more. (Note, I'm not asking to return to that mechanism; I found that 3.5-style cross-class skill investment was pretty much a trap.)

So I think that for many players, the change in skills won't be that significant, especially with the reduction in number of skills and concurrent increase in how much of the skill spectrum a single character can typically cover (4-6 out of 18 instead of 1-12 (high-Int rogue, unlikely) out of 34 (counting all knowledges but not splitting out craft/perform/profession)). A minimum-skill 5e character covers not quite a quarter of the possible skills. Most characters are minimum skill, but it's a lot more options. Most Pathfinder characters are sitting on 2+Int, perhaps 4+Int, but most don't have much Int, so you're looking at, let's be generous and say 4 skill points with at least 24 skills that are worth investment (I'm ditching craft/perform/profession and knowledge skills outside of the big 4 for this). That's a (generous) typical case of being able to cover a sixth of the possible skills. Which means that a 5e character will feel like they have a broader selection of abilities.

Also, I don't recall seeing any 5e skills flagged as Trained Only. Combine that with the much smaller difference between a skill you're proficient with and one you're not, and it also feels less painful to not be trained in a skill. It may even help push back on the "I'm not trained in that skill / maxxed out in that skill, I can't even try" notion, which is something I suffer. (Interesting anecdote: about a year ago, I think, I was rebuilding a character who was, between my choices and the DM's, a huge mess; a magus with a couple of levels of rogue and a bunch of free psionic power, as a full psionic character. I gave him some free stuff as I built him... and then last week, I was chatting with the DM and he said "does your character have telepathy?" I said "no, of course not." But the reasoning behind that was that when I looked for a few freebies to boost the character's capabilities, mostly in the sense of what I'd already seen given out (basically it amounted to a free archetype and a free rogue talent), I didn't even consider things that were not standard PC abilities. The notion of giving my character the telepathy monster ability, even on a character it does make perfect sense for, just didn't even occur to me.)

I touched on this in a totally different conversation recently: one big thing 3rd edition did, which has remained through Pathfinder, is aimed to have a rule for everything, while 2nd edition, somewhat 4th, and definitely 5th (so far, given that I don't have a DMG to look at) goes more towards the general guidelines for resolving whatever, and leaves it to the DM to figure out how to resolve specifics. A few years ago, I found the "rules for everything" notion very helpful; knowing I could look up a rule for anything buttressed my confidence when it came to running a game. Now I look at it more as a straightjacket; I have to fight the parts of my brain that say "there's a rule for that, and it says you can't succeed" or "there's no rule for that, it's just not possible" when I want to do something that isn't entirely standard.

Star Voter 2014

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

I do, sometimes, love the complexity of Pathfinder.

I'm playing in a Pathfinderized A Paladin in Hell, an old 2nd edition module, and I spent an incredible amount of time building out the character. I must have spent 4 or more hours surveying Inner Sea Gods and the domain / subdomain writeups to determine which domains I could access for my Sacred Servant paladin, and then decide between them. (I finally chose Luck over War, because I didn't feel like also dealing with keeping track of all the feat candidates I had from the domain power, and because it told a story more different from the basic paladin.)

And I do have a list of mechanical concepts I want to one day play in Pathfinder; that's pretty much how I picked out the paladin I'm playing, though I spent a ton of time on the finishing touches. (Core idea was paladin with Eldritch Heritage (orc). That meant a lot of my build was done almost immediately. The domain, the last feat or two, and equipment, those took hours and hours.)

But sometimes, that level of time investment outside of the game just grates on me. Especially when either I'm intentionally skipping powerful options to avoid overshadowing other party members (often the easiest way to do this is just to not be a full caster), or when I'm helping someone else power their character up to the same level that I'm at. Sometimes I don't want to feel that I need to pore over the books, looking for spells, feats, and class features that provide interesting and powerful new synergies, to be able to build an effective character.

Pathfinder is better than 3.0 & 3.5 on giving the ability to play a character concept from level 1, but as thejeff pointed out, there are still some which you just can't pull off until mid levels. And quite often, those are trading out straight power for versatility, which may or may not be a good trade. (I know I tend to go for a greater degree of self-sufficiency in characters, and several of my friends do as well.) Sure, in Pathfinder you can play a fighter/wizard who feels like it from level 1... as long as you're willing to deal with the constraints of the magus (one-handed weapon, no shield), and accept that you're going to end up with less BAB and spell selection than you might achieve with careful multiclassing (I remember 3.5-era optimization, where a gish was considered acceptable only at BAB 17+, caster level 17+, and likely having actual 9th level spells as well).

The martial/caster disparity is something I want to see go away. That, actually, is probably the biggest single cornerstone of that system I'm so slowly building. And the two biggest components to achieving it, in my mind, are:
1. Separate out the combat subsystem from the non-combat subsystem(s). While the core resolution mechanics may be the same, resources need to be different. The biggest part here is that you shouldn't need to give up combat potential for more social skills. (i.e. avoid how the rogue trades combat effectiveness for a large number of skill points and a large class skill list.)
2. Give all classes equivalent resources. A huge part of the martial/caster disparity is that casters have more powerful options, because their options consume limited resources. But this breaks down unless there is sufficient demand upon those limited resources to force the caster to conserve them against future need. And it's non-trivial to consistently enforce that demand.

Obviously 5th hasn't tried to give equivalent resources to all classes; 4th did that, and it was part of the problem there. (Though I think how it was presented, and the sameness of all the options, was more a problem than the notion of martial characters with limited resources. At least, it was for me. Presenting kicking sand in someone's face as a once-per-day action felt silly, but the martials were being kept entirely martial, so it couldn't be a matter of expending ki or a similar resource.) Some of the adjustments to the spells system, however, do help; mostly the fact that spells no longer inherently grow in power as you level, which means that you don't have lower-level slots becoming amazing sources of long-term buffs, or utility that trumps the skills, at a low effective resource cost. (i.e. greater magic weapon and magic vestment grow in power and duration even as the value of their spell slots decreases.) This reduces the caster's ability to solve every problem with spell slots, because the lower-level spell slots don't gain in power even as they are freed up from combat usage. (The change in spell DCs also keeps lower level spells somewhat more viable in combat.)

Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

That's a fair point. I'm developing a pretty good idea (slowly but surely) of what I want as, at least, a default game style & genre. I'm structuring a ruleset around that, and certain design concepts I'm coming to like (or avoiding the ones I've come to dislike).

It might be my One True RPG, when done, assuming that I consistently want to play a particular class of games which that ruleset supports. And, of course, if it's ever finished and anyone other than me likes it.

My core point, really, was that I'm very willing to steal from any and every game, though most of my experience is with d20-based systems. And 5th definitely has enough interesting ideas to be considered as a source.

Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

I like Pathfinder, but it's definitely not my One True RPG. I don't have one of those.

I don't think 5th edition will be either, in part because, while it does reduce it, it retains the caster / martial divide, and the associated balance across multiple encounters method of handling some characters having limited resources and some not.

I'm slowly sketching out my own personal One True RPG, and I'm happy to take ideas from everywhere. It's a very slow process, because I'm simultaneously trying to figure out where my One True RPG's balance between simplicity and realism is. Where it sits on a spectrum of easy rules as opposed to deep customization. What sort of decisions the ruleset should make to keep play from bogging down. I find myself wondering if I want to stick to a simple d20 base, or go for a different probability distribution (say, using 3d6 or 2d10 instead of 1d20); I've already ruled out bucketfuls of dice for the sake of fast resolution. So it's a long, long way to that.

As time has gone by, I've moved away from high-simulation, high-complexity concepts and towards simpler ones. I'm debating whether armor as damage reduction makes sense, not on system complexity, but just on the extra calculation at the table.

And I'm happy to take ideas from eveywhere. I've taken some from the Stargate RPG, I've taken some from Pathfinder, I expect I'll take some from 5e. There's even some from 4e (mostly divorcing combat & non-combat resources).

In fact, I might take 5e's spell system in place of the power point system I was intending; it's similarly simple, flexible (if not so much as to risk options paralysis), and makes it harder to nova.

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I have zero doubt that Wizards will release too many supplemental rulebooks, given enough time. How much will that be? I don't know for sure. Probably sooner than I'd like, unless there an adjustment in their business model.

I expect they'll end up with something akin to what I remember from the relatively early 4e days; a couple of big hardcovers a year, and somewhat more focused books, hard or softcover, aiming to fill the role of the old Complete books; focus on a broad character archetype or something similar.

