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[High-level Playtest] Testing the CR system to its limits


Playtest Reports

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As I promised a couple of weeks ago here, my group and me tried some high-level challenges between a group of 15th level characters and some CR 20 monsters, in order to see if the CR system is still balanced at high levels or not. This due to the fact that some playtest experiences made on the forums showed that Pathfinder characters are more than a match for high-level monsters…

Of course, we expected some TPK on this characters (an EL 5-6 levels higher than the APL should totally wipe out the group); however, this was not exactly true…

My group used the Pre-made High Level characters I posted here, while I took some CR 20 Monsters and re-balanced them with the PFRPG rules (changing their Skills accordingly to the new rules, and adding some Feats thanks to the new Feat-acquisition progression of creatures). I also used the ‘Improved Standard Attack’ Action proposed in playtest by Jason Bulmahn (allowing a second, iterative attack with manufactured weapons for creatures with a BaB +11 or more during a Standard Attack Action)

Although the Official Playtest is over, I hope this could be of some use to other players/GM and to Paizo staff (if they take a peek to these reports) for high-level balancing.

So, without further delay, let’s start the carnage !!!

ROUND 1 – FIGHT !!!

Background – a party of 4 characters is stumbling in the wilderness of a Lower Outer Plane for some Fiend-killing, when suddenly the ground around them arises in a huge pillar of rock to a height of 1500ft., forming a ‘Soul-Calibur’esque ring of 50ft. x 50ft. The party, feeling that something ominous is on the way, start buffing itself…

This is the same arena proposed by Jason in the Horned Devil Playtest here – I merely set the height of the arena in order to avoid the characters from fleeing, and to give them 1 round before reaching the ground below to avoid going –SPLAT- with some flying devices/spells

The Party is composed of the Paladin (LG), the Barbarian (CN), the Wizard (N), and the Sorcerer (N); I allowed the Wizard to memorize some different spells from those listed on the post (among those on his spellbook, of course…)

On the two rounds of preparation, they make the following choices:
Paladin: Protection from Evil on himself
Barbarian: Potion of Displacement/ Potion of Haste
Wizard: moves in the lower left corner of the arena, casts Prismatic Wall/ Spell Turning on himself (9 spell levels rolled)
Sorcerer: Protection from Evil on the Barbarian/ Protection from Evil on himself

Entering CR 20 Balor !

Spoiler:

The Balor has the following modifications from the SRD:
BaB/CMB: +20/+33
Attack: Vorpal +33/+28
Full Attack: Vorpal +31/+26/+21/+16, Whip +31/+26/+21; or 2 slams +31
Skills: Acrobatics +30 (+34 on Jump checks), Bluff +31, Diplomacy +31, Disguise +31, Fly +34, Intimidate +31 Knowledge (Arcana/Planes/Religion) +30, Perception +38, Sense motive +30, Spellcraft +30, Stealth +26, Survival +30, Use Magic Device +31
Feats: Cleave, Great Cleave, Greater Two-Weapon Fighting, Improved Initiative, Improved Two-Weapon Fighting, Power Attack (+12), Quicken Spell-like (telekinesis), Two-Weapon Fighting, Weapon Focus (longsword), Weapon Focus (whip)

In the two rounds of preparation, he does the following:
Summon Balor (let’s call it Sbalor from now on)/ casts Unholy Aura on himself and his fella

Then, with a huge –BANF!- and a smell of sulphur, the loveable couple make their appearance !

Spoiler:

At the beginning of the fight, the area is more or less as follows:

____XXYY____
____XXYY____
_____________
_____________
____PP_______
\___PPB______
W\___S______

Horrible ASCII… X is Balor, Y is Sbalor, P the mounted Paladin, B the Barbarian, S the Sorcerer, W the Wizard, \ is the Prismatic Wall.

[b]The Wizard would have been safe if the arena was surrounded by walls… in this situation, however, it was not the wisest thing to do…

After rolling for initiative, the order is as follows:

Barbarian
Sorcerer
Wizard
Balor + Sbalor
Paladin

Round 1) Barbarian activates rage, moves in front of Sbalor (he doesn’t know what, if any, is the summoned one) and hits him (and thus, from now on, Sbalor can physically attack him…) with his Improved Standard Attack (hits once) + Animal Fury Bite (a Critical !!!), resulting for a total damage (after DR) of 28 hp; Sorcerer tries a Greater Dispel Magic against the two creatures (leaving out the Barbarian), but no spells (nor the Summoning effect…) are dispelled; Wizard makes a 5ft step against his own Prismatic Wall (he can move in and out of his own barrier without harm, and in fact it’s the only chance he has to cast to the Balors) and casts Greater Dispel Magic – to no use; Balor takes a move flying at 70 feet high and casts Power Word Stun against Wizard – the power is reflected back, but since Balor has 290 hp, I didn’t bother to bypass SR…; Sbalor casts defensively Power Word Stun against Sorcerer, who is out of commission for 2 rounds (103 hp means the stun effect lasts only 1d4 r…); Paladin makes a Smite Evil Mounted Spirited Charge against Sbalor (allowing him to retaliate from this moment on – in fact, the Attack of Opportunity inflicts him 13 hp), inflicts 64 hp, and then as a free action activates Aura of Justice on his fellow Barbarian (burning a total of 3 Smite Evil attempts).

Aura of Justice is a NUKE !!!

Round 2) Empowered by Plutonium…ergh, the Forces of Good, Barbarian makes a Hasted Full Attack + Bite with the Paladin’s Smite Evil annexed – he hits 3 times with the Axe, and once with the Bite – and, since the new Smite Evil bypasses all DR from Fiends, he rolls a grand total of 174 hp of damage, discharging his Aura of Justice
’Let’s see… 84 from damage weapon, then… oh, yes, 28d6 from Smite’
Sorcerer is stunned (1° round); Wizard uses his Arcane Bond to cast a Power Word Stun against the almost-dead Sbalor (he took 266 hp in less than 1 round…) – a success - , then with a 5ft step retreats behind his Prismatic Wall; Balor (from his flying position) has line of effect on the Wizard (despite the Wall) and casts again Power Word Stun, rolling a d8 to see if the spell is rebounded again or not – and hit Wizard, stunning him for 5 rounds ! (2d4 rounds, since Wizard has only 100 hp…); Paladin, still empowered by his Smite Evil (it lasts 2 rounds at this level) annihilates the poor Sbalor

