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Vencarlo Orinsini

Rendel Bladetwist's page

277 posts. Alias of Tark the Ork.

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Male Orc Expert 5


Male Orc Expert 5

And here we go.

Been a while since I updated the blog so I did it wiht a little post.

In keeping with certain other things I said I'll post the relevant text here.

Little things count.

It’s easy for us to get caught up in the big vague concepts such as DPR, tactics, optimization, cahracter concept, or something so big and important like party make up. Does our group of two oracles, a paladin, and a bard have enough skills to spread our capabilities well? Does my cleric benefit the group more as offensive support or as a defensive anchor?

But what about the little things?

Such as encouraging every spellcaster in the group to have a healing type spell to spare charges off the wnad at the end of the day or to take pressure off the support casters after every fight. Or, keeping one damaging spell on hand in case an enemy really needs to die right now and they have taken so much damage that it can’t be that far off.

Or, rather than stopping at the very first square that comes to mind to make an attack consider if the next square over will give your allies more space to work with, more ways to flank, more avenues to get shots in or to make it easier to lay down spells on you or your target.

The truth about the little things is that they stack up and it all begins with two questions.

What do I have in excess and how can I use that to benefit the group?

Let’s say for example you have all the spells known of a certain level you want. But as more spells pile on to that list you are left wondering what to do with them. Do you let them go to waste? Do you pick a spell that sounded neat? Grab a situational spell?

I think the best answer is to look at your group as a whole and decide for yourself what works best with them. Is one caster doing the majority of healing? Maybe a healing spell will help lighten their burden. Is a monk struggling with their AC? Maybe just having mage armor where you don’t require it will help. Have loads of extracts you never use and an extra talent? Grab the infusions talent and pass them around.

Too much gold? See if someone has a dream item they are just shy of. Maybe throw the money into another healing wand for the group as a whole.

The ultimate benefit to all of this is that as the group takes on each other’s burdens they become lifted as a whole. The caster that is less worried about healing can focus on buff and support spells for the party. The monk wiht the higher ac gets hit less saving resources and making them more effective. The dream item at the pc’s command increases how dangerous they are in combat overall. With everyone having access to excess infusions they can save group action economy and spend quiet rounds in combat utilizing those infusions to great effect.

It doesn’t cost much. A spell known here, a spare talent their, some extra gold that would otherwise sit still on the sheet until your next big purchase. Before you know it these little bits of teamwork really add up.

Most Relevant Build and World Information Will be Here.

So this is a homebrew experiment on a series of houserules meant to allow heroes, to well, be heroes.

You are newly recruited agents of the secret society that calls themselves the Red Sentinels. Claiming to act above any guild or law they work relentlessly to resolve the plague that has been devouring the city of Freeden for years. You have been chosen, either from the guilds, the populace or perhaps even among members of the Church of The One Lord to help solve this menace and release the city from the plague once and for all before another Flesh Harvest begins.

If you have any questions do let me know. I answered some in the interest thread already.

This will be up until Sunday night. I figure that's enough time for those truly interested to get something together.

Ultimately what I want is two things. A solid sheet and a very compelling character. The length of the game depends very much on the strength of the characters and the reliability of the palyers. If I can have reliable players with very strong and interesting characters with hope for development than who knows how long this will go for.

So I decided to do something a bit experimental and drug out some stuff I haven't made use of in a while.

Relevant Information Is Here

But so you understand the basic premise the group is selected by a secret society to help uncover the mystery behind a years long plague that has gripped the city. Two years from an event called by citizens the Flesh Harvests there is fear that such an event might occur again and efforts are being made to halt the spread before it happens.

Right now this is just an interest check instead of a proper recruitment as I'm still building the game and don't want to do more work in terms of world building than I have to. So as I work on it I'm answering questions simultaneously. Once I'm satisfied I've answered enough questions gotten enough interest I'll open a proper recruitment thread.

So, looking over some stuff from Path of War and reflecting on the design philosophy behind it something occurred to me.

What happens if we remove the 9th level casters entirely from the equation?

How does the game change?

I know it's going to be hard but can we not invoke the dark and squiggly one while discussing this? I'm curious about how the game balances under these parameters not so much about summoning the Dark One.

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So a long while ago I did a bad thing and ended up making like a 45 page thread in a valiant effort to attempt to optimize my way out of Rogue cruddiness into Rogue greatness. I ended up copy-pasting all the builds I found into this document for future generations

The result?

The ACG came out and flat out murdered the poor bastard.

But we learned alot. We came up with ways to play it that were previously unthought of. We certainly didn't approach even a minimally optimized bard in terms of options but we did do some really neat stuff.

But now we have the unchained rogue. Is it better? Will it let us compete? Let's see. I've been meaning to do this since the book came out. But now I have the time to get it to work.

So as before let's get to it.

First the Goals

First, we want to make sure the Unchained Rogue is better than Core Rogue.

Second, we want to make sure our new Unchained Rogue can reasonably compete against our 3/4 casters like Bards, Inquisitors, Alchemists, and the undisputed ruler of skill checks the Investigator.

We are not interested in competing against Rangers, wizards, slayers and what not as they cover different conceptual ground.

This needs to be done as a PURE rogue. Dipping one or two levels is okay but doesn't give a strong argument.

Our Challenges

Saves: We have one good save. And it's reflex. This is bad for us. PArticularly since we don't have an in-class method of reliably increasing them. But maybe I'm wrong.

Sneak Attack: It does not increase on a crit and requires us to be flanking a target or catching them flat footed. This wouldn't be so bad except it's also our main source of damage. To add to our troubles it's also the ability that triggers our new and nifty

To overcome this we must either produce a constant situation where the enemy is flat footed or make it to where sneak attack is a secondary source of damage.

Low attack: Unlike our brothers in the 3/4 bab range we have no means to increase our attack rolls. Even the monk can spend a ki point and get an okay boost to attacks. Rogues are forced to rely on positioning which is not a province of the rogue.

To overcome this we'll have to figure out how to get the most out of our attack to ensure that our sneak attacks even hit. Otherwise we will not be doing great damage nor making reasonable use of debilitating injury.

Skills and abilities It's extremely difficult to find something the rogue can do that a single casting of a spell can't do better.

To overcome this we need to make a rogue that's unique in the sense they can't be replaced with a spell or an eidolon. Being replaced with another class doesn't count since we can mix and match classes like this anyway (barbarians for paladins, sorcerers for wizards etc.).

Will Rogue's Edge help us fill that gap? Or it an insult?

Our tools

Just so we have a common ground to work with here keep things paizo published, and 20pt. buy.

Builds posted must be functional at all levels and try to come to fruition at or before 10th level (because we want to talk to the pfs crowd as well)

VMC is okay but I don't actively encourage it myself.

Our agreement.

Please no snark, and no negativity. Saying things like "the best rogue is a ninja/bard/alchemist/eidolon" is unproductive to the discussion. We're not here to talk about how the rogue sucks. We're here about how to make the rogue awesome.

On the flipside don't talk about the awesomeness of rogues without throwing up some mechanics. And if you do throw up some mechanics don't do things like take two levels of rogue and call that a good show of the class.

And please, no anecdotes like "a good player can make the rogue work" that's unhelpful.

Also, show your work. Don't make claims like "the unchained rogue is super broken" without backing your claim with math. If your rogue character is successful, post them and give the context of the game and explain why they're successful.

Also, keep in mind that goalposts might be moved. We want to push ourselves. If we can go beyond being better than a bard or investigator (unlikely but maybe possible).

Lastly, no houserules or class redesigns. We work with what we got, not fantasize about what we could have.

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So I'm looking at the occultist and there are lots of things, concepts mainly, that seem to work for me with it. A wielder of ancient weapons, someone who has inherited a heroes panoply, someone whose haunted ancestry manifests itself through items they once carried.
Or simply a psychic sensitive who uses items charged with history and power to make their magic work.

I'm gathering information on it because I'm rather curious on what all it can do. Parts of it strikes me as a class quite capable of a lot with careful thought and planning. Like is it possible to build a quite dangerous blaster with Evocation implements? Could you be a good summoner? A great fighter? An excellent rogue substitute?

I'm playing around and looking at stuff. Very utility heavy in terms of spell lists and powers. Things like MAgic circles feels tacked on for flavor while at the same time still useful enough that I'd consider falling asleep in a magic circle to keep me safe from possession and all that. Interesting stuff overall.

With all the attention paid to kineticists I'm looking at Occultist and wondering if we're not missing the real star.

I have to admit the book is growing on me some. Even if I had zero interest at first.

I'm rather fond of the Ghostrider archetype and I think the Promethean Alchemist and Flesheater Barbarians are sleeper hits both flavor and mechanic's wise.

Psychic detective might objectively be one of the strongest archetypes printed. Replacing their unwieldly extracts with straight forward spells seems a trade up.

Both magus archetypes seem great to me. Especially the unarmed one since we've been patiently waiting for an arcane fist for a while now.

Furious spell feels like the kind of feat I want to build something around.

Overall some neat stuff. What has everyone else found?

Hello hello.

So, I've been prodded by my friends and significant other to start a high level gestalt game.

This will be set in Sigil though much of it will largely be changed since there won't be any greyhawk or forgotten realm influences.

There is no overarching "plot" to the game merely a scenario the characters will be dropped in that I will simply sum up as "A large inheritance" and we'll go from there.

First game will be on the 26th at around 3pm Eastern US time.

Things you should know:

We're doing this over Roll20 and through Mumble or Google Hangouts if we can't get a server. Mumble is a free program. Mics are certainly required.

Recruitment ends Tuesday morning if I don't have a great candidate already.

I don't want to babysit. Sorry, but I'd like someone familiar with the rules. Not necessarily super proficient but someone who understands the basics at the very least. I very much want to focus on the game itself rather than the rules.

Yes my spouse is playing. No it makes no difference in how I treat her in-game. I've slept on the couch over this.

Character Creation:

25pt. buy

Everything on is allowed. However no monster races that give racial hit die, no templates.

10th level max hp per level. 62,000gp

Companions and cohorts are not gestalted.

Current players are a Druid/Rogue a Paladin/swashbuckler and a bard/summoner.

If you have any further questions please let me know.

So, I'm an old hat when it comes to optimization.

I was there when PunPun was born, when the only way to defeat him was to abort him by sacrificing an artificer to the gods.

I was there when people widely considered psionics to be overpowered in part due to a complete lack of understanding of the system. And then when people said that PunPun technically could not work. But no one cared because you can't hold a good Kobold God down.

So I'm used to my share of outlandish claims (I had a 7 page argument with someone who thought fighters were OP) and different versions of balanced versus OP.

But recently I've heard the implication, if not the outright claim that a Path of War character is equivalent to a gestalt character. And an optimized one is equivalent to a triple gestalt.

For those ignorant. Gestalt was a rule introduced in unearthed arcana that let you combine two classes. You simply took the best of the two classes, the abilities of both and ran with it.