Paizo has managed to last longer on that front due to the relative focus on adventures, as opposed to rulebooks, and some degree of separation between the rules published in the rulebook line and rules published in the other lines. Even so, Paizo seems to be reaching saturation point as well. And any company that intends to release new rules will eventually reach that point. Will WotC do so comparatively quickly? Quite possibly; I wouldn't be surprised at all. It doesn't bother me too much, because I don't feel obligated to use or allow all published content.

Another thing I didn't note that I do like: 5th has the notion of spending feet of movement to do things, rather than spending a move action. This is simple, penalizes characters less, and is flexible. A DM can quickly and easily (and roughly) come up with a feet of movement cost for interactions beyond the free one. But the cost being "some feet of movement" rather than "your move action" also helps characters move around.

I spent some time over the long weekend reading some more of the PHB, and overall, I continue to like what I'm seeing. The skill list is streamlined but not down to uselessness. I'm hopeful (but need to see it in action) that rogues, for example, are not penalized in combat for having more skills. Between the smaller skill list, and the two proficiencies from character background, I get much less of the feel from 3rd edition & Pathfinder of "this is the skill character, the rest of you aren't any good at it". (Pathfinder's reimplementation of class vs. cross-class skills made a big improvement there; but retained the issue with number of skill points, ranging from 1 on the low end to 10 or more on the high end.) With the number of skills proficiencies ranging from 4 to 6, matters are less problematic.

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I'm running an AP for a similar reason; I don't yet feel competent to build an adventure, let alone a campaign, from scratch. But I still have to do a lot of adjustment.

I do preliminary adjustments before the game; increase monster HP, throw advanced on some enemies (as we get further in, it will be all enemies, I suspect), add an enemy here or there, work out how enemies may cascade into the encounter, and so on. This, along with basic prep like making sure I have the stat blocks and either know how abilities work or have easy access to the necessary references, does most of it.

But sometimes I need to do a little more on the fly. Perhaps lucky rolls on one side or the other are swinging the combat too far in one direction. Perhaps I made a mistake in my original adjustments. In these cases, I tend to tweak enemy hp, and occasionally AC or attack bonus.

It's a little harder, since I'm playing online, and the enemy rolls are generally public (though there's no reason I have to do it that way). At least, it's a little harder to quietly mess with attack bonuses.

My general, broad rule, is that if things are going badly for the PCs because they're doing something stupid, they can pay the price for that (though I would like to avoid any campaign-ending events). If things are going badly for the PCs because of something I did (incorrectly estimating the adjustments I need to make, for example), I will do whatever I can to give the PCs a leg up, and if necessary, that will include rewinding and redoing the encounter from the beginning. That hasn't happened yet, but I have had to tweak enemy numbers a bit.

I've also knocked down enemy hp a couple of times just to streamline things. After two consecutive rounds of both sides missing every attack, I reduced enemy hp just to speed up the encounter, and try to reduce wasted time. Shifted them from taking 3 hits to finish to taking 2 hits to finish.

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Tranquilis wrote:
JoeJ wrote:

I haven't picked up the PHB yet, but based on the Basic Rules and those bits of the playtest material I've been able to look at, it looks like WoTC is deliberately heading in the "rules lite" direction, where most of the options are in the character concept and in the role playing choices rather than in the game mechanics.

Bingo. As hard as it is for some to comprehend (and I don't mean that disparagingly at all - it does seem a bit illogical at first), more rules can result in fewer options in-game.

When some players see umpteen hundred feats in a game, they see straight jackets - not freedom and options.

Neither is right or wrong: obviously Pathfinder has embraced the player-focused, character-build philosophy. Other games like Castles and Crusades have harkened back to roleplaying choices versus mechanical choices. Who knows what the future holds for 5th, but it is apparent that with the PHB, WotC decided to go with "less is more" over Pathfinder's "Do you want that wrapped in bacon?" approach.

31 flavors and all that.

This is true. With a personality like mine that tends to study the rules... if the rules tell me I need feat X to do something, then I don't ask the DM if I can try. I either have the feat and do it, or I don't have the feat and immediately write it off as impossible (due to lack of feat). Likewise I often don't think about non-standard uses of spells. I'm working on getting better at that, but a lot of the time I see a spell as doing exactly and only what the spell description says, nothing more, ever. That said, as a DM, I try to encourage the opposite thinking and am quite happy to make quick & dirty rulings; I also sometimes suggest ways to ad-hoc a situation to the DM when I'm playing. (So far I haven't done it for an action I was taking, but for others).

Lots of rules are good for consistency across a campaign and across multiple tables. That's really helpful for something like organized play; since you might have a different DM each time, you don't want to rely on something that's a DM judgment call; your character might be excellent with one DM and near-worthless with another.

The way Pathfinder is written, if it can be done, there are rules for it. That's not strictly true, of course, there's nothing stopping a DM from making a ruling. But the basic assumption is that if the game rules don't model it, then it's not supposed to happen. Or you should construct it from the existing rules. I've watched games derail while a DM decided to survey half a dozen books and build a composite ruling on an unexpected action, because that was the "correct" way to go.

A more rules-light system has a tone of giving you the tools to make rulings on matters not covered in the rules.

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Getting further along in reading through 5e... I skimmed the spells chapter today. There's a couple of specific questions I need to go back and review, but on the whole I'm liking a few things:

  • Spells don't inherently scale with the caster's level, only with the spell slot invested. This is great because it means that you don't have spells that aren't that good... until your caster level reaches a certain point. Spells don't increase in power as their relative cost (relative cost of the spell slot) decreases. This should also help get rid of casters (or entire parties) sitting on a dozen or more spells.
  • Spell save DCs are all the same. This reduces the impulse to relegate spells below the top 2-3 levels of your casting capability to support spells, or at least ones without saves. That is, you won't feel like it's a waste to cast fireball because the save DC is too low at 19th level to consider worth the action.
  • Spells having more effect when cast in a higher level slot really helps with limited spells known, as well as reducing duplication in spell lists. It also means that to get a greater effect from a spell, you have to expend a more valuable resource.
  • Offensive cantrips that don't fade into uselessness after a couple of levels extend a caster's endurance.
  • Straight up fewer spell slots overall mean that valuable resources probably won't be squandered. The casting mechanic itself means that you don't have to spend nearly so long poring over every spell slot in an attempt to avoid wasting the slot by preparing something too niche.
  • While not every class has expendable resources, to match how casters have spell slots, many do, at least with specific choices within the class. That helps reduce the disparity between expensive but powerful actions and cheap but less powerful ones. And the spells themselves seem toned down. It seems that we're less likely to just solve everything with a well-placed spell, making other options more viable.
  • A lot of the spells that just ended a fight (or at least a creature's participation in the fight) are much weaker now. While it's satisfying to neutralize a foe with one action, it's also something you live in terror of having done to you. And can far too easily chump solo fights (one more reason why simple solo fights are boring).

I'm not entirely sold on the concentration mechanic for limiting buffs. I like the idea, just not entirely sold on that being the mechanic. It'll work, but it might be a bit stricter than necessary narratively. Still, it's more coherent than saying that a person can only be subject to N spells at a time (and then we'd stack small buffs on someone until they were effectively immune to debuff spells).

Advantage/Disadvantage I think is a decent concept used a bit too much, and benefits a lot from a simple houserule: whichever you have more of on the roll is in effect. If you have advantage once and disadvantage once, they cancel out. If you have advantage twice and disadvantage once, then you have advantage. This prevents a single source of disadvantage from canceling out all effort to get advantage.

I'm hoping to see, as I look into the non-combat aspects, that investment in the combat, social, and exploration aspects does not come from a shared resource pool. That is, I don't want a character to have to sacrifice ability in combat for skill at lockpicking or conversation; that's an aspect of 3rd edition which I think contributed greatly to the relative weakness of the rogue. Likewise the pre-Pathfinder skill tax of Concentration on spellcasters.

One thing I liked the idea of in 4e (and hated the execution of) was skill challenges. Specifically the part where it was designed to get the entire party engaged in the encounter, rather than standing back and letting the bard do everything. The concept encouraged characters to have breadth instead of pure specialization. The execution... I won't discuss.

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Dispari Scuro wrote:
dariusu wrote:
Dispari Scuro wrote:
Only movement causes AoOs? So there are no concentration checks in 5e?
Only movement out of a creatures reach in most cases. There are concentration checks in 5e but only for getting hit while concentrating on a spell. Casting a ranged spell in while within 5 feet of a creature causes disadvantage on the attack.