Round 3) Barbarian moves near Sorcerer, and drinks a Potion of Fly; Sorcerer is stunned for the last round; Wizard, 1° round of stun; Balor, casts Implosion on the Sorcerer – who succeeds on his Saving Throw !!!; Paladin uses his Potion of Fly on his Mount (being a Celestial Horse, it has Intelligence 6 and understands – a little – what to do)

Round 4)
From now on, the fight begins to take a 3D direction… it’s not easy to express what is currently going on, and worse yet, the new rules for flying are NOT user-friendly for characters which have NO RANKS at all, since (being a Trained-Only skill) it means they cannot make ANY CHECK at all !!!
Barbarian takes a double move, which (by rules) allow him only to reach 60 feet – he is still 10 feet under the Balor; Sorcerer makes a charismatic (and ultimately, decisive) move, casting Enervation on the Balor – the SR is bypassed, and Balor takes 4 (!!!) Negative levels (losing 20 hit points in the process, among other things…); Wizard, 2° round of stunning; Balor, concentrates on his Implosion spell again against Sorcerer – who fails his ST, losing 200 hp (and dying…) -
It’s true that Balor lost 4 levels due to the Enervation, but the Implosion spell was cast the round before, so the caster level for that particular power was still 20th, then moves 50 feet on the side (in order to be still at close range to the Wizard, but suspended on the void instead of being hovering over the arena)
this move still allows him to concentrate on the spell, since he took only a move action
Paladin starts to fly, and reaches the Barbarian

Round 5) Barbarian takes a double move and finally comes in contact with Balor (who cannot make his Attack of Opportunity, or else will lose concentration on his Implosion spells); Wizard is stunned on his 3° round; Balor uses Implosion on Wizard – who succeeds again !!! –
as a GM, I was so discouraged that I totally forgot to make Balor move away with his move action…
Paladin takes a double move again, and comes near Barbarian – and uses NUKE (Aura of Justice) again, draining his last Smite Evil

Round 6) Barbarian takes a Full Attack against Balor, and hits with ALL his attacks… for 238 hp damage !!!
Looking at the report after a few hours, I noticed that the Haste potion should have expired the previous round… oh, well, unlucky me… perhaps it was a ‘boosted’ CL 7th Haste potion… as a side note, we totally forgot to add the +30 feet movement of the Haste on the Fly movement, so this evens the mistake
However, he has to make a Fly check to hover (since he has taken a Full-Attack Action), but he CANNOT do it because he is not trained at all !!! Barbarian drops from the sky like a stone…
rules on the Fly spell say that if the spell ends you fall gently, but this is not the case (or the Fly skill would say that a spell allows you to hover anyway), so I interpreted as above – I think that a creature which is trained in the Fly skill can float for the last round with a dying Fly spell, but a creature that fails a Fly check to hover (or which cannot make the check at all) simply falls like a dead body…
One of my players calculated how much distance is covered with a 6-seconds fall (before Barbarian can take a move again and simply fly up from the position he is now), and calculates approximately 180 meters (around 600 feet) – more than enough before hitting ground, fortunately…

Wizard is stunned for the 4° round; Balor uses his Greater Teleport to fly exactly on the side of the Wizard, his feet (talons?) hanging on the void; Paladin takes a double move and comes near the Balor (he cannot charge since it’s not on a straight line, but comes adjacent to him), taking an Attack of Opportunity that Balor decides to make on the Horse – a hit for 13 hp
Paladin forgot to try a Ride check to ‘intercept’ the hit…

Round 7) Barbarian regains control at 900 feet from ground, and starts his looooooooong way back to the summit, deciding to reach the rocky side of the pillar and climbing up (better be safe…); Wizard is stunned for the last round (and starts to pray…); Balor, being seriously hurt (he has only 32 hp left) decides to slaughter the Mount, in order to make Paladin fall, makes a full attack (and entangles the Horse against his body), inflicts 57 hp to the Mount (total hp lost = 70) and tries to hurl with his Quickened Telekinesis the Wizard against the Paladin, to make Wizard fall from the sky – but Wizard MAKES THE SAVE !!!; Paladin takes a full attack from his awkward position (he succeeds on his Ride check to avoid being dismounted from his Horse) and inflicts 37 hp to the Balor, killing him !!!
…or not? In fact, the Balor is still alive (although at –6 hp), so his Death Throes is not triggered (yet)… but he starts to fall from the sky – WITH HORSE AND PALADIN ALONG WITH HIM !!!

Round 8) Barbarian climbs/Wizard is no stunned anymore/ Balor falls/ Paladin decides that he can only do one thing: he DESUMMONS his Mount, to free him and saving his life… and falls towards his heroic death

Round 9) Balor and Paladin crash on the ground, taking each 76 hp of damage; this triggers the Death Throes, forcing Paladin to Save against the damage – Paladin fails, takes another 100 hp damage, and with 176 damage dies heroically along with the nasty Fiend (at –24 hp)

All in all, I expected the Balor to be a more serious menace to the characters… it’s true, however, that they had a good share of luck (Enervation 4 Negative Levels, 2 rounds to Implode the Sorcerer, Wizard making all the important Saves…), so overall they earned their victory. The Paladin is a powerhouse against his true enemies, but most of all the Aura of Justice power is a real Fiend-destroyer (if you have enough powerhouse combatants in the party).

Since we had some time to spare, we decided to give the CR system another try…


A NEW OPPONENT INTERRUPTS THE TOURNAMENT !!!

My players decided to change some of their characters, so the new party consisted of:

Paladin (LG)
Barbarian (CN)
Fighter (N)
Cleric (LG)

The situation was exactly the same; walking in the wasted wilderness of a Lower Outer Plane, the Arena shoots the group high in the sky.

The group started to buff:
Paladin: Bless Weapon on Barbarian
Fighter: Potion of Fly/ Potion of Haste
Barbarian: Potion of Fly/ Potion of Haste
Cleric: Magic Circle against Evil/ Align Weapon (Good) on Fighter

The player took Cleric mainly for the horrible Greater Planar Ally – Planetar combo (seriously, an 8th-level spell which conjures a 17th-level Cleric with Spell-like at will at the punching force of an army for mere 1400 gp…); fortunately, the casting time of 10 minutes disallowed the combo…

Enters the king of the pit, the Pit Fiend !!!