So, say a Paladin/Oracle would have full BAB, full casting and all the paladin and oracle abilities.

It's a pretty popular variant for a number of reasons from allowing GM's to run smaller but balanced groups to giving characters a lot of flexibility for more individualistic games to simply wanting have a nice bonkers high level game.

So, I'm familiar enough with Path of War that I'm putting some stuff together. But maybe I'm simply biased in thinking that it can be quite nutty but nothing worse than what I can pull with, say, any full caster.

So, honest opinions, do you think Path of War classes are equivalent to the monsters in gestalt games, or even triple gestalt? And why do you think so?

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So a week or two back I was given he task of giving the other two Machinesmith expansions a look so we can improve and clarify the issues with the work already put in and getting them on par with the concepts and stuff produced with WoMD.

Brief Disclaimer:
In case it needs to be said please keep in mind that anything said or changed is not an insult, jab, or otherwise disparaging of the original authors work. The stuff in question was before we had a really good editor in Joshua Yearsley and without much if any input from the original authors of the machinesmith. This is not about making a bad content good, but making good content great.

So let's go over briefly what will happen starting with the easiest things.

Cutting Edge Machinesmith.


Converter: Probably the biggest revisions are happening to the converter.

Ultimately, it's just boring. Boring would be okay if it had a lot of utility like the analyzer. But it really doesn't.

So we with kaboom.

If you consider the Analyzer to represent machines that observe and calculate, and the constructor to represent machines that design and build, than the converter represents those machines that reproduce the more fun parts of physics from tesla coils to atom bombs.

It's getting it's spell list overhauled to be more in line with the analyzer in terms of level and ability.

In addition it's getting more base abilities similar to the analyzer as well (which if you remember granted bonuses to skills, dark vision and what not) with the idea being that you can customize your kaboom and at a master level basically tell time and space itself to shut up and sit down while you walk across it.

If we look at it from a player perspective the analyzer is there for subtle players who want to act on as much information as possible, hate being surprised, and affect the world in subtle but significant ways. The constructor is there for creative players. Those who know that a solution is only a matter of having the right tool, whether it's the appropriate magic weapon, wondrous item, or simply a big crowbar. I can imagine engineering majors drawing out full diagrams of the stuff they make to solve a problem.

The converter exists when you don't care to be subtle or creative and just want impact. That is not to say that it's unintelligent. Not at all. Among the abilities I'm considering is the ability to expend a number of charges and rebuild assembled prototypes by disassembling full slots into empty ones, changing energy damage types, or switching out augmentations on the fly.

So, it'll be stronger but still limited by its charges and it's smallish spell list. It'll open up more options but should not overshadow any other greatwork to any significant degree.

Mobius Armor

I'm kind of fond of this given its obvious inspirations. Not much is changing here. Some clarifications but otherwise I feel it's good enough not to warrant any changes for better or worse.


Again, not much to say here. Some clarifications, some polish, nothing too bad.


One thing some will notice when they compare new and old is I'll try and remove as many spell references as possible and just give relevant text where I can. I'm trying to get away from spell reference where ever possible as I find it irritating to have to look up spells and then translate that spell through the thing referenced.

Sometimes it's unavoidable for word space. Other times it's just less confusing to give text and modify.


Overall I liked the techniques and are virtually flawless. I didn't see a need to change them myself. Editing may though.


Again not much changing here.


Reprinting construct subschool. Mostly just some minor revisions here and there.

I'll go over changes to the fleshwriat next. Overall it's going to see some big revisions.

So I've been wanting to run a home(ish) game for a while and had in mind to do a Kaiju focused one. But that task is daunting and requires quite a bit of time to get right.

So I'm scratching the itch in the meantime with an adventure path that's about as wild as running like hell from the cloverfield monster in the first few hours of the homebrew I had in mind.

So here we go.

The Basics.

1. If you are interested simply let me know in this thread. Give me a quick run down about yourself and your experience and I'll let you know via PM.

2. A microphone is mandatory. Maptools is java based and I'll be getting the latest version to ensure everyone is on the same page. I have no interest in other things atm as maptools is nice, quick, and I'm comfortable with it given my many many folders of things for it. Plus, people skilled in java can make some very good macros. It's also free. So yeah.

3. I don't want your character sheet. I don't want your backstory. Seriously if you give it to me here I won't even consider it. Sure, you can work on one but don't expect it to be final. Reason being as I plan on the first session being purely about the players getting together to make characters, hashing out their backstories, and building an actual team rather than a bunch of poor sobs thrown together as this AP seems to implicate. You'll be better for it trust me.

4. First session will be on the 14th with Recruitment closing on the 8th. 4 people with a 5th if I feel it works out.

Things you should know.
1. All Paizo, Machinesmith, and Path of War Material will be allowed. Unchained classes allowed but not required (you can still be an APG summoner if you choose) Stamina system in place but only for Fighters who gain the Combat Stamina feat for free at 1st level.

2. 20pt. buy starting at level 1. Two traits one must be a campaign trait. I highly suggest getting the players guide.

3. Encounters are being altered for difficulty. Not CR. Which is to say certain things are changed to make fights harder without necessarily making the numbers bigger. Their tactics and equipment might change, I may switch out NPC's of one class for another, I might do something extremely subtle like simply move the furniture around the room. Whatever I can do to increase the difficulty and force the group to act as a group and not a pack of individuals I will do so.

Confirmed Houserules

Injury System: I'm currently working on an injury system I am looking to publish. The concept is that it is harder to actually lose a character to death but easier to see them injured. Details will come in when we start the game so I will just say that it's very easy for a character to lose a limb or break a leg and it takes time to properly heal. Magic can't really do the trick for a lot of injuries but some spells will be introduced around 3rd spell level that should function like remove disease/curse to give a good chance.

To Be Discussed houserules

I'm considering some other houserules to help combat be more dynamic/tactical. But, we'll talk about those with the group as a whole. Some thoughts.

No Attack of Opportunity for combat maneuvers if you do not posses the feat.

Attack of Opportunity against you if you miss an attack by 5+Wis mod.

And some others depending.

Let me know if you have any questions.

So recently my GM has ruled that unless specifically stated in the maneuver that golden lion maneuvers do not benefit me.

Citing this.

Golden Lion wrote:

The discipline of Golden Lion is a practice passed between war leaders, chieftains, generals, and militia leaders over the generations, meant to bring a group of warriors together into one cohesive unit. Golden Lion is a discipline that only greatly benefits a warrior who believes strongly in teamwork. The larger the group, the more who can benefit from the skilled leadership of a dedicated commander. Golden Lion benefits its practitioners indirectly, by aiding their allies instead. Because of this association with team work and working in groups with many differing people, the associated skill for this discipline is Diplomacy, and its associated weapon groups are heavy blades, hammers, and pole arms.

Is this how it's supposed to work? Or do I still count as my own ally and this is flavor text?

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Here's the blog post.

For all the talk about the ability for one class or another to crush a game master’s plans every gamer from the newest player to the most ancient of Gygaxian disciples understand that they are ultimately at the mercy of the dice. For all the bluster about good role playing and optimization it all too often comes down to blind stupid luck in determining whether or not we succeed or fail.

This is why much of optimization is, at its core, all about altering chances to favor the character. Or rather it’s about eliminating risk and maximizing reward. Whether it’s forcing a failed save by the enemy with high DC’s or a high, consistent critical range to ensure that you critically hit often many choices are made to make these opportunities happen as often as possible.

Tactics are no different. Actions, positioning, and numbers shift and flow altering percentages either for or against the group. Tactics is all about controlling this chaotic movement so that it allows the odds to always favor the group.

In this section we’ll discuss the two kinds of risks a group must face in every combat and how they affect the actions a character will use.

Hard Risks

Hard Risks are the easiest for any player to determine as they are based entirely on raw math.

The first thing any player should know about hard risks is what is sometimes called the 5% rule.

The 5% rule comes from the idea that on nearly every check made by a character using a 20 sided die there is always a 5% chance the die will come up as 20 and thus auto succeed or come up as 1 and thus automatically fail regardless of whatever bonus is behind the die roll. Basically, a critical hit or critical miss respectively.

This rule is what explains how a CR20 dragon can still be genuinely afraid of a large human army mostly composed of level 1 to level 3 warriors. They do not necessarily have to be skilled with their ballista shots, bolts coated in magic weapon oil, or alchemical frost weapons, all they have to be is lucky.

So, keeping this in mind any calculation of a percentage on a d20 will never get higher than 95% nor lower than 5% since the extreme ends of the spectrum are automatic successes or failures.

One method (that is less likely to require a calculator for expediency) is to subtract the bonus from the target number and multiply the result by 5. The number given represents a percentage chance to fail the roll. You can subtract this number from 100 to get the chance to succeed.

If this sounds complicated don’t worry too much. Often times just knowing you need a number above 10 or 12 is more than enough to tell you that the chances are not in your favor for the action to succeed. The only tricky part is finding out the target numbers. Game masters aren’t exactly going to tell you what those numbers are. That’s metagaming. However, simple observation of rolls, bonuses, and whether they succeed or not can give you a fair guess. Often if you at least work at it a GM won’t get upset simply because you knowing the number does speed the game up.

Let’s take an example and put some of this together, let’s say a paladin is flanking with a ranger and trying to debate whether or not he should use his smite evil ability on a particular foe. The ranger takes his full attack of three attacks each with a bonus of +15 on the first two attacks and a +10 on the last attack. The ranger rolls a 24, a 27 and a 21. The 21 and 24 both miss the targets AC but the 27 hits. The paladin has a base modifier of +17 on his attacks. Knowing that the targets AC is at least 25 and no more than 27 he needs at least an 8 to have any hope of hitting the creature or anywhere between a 60% to 50% chance. Deciding that the extra +3 bonus he can get from his ability is worth it he activates smite evil to grant him a 75% to 65% chance of hitting the target. Much better odds and buffs from other party members can be added to the attack bonus to make it easier to hit the monster.

As another example of decision making based on hard risks a wizard has to defend himself from an incoming orc brandishing a mean falchion with his name on it. With a base 18 AC thanks to mage armor and a great dex modifier the orc’s +5 attack bonus only has a 35% chance (a 13 on the roll or better) of hitting him. However he already knows that the orc will charge granting him another +2 bonus on the attack raising his chances to 45%. Given his low hit points the orc has a fair chance of dropping him immediately if the orc rolls high or crits. The wizard could cast shield granting him an additional +4 AC and lowering the chances of getting hit to 25% from a charge. Those are good odds. However the wizard also has the sleep spell which the orc only has a 20% chance of success against. At this point the only real difference is a question of reward, which we will get into later.

Soft Risks

Soft risks are chances taken based upon enemy psychology and habits and have more to do with the likelihood an action is going to take place rather than whether or not an action will succeed. These are far more difficult to quantify and much of it relies entirely upon game master habits. This is, yes, metagaming. It’s unavoidable as you are not determining what exactly the orc is going to do but rather you are actually determining the game master’s interpretation of what the orc would do.