Removing concentration checks in general would be very nice. It's something I find very limiting and even frustrating. If I plan on playing a character who is going to be close to badguys a lot (magus, bard, inquisitor, some cleric/oracle setups), I end up having to take both a trait and a feat to get a +6 toward concentration checks so I don't flub the rolls. It's a very un-fun feat tax just so I can access basic features of my class.

Even with the trait/feat, I end up looking at situations where I "only need to roll a 3" to pass the check, but of course I always roll a 2 when it counts. Nothing more frustrating and disappointing than: "The other six people went, so it's finally your turn. What are you going to do?" "Lose a spell slot, apparently." Of course it's still possible for a melee class to roll a 1 on an attack roll, but unlike a fighter I have a limited number of spells. And a lot of them require attack rolls or saves as well. Concentration just adds an extra layer I don't agree with.

I'll be starting a new campaign soon, and one of the players is doing a magus. They already have the +6 combination from traits and feats, and would probably be very happy to hear that they don't need that just to cast spells. So, I may pick this up.

This does open up some questions though. What happens with the Disruptive feat tree, for instance.

Oh goodness, Concentration. My magus has, I think, never failed it (before he became a gifted blade soulknife instead, and then he hasn't had to roll it yet). But I remember my wizard and a pack of trolls. I had the perfect shot to finish all of them with an acid-admixed burning hands. Sure, I had to stand next to one of them, but he was prone, and I'd make the Concentration check on something like a 3, this will be fine, right? Yeah, I rolled just below. Now my item queue is topped by the bracers that provide a bonus and allow some re-rolls. Just in case.

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My only problem with the Arcanist is that I'm not sure it's valuable to the game to have all three casting mechanics:
- Full Vancian (wizard, cleric, etc.)
- Full spontaneous (sorcerer, oracle, etc.)
- Arcanist's hybrid method

That said, I love the mechanics, independent of the class's power level. I just see it as a great design choice. Were I designing a whole new system that used spell-slot-based casting, I would most likely use the Arcanist mechanic, because it makes more narrative sense to me.

It hits that sweet spot with me. Between the fear of playing a wizard and guessing wrong as to what we'll need today, and the away-from-the-table work of making sure my sorcerer has the necessary breadth of problem-solving capability with limited spells known (and possibly without the assistance of a human favored class bonus). Instead, I get to have access to basically every spell in the game, but don't get them every day; I get a subset. And while I have to choose what spells I expect to need today, that's not too hard to fill out a common baseline... being able to not worry about how many of each, and how to metamagic, that makes me feel much more comfortable, much less paranoid about screwing up my prep.

And it doesn't have that Vancian mechanism that's always been weird to me.

There may be some exploits to ban; I see no reason to ban the class entirely.

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One thing I've taken to doing is making my character sheets be spreadsheets. As long as I can put in the design work in advance (and sometimes during a session), I can simply check buffs on or off on my tablet, and the formulas are automatically calculated. That's a huge, huge help in Pathfinder... especially at high level when you may carrying a half-dozen or more magical buffs... that could go away in a moment if someone throws a dispel at you. I've seen high-level games grind to a halt on one good set of rolls on a dispel, because backing out all the changes takes so long.

The downside of this is that I'm no longer self-trained to keep track of buffs & debuffs that are not on the spreadsheet; it's very easy to forget about something I don't have incorporated yet.

Of course, the spreadsheet approach is not for people who don't have a laptop or tablet to run it on, and while most of the formulas are fairly basic, it's still quite time-consuming to set up. (There's a lot of side benefits I enjoy, like having a section to compute how many skill points I should have and compare against how many I've spent.) I'm getting better and better at it with every character I set up a sheet for, and I've started throwing together a template; I'll start throwing common buffs & debuffs onto it, I'm sure. And I wasn't willing to actually do it before I got a tablet, because a laptop just takes up too much table space... at least when multiple players are using them, they do.

But if you don't have something like that, even with a scratch pad of buffs & debuffs, most people are likely going to be taking their normal attack sequence, and adding a couple of modifiers. Sure, you could compute that sum and add only one number... but then, especially if any are commonly coming in and out, you have to recompute that regularly, which is also annoying.

I'm totally fine rolling one attack at a time; I've found that if I roll more than 2 at a time, though, I lose track of which die was which much too easily. (Also I don't actually have enough color variety to roll more than 3 at once unless I'm very careful about positioning the dice.) And I've seen some insane situations; recently I was attacking a wizard, and had to roll 4d100 plus my d20, because closing my eyes and relying on blind-fight was a better proposition than dealing with both displacement and mirror image, and even after that, there were two custom spells which also provided percentile miss chances. That was insanely time-consuming compared to a normal round, even though we were online, so I could roll 4d100 in a single command.

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Ssalarn wrote:
PhelanArcetus wrote:

It doesn't entirely come down to system mastery here; I feel my system mastery level is similar to that of some other players... who continually outshine me.

Why? Because they're playing high-mastery full casters (the concept they tend to prefer), and I'm playing martial / part casters, also at a high mastery. And since most of the campaigns I'm in have only one encounter per day, the full caster is just more powerful. With no need to conserve resources for the second, third, and fourth encounter of the day, they can solve most situations with spells, they can throw their biggest spells at any fight, and that balancing factor of me having mostly unlimited actions, while they have limited but more powerful actions is gone.


That's less a problem of the system itself, and more a problem of your group literally not playing the game the designers intended. Pathfinder is built under the assumption of 3-5 combat encounters, with an easy encounter (CR = APL) consuming roughly 20% of the group's daily resources. If you're playing a game that deviates from that expectation, you should adjust classes that are balanced against it accordingly. If you're only doing 1 encounter a session, you should be cutting expendable resources like spell slots, rage and bardic performance rounds, channel energy uses, etc. by 40-60%. That alone will likely substantially change the gaming dynamic you're experiencing.

5e does balance the classes more on single instance performance though, so your group might be one that benefits from such a system, which works under different assumptions.

There is also a system mastery disparity in your group; you, and presumably the rest of your group, know that there will only be 1 encounter per session. By choosing a class rewarded for longevity in a campaign where longevity will never be a factor, you have already made a sub-par choice. Unfortunately, unless your GM applies the appropriate modifications to make up for this, you've started in a...

This is a fair point. The campaign's been going on for quite a long time, so I can't recall if we knew in advance that there would be very few situations where we had multiple encounters per day. (Some of those encounters are quite long, of course, and early on, we were much more likely to have multiple encounters.) I'm pretty sure it wasn't explicitly stated, but that doesn't mean we didn't know it going in.

Of course, this is one reason why I dislike that method of class balance. (And, since we're in the midst of some revisions to the house rules due to frustration with the game, I'm proposing reducing spell slots. I suspect it will not be done.)

I am, I think, willing to accept fewer but more meaningful choices over many, comparatively small, choices. It can be frustrating on both sides. I recall in playing World of Warcraft in the old days, sure, every level up got you a talent point (after 10th level). But most of them were tiny, incremental improvements you could discern when looking at the character sheet, but not in gameplay. A few were big deals, typically the one-point talents. But you got to do something every level up. Later on, talents were reduced to... I think 6 choices, evenly spaced. You picked a specialization at 10, and a single talent at 15, 30, 45, etc. (if I'm remembering Pandas correctly). So you had entire level-ups where nothing that mattered happened (sometimes you got a new ability, sometimes you got a higher rank of an existing ability, sometimes straight up nothing happened except stats), but there were only a very small number of choices to make.

On the one hand, making a lot of choices that feel meaningless is frustrating. On the other hand, not getting to make a choice at all is frustrating.

I do want it to be that every time I make a choice, I can discern the difference in my character. That's something that feat trees don't always give. The last character I built is a paladin using Eldritch Heritage (Orc); he started at level 16. And of the 7 feats I took, 3 (skill focus (survival), toughness, and eldritch heritage itself), feel meaningless in of themselves. Two of those facilitated Improved Eldritch Heritage and Quicken SLA (touch of rage), but were otherwise near worthless. Toughness is there because all stat items were banned and I felt compelled to compensate for the lack of a Con increase for my hp. Even Power Attack is so much a given for someone wielding a two-handed weapon that it barely feels like a choice. In essence, most of the choices were made by the concept rather than leveling up. I suspect that leveling that way would have been frustrating, making essentially pre-defined choices. (Much as I did find leveling in World of Warcraft was frustrating when I already knew the one and only "proper" set of talent points to select.) Likewise, several of those choices would have had no immediate impact on the character, because their purpose was to unlock a later choice.