Spoiler:

HD: 18d8+144 plus 21 (246 hp)
BaB/CMB: +18/+32
Skills: Acrobatics +29 (+33 on Jump), Bluff +29, Climb +34, Diplomacy +29, Disguise +29, Fly +29, Intimidate +29, Knowledge (Arcana/Nature/Planes/Religion)+29, Perception +31, Sense Motive +31, Spellcraft +29, Stealth +25
Feats: Alertness, Cleave, Great Cleave, Improved Initiative, Iron Will, Multiattack, Power Attack (+13), Quicken Spell-like (fireball), Toughness
[/b]

…and his summoned Cornugon Tag-team wrestlers…

[spoiler]
HD: 15d8+105 plus 18 (190 hp)
BaB/CMB: +15/+26
Attack: Chain +25/+20 or Claw +24 or Tail +24
Full Attack: Chain +25/+20/+15 and Bite +22 and Tail +22; or 2 Claws +24 and Bite +22 and Tail +22
Skills: Bluff +24, Climb +28, Diplomacy +24, Fly +25, Intimidate +24, Knowledge (Arcana) +20, Perception +22, Sense Motive +22, Spellcraft +20, Stealth +21
Feats: Cleave, Improved Sunder, Iron Will, Multiattack, Power Attack (+10), Toughness, Vital Strike, Weapon Focus (Spiked Chain)

Obviously, the buffing rounds of the Pit Fiend were:
Summon Cornugon/ Summon Cornugon

After rolling initiative, the order was the following:

Cleric
Pit Fiend + Cornugons
Paladin
Fighter
Barbarian

The heroes made a defensive line (the Martial characters) with the Cleric in the background; on the other side of the Arena, the Cornugons made a defensive line, with the Pit Fiend behind.

Round 1) Cleric cast Greater Dispel Magic against the Fiendish party, dispelling Cornugon 1 (the left one) !!!; Pit Fiend start to nuke the group… Meteor Swarm on the Fighter + Quickened Fireball, then flies 60 ft. high
Damage output:
Fighter: 119 hp from MS + 14 from Fireball
Barbarian, 13 hp !!! (Ring of Major Fire Resistance 30, Save against fire from MS succeeds, no need for the save against Fireball – 28 hp only)
Mount: 42 hp (Thanks to Improved Evasion)
Paladin: 99 hp
Cleric: 99 hp
Things are starting to look bad…; Cornugon approaches to the group, Aura of Fear useless against all BUT THE MOUNT !!!
I totally forgot of the Protection from Evil, but the first round Cornugon missed, then all characters started to attack him, so no harm was done…
The fact that a Paladin’s Mount shares the spells of the Paladin but not the immunities is a bit silly… although he had a good Will save, and the Aura of Courage helped it, it failed miserably…
It’s worth noting that, in the heat of the battle, we made the Horse run away only the following round…

Paladin hits with only one attack, but decides to spare his Smite Evil attempts for the BBEG – and inflicts only 9 hp…, then uses Lay on Hands on himself as a swift action for 18 hp; Fighter takes a 5ft step to flank Cornugon, full attacks and hits for 62 hp; Barbarian, on the front, rages and takes a full-attack action (including his Bite), but hits only twice with the Axe – enough for 68 hp, though
The new DR system works well at high level… all characters had +4 weapons, and had only to align their weapon to bypass the DR and Regeneration of Devils
Round 2) Cleric takes a 5-ft step and casts defensively a Heal to Fighter, who regains all hp; Pit Fiend, from above, unleashes another Quickened Fireball + Power Word Stun against Cleric
Fighter: -27 hp
Barbarian: no damage, still only –13 hp
Horse: Save failed, Imp Evasion halves damage; -55 hp
Paladin: -94 hp
Cleric: -112 hp, stunned for 9 rounds !!!
The party is doomed…; Cornugon makes a Vital Strike Full Attack against Paladin, misses with his attacks, but the Tail Slap is a CRITICAL !!! Paladin takes another 39 hp (-133), and has Infernal Wound…; Horse, after 1 round of unbelievable effort, flees due to the Fear Aura (…) and provokes an AoO, taking 19 hp (-74 hp); Paladin succeeds in a fast dismount, takes 2 hp from Infernal Wound (-135) and tries to heal himself with Lay on Hands – but the pernicious power of the curse of the Cornugon fizzles the healing powers !!!; Fighter kill Cornugon with his 2 first Iterative attacks (an Improved Standard Attack Action) and flies against the Pit Fiend; Barbarian flies as well, but decides to reach a height of 55 feet (in order to be slightly outside of the reach of the Pit Fiend)

Round 3) Cleric is stunned (1° round); Pit Fiend, Quickened Fireball on party (all but Barbarian and Mount), 5-ft. step flying and full attack on Barbarian
Paladin: -170, dying
Cleric: -130
Fighter: -62
Full Attack on Barbarian: all hit, Improved Grab misses thanks to Strength Surge activated by Barbarian as Immediate Action, 95 hp damage; -108
Fighter flies and reaches Pit Fiend; Barbarian makes a flying full attack, hits twice (for 40 hp damage) and falls on ground (since he CANNOT make Fly checks to hover), taking 17 hp damage (Barbarian: -125)

Round 4) Pit Fiend uses Quickened Fireball on dying members (42 hp !!! Paladin and Cleric killed) then full attacks Fighter, hitting him only once for 22 hp (Fighter: -84); Fighter takes a flying Full Attack, hits only once for 24 hp (Pit Fiend: -64) and then falls too (see above…) for 21 hp (Fighter: -105)
This sounded a bit silly, but the group insisted on a full attack followed by a ‘drop-like-a-stone’ technique… After the fight was over, they admitted that a non-trained flying character should make a ‘hit-and-run’ technique, instead – especially when the iterative attacks miss anyway
Barbarian flies again near the Pit Fiend

Round 5) Pit Fiend casts a Quickened Fireball on Fighter (really? what an interesting and new strategy…) for 16 hp (Fighter: -121), then takes a full attack on Barbarian – all hit, Improved Grab + Constrict too (Barbarian must wait another 9 rounds before using Strength Surge again…), for a grand total of 113 hp
note that Barbarian had DR 4/- against all attack, and Pit Fiend didn’t even use Power Attack !!!
(Barbarian: -238); Fighter begs Pit Fiend for mercy
the player was already aware that the fight was over, and didn’t want to waste time anymore…; Barbarian tries to escape – and fails… and as a swift action tries to bite him – and fails again…

Round 6) Pit Fiend casts YET ANOTHER Quickened Fireball on Fighter for 38 hp (Fighter: -143), then makes a Grapple check to damage+ Constrict Barbarian – succeeds, -36 hp, Barbarian is dead; Fighter, screaming like a madman, cleaves his skull with his axe while throwing himself off the Arena…
I allowed him a Coup de Grace, for 75 hp damage plus bleed…not counting 20d6 from falling…

…and the Forces of Evil yet triumph again !!! BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA !!!!