That’s important. Because even if you are running the same module, adventure path, or pathfinder society scenario, each gamemaster will run it in slightly different and often significant ways that run counter to your expectations. So, pay attention, consider how the monster may act under your game master.

Ultimately, what it will come down to is experience and a good idea of what you’re doing versus what the enemy is going to react to. Assume the worst, assume the enemy is smarter than they are, and you’ll do fine.

Let’s go back to our above to our wizard example. The worst case scenario for the wizard is that the orc will charge him. However the orc could also decide to instead chuck a javelin at him or perhaps run off and flank with a companion against the groups fighter. The last option may be even worse than the wizard simply getting charged. If the fighter is dropped by a lucky crit the wizard may suddenly go from facing one orc in melee to two or even three. This decision, at once simplified by mathematics, is made more difficult by enemy psychology. Sure, the orc may see a paper thin object with finite hit points to massacre. Or, it could rightly see an object to fear and may choose to engage another enemy to free up comrades to face your threat. Just as likely the game master has chosen to run his orcs as mostly cowards who only face opponents when they outnumber the group a good two to one and thus may decide to flee altogether.

A Factor of Reward

So far we've discussed the concept of risk in terms of enemy psychology and hard game mathematics. We've looked over how we discover chances of success and how they pertain into our decision making process. However one factor we have yet to cover is what success actually gives us.

You see it’s easy to think that simply having a high percentage chance of success is all that’s required to make a decision. But, we also have to factor in the actual rewards for such a decision. What we have to look at is whether or not the outcome fits our goal for the combat.

From a group standpoint this means defeating the encounter while spending as few resources as possible. Individually speaking this means fulfilling your role in the group while maintaining your ability to continue doing so.

If we go back to our wizard example above we discussed the mathematics and various actions the orc can take leaving us with two possible decisions on our wizards part. Casting shield means a guaranteed outcome that gives the orc little chance of actually harming the wizard. However casting sleep gives us a good chance of dropping the orc out of the combat completely. The reward for shield is a heightened AC at the risk of the orc taking another action to make the casting of the spell all but meaningless. The risk of sleep is the chance the orc will make their save and leave the orc more or less open to do as they please.

What the wizard chooses to do is simply a choice of deciding whether or not the risk of either action is worth the reward and deciding whether or not that reward corresponds to their goals. In this case the wizard, whose role it is to control the enemy would find that casting shield would do nothing to control the enemy and does not function to make the encounter go any faster. Casting sleep would not only potentially being the encounter closer to an end but also fulfill the wizard’s role in the group of ensuring the enemy remains controlled. In the end, the wizard casts sleep.

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And here we go.

So, I ultimately killed the book idea.

It wasn't a particularly easy decision since I got so much of it written already. But, I came to the conclusion that when I eventually publish my own book I wanted to do something else.

So, rather than let that work go to waste I'm simply iving it away bit by bit.

At some point I'll compile the house rules and suggestions for making games, specifically combat, more challenging and throw them into a book as that both seems much more marketable and a little bit more palatable than releasing what s essentially a strategy guide.

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So I sat down and did a thing with a mic and made a podcast because writing takes hours and this took about 20 minutes.

I talk briefly about things other people have written and wonder what to do with stuff I already wrote.

Also it's Christina Stiles and Misfit Games. It was late and I was tired.

So I find myself in a dilemma of too many options.

I have 15 1st level (npc) elven followers along with an Arcanist cohort and a Machinesmith character.

We're to form a military unit for us in mass combat and out. Guns everywhere is the rule and I have loads of money to kit out the crew.

So basically everyone already has a handy haversack, plenty of ammo, and at least a masterwork rifle.

I've toyed with a number of ideas from technology to siege weapons.

What I want to do is produce something fast, mobile, and packing a good hard punch.

I have 13,000gp to spend. Troops are already armed and kitted up for basic stuff. So I'm looking for something extra to give that extra push towards awesome.

Male Orc Expert 5

Place holder.

So I already discussed this a bit in a somewhat rambly blog post.

But, I wanted to bring it here to have an actual discussion on it.

Because, while there are rather lively and tired debates on the stormwind fallacy we rarely talk about how sometimes we refuse to be smart in combat because it's not in-character.

Male Orc Expert 5

And here we go. Split up from the old thread since they were taking that over.

Male Orc Expert 5

Alrighty so let's get character creation started.

The first thing we're going to do is select the regiment we want to be a part of. This help determines some things like starting aptitudes, doctrines and what not. Training stuff.

Cadian Shock Troopers: Disciplined fighters from the ever-besieged world of Cadia where over 90% of the population is raised form birth to defend against the forces of chaos. You've held and handled weapons since you were old enough to crawl. Your tactics, uniform, and doctrines set the standard that all Imperial Guard regiments strive to follow.

Catachan Jungle Fighters: Born and raised on a death world with legendarily inhospitable conditions to human life you represent man's ability to adapt and overcome. A true survivor in the most hostile of situations.

Death Corps of Krieg: Conceived in rebellion and born of nuclear fire you come from a background of regimented self sacrifice and penitence for the crimes of your ancestors.

Elysian Droptroopers: From the fringes of space you have served a tour of duty defending your homeworld and hunting pirates, raiders and other terrors that come from the deepest ranges of space. Lightly armed and lightly equipped droptroopers specialize in dropping on enemies from orbit, from dropship, or from other airborne conveyances to surprise and ambush an enemy and conserving resources until the battle is won or at least until reinforcements arrive.

MAccabian Jannissaries: Driven by zeal enflamed by the deepest of faiths the Janissaries see their tour of duties as pilgrimages rather than military service.

Mordian Iron Guard: Supremely disciplined and organized your regiment comes from a planet where the unruly require a tight fist to keep order. You represent that order.

Tallarn Desert Raiders: On the desert world of Tallarn you honed your skills for the ambush and the well placed shot on the deserts and tunnels of your home. Guerilla warfare is your creed whether emerging from the dunes lasguns ablazing or thundering suddenly from the mountains astride a powerful leman russ tank.

Vostroyan First Born: You are the first born of your family and due to an agreement made way way before your time whether you wanted to or not you were sent off to serve the imperium in tithe. Your family considers this a great honor and you may have even met a relative when you were shipped off. Vostroyans take pride in their equipment often getting heirlooms from their family in the guard but nonethless of the utmost quality due to your homeworlds close relationship with the Adeptus Mechanica.

The Swordmasters of Yatagan: Raised on a feudal world where skill with the sword is cherished and respected more than the crude ease of lasgun fusilades your regiment relishes the thrill of close combat even against physically superior foes. Your regiment is known for its grisly trophies and unparalleled skill in close combat.

If you want more info fluff wise on the regiments all but the last one can be looked up via google and be provided an absolute wealth of information.

I made the last group because I figured something from a feudal world (i.e. has tech closer to the 1300's) might be more comfortable to those unfamiliar with the setting.

As far as people from a mix of homeworlds might be concerned we can discuss it but I'd like for most of the squad to come from the same homeworld.

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This is the revised version

Mainly I redid how I uploaded the main page to make it much easier to edit. It also let's me see how many people are actually viewing it.

Both things are fairly important as I wanted to address some issues of formatting (people complained it was hard to read) and make it easier to add things in (when new content is released). Also, I like to see when people are reading thigns as it lets me know just how popular/useful they are.






*Inquire at your local recruiting office*

So I got my hands on Only War. Perhaps the only dark heresy spin off I'd want to run (I'd much rather play Rogue Trader). I'm reading through it and getting familiar with the rules and working on understanding the game itself.

If this was going to be a game where I'd need to have a firm grasp of the rules on the fly I'd take my time on this. But, the advantage of PbP is people can learn at relatively the same pace as long as the foundations of the game (the actual players and world) are there.

So, I know most people here play Pathfinder or some version thereof so I don't exactly expect many people to understand anymore than I do and that's okay.

I have one person, a possible second, and I need two more to get started.

So with that in mind I'm only keeping recruitment up until Wednesday. Why? Well I don't expect complete characters as most of the actual work has to be done collaboratively (particularly regiment selection).

Scenario wise the game will be relatively short and will take place entirely on a paradise world.

So this recruitment will only ask a few questions to get an idea on what character you are thinking about. Don't go too deeply into it as the character can greatly change during the actual creation process.

I'm willing to work with someone getting through the creation process for their character if I feel it's worth the time.

In the mean time.

What is your characters first experience with death?

How important is family to your character?

Describe your characters childhood.

DICLAIMER: I'm not really interested in a purely min/max optimization debate. In my mind the debate is done in regards to these two classes for now.

With that out of the way I'm left wondering if there is really any point to these classes.

What I mean is is there a concept that can't be better covered through another class?

Fighters are particularly bad here. Most of their archetypes come down to "pick X weapon and specialize in it". That seems fun if you just want to build some stupidly simplistic characters with few tricks in combat and fewer still out of it. But that seems to lack more than a little bit of mechanical depth to form the foundation of a roleplaying one.

Rogues are a touch better. But the rogue suffers from the problem that pretty much any character concept you can think of for a rogue can be done better from the mechanical viewpoint of other classes. Just think of a singular concept character that you can think of and chances are you'll find an archetype from a core, base, or hybrid class that fits your needs and offers more. Often, when this is put up as a suggestion I see people reject ideas not because they feel it doesn't fit the concept but because the other class comes with extra mechanics they feel they don't want to deal with. A shame too, as I think having mechanics you don't use can actually provide a bit of depth in and of themselves.

For example consider one of the pathfinder tales books that has an inquisitor of Pharasma who staunchly refuses to use any divine magic due in part to his Rahadoumi pride and part our of spite for his coercion into a nigh eternal servitude. That makes you consider concepts like the ranger who refuses to get another animal companion after his last one died or the druid who refuses to summon animals due to the pain that it can inflict on the animal in general.

It doesn't help that the main feature of rogues is split between so many classes, many of them capable of doing the job better by dint of having support of other abilities. After all simply having Detect magic available as a spell is a step up in many ways.

So, what that leaves us with is simply having a rogue or a fighter be a class that can cover concepts both mechanically and flavor wise that other such classes can't. Sadly it seems whatever gap, if one even exists now after ACG, is essentially gone.

So that brings us to the question. Is there a character concept right now for either class not better covered in another?

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And here we go.

At the time of this post I don't feel it's entirely complete. I think a few things need to be refined adn that will require more time I think. Also I think it could look better. We'll see. In any case if there are any problems with it you see let me know.

So I'm nearing the end of the alchemist guide just editing, art, and putting it together.

After that I'll do what will undoubtedly be an interesting guide on the Shaman, a class I think is going to be very very powerful once it's figured completely out.