I've felt for quite some time that if a choice is such that not making it is just flat out stupid, then it should be built in. I also hate choices that have to be made to facilitate a playstyle, like Dex builds needing to expend resources on applying Dex to hit & damage. Or how World of Warcraft retribution paladins had a few talent points that were necessary to make the build function... and were not available immediately. If everybody using a two-handed weapon is going to take Power Attack, build it into the mechanics. If everybody who wants to play a dextrous melee combatant is going to take Weapon Finesse, build it into the mechanics. I like when I see that done, because it removes false choices, freeing up cognitive and character resources for choices that are actually open.

Definitely reserving final judgment until I've had a chance to actually play, rather than just read part of the rulebook.

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Istovir wrote:

The big problem I have with 3.xx in general including Pathfinder is what happens when there's a significant divergence in system mastery in a group. Then, unless the DM spends a lot of effort building encounters that have a place for everyone in the group, the players with system mastery play the game while the other players basically watch them. This makes on the table tactics and teamwork much less meaningful, because if player A's character is 5x more effective in combat than player C's, what does it matter what player C does?...

It doesn't entirely come down to system mastery here; I feel my system mastery level is similar to that of some other players... who continually outshine me.

Why? Because they're playing high-mastery full casters (the concept they tend to prefer), and I'm playing martial / part casters, also at a high mastery. And since most of the campaigns I'm in have only one encounter per day, the full caster is just more powerful. With no need to conserve resources for the second, third, and fourth encounter of the day, they can solve most situations with spells, they can throw their biggest spells at any fight, and that balancing factor of me having mostly unlimited actions, while they have limited but more powerful actions is gone.

A side note related to this is that much of the martial side of 3e/PF lacks a use for that swift action, while the casters regularly have uses for them.

I saw above a few discussions regarding mechanics to support your abilities, versus not having any mechanics, and I just want to add to that.

Sometimes it's really nice to have mechanics to support that you're a blacksmith, or you can drive a chariot. It's great to have a way to be good at that, it's even better to feel progress (and the more things that advance as you level, the better, because the feeling of progress is a big deal). Other times, though, it's detrimental to have those mechanics, because they get presented as "you can't do this unless". And suddenly your character can't be a blacksmith, because you didn't actually invest skill ranks. Or when the time comes to drive a chariot, you have no idea how. Because you didn't put points into it three levels ago. That's when having those mechanics is very frustrating.

One thing related to this which I hate in 3e/PF is that all those interesting, secondary abilities compete for resources with the core systems. For someone who optimizes, both out of personal interest and out of a sense of necessity in the games I play, spending a limited resource on something that doesn't contribute to the sorts of things the system is built around when I could have hurts.
i.e. I feel bad that my wizard has Breadth of Experience (which is pretty much superfluous on him anyway), when I could have had a more combat-oriented feat. I, and many of the people I play with, would find it hard to even consider spending something like a feat slot on the character's background or downtime activity (magic item crafting excepted).

By the time we spend skill points on things that feel essential (Perception, anyone?), there are none left to spend on something like Craft or Profession.

As far as 5e... I've read about half the PHB so far (only skimmed a few spells). I see a lot of promise, and I'm going to make sure I get to play or run it a little bit, at least. Hard to say much definitively until I've seen it in action. But I like the intent I'm reading from the rules.

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There are a lot of classes out now, and that does raise the burden on both the GM and on any player who wants to build a character in a mechanically optimal fashion.

We're playing a Pathfinderized A Paladin in Hell now, and the GM didn't ban much, all told, but he did ban. He banned Arcanist, Gunslinger, and Summoner, and restricted us to Core Rulebook items (with stat enhancers banned).

Arcanist was banned because he feels it's overpowered (I may well agree).
Gunslinger because it's off-theme, which I'm sure is common.
Summoner was banned because he wasn't sufficiently familiar with the class to feel comfortable including it.

We also had some complaints about design decisions within the ACG, especially things like the feats and archetypes which seem designed to replace multiclassing. Though honestly, I'm not sure what I prefer; the flexibility of full 3e multiclassing is nice, but oftentimes it was frustrating to find you couldn't effectively play the concept you wanted to for X levels. Dedicated classes can provide the concept from level 1, and provide useful synergies that make a character feel complete.

For example, I like the Magus a lot because it's not just a guy who can swing a sword, and also cast arcane spells. It's a guy who can do both at once. It can feel very odd to play a hybrid who can only be one side of the hybridization on any given turn.

But we're definitely reaching the point, even in the hardcover rulebook line, where there's just too much stuff for me. I think if we stuck to the hardcovers, we'd be pretty good. It's the softcovers in the campaign setting & player companion lines which contribute a lot (and many players are sufficiently divorced from the setting that they don't actually note or comprehend the implicit restrictions on culture tied to some of those feats).

Of course, some people love that complexity. I like... some complexity. I do like being able to find synergies within the rules and make my characters more capable... but I don't like needing to search through thousands of pages of content to be able to create a character at the power level I feel is required for the game. (That requirement could be to not be chumped by the enemies, or to not be rendered irrelevant by characters built better; this latter part is exacerbated by how I tend to prefer concepts in the mid-range power level, while several friends prefer the full casters and play in games where resources are not tight.)

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Necromancying so that I can add an FAQ click mostly.

My gut feeling is that, somewhere in the design process, the feature changed between granting slots in which you could only prepare oath spells, and simply adding spells known. From one to the other, not sure which way.

And the change just didn't get fully propagated to the text, so it's somewhere in between.

(I'm also considering running an oathbound paladin shortly in a one-shot, so I'll be asking the GM there for his interpretation, but this seems to want a click.)

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HolmesandWatson wrote:

Gary Gygax’s 17 Steps to Role Playing Mastery

Step Fifteen - Play In Tournaments

Note: Italics are quotes by Gygax, contained in the book, Role Playing Mastery.

Gaming clubs exist and game conventions are held in most areas of the United States and in many locations in other countries, especially Canada and Great Britain. To achieve mastery as a player, you must eventually (if not immediately) become involved in RPG tournaments that are staged by clubs and convention organizers. These are special play sessions in which various groups of players take part in the same game adventure at different times (similar to the way a duplicate bridge tournament is run).

By comparing your performance to that of other players whose PCs were faced with the same problems and challenges, you can get a sense of your strengths and weaknesses in a way that is not available to you as long as your experience remains restricted to one or a few local campaigns.

Seems like a natural progression from Step 14 (Play Outside Your Group's Campaign Frequently).

Tournaments often spawned new modules (Ghost Tower of Inverness comes to mind and I know there were at least a couple Judges Guild tournament modules).

Of course, in Gygax' time there was no D&D Encounters, Pathfinder Society or even online play. So, you were a lot less likely to find gaming opportunities outside of your immediate group and tournaments played a larger role in steps toward Mastery as he viewed it.

Many (if not all) of the points made in Step 14 would seem to apply here. I don't know: do you think playing at Gen Con, or Origins or Paizocon will make you a better player as Gygax saw it? Do you need to compare your play to other tournament RPGers to identify your strengths and weaknesses?

Surely it doesn't hurt, but does this step really remain relevant today?

It's a bit different, I guess.

In a classic tournament setup, many groups would play the same adventure, at the same time. The only one I ever played, we had pregenerated characters.

It sounds like he's describing the value of the tournament as a science experiment. Hold as much equal as you can, changing the players at the table. Compare results. Then you will see what other groups of players did better or worse than you, learning from the experience of all N tables instead of just your own.

In my (also limited) experience with organized play... there's so much variety between GMs and parties that it's less viable to learn this way. Earlier this year, partly because a friend was suggesting we should all get PFS characters so he could play with us when we happened to be at cons, partly for something to do other than sit at a dead art table with my fiance, I played 4 games worth of PFS.

I think I had the same GM twice, and one time I had a player overlap, using a different character. Several of the players clearly knew each other due to being local. I learned some interesting things about odd builds (one of which I would have liked to have seen), but at no point did I encounter someone playing something similar enough to my own character to learn something directly about that build, or even style of playing the character type.

Organized play fits more into the general "play outside of your normal group" than into tournament, I think. There is value; you can meet new people, you can see concepts you might never see otherwise, and you can learn from all that. But it's more of a different group than a tournament lesson / experiment.

Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

Create a setup where outsiders, in general, require mortal intervention to act on the Material Plane. As a simple fact of planar mechanics, make it so that even if the outsider has gate as an at-will spell-like ability, it simply cannot gate to the Material Plane; a request must come from the Material Plane.

Let them send dreams and visions, but beyond that, they need to be summoned or called by mortals, beings already on the Material Plane. Now, for the most part, all you need are stories, and human nature.

Heaven won't help a deposed prince recover his throne unless he truly is just, good, right, unlawfully deposed, and the current ruler is a tyrant, and so on. More importantly, Heaven won't offer to do so. Heaven might provide aid if requested, but they'll require goodness out of the prince, and Heaven will say so up front, and honestly.

Hell, on the other hand, will whisper, maybe directly, maybe just through legends, about how it can restore the prince to his throne (regardless of whether he's good or evil at that point). And Hell won't tell him what the true cost is until he's already accepted the deal.

The assistance of Hell will be seen as a shortcut to power (probably with a very bad downside at the end, but people are notorious for believing that they can avoid the comeuppance that everyone before them got). The assistance of Heaven will be seen as expensive, difficult to get, and only even available if you meet their strict criteria of goodness.

This, then, works on all outsider groups, not just Heaven and Hell. The more the group wants to be on the Material Plane or directly influence it, the more they'll whisper to mortals.

An alternative is for Heaven to be a bunch of jerks whose attitude is "those stupid mortals summoned a demon? They (mortals in general, not just the specific group that summoned a demon) deserve whatever they get." I've met outsiders like that in games. They're really, really annoying, so unless you want PCs to hate Heaven, I don't recommend it.

Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

First piece of advice: Don't come up with a rule and blindly follow it.

Second piece of advice: Generally, bump enemy HP from average to maximum; this is a simple change that helps.

The other two big things are in fact the Advanced Simple template and increasing the number of enemies, as mentioned above. And, again, as mentioned, for solo fights, add some minions or lieutenants.

Be very cautious about the Advanced Simple template at low levels; basically at low level, there's less room for optimization to have made a big difference, so adding +2 to hit and +4 to AC on enemies makes a big difference. I almost killed my party's paladin very early because I underestimated how dangerous the template made some enemies.

As you get a feel for the party, you'll get a feel for adjusting the encounters as appropriate to your party.

Also, don't be afraid to make tweaks mid-encounter. If the party is having too much trouble, invent an explanation and weaken the enemies. If the party is blowing through too easily, have reinforcements come in, or insert another random encounter to make them expend more resources.

The reinforcements strategy is also a nice way to avoid having your increased enemy count get wiped out by one fireball, and to deal with dungeons where there are a bunch of adjacent rooms with similar enemies; it keeps you from doing many repetitive small combats, avoids overwhelming the party with a huge mass of foes, and means you don't need to explain why these guys just hung around in their room while the party killed their friends next door.

Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber
Diego Bastet wrote:

My setting began with the tips of ye olde Dungeon Master Guide, starting with a single detailed area in a bigger world that became more and more detailed with time.

Ten years on the road and lots of campaigns happened in the more or less core regions, shaping the history of the world, while some elements of the outside regions creeped in in small fragments (a character from the necromancer lands, a god from the desert, a legend from another place, this kind of thing).

Now the setting is about the same size that it started, but much, much more developed. Now my players are so immersed on it that they asked for a GT-like (grand tour) kind of campaign, that took them to all kinds of different places in the setting, and there's actually so much developed material in the setting that I've taken to writing an article per week about a Region/Organization/People of the setting (player's choise what they want to know each week).

I guess my tip is: If you're making a setting for home-game purposes (and not for commercial ones) take it easy and follow Ye Olde DMG and the tips from Monte Cook in the old dungeoncraft articles on dragon magazine. Start small, with your core cool idea, an interesting regional map and a big map with the far-off regions and no more than some lines about its coolness; the rest will come and you'll develop. I see too many dms creating extensive work before even playing on their settings, and in my humble opinion this can backfire when you can't SHOW people what you created.

This is a thing I am trying to focus on now, because I do tend to spend far too much time on the big picture. I've gotten better. Now I look at the big, big picture (cosmology, pantheons, and core story themes), and other than that, I try to focus on a single area.

Hence, the Four-Fold World has a lot of regions... but the Clan plateau is the only one I'm seriously detailing. To the west are Wilds, to the east are city-states, to the south is a river and a port on a bay, and to the north are mountains. Within those, I'm looking at the city-states to contrast with the Clans, and as a general antagonist that could draw the Clans together, but that's about it. The south, I'll want to finalize a city name and talk a bit about the trade through it, but that's it. Really I'm focused on the Clans directly, and only a couple of towns for now.

Star Voter 2014

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Storm Sorcerer Arcturus wrote:
PhelanArcetus wrote:

Players in this setting should expect to spend a lot of time delving...
Jeez! You certainly have a lot going on!

I'm not actively running any of them (only even prepping for the last one, which will probably remain as just a one-shot).

There's two reasons. One is that I'm a completionist and not that great at improv; the more information I have, the better I can extrapolate (rather than create entirely out of whole cloth). The second is that I've found that working on multiple settings simultaneously actually benefits me.

Most specifically, it lets me contrast them, to ensure I have different themes, not too much similarity in the settings. Even better, having multiple settings means that when I have a brilliant new idea, I can put it into the setting where it belongs, rather than going off-message to shoehorn in a new concept that really doesn't fit.

I expect that for the Four-Fold World, I won't have a lot of player input in the initial world design; that one's really my baby. For After Atlantis and the Tome of Battle / Oriental Adventures mash-up one-shot, I'm actively getting player input.

I've run a couple of one-shots in After Atlantis, simply dodging the mechanical issues of building or picking out the E8 rules to use by running at level 8 or below. And I've given the players the ability to help define the regions they come from with their characters. So now I know that Carthage, in addition to making quite a bit of money off of selling slaves, is intensely bureaucratic. And that some elite warriors among the Hebrews wear heavy armor known as Godplate, etched with scripture. (Yes, the setting includes Hebrews; this is a big part of what makes it potentially controversial.)

For the one-shot, when I send out the email with house rules and all, I'm going to ask the players to provide me (before the game) with a bit of information about the martial school their character trained at (and represents) - what classes its students have, what weapons they use, what disciplines they study. And describe another member or three of the delegation that school is sending to the tournament.

Star Voter 2014

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

I'm used to playing custom.

At the moment I'm only running in Golarion, but that's because I decided to make my life easier by running an AP and not having to adapt it to an entirely different setting, especially one that has some rules mismatches.

I have 3... well, now 4, settings in various stages of design.

The Four-Fold World
This is a swords & sorcery setting, moderately high on magic being around, but low on traditional magic (i.e. spellcasters); more of a world where it's pretty easy to get a couple of supernatural abilities, I guess. It's not intended to be played in Pathfinder, but in a system I'm slowly designing.

The starting region is a plateau controlled by five Clans locked in a semi-permanent (cold) succession war; this part is quite inspired by the Inner Sphere of the Battletech universe, crossed with some aspects of those Clans, and a lot of culture from historical fiction of early Saxon & pre-Saxon England. On the plains below the plateau are a set of city-states modeled largely on Renaissance Italy, with a touch of Tokugawa Japan thrown in.

It's also substantially inspired, actually, by the cosmology of 4th Edition D&D, one of a few things I did like there. It's a world with four coincident planes, defended by its gods (ascended mortals, in fact) against the aggression of other gods, from other worlds. I've cribbed a few high points from the "default" 4th Edition history, though I'm in the process of filing off the rest of the serial numbers and transitioning this from "copied from" to "inspired by". This definitely includes the notions of points of light on a dark map, and civilization being built on layer upon layer of past, fallen, civilizations.

The setting, though still very incomplete, has gone through many iterations, including a 4th Edition version I was working up during the launch period, and one where it was to be the host for a magic system inspired by the Malazan Book of the Fallen.

Players in this setting should expect to spend a lot of time delving into long-lost (or buried) ruins, facing threats sealed away millenia ago, and battling the occasional evil wizard or priest of the gods beyond.

This one I would very much like to publish one day, along with the game system.

After Atlantis
This setting posits that Atlantis did once exist, and in fact ruled pretty much the entire Mediterranean Sea region... until it was wiped out in a magical cataclysm. The rise of the Empire was modeled in part on the Malazan books, though that's all ancient history in the setting anyway. Atlantis was filled with sorcerers, and it was their combination of heavy infantry (largely on the Roman model) and heavy sorcerous support which enabled them to conquer all.