Final considerations: I seriously thought that the Balor fight would have been more difficult; but again, the second fight was without Arcane Casters, so it’s difficult to make a comparison between the two fights.

Osirion

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber

[wipes tears from his eyes]

That was a thing of beauty!

I do think the Fly spell's note, "The subject gains a bonus on Fly skill checks equal to half your caster level," tends to indicate that they can make the checks.

CR seems to still work! Oh - the Pit Fiend seemed to use Quickened Fireball too many times - did I miss something there?

[/tears]


How did the barbarian deal 28d6 damage from Smite Evil against the Balors? Smite Evil is +1 damage per Paladin level. And Smite doesn't negate any kind of DR. Oh, and the Balor could have still made attacks of opportunity while concentrating on implosion; concentrating on an ongoing spell is a standard action, but the only things that can disrupt that concentration assuming he takes the standard action are things done to the caster. The caster can still make AoOs as normal.

And, as mentioned, you used way too many quickened fireballs. Quicken Spell-Like Ability can only be used 3/day.

Cheliax

Nice job (once again) on the play test(s) Wraith!

Zurai wrote:
How did the barbarian deal 28d6 damage from Smite Evil against the Balors? Smite Evil is +1 damage per Paladin level. And Smite doesn't negate any kind of DR.

Wraith was using Jason's updated paladin posted here

I agree that flying (via the spell) obviously needs modification/clarification.

One thing, regarding the Paladin's mount, don't forget that the mount of a 15th level Paladin has a SR of 26 as per the same Paladin update. I'm not sure, as you don't state, if the mount failed both it's will save and it SR check versus the aura of fear versus the Cornugon. This would have had minimal effect here but could be important in other high level play tests.

Once again nice job!

Cheers

Osirion

Zurai wrote:

How did the barbarian deal 28d6 damage from Smite Evil against the Balors? Smite Evil is +1 damage per Paladin level. And Smite doesn't negate any kind of DR. Oh, and the Balor could have still made attacks of opportunity while concentrating on implosion; concentrating on an ongoing spell is a standard action, but the only things that can disrupt that concentration assuming he takes the standard action are things done to the caster. The caster can still make AoOs as normal.

And, as mentioned, you used way too many quickened fireballs. Quicken Spell-Like Ability can only be used 3/day.

Smite evil was updated by Jason, didn't think it was 28d6 updated tho.

Andoran

The Wraith wrote:

I also used the ‘Improved Standard Attack’ Action proposed in playtest by Jason Bulmahn (allowing a second, iterative attack with manufactured weapons for creatures with a BaB +11 or more during a Standard Attack Action)

Improved Standard Attack!
Where is this???


The barbarian was full attacking, no?

Great account Wraith!

The party made very interesting choices for character classes, both times (two spellcasters then only a divine). Any reason behind these?

DW

Cheliax

Xaaon of Xen'Drik wrote:


Smite evil was updated by Jason, didn't think it was 28d6 updated tho.

The barbarian made 4 attacks (3 with ax and 1 bite) which all hit.

This equals (weapon damage + 7d6 from smite) per attack. That's weapon damage rolled 4 times (with all bonuses) plus 28d6 from smite.

{EDIT} Incidentally, the barbarian would also get the Paladin's Charisma bonus to hit on his attacks as well.

Cheliax

Another quick note. The Balor could not have used the Implosion against the Sorcerer the second time, because the Sorcerer had made his save.

"You can target a particular creature only once with each casting of the spell."

Also, the Balor would have had to make a Spellcraft check to maintain the concentration on the Implosion versus a DC 30 (from the Enervation damage). Only would have failed on a 1 of course, as his Spellcraft was +30, but 5% failure chance is still better than nothing.

Cheliax

Zurai wrote:

Oh, and the Balor could have still made attacks of opportunity while concentrating on implosion; concentrating on an ongoing spell is a standard action, but the only things that can disrupt that concentration assuming he takes the standard action are things done to the caster. The caster can still make AoOs as normal.

I think that your interpretation is correct according to RAW, but I would have ruled as Wraith did in my game.


Thanks to you all for your feedback !

@Majuba and Zurai:
you are both right, I totally forgot about the limit per day of the Quicken Spell-like Ability feat - not that it would have changed anything (Paladin was already dying AND affected by Infernal Wound, and Cleric was stunned until round 10; Barbarian and Fighter could not seriously damage Pit Fiend with the 'fly-and-drop' technique); problem is, some high-level powers are hard to adjudicate in the heat of the battle (especially when comboed together...)

@Lord oKOyA:
the Fear Aura of a Cornugon (or Pit Fiend) is a Supernatural ability, and as such is not affected by SR. The Will save was failed (although barely) even with the bonus granted by Aura of Courage (another reason, IMHO, to choose a Bonded Weapon over a Mount);
regarding the Spellcraft check, a natural 1 on a skill check is not an automatical failure (and a natural 20 is not an automatic success) - only Saves, Hit rolls and CMB checks follow this rule;
and... true, Implosion couldn't kill the Sorcerer the second attempt... - sigh ! - poor Balor...
well, at least he KILLED THE PALADIN !!! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA !!!

@Opticon:
the link is here

@Dreaming Warforged:
the player guiding the Wizard and Sorcerer in the first fight wanted some 'wild cards' to use against the Power Word Stun at will of the following fight (I know, I know, this is a bit of metagaming...), so he wanted the Cleric for the Greater Planar Ally spell - only problem, the spell was not available in the heat of the battle (casting time 10 minutes, fortunately), so the whole combo went awry


How pointless. Even MM1 tactics assume that a balor actually uses his main advantages, i.e. mobility and ranged attacks, that include infinite supply of save-or-loses. This fight begins by arbitrarily stripping the balor duo of them. Even then, the balors didn't bother to use area effects. The quickened Telekinesis wasn't used until too late. Does it allow a save in PBeta, because it sure doesn't in 3.X?