After that though I don't know. I want to do one more guide after updating the others. I like the idea of doing skald which is another class I think needs figuring out. I like brawler too but I think people are slowly chewing that one into an interesting shape. Hunter is one I've felt severely underrated and we know how I like to crush things with the weight of the twelve ton "underdog".

So I put together a poll here.

I'll keep this up until October 11th.

In the meantime we can discuss the options and how each class interacts with itself.

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Defensive type characters have long been considered suboptimal. There's a good reason for this. Often these builds don't deal the necessary damage to be viable and often end up barely mobile bricks who find out there hyper focused defensive strategy isn't enough to keep them alive.

Or, in the case of Crane Wing builds you get nerfed. Sorry. :/

But, I put some thought into this. Is there still a good tactical advantage to playing a good high defensive character?

Well let's see.

1. Survivability - Survivable characters can do more. They can take more hits, eat more spells and good survivable characters can get through more fights. Endurance isn't often a problems as much as simple fight ending capacity.

2. Efficiency - It's weird but as a character that takes little damage you should expend very few resources. The trick, I think, is that people go overboard on one form of defense and fail to consider layering defenses atop one another so the investment is low enough for good offense to be added in.

3. Enemy Resource/Action Sink - An interesting thing about defenses is that when an enemy fails to penetrate them they produce an action advantage in that they completely negate the action in question. So, if you pass a save on a targeted spell, fail to take damage from an attack, or otherwise cause an opponents action to do nothing.

So there is a tactical incentive to go heavy on the defense. I just think actual thought needs to be put into it rather than relying on gimmicks.

With that being said let's get to work.

What good defensive character needs.

~Solid Saves. Two of the three saves need to be high enough to make most saves reasonably. The third can be weaker but still fair enough. Good saves make good survivability and in many cases can negate spells used on you. So the bestiary chart does give a fair number to base it off of so let's get a run down:

CR Minimum Saves
1 +6
2 +7
3 +8
4 +9
5 +9
6 +10
7 +11
8 +12
9 +13
10 +13
11 +14
12 +15
13 +16
14 +16
15 +17
16 +18
17 +19
18 +19
19 +21
20 +22

~ High AC. Ac represents the most common and useful line of defense against physical attacks. It's actually fairly easy to get really high. So not too much effort should be put into getting it high, but we do want to have at least around 50% miss chance on attacks against AC. We shouldn't need much more as we should have other means of covering defense.

CR Minimum AC
1 12
2 14
3 16
4 18
5 20
6 22
7 23
8 25
9 27
10 28
11 29
12 31
13 32
14 33
15 34
16 36
17 37
18 38
19 39
20 40

~Layered Defenses: Having passive defenses are great but we need more. If an enemy can bust our AC, he needs to deal with miss chances, if saves are not a problem for them they need to deal with immunities, if ranged enemies have true seeing to bust through the invisibility they need to get through Deflect Arrows. If we get hit we should be able to knock the damage off with DR or swift healing. That kind of stuff.

~Damage: Look, even if we become literally invulnerable it doesn't mean spit if we can't end the fight. It's unlikely we'll do support and while control is a possibility it might be best left to casters. I also don't expect Falchion Fred levels of consistent, constant damage. But, given the tools available there's no reason we can't get close. Arcane strike is easy to get, power attack works just fine on a one handed weapon, slashing grace allows us to make dex based builds more easily.

The Work

So let's get to it shall we. Based on the minimums above let's try to make defensive characters that can meet these standards.

~20pt buy.
~Paizo stuff.
~lvl is up to you.

~Be practical: The build should avoid too much silliness. i.e. I shouldn't hurt myself picking up all the books this one character takes. It shouldn't require GM approval (like a custom race out of the ARG). And shouldn't make people scratch their heads trying to visualize it.

~Multiclassing is okay but don't get crazy and again be practical. It shouldn't be a stretch for one class to progress into another. A barbarian segueing into fighter is reasonable. A wizard segueing neatly into brawler isn't a particularly natural occurrence.

~Don't rely on a magic item. If I can sunder one piece of equipment and ruin everything than the build was flimsy from the start. A defensive kind of character shouldn't come apart at the seams in terms of defense or damage if you do something as silly as lose your agile weapon.

~Be consistent. It's great that you can get a 25 AC and 50% miss chance at level 2. But if you can't maintain that through out the adventuring day it's all but useless. Active defenses either need to be plentiful or need only be used in situations where the extra defense is needed.

~Layer defenses. Just having high AC isn't enough as I discussed above. So have multiple ways to defend yourself. Miss chances, parries, etc. etc.

~Be useful. I think it shouldn't need to be said but pure defense is not the goal. Practical defense is what we need. A solid front from where we can safely do things like deal damage.

I'll start posting builds of what I've come up with later. Feel free to comment, post, or throw out your own ideas in the meantime.

So I'm considering making a magus/brawler gestalt for a game.

And I'm wondering whether or not it's worth it to go for eldritch scion with the arcane blood line?

I'm kind of in love with the idea of using martial versatility along with the brawlers array of abilities alongside a magus's own versatility to smack people around.

My only question is whether or not eldritch scion is worth it or should I go for a different variety of magus?

So after roughly 3 years of sticking around our inquisitor is finally bowing out. :(

So now we seek a 4th to replace him going further into the 3rd book.

So, ewal quick

Level 5, 20pt. buy
2 traits, one must be campaign
ACG is okay since I'm getting mine thursday.

In the tradition of the game answer the following questions with your submission.

1. Why are you in Westcrown?

2. Given a chance would you hurl down the ruling houses and take their place? Or create a new form of government?

3. What will you be able to contribute to the group?

4. How do you expect the character to develop roleplay wise? Mechanically?

5. I'm a Hellknight about to lay some police brutality down on you. What do you say to stop me from breaking off my spiked greaved boot in your butt?

Group consists of Witch, Cleric, and Fighter. Taking one more. A second at the groups discretion.

The sensei's advice ability states that it is identical to bardic performance. Would this allow it to count as bardic performance for the purpose of qualifying for feats and abilities?

I seem to remember reading somewhere how if an ability an archetype gained was essentially identical to another ability (sensei's advice, various fighter archetypes etc.) then they counted as that ability for the purposes of feats and other affects.

Can someone confirm? Or am I tired and crazy?

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So, I now it's been a while since I've posted one of these.

There are a number of reasons for this. Outside of car crashes and related injuries I've also been spending time working on outlines and popping out more articles for the actual Tactics 101 book I'm writing.

Yes, yes that is a thing I'm going to do.

I'll have more details later on but needless to say I wouldn't make anyone pay for anything I didn't think was worth it. So beyond simply expecting more of what's already there (which is being polished and revised anyway) you can expect to see more stuff for GM's and some alternate rules that make things a bit "grittier" in terms of combat (think injury systems, fatigue and what not).

If it does well we'll go from there. I have ideas but nothing solid yet. I'm not looking to suddenly become a major 3pp publisher. And honestly if I thought I could push this through Rite, FGG, or a similar name I certainly would.

But, on to a more relevant point I've decided to pack up and consolidate the mass majority of things into this blog.

So, while I won't do any major Tactics 101 articles until this book is done (As any work on those would have to go into the book) I'll certainly do some minor bits and pieces here that are easy on the brain meats.

For example the introductory post includes some misconceptions that I've seen floating around regarding combat either in the form of awful advice or the more insidious and less easy to address form called habit.

I absolutely encourage discussion on these points since a lot of it I would not necessarily call conventional wisdom so much as misinterpreted wisdom not given the proper lens of nuance I often don't find when talking about certain subjects.

In any case, look forward to it and I'll give fuller details about the book in the Compatible products forum at a later date.

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Right, so on a whim while bored at work I was thinking about the resurrection about a certain thread I created and decided to just, well, screw it, rewrite the rogue for fun.

I'm having a couple of people I know look over it who know what they're doing but I'm going ahead and putting it out now while I'm still in the mood to work on it.

So here it is.

Developer Notes:

Opportunistic Strike: This is more or less stolen from cheapy's archetype he did for a teamwork book. It adds a bit of an attack bonus, triggers more readily while requirign a bit of thought to actually trigger, isn't turned off by quite as easily and does extra damage with a crit. So the average damage is less, but the overall benefit is better and I think considerably more interesting.

Debilitating blow: Again lifted this off the anti-paladin and scrubbed it to fit my needs. It's a fun ability that I'm torn what ability score it needs to base its DC off of) I think of it as either a nice complement to my opportunistic strike, or an alternate strategy that lets me support my buddies by savagely debuffing enemies. This ability will likely see revision as reading over it I see a couple of exploits I want to address.

Scoundrel's Grace: I already know I'm going to hear crying from this. Hear me out. By the time this comes online most everyone is going to be flat out immune to things. Those who aren't can become flat out immune to things. This does not provide immunity. It does provide survivability at a level where instant death effects are a very real concern.

Talents: HAven't sat down to work on these yet but the gist of it is that I dislike the design of the old ones. They mostly exist to add small tricks to the rogue or to moderately boost one feature or another. However. My thinking is that, more like that alchemist or the barbarian, these should be used to help define the character, to specialize them. Hence many of these talents are going to be in trees and generally stronger.

So for now I guess call this an unofficial playtest for an unofficial rewrite a published freelancer did for funsies.

I would love for this guy to become a staple at a number of tables like my MAchinesmith. A guy can dream.

Comments are enabled on the page. Feel free to put your thoughts here. Bear in mind I fight like a mad dog for my babies.

Right so I've kind of run up against a block in a project I'm working on regarding risk and reward.

What I'm trying to do is describe a method to figure the chance of success on a given roll.

One method I normally use (that is less likely to require a calculator for expediency) is to subtract the bonus from the target number and multiply the result by 5. The number given represents a percentage chance to fail the roll. Then subtract this number from 100 to get the chance to succeed.

Though I'm almost positive thre's an equation or process that is much faster and more efficient.

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I've long supposed that the cavalier is somewhat underrated.

I rather like them honestly and I'm sad I dont see more of them around. And what I do see is them mostly being written off as a one trick pony(heh!).

So, in the spirit of a previous thread I did let's see what we can do to show people what he can do.

Build stuff.

Stick to 20pt. buy. Level doesn't really matter though 11th level and below is likely preferred for the pfs crowd.


Mounted Emphasis The class does tend to emphasize mounted combat. This isn't really bad it just requires some thought in regard to tactics. We've already seen plenty of halfling dog and boar riders. I think medium sized riders can work pretty well in cramped environments if they're willing to emphasize other aspects of their character and not try to charge so much.

Limited Mount Choises You practically have to either burn two feats, hope your gm allows leadership, or take an archetype (which turns certain other decent archetypes off).

Poor Mountless Options Well, not exactly poor. But nothing too great. The huntmaster has the potential to be awesome but it makes the same mistake the broodmaster made by splitting everything between multiple things, which just makes everything bad. Really the best reason to take it is for the bird that blinds. The musketeer would be good but, again, it makes the same mistake every gun archetype ever makes.