A generation or two ago, something shredded the island of Atlantis, shattered weather patterns, and blotted the core of the Empire's infrastructure from existence. Atlantis itself is now a ruined city in a demon-haunted stretch of sea. The order imposed by Atlantis collapsed, and various provinces reacted in their own ways; Rome becoming a republic, Babylon turning back to the worship of the Annunaki, and so on.

This is an Epic 8th setting, though I do intend to allow limited amounts of mythic in it. That means no character ever gets past 8th level; progression is just feats afterwards (maybe a stat point or two?). One day, when I've got more experience with mythic, I'm thinking of running Reign of Winter, adapted to this, with time travel in one specific adventure.

This is also a setting that is probably not publishable, because it uses real-world religions, and not only dead religions. Of course, there's no reason it would need to be published to play it at home.

Unnamed Setting 1
This setting is inspired by a mix of Dark Sun and watching Les Miserables. Not the movie itself, but a single specific line "fall as Lucifer fell".

This produced in my mind a setting where angels fell to earth, wreathed in flames, causing massive damage, much like a series of large meteor strikes. Then they set themselves up as (mostly) benevolent sorcerer-kings, taking control of the surviving cities and eventually feuding with each other.

Unnamed Setting 2
This one is being built out now, just enough to feed a one-shot I decided to run using Tome of Battle.

It's a mash-up of the lore in the Tome of Battle book itself, the 3rd edition Oriental Adventures book, and Michael Stackpole's A Hero Born and & An Enemy Reborn books. I doubt it will get built out much more than needed for the adventure, though. Too much of it comes directly out of books someone else wrote.

Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

If you can dig up Wizard's Bane by Rick Cook, that might have some suitable ideas as well. The big thing there was that the bigger, more powerful spells were mostly just combinations of lesser spells.

Don't try to throw a bigger fireball, just throw bunches of them. Delayed blast fireball is just a wrapper around wait () and fireball ().

This would probably tend to a system where a higher level spell becomes more of a grouping of lower level effects, and a lot more use of observation spells and conditionals within the spell function, which perhaps consume more energy. The caster can very cheaply look at where his target is and decide where the fireball should detonate. A spell that takes a designated target and aims the fireball at the target's current location requires more energy, to feed the observation spells, tracking spell, and so on. The advantage is that the caster can fire & forget the spell (either feeding it energy continually until he terminates it by stopping the energy flow, or by giving it a chunk of energy at cast time and really ignoring it), leaving him free to spend his brainpower on other spells.

Really fancy spells would observe the target, determine the most likely mode of attack, and execute that attack; basically these become limited AIs, expert systems.

Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber
thejeff wrote:
PhelanArcetus wrote:

I do try to branch out my characters, though I have a definite preference for a martial character with some magic, which is leading me towards a smaller subset of classes. (Even within that, I've got a fair variety available now, especially with different types of builds; basically every 4-level and 6-level caster.)

It's also important to try out different personalities; this is what I find really hard. I can play a wizard, a cleric, a ranger, a fighter, a rogue, weird mixes that were poorly considered, and so on. But my supposedly reckless character is rarely actually reckless.

That's in part because I'm normally not a reckless person, it's also largely because I'm especially used to campaigns where recklessness is punished (implicitly, in the sense that the fights are designed for an optimized party facing them prepared, and are not adjusted on the fly). But then, the guy running the campaigns I've played in the longest is designing a system which seems to assume the players will have to fight defensively most of the time, which sets a tone I don't think I like

This kind of thing is why I prefer a less challenging game. I can back off and make in character mistakes: maybe a reckless character or an overly cautious one or one with less optimized build for in character reasons.

And still not get the party killed.

Having to always play to the best of my personal ability limits my options more than I like.

It can be fun for one-shots to push my own tactical limits, but I don't want to always have to.

Absolutely agreed. Running scared all the time is annoying. It forces that defensive-minded, prepare-extensively mentality. It has me afraid to pursue my character's personal goals, because that would involve splitting the party (during downtime) - I might get ambushed by a party enemy who I simply cannot defeat alone, or I might just require excessive resources to re-assemble the party to handle an encounter on short notice (because we rarely ever get a call that we're needed next week, we get a call that we're needed yesterday).

That's not fun to do all the time. And it stunts my ability to play different personality types as well.

I'm currently in three games, and running a third (and thinking up a Tome of Battle-based one-shot).

In one of those games, which I've been playing the longest, it's that mentality. Fortunately, I'm already playing a smart, cautious fighter.

In another, the combat is normally not insanely dangerous, though the GM likes to make things interesting by playing off of any hook we give him, intentionally or not. I'm coming to the conclusion that the best thing I can do there is actually to just let my character be reckless, because the GM is going to do something about my actions anyway; I may as well not agonize about it.

In the third campaign, well, I'm working to keep things moving there. It's got a lot of the people from the first game, though it's far less threatening, because it's Kingmaker, without much souping up, and there are 6 of us. A little impatience, coupled with taking some interesting combat choices rather than the more typical, help a lot.

And I'm running Wrath of the Righteous, and working to find a balance point in challenge between too easy and too scary. So far, I'm not consistently on one side or the other; I had a combat that almost destroyed the party because I carelessly applied the Advanced template to the enemy, and a few other combats which were simply non-threats, though that was partly the dice; a successful attack by one enemy could have dropped a PC unconscious, from full... but of course I rolled nothing above a 5 the whole combat.

What this says to me, is that you need to experiment to find your style and comfort zone. And you also need to make sure that your style and comfort zone are at least reasonably similar to the rest of your group's.

Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

All my fear here of the party slaughtering the mongrelmen, and there wasn't a single issue.

I'm not sure whether I overreacted in my own head to the party's reactions to the statues, or whether the party forgot. Either way, Neathholm was no worry at all.

And the mongrelmen became sufficient information to handle Millorn, when the shaman asked Chief Sull about him, and the Chief was able to find a warrior who had seen a dwarf run away from a flayed mongrelman corpse, and recognize Millorn as that dwarf.

And my life is made easier by the decision to leave the NPCs behind in Neathholm, though I'll make sure they insist on returning to the surface immediately, just staying here out of the way for now.

Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

Unfortunately I've already had Aravashnial (in conjunction with the party's wizard, who he's taken under his wing) present the initial information. I kept it very limited, just "some of the crusaders from the First Crusade came down here to raise their children in peace", and basically described it as side effects of radiation poisoning. Basically there's no knowledge that the mongrelmen exist yet, aside from the statues in the chamber with the darkmantles.

I think that if I can't sell the party on the mongrelmen being decent, I'll just rearrange matters so that they don't even drop by Neathholm, instead running into the lair. In that case, they can encounter Neathholm afterwards, if at all.

To sell the party on the mongrelmen not being evil, I'll try most of the above, and possibly show their faith. Something as simple as Lann saying "thank the Inheritor" when he sees the holy symbol on the paladin's shield as the party approaches might start things off well.

Arueshalae is far enough away to not worry too much, and the fact that the wizard took Touched by Divinity, with Desna specifically, should help there. Though of course he's not the suspicious / hateful one; he's the one who wanted to find out what Millorn was researching. It's the shaman and the fighter/cleric of Gorum that worry me. But by then I should also have hopefully mellowed them a bit as well as learned how to manipulate them better.

Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

I've been more concerned with how to make my low-Int character not be stupid, because I felt I needed to play intelligently to, well, survive the campaign. While the character died to a fight the GM did a bad job of telegraphing that we should run away from (we saw no way to run without sacrificing all our gear and quite possibly not surviving anyway)...

My solution was twofold. First, make him take a while to come up with the good ideas. Intelligence 8, he'll figure it out, but it will take him ten minutes where a smarter character would get it instantly. Number two was essentially his backstory and goals - he came to the right conclusions the wrong way, through flawed logic and bad assumptions, and then made a bad call. Basically he determined that the Church must be corrupt and in league with demons because it treated him badly... so he's going to pledge himself to other demons. Then a hydra ate his face at level 2 and the replacement character was quite a bit smarter.

Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

With darkness, I decided the darkmantles would try to neutralize existing light sources. The first one swooped down and hit the paladin's torch. Which was subsequently thrown across the room, just as I had intended. The other one really never got a chance to try, since the poor things rolled horribly and just got massacred by a pair of greatswords. To give the PCs tactical options (and consume their spell slots) I made sure to place the ceiling at a point where an enlarge person would let a PC reach a darkmantle on the ceiling.