FatR wrote:
How pointless. Even MM1 tactics assume that a balor actually uses his main advantages, i.e. mobility and ranged attacks, that include infinite supply of save-or-loses. This fight begins by arbitrarily stripping the balor duo of them. Even then, the balors didn't bother to use area effects. The quickened Telekinesis wasn't used until too late. Does it allow a save in PBeta, because it sure doesn't in 3.X?

A Telekinesis(Violent Thrust) allows a Save if used against a creature, so the Wizard was not affected (Will negates) (Web Enhancement, page 39). Other effects require Concentration to continue - so it's almost useless to activate them as a Swift action.

You are right however about 'using telekinesis too little, too late'... I'm not a real expert in using such high-level CR monsters myself.
Regarding mobility and 'arbitrarily stripping abilities', I really do not understand your point... the 'true Balor' was flying all the time and casting his spells, while the summoned one charged into the fray to damage the party (since he was not risking his life, being summoned and all).
Area effects? True, there is Fire Storm 1/day (it could damage the casters, but then they would still be able to cast again); or Blasphemy - but the party was plane-hopping (the setting was a Lower Outer Plane to avoid the Dismissal/Banishment spell against the Balor), so the PARTY was extraplanar... and dismissable by Blasphemy.
I wanted to see if a Balor could actually kill the party, not escape from them (or Greater Teleport would have been enough)...


Majuba wrote:

I do think the Fly spell's note, "The subject gains a bonus on Fly skill checks equal to half your caster level," tends to indicate that they can make the checks.

Regarding this, in 3.5 a Fly spell gave Good maneuverability (which would translate in a +4 bonus), while Overland Flight gave Average Manueverability (+0 bonus). Now, both spells give a bonus to the Fly check equal to half caster level, which is overall much better.

Problem is, a character has also a bonus to the Fly check equal to his Dexterity modifier (RAW speaking, as with any other kind of skill check... a Dex based skill has a bonus on the check equal to your Dex modifier, and so on) - but does this allow to use an Untrained skill? Obviously, not.

So, by RAW, a character with (let's say) Dex 18 and an active Fly spell (caster level 14) has a bonus to his Fly check equal to 4(Dex)+7(spell)...but he cannot roll anyway if he has not at least 1 rank !

Your reasoning would be correct only if the spell Fly (or Overland Flight) says 'You can make your Fly checks even if untrained when casting this spell' - but currently, it doesn't...


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Two suggestions for Balor:
1. Follow basic monster tactics from SRD.
2. Grapple + Greater Teleport = great mobility, falling damage, dealing with spellcasters and weaker grapplers.

Regards,
Ruemere


Also, Blasphemy is still a terrific tool. Think about it. You use it, and let's say half the party makes the save. That means the other half goes poof back to the material plane, and now the fiend only has half the party to deal with and kill! He can then go find the other two after the first battle (and ater healing up).

Cheliax

The Wraith wrote:

Thanks to you all for your feedback !

@Lord oKOyA:
the Fear Aura of a Cornugon (or Pit Fiend) is a Supernatural ability, and as such is not affected by SR. The Will save was failed (although barely) even with the bonus granted by Aura of Courage (another reason, IMHO, to choose a Bonded Weapon over a Mount);
regarding the Spellcraft check, a natural 1 on a skill check is not an automatical failure (and a natural 20 is not an automatic success) - only Saves, Hit rolls and CMB checks follow this rule;
and... true, Implosion couldn't kill the Sorcerer the second attempt... - sigh ! - poor Balor...
well, at least he KILLED THE PALADIN !!! BWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA !!!

My bad(s). I started out merely intending to comment on the mounts SR as it related to your comment about "shares the spells of the Paladin but not the immunities" and got carried away trying to apply it to the fear aura. You are correct.

You are also correct with the Spellcraft check. I have used the house rule that a roll of 20 is = to a roll of 30 and a roll of 1 is = to -10 for so long I have forgotten the original rules regarding natural 1s and 20s. My apologies.

At least I got the Implosion part right. :)

Cheers


Lord oKOyA wrote:
Zurai wrote:
How did the barbarian deal 28d6 damage from Smite Evil against the Balors? Smite Evil is +1 damage per Paladin level. And Smite doesn't negate any kind of DR.
Wraith was using Jason's updated paladin posted here

Aha! Fair enough, then, though I worry that Aura of Justice is dramatically overpowered. A free action and 3 daily Smites to give the whole party a Smite on every attack?

Cheliax

Zurai wrote:

Aha! Fair enough, then, though I worry that Aura of Justice is dramatically overpowered. A free action and 3 daily Smites to give the whole party a Smite on every attack?

It only costs 2 (not 3) smites to grant it to all allies within 10' for 1 round.

Perhaps it is too good. ;)

Cheliax

FatR wrote:
How pointless. Even MM1 tactics assume that a balor actually uses his main advantages, i.e. mobility and ranged attacks, that include infinite supply of save-or-loses. This fight begins by arbitrarily stripping the balor duo of them. Even then, the balors didn't bother to use area effects. The quickened Telekinesis wasn't used until too late. Does it allow a save in PBeta, because it sure doesn't in 3.X?

I'll tell you what is pointless. Your comment in this discussion.

The idea behind Wraith's thread was to report upon the happenings of an encounter that was run between Wraith and his players. Which he did. It cannot be "right" or "wrong", as it is what it is.

This was a play test, run by real people in a way that reflected the choices made by both Wraith and the players. Whether these choices were "optimal" or not is irrelevant. Wraith was making no declarations. He was reporting what happened in his game. Could things have been done differently? Of course. By both sides. Could the outcome have been different? Obviously (and as admitted by Wraith regarding his inexperience running CR 20 creatures, would most likely turn out much differently if run again). For that matter any encounter that incorporates random variables (ie die rolling) is going to turn out differently when run again. However we are not here to critic Wraith's tactical choices, but rather to discuss how the rules are interpreted and applied in a real gaming environment, to find the bits that need attention.

Slamming Wraith and his players for not running the encounter to the maximum potential (or to your obviously superior and exacting standards) is not constructive. At least Wraith has stepped up and put his play tests out for all to see, opening himself up to scrutiny. Could you provide the links to your play tests FatR? That everyone might see how it is done by experts like yourself?

Furthermore, your adversarial and condescending tone, coupled with your well documented negativity towards Pathfinder as a whole, are wholly unwelcome in this discussion. Either make constructive comments or keep your sniping to yourself.