Teamwork feats are limited They're good if you have the right group. Devastating in a certain kind of group. But tactician is a very limited sort of ability. If it worked like Bard Song it would be infinitely better. Instead you have to blow an action for ability that doesn't last very long and often doesn't get much use.

I think ACG will change this immensely since teamwork feats are making a return with the Hunter class and probably making much better ones since developers and freelancers have had tons of time to see how the current ones work. That being said I love certain ones like Outflank, Paired Opportunist, and Lookout. They're all amazing. The challenge isn't so much mechanics as culture. People honestly just think more individualistically in terms of their build. Not long ago I was playing a swashbuckler when I noticed literally everyone picked up combat reflexes and was begging people to take Outflank with me (I had a 15-20 critrating! I crit at least once every full attack! Come on!). And only one guy seemed to begrudgingly like take to the idea of just getting tons of free attacks and extra bonuses on flanks. Anyway, rant off.

Challenge is one of the weaker combat boosts It gets better over time. But rage and smite it ain't. And there's no means yet to get extra challenges. So builds can't really rely on it too much.

So let's get started Ima post some builds I've cooked up in a bit. Unlike the rogue thread which has no good place to parse and store the info I've got a place that can just add a builds portion to for the better things.

Do these two abilities stack in the sense that I could in fact deal triple damage with a scimitar or battle axe on a charge?

So, hydrocodone is a fun drug. It had me thinking about critical hit builds and how they really don't get much attention lately.

So I decided to take a look and update the idea.

What I found was that the idea is still very strong and with the playtest swashbuckler at least very powerful.

So Kukri Kevin (YEs I know his gear isn't done. I made a few assumptions such as headband and belt.)

Kukri kevin is a pretty solid guy throughout all his career and can switch modes from TWF to precise striking depending on whether or not he can full attack.

In fact PRecise Strike makes TWF viable since it gives us a great option to use when we can't full attack. We can use our buckler's AC and still deal a solid hit with our kukri. When we full attack we can add the bucklers enhancement bonus to our saves instead for a different boost.

Now, in terms of critical hitting we have several rider effects over the course of kevins career.

At levels 1-3 he's a pretty cut and dry two weapon fighter.

At 3-5 he has some points over other two weapon fighters in that he can maintain a fairly decent damage output with precise strike.

5-10 his damage output while full attacking gets better and he should be getting items to ensure he gets lots of ripostes off. You'll not that power attack is not in this build purely so I can maximize the opportunities to riposte. Crits happen a lot and so I can use my panache much more freely on precise strikes and ripostes.

11-18 Here's where the build starts to become an actual crit build. Crit focus and crit versatility lets us grab a level appropriate rider affect. I grabbed staggering critical since it kills full attacks but you can replace it with others.

19-20 And here's the pinnacle. Full attacks don't have to kill with damage, but they can, at this point literally every crit is a save or die.

This functions as a solid base. You can customize it a bit wiht things like butterfly's sting (good in the early levels) or powerattack if you think you really really need it (I think it doesn't really).

So that's one kind of critical build. LEt me see what else I can come up with while you pick over this one.

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Allow me to introduce you to Al.

Al is a multiclassed barbarian druid I built for fun to see what shenanigans I can pull with overrun. I left most of Al's gear unfinished since I only cared about how much run I can over.

I like overrun. It's kind of an unsung hero and one of those things often missed from my repertoire of cinematic things I like to do in games. BEcause nothing makes the dread necromancers face paler than seeing the party warrior literally stomp through a horde of minions to full stop with his spiked boots of the mastodon on his scrotum.

First the important bits.

The Moving parts.

Overbearing Onslaught: This allows us to overrun multiple creatures while raging each additional creature after the first reduces the CMB by 2. But, given the absolutely ridiculous CMB we will have this is a non-issue.

Spiked Destroyer: Gives us a free armor spike attack on the first overrun target. Extra attacks are good.

Wild Shape: Get into Allosaurus form so I can pounce and get some nifty natural attacks to go along with my body slams. Ultimately allows me to get Huge and when combined with my armor lets me act like I'm bigger. SAurian shaman and Shaping focus lets me wild shape using my full character level.

Imp OVerrun/Greater Overrun: Lets me overrun things and get AoO's off.

Titanic dragon hide armor: This armor is put on after I wild shape by servants/slaves of Al.

My stealth check is -13: You hear the truck coming.

How the truck runs things over.

One target between me and pounce target.: Charge through lets me push over the other guy and deal an AoO + An Armor Spike Attack + Strength Damage.

Multiple things between me and my best friend.: OVerrun the lot of the including my target. I only wish I could armor spike them all. I do deal strength damage at least, plus I can AoO most of them, though I'll save the last one for my actual target ater I've knocked him prone.


So, with Titanic dragon hide and huge size I can overrun like a gargantuan creature or use its ability to overrun like a collossal one.

My CMB after wild shape and rage looks like

12 BAB + 12 Strength + 1 trait +4 Feats +2 Enhancement +2 Boots +2 Reckless Abandon +2 Charge = 37 CMB

So without any spells or power attack so far the truck can run over just about everything of his CR. Strength Surge can push this to 43. True Strike can push this further to 63. If I add the armor in on this as well I can push to 79. At that range the Truck can run over the Tarrasque.

His armor spikes will deal damage as a huge critter for about 2d6+18.

Not a lot in terms of damage but I can still power attack if I choose and most targets will take multiple spike attacks and extra damage from overbearing advance and the point isn't to deal damage. Damage is what happens to the guy on the other end who will typically eat full attacks in the form of natural attacks + spike attacks.

So, right now we have a heavily armored allosaurus that starts out being treated as gargantuan and can potentially be treated as collossal. I've spent all but about 40,000gp (no cloak or rings bought yet) but for the moment I'm wondering if we can't make the truck more efficient. Are there better options then spiked destroyer and armor spikes to punish targets getting overrun?

Can we get similar results with a synthesist? Some alchemist levels? Can we get an oracle level in here so we can rage cycle? What of blood ragers?

And what other things can we do with overrun? Let's see some ideas. I'm going to bed.

Male Orc Expert 5

The following happens to each of you individually. Please post your reactions and everything in spoilers.

Men rarely get to choose their place and time of death. Most wake up and go through their entire day unknowing of the lady of graves stalking their back sides. Some may choose to accept death deluding themselves into believe they have chosen that place.

But then there are notices, like the one on the notice board in the town square.

Required: Capable warriors for defense of village upon outskirts of the Empire from marauding bandits expected at end of this years harvest. Pay will be little. Success will be slim. True reward will be in the saving of innocents and the elimination of wickedness.

~Masamune Kokoyomo

The note itself would appear to be written by a trickster, a fool, or a drunk. But the name strikes your curiosity. In his hay day Masamune was a well renowned samurai with few equals in the sword and fewer still that could match his mercy.

Though years of unjust rule wore down heavily upon the faithful warrior of Shizuru he was a beacon of light in an age of opression. In this age of the new empress he stands as a beacon to some and a reminder of bad times to others. That such a figure would leave a note like this is curious.

Following the notes leads to a small hut on the outside wall of the town you are passing through. The door is open and sitting crosslegged in the middle of the room is a wizened old man in weathered and beaten O-Yoroi armor. His sheathed katana is set neatly next to him and before him is a full tea set with a steaming pot set invitingly as if for you.

When he sees you on the street turning towards him he smiles serenely and beckons you within.

Sense Motive 15:
It's an ambush.

PErception 15:
You see a shadow just inside the doorway holding a naked sword.

This is going to be a relatively short campaign in the manner of an old samurai/western flick. 7 warriors are hired to defend a small village from countless bandits and their diabolical leader. It will take cleverness, skill, and courage to survive.

The campaign takes place in an undisclosed location in Tian.

Sources: Paizo stuff.

Ability: 20pt. buy.

Level: Level is done differently this time around. Roll 1d6 and add 1. That is your starting level. You are warriors converging on a call to arms from a fellow adventurer, there's no real basis for you having adventured together, or even at all. Roll the die here before making your character.

Wealth and HP: Max at first and average per level. Wealth is whatever is appropriate for your level based on WBL guidelines.

Classes: NO gunslingers. Samurai's and ninjas are perfectly acceptable.

Alignments: Evil is okay but understand your purpose is to protect the village. No whining if the other 6 guys turn around and execute you for being a douche. An evil person has any number of reasons to stand up to the bandits from personal code to a desire for carnage.

Other stuff:

The game: I don't expect the game to take a very long time. Individual characters will be hired to protect the village and the campaign ends when the players are defeated or the bandits destroyed. The main challenge of the characters is trying to organize a defense with few resources against a well trained and bloodthirsty threat where even the characters themselves are not necessarily evenly skilled or experienced and have to take that into account when planning their strategy. Their are opportunities and ways to build a stronger defense (training villagers, appealing to outsiders for aid, etc.)

The bandits are smart and have done what they do for a very long time. They should be taken seriously.

Ultimately the goal is to tell a great story of overcoming the odds.

I'll be looking for 5 players (the other two are npc's a paladin and his cohort repsectively). REcruitment will close this time next week. Please submit a full sheet with a backstory.

A few months back I started writing notes flirting wiht the possibility of a pvp league for pathfinder in the way there is essentially a pve league in pathfinder society or other such "living" games.

I've played around in various pvp leagues that involved individuals (usually gestalt 1v1 heavy houserule fests) but nothing quite like I was looking for.

It's an intriguing idea to me as a person who likes to explore the games tactical and strategic depth to see how two opposing teams of adventurers would handle a variety of scenarios.

Obviously this required a bit of finangling with the rules to make thigns work out to a satisfactory.

For example I only allowed one animal companion to be with the group or one cohort(chosen from a list of premade npcs), summoned/created creature etc. Familiars were allowed but improved familiars fell under the animal companion rule.

Or that one team could not have more than one class in the group (which were groups of 4 with three divisions of 4th, 8th, and 12th level characters) even in the case of multiclassing (i.e. if one person dips, no one can take that class) to help prevent homogenization.

Little things like that to help things run smoothly.

Then of course there were the scenarios I wrote such as "dungeon race", "war chest", and various other scenarios that were more about teamwork and accomplishing adventurous tasks in a competitive environment than straight forward combat.

I've seen bits and pieces of the conflict pvp system and while bits and pieces of it look good I'm not sure it would have worked in an organized environment where less can be more.

Ultimately I kind of like the idea and might have went through with it were it not one of those things that would take a great deal of time and effort to get off the ground. It seems like a good way to put to rest a lot of arguments by treating it as a team game rather than a lot of 1v1 theorycrafting circular debates.

But, really, I was just more interested to see what players would come up with.

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Combat maneuvers get a bad rap. There seems to be an underlying belief in the community that combat maneuvers are only worth using if you invest heavily into them. Even in this case the maneuver you invest in will fail more often than not against massive CR creatures with ludicrous CMD scores.