Now I have run myself into a potential problem, and I want to see if anyone has ideas I can poach.

My party is a bit virulently anti-demon, which is understandable, though I'm a little worried for when they meet Arueshalae. That, however, is far enough away that I can afford to not worry about it. What concerns me now is the reaction of the PCs to Aravashnial's mention of the children of the first crusaders being tainted by abyssal energies. I'm not really worried about an attack first, ask questions later approach, but I'm looking for ideas on playing the initial mongrelmen encounter, and Neathholm, if I can get them there, to dismiss the notion that mongrelmen are inherently evil. This is especially because I want to use the mongrelmen to denounce Millorn, who somehow ended up added to the roster of NPCs rather than killed.

Millorn surviving surprised me; I had him gibbering essentially madly about summoning demons and using sacrifices to power spells. However, some of the party decided he was just harmless, and thus shouldn't be killed, while those in favor of killing him were willing to accept bringing him along under watch. I would rather have him denounced for ritual murder by the mongrelmen than have the intimidated Millorn lash out (though I might have him run away if necessary.

So far, my ideas are pretty basic:
1. Hopefully the frantic attempts to rescue a trapped comrade will show them in a good light to start.
2. When Aravashnial starts getting pushy and rude, assuming he doesn't get shushed too quickly to permit a reaction, Lann will be very polite, even while Aravashnial is prodding him like a side of beef.
3. If the PCs query Lann or other mongrelmen about demonic heritage, have them express sorrow at the assumption, and hatred of demons.
4. A couple of dretch heads might be visible as trophies.
5. In an extreme case, the mongrelmen could be nursing a wounded paladin back to health; I'd rather not introduce a new NPC for this purpose, though.

I don't really care if the PCs forge an alliance with Neathholm, I'm playing fairly fast & loose with a lot of the story rules and just placing the chips where I want them. I don't intend to provide the party with backup rangers, though if they make friends, I'll have the mongrelmen launching spoiling attacks along with the crusaders, rather than accompanying the PCs.

Any other ideas? And thanks in advance.

Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

I do try to branch out my characters, though I have a definite preference for a martial character with some magic, which is leading me towards a smaller subset of classes. (Even within that, I've got a fair variety available now, especially with different types of builds; basically every 4-level and 6-level caster.)

It's also important to try out different personalities; this is what I find really hard. I can play a wizard, a cleric, a ranger, a fighter, a rogue, weird mixes that were poorly considered, and so on. But my supposedly reckless character is rarely actually reckless.

That's in part because I'm normally not a reckless person, it's also largely because I'm especially used to campaigns where recklessness is punished (implicitly, in the sense that the fights are designed for an optimized party facing them prepared, and are not adjusted on the fly). But then, the guy running the campaigns I've played in the longest is designing a system which seems to assume the players will have to fight defensively most of the time, which sets a tone I don't think I like.

One-shots are an amazing way to try things out. I've used a one-shot game to determine that, yes, I can play a pure support character, but I don't really enjoy it that much. I was very effective (my choice of scrolls to supplement my cleric's spell slots was spectacular, as it turned out), but it was much less fun than getting up and smashing foes.

It's also possible to get a fair bit of mastery from paying attention to the rest of the party, especially if the party collaborates on overall tactics; I know the capabilities of all the members of my parties pretty well, which has led to me having a good feel for a variety of classes or builds I have little or no experience playing.

Star Voter 2014

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

Don't Paralyze the Players

Not the paralyzed condition, nothing against that, go right ahead and use it. Don't leave the players paralyzed and incapable of acting.

This often happens when the players can't get enough information to feel comfortable deciding on a course of action. Now for some players, you don't need much. For others, you need a lot. It can also happen when players are terrified of the consequences of acting.

People have already discussed being careful about overuse of threats to the family, friends, and so on. I won't cover that.

Make sure the party can find out enough information to decide what to do. That might be in the context of figuring out if they can win (not will win, but can win) an encounter before they decide to commit to it. It might be giving them enough information to understand the events going on and how they might be addressed.

Don't hide all information behind huge Knowledge checks; if the party needs it, make sure there's a way they can get it. It doesn't necessarily take a brilliant sage... it could take someone specialized in the relevant field. And just set the Knowledge DCs intelligently - if they need the information, make the DC relatively low, or ensure there's another source. And don't feel bad about suggesting things to the players - their characters may be smarter than they are, and the characters definitely know more about the world than the players do. There's a lot of general world knowledge that just never percolates out to the players, but any character, especially a high level one, would know.

In one of the two high-level games I'm playing in, we just committed to a fight, which is going to be a 4-way mess. We know our own capabilities (I hope). We know (out of character) the power level of one guy on side 2, but not who else will be on side 2. We know essentially nothing about side 3 (and apparently cannot find out; the information just doesn't exist or something), and we don't know the composition of side 4, or the capabilities of the individual members who may or may not show up/

In the other, we're investigating multiple plots. Some are bad for the world, some are probably not... but we can't really find out anything. Many of them are connected, but we can't fathom how. And every method of investigation we seem to try just goes nowhere. I'm at the point where I think my character will just do something substantially unwise rather than trying to understand matters any further. (Of course, I have no way to know if the hornet's nests I may unwisely kick are ones I can survive kicking or not.)

Time Pressure, During the Adventure

It's good to have there be time pressure on any given adventure. This is one of those things that keeps the party from doing the 15-minute adventuring day and hitting every encounter with full resources. But the pressure needs to let up between adventures.

One game that I'm in has so much time pressure going on that we regularly comment how it seems like someone comes crying for help the instant we get back from putting out the last fire. It's not quite that bad, but we rarely get to do any crafting, and we've had times when we commissioned some magical equipment and leveled twice before it was ready. If the players need an item (and these were just stat items) to get their practical WBL up to par, they should be able to get that between adventures... and not go on several more adventures while waiting.

Even aside from those mechanical effects, we find it hard to pursue individual, non-combat, time-consuming goals. We're afraid to split the party, not just because one of us might get ambushed by a group that's a fair fight for the whole party, but because if we get a call and need to jump into action, we don't have the resources to bring the entire party together, then get to the adventure location, all in one day (at least not without one character devoting all his high-level slots to that).

Obviously you shouldn't give the party clear indications how long it will be until the next adventure in general (unless they know what that adventure will be and it makes sense). But don't make every adventure come up suddenly, and in full crisis mode. Let it be something where the party can have time to re-assemble.

Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

Sunder works fine, especially since a sundered weapon can be repaired with mending or make whole. Or, if the item isn't particular valuable or sentimental, just replaced.

But the question is why you're doing that. And especially the perception by the players. If the fighter feels like you're taking his specialized, expensive, important-to-his-effectiveness weapon away, he may be quite angry, especially if it feels either arbitrary or like a punishment.

One fighter I'm playing has this awesome, overpowered, far-too-good sword (it's about a +12 equivalent, and only +3 of that is actual enhancement). Early on, when it was just a +1 keen with potential to do something more awesome that wasn't yet specified, it was nearly destroyed by a bad fight with a Remorhaz. I was about ready to just walk away from the game. If something similar happened now, I probably would (I didn't design the item, and well over half of the character's offensive combat capability is tied up in that sword). An item that's important should never be destroyed or taken away unless it's part of the story.

If the players managed to get an item that's just too good, you could destroy it or take it away, or you could sit down with the players, discuss why the item is too good, and weaken the item, or have it have limited charges that run out, or have it stolen (with player, but not character, agreement), and not recoverable either ever, or until it's appropriate to the party again.

Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

I suspect the cleric is just taking advantage of some situational bonus to hit demons to power attack vs. demons, and isn't power attacking otherwise. That would easily account for the additional +6.

I see this sort of query a lot, and I think a great deal of it has to do with managing expectations on both sides of the table. I'm paying a lot of attention to this, because I'm close to starting my own Wrath of the Righteous, and with two players who are going to, as a matter of course, because that's what they're used to, look to the full casters in the group to solve everything that isn't solved by direct violence, through the use of spells. And to expect to enter any significant fight with multiple minute/level and round/level spell buffs on.

I don't mind if they stomp most of the regular fights (though I will be applying the Advanced template and max'ing enemy HP as a matter of course, as well as periodically adding additional foes, mostly by combining encounters into waves). It's the boss fights I worry about, especially those where the party has a chance to buff up. Because I play like that sometimes too, and I know what happens.