Cheliax

ruemere wrote:

Two suggestions for Balor:

1. Follow basic monster tactics from SRD.
2. Grapple + Greater Teleport = great mobility, falling damage, dealing with spellcasters and weaker grapplers.

Regards,
Ruemere

1. Would have been nice for comparison reasons, but not necessarily a requirement (see my rant above). As a side note. To this end then the Balor would not likely have summoned the other Balor prior to combat starting as per the SRD description of Demons.

"Summon (Sp): Many demons share the ability to summon others of their kind (the success chance and type of demon summoned are noted in each monster description). Demons are often reluctant to use this power until in obvious peril or extreme circumstances."

2. Are you implying a tactic of grapple opponent, teleport with grappled opponent and drop opponent from height here? If so, and unless I am mistaken (wouldn't be the 1st time or the last), this is specifically disallowed by the wording of Teleport via the "willing creature" clause. There is nothing about grappling that I have found that would override this restriction. Being grappled merely immobilizes a creature (among other action restrictions/penalties). It doesn't even make the creature helpless let alone removing the creatures "will". Secondly the Balor's Teleport ability clearly states, "self plus 50 pounds of objects only".

If this is not what you are implying, then I apologize.

Cheliax

Bard-Sader wrote:
Also, Blasphemy is still a terrific tool. Think about it. You use it, and let's say half the party makes the save. That means the other half goes poof back to the material plane, and now the fiend only has half the party to deal with and kill! He can then go find the other two after the first battle (and ater healing up).

Wraith has stated that the banishment part was specifically ignored for this play test. He wanted to see a fight to the death, pure and simple. He could have rigged the encounter with both the Balor and the party on some neutral ground where both were subject to banishment. Or he could have used an evil party to fight the Balor (removing the banishment portion from the Blasphemy equation). The fight could have taken place on a featureless plane or in a cramped (ie. low ceiling) environment as well. All of this would have changed things significantly.

Of course the rest of the Blasphemy spell (banishment aside) is game breaking for the encounter as none of the players would have had a chance to avoid being dazed, weakened and paralyzed for 1d10 minutes. No save allowed and I don't believe any of the characters had SR. Being 15th level and taking on a Balor is utterly doomed to fail without SR.

Andoran

Blashpemy is so powerful, its put our entire Shackled City group on the ropes before. It made a fight against a Hezrou seem so much harder than the Glabrezu fight that followed it.

Cheliax

Studpuffin wrote:
Blashpemy is so powerful...

QFT


"Lord oKOyA wrote:
Of course the rest of the Blasphemy spell (banishment aside) is game breaking for the encounter as none of the players would have had a chance to avoid being dazed, weakened and paralyzed for 1d10 minutes. No save allowed and I don't believe any of the characters had SR. Being 15th level and taking on a Balor is utterly doomed to fail without SR.

I believe you're thinking of the SRD version of Blasphemy.

The PF version allows will saves at DC 25 (the Balor's DC).

So:
Paralyzed for 1d10 minutes, WILL Save reduces that to 1 round.
Weakened 2d6 STR for 2d4 rounds, WILL Save for half (though I don't know whether the half is applied to the 2d6 STR or the 2d4 rounds - my gut says the duration, not the effect).
Dazed and can take no actions for 1 round, WILL Save negates.

Since it specifically says the effects are concurrent, the round that the PCs are Dazed is the first round that they are Paralyzed, so there is no need to even apply the Dazed effect.

The loss of the STR could reduce the damage and even the number of successful hits from the melee classes a little.

The Paralysis is dangerous. I didn't look at the PCs to see what their WILL saves are, but DC 25 is tough for a typical 15th level character, especially if they have weak WILL saves. Failing the save takes them out of the fight (at least 10 rounds). If they make the save, they're still Paralyzed for a round and might very well be subjected to a coup de grace attack if the Balor uses Quickened Telekinesis to move the paralyzed PC within melee range for a full-round coup de grace.

Even worse, since a coup de grace is automatically a critical hit, and the Balors wield vorpal weapons, there is a distinct possibility that a PC affected by even a single round of paralysis will suffer instant death by decapitation.


Lord oKOyA wrote:

2. Are you implying a tactic of grapple opponent, teleport with grappled opponent and drop opponent from height here? If so, and unless I am mistaken (wouldn't be the 1st time or the last), this is specifically disallowed by the wording of Teleport via the "willing creature" clause. There is nothing about grappling that I have found that would override this restriction. Being grappled merely immobilizes a creature (among other action restrictions/penalties). It doesn't even make the creature helpless let alone removing the creatures "will". Secondly the Balor's Teleport ability clearly states, "self plus 50 pounds of objects only".

If this is not what you are implying, then I apologize.

The confusion here could be from this passage in the SRD about Balor tactics:

SRD wrote:
Round 4: Teleport or fly away with entangled foe to reestablish range; repeat round 1 and continue.

Note:

1. This says "entangled foe" not "grappled foe" and therefore likely refers to the Balor using its entangling whip.
2. It does not necessarily say "Teleport away with entangled foe". Instead, I read the sentence like this: "Teleport away to reestablish range or, if applicable, fly away with entangled foe to reestablish range; repeat round 1 and continue."

Given point 2, it would be entirely feasible to fly away with a grappled foe, too, but only at half-speed (although I have houseruled that if you are 2 sizes larger that the foe you are grappling, you can move at your normal speed - how silly for a dragon to swoop down and pick up a gnome, then have to fly away at half speed - it should just kill the gnome so it can stop grappling and simply carry the dead gnome away at full speed).

Cheliax

DM_Blake wrote:


I believe you're thinking of the SRD version of Blasphemy.

That is correct. Thanks for pointing that out, as I failed to check the beta for changes to the spell.

DM_Blake wrote:

The PF version allows will saves at DC 25 (the Balor's DC).

So:
Paralyzed for 1d10 minutes, WILL Save reduces that to 1 round.
Weakened 2d6 STR for 2d4 rounds, WILL Save for half (though I don't know whether the half is applied to the 2d6 STR or the 2d4 rounds - my gut says the duration, not the effect).
Dazed and can take no actions for 1 round, WILL Save negates.

Since it specifically says the effects are concurrent, the round that the PCs are Dazed is the first round that they are Paralyzed, so there is no need to even apply the Dazed effect.