However what’s not often pointed out is that there are plenty of creatures, even with high cr and particularly humanoid opponents, who have CMD’s in the laughable range. By CR 13 most monsters will easily hit the CMD 40+ range making it difficult for all but the most dedicated maneuver builds to ever land a combat maneuver in a meaningful way. But is that all there is to it?

I don’t think so.

Understanding the Numbers
First let’s look at the offensive number used to determine the success of combat maneuvers, the CMB.

The CMB adds your base attack bonus + STR modifier + any relevant bonuses to attack rolls from feats, spells and effects. In short this includes any general buff that boosts attack rolls.

If the combat maneuver uses a weapon (most often Sunder, Disarm and Trip) you apply those bonuses to the attack as well.

The only penalty for making a combat maneuver without the feat is an AoO. Meaning any opponent unable to make AoO’s can be combat maneuvered by anyone with impunity. Remember this, it’s important for later.
Combat Maneuver Defense is your Base Attack bonus + STR + DEX +10. The addition of a free +10 and the dex bonus means that this number can get quite high out of the gate. It gains bonuses from effects that boost strength or dex along with bonuses to AC from dodge, luck, circumstance, deflection, morale sacred and profane bonuses. However any penalty to AC will affect this number.

So, what this says exactly is that the static number you see on stat blocks is not static at all but quite dynamic. Moreover there are plenty of situations where you can make use of combat maneuvers without suffering any penalties meaning that practically any combat maneuver can be performed regardless of your intelligence or strength score.
Overall it’s much easier to boost CMB than CMD and very easy to reduce CMD. An opponent who loses initiative has a lowered CMD in the first round due to a lack of dex. Include that they cannot make AoO’s and you have fresh meat to be bull rushed, repositioned, disarmed, or tripped with impunity. A humanoid boss monster that loses initiative to a group of savvy full Bab characters will get tripped, disarmed, and his armor sundered before he can make the first attack. This can be easily done without any feats.

Just as an example let’s say the group is fighting a Crucidaemon. At 42 CMD it would seem that any attempt for our, let’s say level 12, group to shove her around would end badly. Or would it?
A +9 initiative isn’t bad. But by now, a forge model group can easily beat that. Our level 12, let’s say Fighter(Cad) really likes the dirty trick maneuver and is wielding a Guisarme he took the dirty trick line up to Quick Dirty trick allowing him to do it as an attack action. His group’s wizard and bard go first. The bard electing to cast Mass Heroism and activating inspire courage while his wizard opts to give the cad a Quickened Enlarge person and casually chucks a waves of fatigue spell at the crucidaemon (we’ll say he rolls the SR which by now he can get a check of around +18 anyway).

So, some quick number crunching here gives the CAD a base CMB after buffs a base CMB check of +24. The Crucidaemon is sitting at a much less mighty 35. This allows the Cad to perform any maneuver he likes on the Crucidaemon on a roll of 11. This is with normal buffs for the level and a debuff which only makes a 1 point difference.

So we have three attacks for the fighter to perform. Obviously we want to use our most invested in maneuver first so we’ll use Dirty trick to start off. With the investment of feats with our class we hit a +31 on our CMD allowing us to blind the crucidaemon for several rounds on our first attack. Our Crucidaemon is now blind taking an additional -2 penalty to armor class knocking her CMD down to 33.

Our next attack is at a -5 penalty knocking our base CMB down to +19 versus 33. With this second attack our CAD gets cheeky and decides to trip her with his guisarme. Because he’s a fighter who actually invests in such things like weapon focus his weapon focus and greater weapon focus feats apply along with his weapon bonus (+2 for now) to get a CMB to trip of 23. A 50/50 shot.

In this case if he hits the trip attempt she’ll be knocked prone granting him a +4 bonus to attack rolls on her. If not it’s unlikely she’ll be able to trip back. For arguments sake let’s say she’s now, prone, blinded, fatigued, and flatfooted. Her CMD drops further down to 29 for this round. With an additional -5 on our last attack making our CMB a +14.

He now opts to attack her now 17 AC with his +17 attack roll. Smashing her in the back and taking an immediate action to Dirty trick her once more through a class ability. At this point it makes no real difference whether or not it affects her since she’s already significantly debuffed by the time the Cad does it.

So by the time the Crucidaemon gets around to acting, she’ll be prone, blinded, fatigued, and possibly entangled. Three of these conditions would cost a standard action to remove to allow her to fight effectively (if at all) and that would just allow the group to pound her with impunity.

Now he could have just straight up full attacked her. And indeed this would have been a fine thing to do. But, keep in mind that at 212hp and 20/good and silver DR the crucidaemon would have most likely survived at full potential to harm the group rather badly.

Now, there are opponents with much higher numbers for CMD but we can get on that later.

Understanding what the maneuvers are
Maneuvers ultimately have three purposes in a group’s arsenal.

~Position changer
~AoO Generator

The advantage to using maneuvers as a debuffer is that they can bypass saves and high magical defenses. This is handy particularly against creatures with high armor due to armor or natural armor but relatively low dex. You can utilize debuffs as a method to lower AC’s or to compromise the opponents offense enough so that the high defenses do nothing but stall the inevitable.

As an AoO generator maneuvers honestly can’t be beat. Transforming a standard action or attack action into multiple attack actions is a brilliant way to build action advantage. It costs no group resources to pull off and can let you capitalize on group buffs and positioning.
Speaking of positioning I don’t think it’s any accident that the maneuvers most able to deal with positioning are standard actions rather than attack actions. Positioning maneuvers such as drag, bullrush, and reposition have a variety of uses from setting up flanked full attacks to denying an opponent a chance to hassle a groups mages, to shoving or pulling opponents into disadvantageous terrain.

Ultimately what combat maneuvers provide is a method for physical characters to affect the battlefield in a way that helps control the fight. They cost no real resources to use and work well to devastate an opponent already in a compromised position.

However they can be tricky to use well. Like any ability in the game if you want to do it well you have to invest into it. Also like any ability you have to avoid getting yourself into a pit of character creation where you invest a great deal for no gain. This is nothing new but its’ worth repeating in the context.

Discussing individual maneuvers

Bull Rush
Uses: Pushing people around has a myriad of uses from braking flanks to shoving people into bad terrain to possibly damaging people if you smash them against a wall. Bull Rush is great in indoor environments where hazards can be many and mobility limited. It can be used to open up a pathway or to close a line of attack from enemies. If you use a reach weapon and can get a high enough CMB you can shove an opponent hard enough without following to put them just outside your reach and have them provoke an AoO from the shove (for leaving your space) and have them re-enter it to provoke another AoO. This is a good maneuver to use to bully and punish low cmd critters attempting to slow down your offense. Particularly weak creatures can get shoved out of the way while dying to AoO’s.

Issues: Size limitations and no benefit gained from bonuses based on weapon. Also fairly situational as there are plenty of times where a full attack would more than suffice to simply stop that outlet of actions from the enemy. Failure on the maneuver means adjacency to the enemy and being open to a full attack.

Investment Value: Fair. Further investment will get you a higher bonus on the maneuver (invaluable) and will let you generate AoO’s with it (also invaluable) however the maneuver itself is quite situational and depends much on how varied and interesting your gm likes to make his battle fields. However some classes and archetypes grant you free bulrushes based on certain conditions therefore it can be worth a two feat investment simply for the extra attacks it can provide you and the defensive buffer it can cause with a good hard shove.

Dirty Trick

Uses: The king of debuffing maneuvers this one covers all the stuff from kicks to the groin, gouges to the eye, throwing dirt or poo into the face of the enemy, whatever. It starts off bleh but becomes much more desirable once you get into Quick Dirty Trick and Greater Dirty trick. This makes it a great opener for martially minded anvils and can allow you to cripple opponent’s offense and defense. With some creativity and a lenient GM you can get away with a lot with this maneuver.

Issues: No weapon bonuses and requires a three feat investment to be good. Some classes and archetypes can work surprisingly well with this with the bonuses they get to it.

Investment Value: Great. This is one of the few maneuvers that become amazing after investment. Being able to land the debuffs you do regardless of a creatures saves makes you a god send to a groups damage dealers since you can often drastically drop an opponent’s AC and action economy. Witches and Hex crafters are great but a dirty trick dedicated Cad with Quick Dirty Trick is a terror to the enemy. However outside of classes that can’t get bonuses to maneuvers like this it may not be worth more than getting the greater version if that.


Uses: Limited uses unfortunately. It can remove anything deemed a weapon and chuck it on the ground, or if you have a free hand snatch it for yourself. This can be deemed more desirable than sundering a weapon as you don’t have to pay to get it fixed. However given that many monsters have natural attacks or secondary weapons to fall back on this leaves you in a problematic position of having wasted attack actions to little or no effect. It does benefit from weapon bonuses making it a good option to go to if you’re in a situation where it works.
Issues: I’ve already covered some of the issues above but to add to this as an AoO generator or debuff it’s generally lack luster against all but a scant few opponents (i.e. those who either don’t have natural attacks or secondary weapons).

Investment Value: Poor. There are lots and lots of feats to make it more efficient but none that really make it better. Perhaps if it is used incidentally (such as with power attack or as part of another maneuver) it can work well.


Uses: Fewer uses than bullrush but also less situational. Offensively you can use it to pull casters and other low comb enemies into your group’s hammers or open up a line of fire or movement for your hammers to pass through and penetrate an enemy’s defenses. Defensively you can use this maneuver to break a flank or pull enemies out of good lines of fire or attack. It receives bonuses from weapons with the trip descriptor meaning you can get good high bonuses with this maneuver.
Issues: It moves in a straight line and doesn’t push people into hazards. It’s also limited by your available movement. These are minor quibbles given the high bonuses you can get and a few feet are really all you need.

Investment Value. Excellent. It goes off Power Attack and its high end
investments synergize very well with other maneuvers particularly trip. Riptide Attack in particular seems like a fun feat to build around. I’d combine it with Quick Drag to perform a full attack, a trip, and a short move all in one go.


Uses: Generally as a debuffer that works well as a single opponent eliminator. Terrifyingly useful against solo monsters it can destroy certain strategies and seriously hamper others. Creatures with reach can use this as an impromptu reposition maneuver since you choose which square the creature ends up in when you grapple. This is particularly useful against creatures with high armor but low CMD since it gives you automatic damage options. Later investment options allow you to do other things with your grapple from suffocation to bleed damage to using the grappled target as cover that can potentially damage them.

Issues: A bad idea to use when surrounded by multiple opponents by dint of the grapple condition nerfing your AC as well as your targets. A good deal of investment is required to make this a good maneuver to use regularly. Heavy investment can also damn you into a one trick pony problem. This can be mitigated by simply spending a feat or two into an alternate tactic.