Last week, in between books 2 & 3 of Kingmaker, the GM of that campaign put us against an encounter I think he manufactured himself. I think he expected it to be more dangerous, but because he allowed us to ambush the single enemy, it was a joke. The foe didn't even last a full round. Why? Because we were able to enter the fight knowing what we were up against, with appropriate defensive and offensive buff spells in place.

So the general tips I've picked up from the forums (some of this will be redundant):

  • Know your players, obviously. Know what they want, and can do, as both players and characters. That means both looking over character sheets periodically and talking to the players about their characters and playstyles. When looking at the character sheets, you're looking to understand any rules they're using, checking for math errors, and keeping an eye on character wealth (more to adjust loot and challenges than to take it away). Understand how the players want to handle combats; should every combat be a serious challenge? If so, you may even want to hand-wave the easier combats into narrative.
  • This also means coming to an understanding with the players as to what to emphasize. Some players want nothing but combat after combat, interspersed with treasure and leveling up. Some players want a lot of time spent roleplaying. Find something that both you and the players can be happy with. Then tailor the campaign to that much combat, that much roleplaying. Discuss what levels of metagaming are suitable, and remember that many enemies are as intelligent as PCs.
  • The easiest ways to boost encounters are the Advanced template and max HP for NPCs.
  • Play the enemies, especially the boss-grade enemies, actively and dynamically. Creatures in nearby rooms will respond to the sounds of combat, not just wait around for the PCs to enter their room. Spellcasters will cast their buffs, even ones not listed in their tactics block. A spellcasting boss may show up to assist against the party for a round or two before retreating to the next strongpoint. Feel free to adjust some of the spells known or prepared.
  • Addition to above, but merits its own bullet point: if the party retreats, the enemy will find reinforcements if at all possible. They'll set up more defensible positions, difficult terrain, traps, and the like.
  • If the party is standing outside a room they're sure contains a boss fight, and buffing, then the boss is either in there, also buffing and summoning, or the boss isn't even there. If the party relies on being able to pre-buff for every combat they expect will be major, then fake them out occasionally, or have the enemy get away. Also don't forget that many spellcasting enemies can dispel, and that the enemies who paused outside your door for a solid minute of chanting are coming in stuffed to the gills with dispellable magical effects - trying to remove those is just good sense.
  • Unless you've agreed with the players to focus only on the major combats, make sure they have too much adventuring time to be able to do the 15-minute workday. Find ways to slow them down so the minute per level buffs don't last for the entire dungeon (anything to get them to pause, even just longer hallways and bigger rooms to make travel take longer).
  • More enemies generally trumps one big enemy. This is mostly because of action economy and vulnerability to debuffs, but also because when you have to power up just one foe enough to challenge an optimized party, you really get into rocket launcher tag. If you're only going to have one or two rounds to act, you've got to get all your impact and threat in those two standard actions. Which means those have to be particularly deadly. If, instead, you've got a few enemies, not all clustered where one spell can cripple them, you've got far more actions to take, and you can disperse a similar total amount of damage to the party. Basically this gives you a chance to challenge the party without playing into an AC/save bonus arms race, where the party starts pushing their defenses up to incredible heights because every failed save kills. It also makes action-denial less able to entirely shut down an encounter.
  • Space is your friend. If the party opens the door and the fighter is a 5-ft step away from the enemy wizard, then the enemy wizard is going to have a very bad time. If the fighter has to cross 20 or 30 feet of difficult terrain, maybe a trap, maybe just an improvised trap or hazard - spill that brazier of coals or something, just enough to make the party think twice before just charging.

Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber
HolmesandWatson wrote:

@Pehlan: Have you played yet? What do you think? I've got the Skull and Shackles Beta but we haven't mananged to get together and play it yet.

Played a few rounds solo, running one character only.

I enjoyed it, but I discovered that as Seelah I can't roll at all - a paladin should not lose to the same skeleton three times. Whereas when I played as Valeros I ran into the villain quickly in each location *and* easily beat him each time. And it's not that Seelah is bad. I just rolled very badly when I used her.

MendedWall12 wrote:

Oh man! Holmes, you've sparked an idea that I've wanted to chat with knowledgeable people about for a while now.

The question is essentially one, but can, and probably should be looked at from two different perspectives. The question is: What is to be done when a participant in a running game isn't feeling emotionally enthusiastic about the game?

Being a human being I know that every other gamer out there will be able to empathize with that day that you really just "aren't feeling it," when it comes to playing an RPG.

The two different angles for this, though, depend on whether the person "not feeling it" is a player or the GM.

One could argue it's okay to continue playing with a player that is emotionally "under the weather." (Which is a ridiculous euphemism, by the way.) It's much harder to continue a game with a GM that is under that same proverbial weather though.

One of the reasons I ask is because I am the GM and I've almost cancelled a game session because of my own lack of enthusiasm, but I know that's not fair to the players. However, I wonder, is it fair to the players to play in a session where the GM isn't giving it his/her "all." Holmes post, makes this topic of conversation completely relevant.

Thanks Holmes!

I think the first question is whether we're talking about temporary or long-term lack of enthusiasm. If you're just burned out and need to take a bit of a break, that's an excellent, excellent time to let one of the players run a one-shot, or play board games, or just hang out. As long as you can give decent notice, that shouldn't really be an issue if it happens from time to time.

Now if you're talking about having entirely lost enthusiasm for the campaign, then that's something where you really need to sit down with the players and discuss it. Because you'd need to either recover that enthusiasm, or end the campaign. Trying to run a campaign you're not interested in will make you miserable, and it will likely makes the players miserable as well, and then nobody's having fun.

Even if it's a player who's not feeling it, that could be cause to cancel the gaming session, especially if that session would focus significantly on that character. One player, unless central to the plot, can skip out of a session without a major impact. The GM can't do that.

I would say that you need to look to what is best for yourself, and for the campaign. If that's to cancel a session or three, rather than killing the campaign through burnout, then cancel the session(s). And if what's best for you really is to kill the campaign, then you need to sit down with the players, explain that, and do what you can to get the campaign to a satisfying resolution.

Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

Things to be cautious of:

When you're making a worn item unslotted, you're making it more powerful, because it no longer needs to compete with other items for that slot. That's no big deal if the item doesn't grant a benefit from being worn. In that case, it's not worn in a mechanical sense, you could say, more of carried (in a fashion that happens to be wearing it on your belt). But imagine, say, if we took the old periapt of wisdom, re-implemented as an unslotted item. Suddenly, it's a way to get your Wisdom bonus without having to conflict with all the other headband slots you might want. This makes it strictly more powerful.

Many unslotted items have no slot because they need to be held or manipulated to work, so they're carried and then used in your hands, no big deal.

Powerful is nice, but your have to jack the price up to compensate, and that can put the item out of reach of the characters who wish they had it.

As far as multiple effects with a single command word, what you're doing is offering a chance to break action economy. For an extreme example, imagine three items competing for the same slot; the first cool item allows you to cast haste on yourself as a standard action, the second cool item allows you to cast divine power on yourself as a standard action, and the really cool item allows you to cast both divine power and haste on yourself in one standard action. The really cool item will always be chosen, because it lets you do two things at once.

In general terms, this means that if you're providing multiple effects in a single action, you should jack up the price to compensate. The longer-term the effects are, the less this matters; there's little practical difference between activating endure elements and longstrider as two standard actions instead of one, because those are going to be activated when you get up in the morning and last all day. But a pair of 1 round / level effects? Activating both simultaneously is huge.

One possible guideline you could use for guesstimating the price differential is looking at the Alchemist discovery Combine Extracts; that lets you put two extracts into one flask, breaking action economy the same way, but requires an extract slot 2 levels higher than the most powerful of the two extracts.

Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules Subscriber

One thing I want to point out from experience as a Dex Magus, and this might not bother you at all:

A lot of the buffing spells you might consider are great for a Strength-based character, and lousy, even counter-productive for a Dex-based character.

Granted, you may just be preparing nothing but energy-substituted, intensified shocking grasp, but if you want to buff yourself, a lot of options go away because you don't want to sacrifice Dex. Given that your spell DCs won't be very good, you're probably not going to be casting spells that have saves, which leaves you with touch attack spells delivered via Spellstrike, self-buffs, and the occasional utility spell. I was actually finding myself hard-pressed to pick up further spells known that I would ever prepare.

I found it frustrating, but I was also playing the rogue and arcane caster roles, which did mean my character was spread far too thin. So I found myself with very few spells prepared and too many uses for them. If you're not trying to fill any roles other than "stab you with magic", it'll be easier.

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