The loss of the STR could reduce the damage and even the number of successful hits from the melee classes a little.

The Paralysis is dangerous. I didn't look at the PCs to see what their WILL saves are, but DC 25 is tough for a typical 15th level character, especially if they have weak WILL saves. Failing the save takes them out of the fight (at least 10 rounds). If they make the save, they're still Paralyzed for a round and might very well be subjected to a coup de grace attack if the Balor uses Quickened Telekinesis to move the paralyzed PC within melee range for a full-round coup de grace.

Even worse, since a coup de grace is automatically a critical hit, and the Balors wield vorpal weapons, there is a distinct possibility that a PC affected by even a single round of paralysis will suffer instant death by decapitation.

Which means that Blasphemy is still immensely powerful versus characters significantly below 20th level, especially since the Balor can use it at will.


Lord oKOyA wrote:


This was a play test, run by real people in a way that reflected the choices made by both Wraith and the players. Whether these choices were "optimal" or not is irrelevant.

QFT

You don't second guess the guy in the hot seat. There is a distinct difference between a player or GM in a crunch or some armchair strategist who has all the time in the world refining his hypothetic strategies.

A good plan today is better than a perfect plan tomorrow.
-- George Patton


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
DM_Blake wrote:
Lord oKOyA wrote:

2. Are you implying a tactic of grapple opponent, teleport with grappled opponent and drop opponent from height here? If so, and unless I am mistaken (wouldn't be the 1st time or the last), this is specifically disallowed by the wording of Teleport via the "willing creature" clause. There is nothing about grappling that I have found that would override this restriction. Being grappled merely immobilizes a creature (among other action restrictions/penalties). It doesn't even make the creature helpless let alone removing the creatures "will". Secondly the Balor's Teleport ability clearly states, "self plus 50 pounds of objects only".

If this is not what you are implying, then I apologize.

The confusion here could be from this passage in the SRD about Balor tactics:

SRD wrote:
Round 4: Teleport or fly away with entangled foe to reestablish range; repeat round 1 and continue.

Note:

1. This says "entangled foe" not "grappled foe" and therefore likely refers to the Balor using its entangling whip.
2. It does not necessarily say "Teleport away with entangled foe". Instead, I read the sentence like this: "Teleport away to reestablish range or, if applicable, fly away with entangled foe to reestablish range; repeat round 1 and continue."

Given point 2, it would be entirely feasible to fly away with a grappled foe, too, but only at half-speed (although I have houseruled that if you are 2 sizes larger that the foe you are grappling, you can move at your normal speed - how silly for a dragon to swoop down and pick up a gnome, then have to fly away at half speed - it should just kill the gnome so it can stop grappling and simply carry the dead gnome away at full speed).

Precisely. I was quoting from memory (and in some hurry), so I made a mistake. Anyway, the stuff I had in mind goes like this:

- head-on melee is rarely safe against well-attired party, however single characters are easier to deal with
- balor's land speed and fly speed are pretty good, so it is highly mobile
- telekinesis is a swift action to balor with 200 feet range (caster level 20)

So, just shoot upwards the target you want to separate from the party, then use a move action to close up on the target and then grapple. The 6d6 per round (bonus points if Balor have used Unholy Aura) plus half move should allow keep flying upwards. On the next round switch from grapple to free Telekinesis grapple and use your melee weapons on grappled target to your content (since it is a swift action, one does not need to maintain concentration to maintain the grapple).

The key is to separate the target from the rest of the party and use abilities to nullify target's defenses.

Regards,
Ruemere


Am I the only one with a headache?

Having played and GMed all kinds of similar fights, I find the problem to be remembering everything the monsters and PCs can do. Even if you're intimately familiar with your own PC, it's easy to forget a mechanic that could save your bacon.

There's no cure. High level play is like that, and mistakes happen on both sides. Chalk it up to the heat of battle!

I remember a 20th level encounter against 3 very tough dragons. Our well-prepared party killed them all in about eight rounds.

Granted, we pre-buffed and were very paranoid going in, but our strategy worked, and we rolled very well.

The DM got so mad, he quit.

Had the dragons ambushed us, however, it would have been a TPK.

Such are the vagaries of high-level play. Thanks for all the insightful comments. That was a memorable fight, and a reminder that PFRPG is indeed the best iteration of DnD I've yet to see.

That's very cool, considering it's not even out yet!;-)


ruemere wrote:
- telekinesis is a swift action to balor with 200 feet range (caster level 20)

Actually, the range of Telekinesis is even greater (range Long, so a Balor can use Telekinesis at 1200 feet (400 + 40x20)). However, for the most part, the Balor of my playtest went to Close Range to affect his targets (namely, Sorcerer and Wizard) with his Implosion spell. On the final rounds of the fight, when the Balor teleported himself, I erroneously looked at the range of Telekinesis Sphere (which is Close...) and moved the Balor in a dangerous position - and then, he was killed.

Dave Young 992 wrote:

Am I the only one with a headache?

Having played and GMed all kinds of similar fights, I find the problem to be remembering everything the monsters and PCs can do. Even if you're intimately familiar with your own PC, it's easy to forget a mechanic that could save your bacon.

There's no cure. High level play is like that, and mistakes happen on both sides. Chalk it up to the heat of battle!

As you can see, my (and my group's, as well) personal quota of mistake is two-three at this level (a lot of Spells or Spell-like abilities, the heat of the battle, both sides - Players and GM - who taunt the other 'oh, my Save is SOOO high... how can you hope to damage me !?!' 'ah, but you forgot that THIS POWER HAS NO SAVE !!!' and so on...); of course most of the time they don't change the final result (and going back two or three rounds of fight is silly, unless you effectively made a huge mistake), but they do happen.

The player who took the casters, for example, knew that the fight was against a Balor (I know, this is metagaming, but In-game you can explain it with his high Knowledge (Planes) ranks, and the fact that a group that goes Fiend-hunting expects the worst...), and took a lot of spells as counter for the Balor's abilities... and then, he totally forgot to look at Power Word Stun and his own (relatively) low hp ! And then again, the awesome move of Spell Turning was taken as an almost random choice - and the only one effective against PWS ! ('damn, my strategy of Prismatic Wall is not effective in this environment... I can only cast another defensive spell, which one? Let's see... well, Spell Turning is not bad. I choose this')


Lord oKOyA wrote:

I'll tell you what is pointless. Your comment in this discussion.