Investment Value: Good. There are no stat requirements oddly enough making it suitable for a variety of builds. Investment is easy to get into and many classes support grappling. Once you have greater grapple there are no more required feats to make it better allowing you some space to invest in other tactics or otherwise make grappling more versatile. Body Shield is a favorite of mine since it partially mitigates a disadvantage of the maneuver.


Uses: Partly a debuff and partly a positioning maneuver overrun allows you to literally stomp through opponents. Since it’s not technically a trip maneuver this can get around creatures bonuses to trip maneuvers in exchange for worse action economy. A minor investment at least is required since giving creatures the option to attack or move out of the way is inadvisable. There’s not much else to this maneuver other than its utility as a means to punch through frontlines to get to a softer back area perhaps to charge or full attack a caster. It can prove to be a solid aoo generator as well since with Greater Overrun the act of knocking them prone can generate an AoO as well as the AoO caused by standing up.

Issues: It gains no bonuses from weapons and has a size limitation. Beyond this the only real con is that failure stops you in front of the target you attempted to overrun.

Investment: Good. There’s not much you can add to this really. Improved Overrun and Charge through will greatly add on to the versatility of a charging character so consider that a potential investment option if you have a feat or two free. It’s not versatile or strong enough to be a mainline tactic but as a means to increase your overall mobility while simultaneously controlling/damaging the enemy it’s hard to argue with.


Uses: More versatile than any of the other positional maneuvers. This can break flanks, move people into flanks, break formations, move people into formations of death. Being unable to move or push the target out of your threatened space can actually prove to be a benefit rather than a problem since you may not want an enemy out of your threatened reach but within a certain area of control. As an AoO generator it’s the best of the positional options since it’s easier to move an opponent through multiple allies threatened areas. That you can serve as a flanking partner during many of these aoo’s is bonus. On top of this you can add weapon bonuses from trip descriptor weapons to this maneuver allowing you to get really high bonuses.

Limits: Size limitations and standard action usage. However these are the only real limits and thus there’s no reason not to get this maneuvers feats if you can.

Investment: Great. Outside of combat expertise there’s almost no feat associated with this maneuver you don’t want. Quick Reposition allows you to combo this with trip attacks or other attack action maneuvers or allows you to set up flanking full attacks with your allies. Tactical reposition lets you move people into traps and hazards and forces them to take a penalty to AC and saves while doing so (making it actually superior to bullrush to this effect)


Uses: None. There are no good uses for this that a simple sleight of hand check, disarm, or sunder check won’t defeat.

Issues: Must have hand free can’t steal things that are hidden or in a bag and the bad guy notices immediately unless you invest in it. Stealing things like cloaks give a high bonus to the opponents cmd etc. etc.

Investment: Don’t even bother. Just pretend this maneuver doesn’t exist.


Uses: A versatile maneuver that’s less debuff and more a simple redirection of your damage away from enemies and more towards objects. In many ways it’s superior to disarm in that it destroys the actual object and can target more than just weapons. This last distinction is important as a surprising number of items happen to be very important but also very fragile. A wand for example only has 5 hit points and 5 hardness no matter what spell or caster level is on it.

So this could feasibly use to interrupt actions normally uninterruptable such as drinking potions (which go off no matter how much damage you do with the AoO unless you drop them) destroying material components and divine focuses and in some cases quickly removing weapons from the hands of dangerous enemies.

Issues: You have to have the appropriate tool for some objects. Therefore someone dedicated to sundering has to be particularly on top of their gear.

On another note groups don’t like this because it destroys potential loot. While I understand the foundation of this idea I wondered about it.

Let’s say an enemy is holding a +1 sword and the group is around level 5. The +1 sword will sell for about 1150 gold more or less and gives us a 4 way split of 287 gold and 5 silver.

So the individual cost to a party member for breaking that sword is 288 gold if we just go ahead and round up. Now it takes half the materials to repair it as it does to make it so it will cost about the same to fix it as the individual share from it. Once all this is taken into account and we re-divide the sword it comes out to roughly 230gp for an individual split.

So it cost each individual character 58 gold for you to destroy that sword and potentially remove a very dangerous weapon from the bad guy’s hands or about 5% of the an individual’s wealth or the group’s overall wealth.

To look at the numbers another way let’s say the enemy gets a few hits off with said sword dealing roughly 50 damage to the group as a whole. It would take us around ten hits off of a cure light wounds wand (give or take based on rolls) with each hit costing about 15gp making the damage cost about 150gp or 38gp individualized and rounded up. So it’s about a 20 gold difference in favor of healing over sundering.

But this is of course assuming we’re smacking an expensive sword. Most of the time the weapons you’ll be breaking are non-masterwork and probably not getting picked up as loot anyway.

Ultimately it requires a bit of judgment to determine whether or not it’s a good idea to sunder said object. Much of the time though it’s better to sunder now and regret the gold later than to die now and regret the resurrection costs later.

Investment: Depending on your class this will require little to no real investment. Improved sunder will be all that’s required if you’re just going to use it every once in a while but greater sunder is necessary if you use it a lot (Since you still want to put that damage into bad guys).


Uses: Trip is ultimately a debuff maneuver that chucks people on the ground severely reducing their movement speed and granting penalties to their attack while simultaneously granting you a bonus to attack. This is a pretty significant debuff that generates an AoO whenever the opponent eventually gets up. Being an attack action allows the maneuver to be used to interrupt movement and potentially spell casting. It can also knock creatures off walls or sometimes out of the sky. This also benefits from bonuses granted by trip weapons allowing you to get some surprisingly high bonuses.

Issues: Size limitations, huge bonuses to creatures with multiple sets of legs, and many creatures are just outright immune. Ultimately this makes it a shadow to its 3.5 predecessor. It also has the weird caveat that you have to beat the opponents cmd not just match it.

Investment: Fair. Plenty of support for it and plenty of good weapons to use with it. Don’t expect this maneuver to carry you all by itself however consider other maneuvers like Reposition or Drag in order to capitalize on positional bonuses and using AoO’s on further trip attempts. With both of the above mentioned maneuvers you can add the same weapon bonuses from your trip weapon to that maneuver allowing you to get equally high bonuses. Ultimately the best way to look at trip is not as a standalone maneuver but as a solid supplement to go along with your main gimmick whether it’s dirty trick, overrun, drag, reposition, or bull rush.

Some General Tips on Using Maneuvers

1. A flat footed opponent is maneuver bait for whatever maneuver you desire. They cannot give attacks of opportunity and have a lower CMD as a result. You may not kill them with a full attack in this period but you can render them blinded or worse with an improvised maneuver.

2. Dirty Tick has a dark secret. There is no limitation placed on the shaken condition as intimidate does. Thus if you dirty trick an opponent three times applying the shaken condition you can knock them into panicked territory.

3. Disarm, Sunder, Trip, and are all attack actions allowing you to use them as part of an attack of opportunity. Keep this in mind if you have invested in any of them as any of the three can effectively ruin an opponent’s action.

4. Use positioning maneuvers like a chess master. When you succeed at a positional maneuver work two to three rounds ahead to ensure that the changes you make to the enemies position favor you and your group not just immediately but in the future rounds as well.

5. Reach, as always, is your best friend. An opponent who cannot reach you cannot counter maneuvers with attacks of opportunity thus even a character dedicated to tripping with a guisarme can still perform drag and reposition maneuvers with terrifying deftness.

6. Work with your groups spell casters to maximize the effectiveness of your maneuvers. If you focus on the dirty trick maneuver let your casters know that your conditions often reduce enemy saves. If your group’s casters love to blast and use area of effect spells on entire groups of enemies use your maneuvers to cluster them together to ensure maximum damage.

7. Never underestimate the value of an AoO generating maneuver. Spending a standard action to produce two or three attacks of opportunity from the group is a massive action advantage that can lead into even more action advantage.

8. Maneuvers cost nothing in terms of daily resources but do require feat and item investment to work at their best. Plan from the start one or two man

9. Melee hammers who invest in maneuvers should play like anvils in the first round or two in combat. Afterwards it’s most advisable to only use maneuvers to stop serious threats and go for raw damage otherwise as by now you should have received enough buffs and ruined your opponents momentum enough they shouldn’t present too much of a serious threat.

10. Remember: Penalties to AC also drop CMD. Bonuses to attack also boost CMB. You can use both to ensure that a combat maneuver works at its best or that it lands at all.

Next up I’ll be trying to talk about maneuvers and how they pertain to individual classes and group interactions.

For those interested in a possible culmination of these articles and more:
I’m seriously considering taking the plunge and polishing up the various tactical writings I’ve done, adding a great deal more content, giving gm’s a big chapter and tossing in a few alternate house rules that make combat more difficult/faster for groups that are better than average. If this idea appeals to you let me know what you think.

EDIT: I forgot to mention such a product would be a thing that I sell through RPGnow or some such site not a free work as these have been. Obviously I would not propose such a ludicrous idea unless I was confident I could make it worth buying and not just regurgitate what I already write without expectation nor desire for monetary compensation.

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Buffing is one of those tasks that not a lot of players really like doing. I mean after all it doesn’t make you the star of the show, no spotlight has ever been shone on the guy holding the strings that makes the actor float across the stage.

Yet, it’s a rather important job. Once you start comparing the stats of some higher CR encounters to those of players, you start to understand the importance of buffs. Even said monsters I mentioned usually have buffs themselves to increase their own power.

Buffs are, ultimately, important in pathfinder tactics. They allow characters to power up beyond the limitations of their class and overcome disadvantages in action economy, numbers, and mobility against numerically superior and qualitatively superior forces. They’re a big part of the puzzle that allows 4 guys to take on twenty or manage to handle a creature capable of wiping out entire armies.

What is a buff exactly?

A buff is about an exchange of actions in order to increase an aspect of a character (usually numbers and mobility, but sometimes actions as well). Buffs usually fall into four categories.

Incidental: These buffs are riders that come off a specific action. They are usually very good to have purely because they don’t require an action to activate. Their powers vary but are often very weak and situational. Add that they also tend to be exceptionally rare and too often tied to abilities that overall aren’t that great from the start and you rarely see much talk or even use out of them
Examples: Alternate Channeling, Cavalier’s Banner ability, Paladin’s Aura of Courage.

Personal: These buffs are often very powerful but are usually highly limited either in duration (Righteous Might or Divine Power) or have very limited uses (Rage, Smite Evil). They only affect the character that uses them effectively translating an action into future more powerful actions.

Targeted: Sometimes lasting longer than personal buffs depending upon the actual bonuses given these tend to be weaker than personal buffs. They’re more advantageous to a group since they allow one character to translate an action on another character that can use the buff most efficiently.
Examples: Bull’s Strength, Expeditious Retreat, Bestow Grace of the Champion

Mass: Mass buffs are highly valuable to a group as they usually provide multiple forms of small benefits that add up to high numbers when spread out over a number of cahracters. These buffs are almost always short lived but their power and coverage make them the most valuable combat buffs.

Examples: Inspire Courage, Haste, Blessing of Fervor, Bless
Now it’s worth noting that nearly every class has the capacity to buff themselves or others allowing for even hammer or anvil minded characters to act in the capacity of the groups arm. Magic items can also be used in such a matter and it’s worth noting that some of these items provide benefits that are not otherwise available to player characters.

Too much, and Too Little
Buffing is about the exchange of actions and resources for the benefit of boosting future numbers and actions. However it’s because this boost is an exchange of resources that care has to be taken in the use of buff’s lest you find yourself in a stuation where they are sorely needed but unavailable.

Therefore it becomes the arm’s task to ensure the conservation of their resources by closely observing the builds and tactics of their group and select appropriate buffs based on the situation even and up to simply not using buffs if the group is well enough off without burning valuable resources. Sometimes this means hard decisions have to be made. A warrior calling for haste may simply not get it due to a stronger need for defensive measures such as a communal resist energy. An enlarge person on a polearm warrior may end up being more necessary against a group of foes than a bless spell inspire courage may have to take a backseat to a countersong.

The key here is understanding how buffs add up and stack and determine where necessary limitations are. It varies by group but there are some general rules of thumb you can use to get an idea of where buffs are needed or not.

1. An enemy whose supernatural abilities can remove multiple combatants from the field requires boosts to saves and defenses before any offensive considerations are present. Enemies like this can render offensive buffs a waste.

2. A good base to figure out an initial attack score a character needs to reach is to understand their BAB plus whether or not they possess the powerattack or deadly aim feats. If they do you need to figure out the penalty they take from using it (-1 with an additional -1 for each time their BAB reaches a multiple of 4 (4,8,12,16)) and buff at least high enough to make up for this penalty. After this amount (which will have them equal to their base attack without using this feat) you should only buff attack enough that they have about a 70% chance to hit (or 6 on the die) anything more is essentially a waste.

3. Use your buffs to match already in place debuffs. A -2 to a creatures armor class is an effective +2 to hit for creatures swinging at it. Therefore if you give a +2 attack bonus to a character they have an effective +4 against that particular opponent. Keep these in mind to avoid wasteful buffs.

4. Knowledge is ever so valuable and you should avoid buffing specifics (other than basic attack/defense numbers) until you or another character uses their knowledge and gives out the necessary information to the group.

5. Understand the type of bonus your buffs give. Enhancement bonuses are common but do not stack with stat boosting items. Look at what buffs you have available versus what the rest of the group has and provides. If you have a bard using good hope, heroism, and inspire courage in their buff line up then you can avoid granting morale and competence bonuses. If your druid or magus uses wildshape or shapeshifting spells all the time then size bonuses granted by enlarge person will be all but wasted. In a group full of speed weapons then haste is of limited use. The point being is don’t stack bonuses that already exist. Instead look for different ones to stack with what you already have.

6. Low AC classes aren’t going to benefit as much from an AC boost anymore than a High ac character. Instead focus on buffs that grant miss chances, concealment, or means of avoiding attacks entirely. Middle ac classes those just on the verge of a high ac will usually benefit more from a high ac buff since it will put them in a high ac range.

7. In terms of damage do not worry too much about piling it on characters that do lots of damage. Instead pile it on the characters that do damage consistently that means characters like gunslingers who tend to hit a lot but not deal all that much damage can benefit greatly from enhanced damage. The same goes for fighters and barbarians as well since they hit very often and often for lots of damage as well. Characters that don’t hit very often, or otherwise don’t take as many attack actions won’t benefit as much from a raw damage buff as the others.

8. Knowing your group is as important as knowing your enemy. Understanding your debuffers, your damage dealers, your battlefield controllers, and your other group buffers can go a long way to understanding how valuable your own buffs are and how often and for whom you should be using them for.

Timing is everything

Buff early. That’s the best advice anyone can give a spellcaster heavy group. Simply be mindful of when you are headed into dangerous situations. If you are stepping into a dungeon or heading into a dangerous situation throw down all your hour long buffs, as many as necessary, and work from there.

Minute long buffs depend more or less on what level your group is but usually can be cast just before entering an encounter and with care can last into the next one at least. Extend rods or the extend spell feat can be greatly beneficial on these sorts of buffs.
Round length buffs or buffs with a set limit of one minute are best cast either just before initiative is rolled, during the surprise round or at the very first round of combat before any of the characters outside of anvils can act. In this way you retain the maximum amount of effectiveness with your buffs.

Getting surprised however makes buffs much more difficult. In such cases it’s best not to sweat the small numbers or the little defensive measures and head straight into large offensive numbers. Being surprised is no laughing matter and can easily put you in an inescapable defensive position. In such cases it’s best to push back, and push back hard with as much control and offense as your group can muster before you can look into boosting defensive capabilities.

Force multiplication and concentration, a look at common buffing tactics

Multiplication is about translating a single action into a boost of multiple actions. Often this is mistaken as a boost to multiple characters but really all that translates to is boosting the actions these characters have. For example if you boost a groups two handed ranger and greatsword wielding paladin using inspire courage you’re only boosting their single attack thus your bard song translates to an overall boost to the group of +2 attack and Damage. However if you replace these two with a wildshaping melee druid cat and his cat pet alongside an archer fighter with rapid shot that’s roughly a +16 benefit from your bard song. This is also a pretty good strategy with summoners or generally any larger than normal group.

The downside to such a strategy is that while the overall numbers produced by such a strategy can be quite large particularly when spread over numerous actions each action may not be as effective as you want. Remember having lots of actions isn’t a real substitute for having several effective actions. Our one barbarian may only be doing about 4 extra damage with the bard song active. However if none of the druids summons hit their three attacks (a strong possibility given they’re low attack compared to the barbarian) than the effective bonus granted may as well be 0.

Concentration The polar opposite of this tactic is one highly favored by groups with lesser tactical aptitude but is no less effective than multiplication. It is essentially taking a character that is already an effective fighting character (usually a fighter or barnarian but just as often a paladin or monk) and piling on as many buffs as can stack on to that character as possible. This is essentially the pathfinder equivalent of forming the megazord.
The tactic is quite strong as the buffed character will produce a great number of effective actions while generally being tough enough to withstand the punishment of being in such a harsh combat environment. However it comes with the caveat that all the eggs have been placed in a single basket and often a single failed roll, or good dispel check, is all it takes to deal with the groups avatar. It’s a strong tactic to be sure but best applied intelligently.

Defensive This form of buffing isn’t about empowering the groups strongest elements but about patching holes in the groups greatest weaknesses. It’s rarely discussed as a buffing strategy but is pretty important to a group’s survival and while it does not often end a fight it can help conserve resources. Just as an example compare the spell Resist Energy with Cure Serious Wounds. 3d8+7 healing averages out to be around 21 points of healing. However Resist Energy at this same level will resist twenty points of the chosen energy per attack. If you get attacked each round from the same amount of energy each round for the entire duration that’s around 14,000 points of damage prevented or about 700 level 3 spells saved because of one casting of resist energy.

Granted such numbers will never come up but it helps illustrate the resource conservation point about discrepancy buffing. It can also help keep action economy from being dropped or affected by using spells like freedom of movement, fly, or touch of the sea. Such spells are often valued for their mobility potential but are equally useful in preventing your groups offensive elements from being unduly hampered by environmental or adversarial concerns.

And in the end…
Buffing matters. But it’s not as simple as one would think of it. It can be every bit as tactically complex as melee tactics, as battlefield control, or in defensive/aggressive maneuvering. They have to know what the group is as a whole, and no when to enhance it’s strongest pieces or bolster it’s weakest, they rely on the groups hammers to do their job and the groups anvils to make their job easier to perform. So, give your group’s support elements a break, they do a hard thankless job.

Male Orc Expert 5

Okie dokie here we go.
Encounter 1: Gratuitous Sewer Level

Background: A large city located on the coastline has been beset wiht heavy rainfall causing the sewers ro overflow into the streets. On top of the rampant disease this is spreading tribes of Grindylows normally kept in check by regular sweeps of the sewers ahve grown bolder and begun raiding the city above them taking captives and loot into the depths below. Your group has been tasked with finding and eliminating as many of the tentacled bastards as you can. This encounter represents your first meeting with a group of the creatures and their pets in the sewers.

Going in

Go ahead and make any necessary adjustments your character would have made before beginning the sewer search in earnest up to and including buffs. For time keeping's sake you have explored the sewer for up to an hour now before this encounter. Keep in mind with your prepped spells that there will be two other consecutive encounters after this of harder difficulty both having completely different scenarios so keep this in mind. You can make appropriate knowledge checks in your first post to learn what you need to about the monsters you are after.

The environment:

The sewers here are pitchblack (need a lightsource if human or have low light) and the water, normally only being about ankle height at best is now roughly waist height on a medium character. This means small characters have to swim or else have an alternate means of getting around. Medium characters treat the water as difficult terrain.

So characters can go ahead and make their first posts to make any necessary preparations then we'll get things started.

Right so to answer a demand for people to do this I'm opening up a brief game for four players to playtest the ACG classes.

I plan on doing this in a series of steps for the characters starting at level 3 then 7 then 11 and finally ending at 16.

Each level will have three consecutive encounters of ramping up difficulty before moving on.

It'll be quick and dirty and not much roleplaying is expected if any. Simply a brief description of the scenario and away you go.

Character building

20pt. buy, 2 traits.

I need to see your character at level 3 first for application but you'll need to also be able to bump it up to the levels above.

I'll close this in three days from now running with whoever actually submits a character.

And we'll go once I have a fairly balanced group.

I'll toss in a 5th "npc" character to balance things if we end up with an oddly balanced group.

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So I was going to do a video on this. But Fraps does not get along with Maptool so after some brief looking around I decided to stream it over instead. This is both bad, because I can't edit things to make myself seem like some terrible tactical god (which I ain't). And good, because I can include any potential participation I get and maybe spread a bit more information than I would have otherwise.

I'll be streaming here.

I'll get on around 9pm EST. on Tuesday the 26th but begin an actual stream at around 9:30-45 probably going until about midnight.

So what will I be doing?

Well I'll be running an encounter designed for 7th level characters with 6th level versions of the 4th level characters I presented in the forge article. I have no other players so it'll mainly be a one man show to help depict and explain a lot of the concepts pulled in the past four Tactics 101 writeups. Chat participation is great here as they can point out things I miss. New players are encouraged to watch and ask questions.

For the record here are the sheets for the characters I'll be using.



Evangelist Cleric

Archaeologist Bard

The encounter will be a variant of the Gobbo/Orc fort described here. It will also be the last time I mention it ever as Ashiel has a big enough ego and my hand is sticky.

I may do a brief Q&A regarding tactics/strategy depending on how many show up. Ultimately I will save the video as a highlight and tos it in my profile for later viewing as well.

I'll bump this an hour or so before the stream officially begins to remind people.

Hope to see you there. :)

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