The idea behind Wraith's thread was to report upon the happenings of an encounter that was run between Wraith and his players. Which he did. It cannot be "right" or "wrong", as it is what it is.

Dead wrong. A playtest that lacks "test" part is not a playtest. Testing assumes pushing things to the limit and this test was, in fact, stated as "testing the CR system it its limits", as opposed to limiting the events to "comfort zone" (enemies start at close range, and some stay at close range, enemies have no useable treasure, enemies do not attempt to use banishment effects, if overwhelmed). DM didn't even use tactics outlined in MM1 (which make more sense now, because balors lost their infinite stunlock). If you say the the system is going to be tested to its limits, you better do so, why even try otherwise?


Perhaps my title was misleading, then.

I wanted to see if a CR 20 creature could wipe out an average party of 4-5 levels lower (as implied by the CR system in the 3.x edition), since the classes get a boost in PFRPG, and since the previous playtests among high-level characters and high-level monsters went a bit too well for the characters.
I admit that most of my high-level strategies can be polished, however if you ask my players, they screamed all night long that the 'Soul Calibur' arena was too good for the monsters (nowhere to run, small area, enemies can fly without effort, most characters had no ranks in Fly, no walls, no ceiling, etc.). I didn't invent the arena, Jason Bulmahn made the suggestion to use it for the encounter with the Horned Devil; I merely decided the height and the fact that it was on an Outer Plane - and recycled for the two encounters above. I gave them 2 rounds of preparation - again, as suggested by Jason on the Cornugon encounter.

However, as Lord oKOyA already said, even a 'perfect' strategy can go awry if the dice are bad; I made some TPK to my groups with rolls that simply shouldn't happen (when you can hit a character only with a 20, and you roll it - TWICE - on the same session, killing him outright); other times, no matter how good you make your strategy, the hit roll goes on '1' and the monster misses.

In the Balor example, his initiative rolls was a 3. Yup, which gives him a grand total of 14 to Initiative. The characters rolled like they had literally the Devil at their toes (and boys, they HAD it), with the only one under 16 being the Paladin (he had -1 Initiative...).
The Sorcerer made his save roll against Implosion - he needed a 14 or more, he rolled an 18. The Wizard chosed, almost by chance, the only spell capable of foiling for 1 round the strategy of Power Word Stun - the Balor couldn't know what the Wizard had active at the moment.
Could I made the two Balors fly high and cast both Fire Storm on the party? Sure, but 20d6 (average 70, Ref halves) x2 could still be not enough for 2 high level casters - especially with Fire Resistance being a common choice among plane-hoppers parties (false in this case except for the Barbarian, with his Ring of Major Fire Resistance (30)); the most reasonable thing was to put out of the fight the casters with a disabling spell - Power Word Stun, but it's a Close Range spell, so obviously they had to stay near (for their standards) to the group.
But they were almost the last in the Initiative order, so the group was already in melee range - again, the real Balor flied high, but the summoned one? He wasn't losing anything, he wasn't even really THERE; as a Chaotic Evil creature, he wanted the feel of the battle and remained on the ground. And was wiped in one single round, thanks to Paladin and his boost on Barbarian (and Wizard iced the cake, stunning him with his Power Word Stun spell casted through Arcane Bond).

Am I a perfect GM? Nope, never pretended to be. Am I a perfect playtester? Nope again, I hope to contribute to the community, but I am obviously open to mistakes.

Again, I truly appreciate any feedback. This helps me as a GM and as a player, and I hope can be of some help to other people, too. Let's not forget that this is a game, though. Nobody wants to attack anybody (I hope), but sometimes words can be misinterpreted, so I think that all of us should be more polite among each other.
We are not enemies. We share a common passion. Let's keep the dialogue civil - we can still disagree with other ideas even without anger (real or perceived).

Forgive my long rant, all of you.


ruemere wrote:

Precisely. I was quoting from memory (and in some hurry), so I made a mistake. Anyway, the stuff I had in mind goes like this:

- head-on melee is rarely safe against well-attired party, however single characters are easier to deal with
- balor's land speed and fly speed are pretty good, so it is highly mobile
- telekinesis is a swift action to balor with 200 feet range (caster level 20)

So, just shoot upwards the target you want to separate from the party, then use a move action to close up on the target and then grapple. The 6d6 per round (bonus points if Balor have used Unholy Aura) plus half move should allow keep flying upwards. On the next round switch from grapple to free Telekinesis grapple and use your melee weapons on grappled target to your content (since it is a swift action, one does not need to maintain concentration to maintain the grapple).

The key is to separate the target from the rest of the party and use abilities to nullify target's defenses.

Regards,
Ruemere

Well, actually, according to both Pathfinder and the d20 SRD, Telekinesis can only move a person at a rate of 20' per round:

Pathfinder Web Enhancement and d20 SRD wrote:
Sustained Force: A sustained force moves an object weighing no more than 25 pounds per caster level (maximum 375 pounds at 15th level) up to 20 feet per round. A creature can negate the effect on an object it possesses with a successful Will save or with spell resistance.

Also, maintaining the Telekinesis to sustain a grapple is a standard action (any form of concentration to maintain Telekinesis or any other spell that has a duration of "Concentration" requires a standard action to maintain.

Therefore, the Balor could not maintain his grapple telekinetically and use his weapons against anyone.

Pathfinder Web Enhancement and d20 SRD wrote:
Concentration: The spell lasts as long as you concentrate on it. Concentrating to maintain a spell is a standard action that does not provoke attacks of opportunity. Anything that could break your concentration when casting a spell can also break your concentration while you’re maintaining one, causing the spell to end.

These rules limit the Balor's options.

Smart Balors will fight in pairs, one whipping around the blasphenies while the other delivers the coup de grace finishes. To heck with the garbage that Balor are too uppity to summon other Balor unless they're losing the fight - by then, they may not have a round left to get off their summons; damage outputs at the ~CR20 levels could wipe him out in a single round by the time he knows he's losing. Balors shouldn't be too uppity if they want to live.

Cheliax

DM_Blake wrote:

To heck with the garbage that Balor are too uppity to summon other Balor unless they're losing the fight - by then, they may not have a round left to get off their summons; damage outputs at the ~CR20 levels could wipe him out in a single round by the time he knows he's losing. Balors shouldn't be too uppity if they want to live.

Keep in mind that this is not what I was actually suggesting. I was merely pointing out that if one is to abdicate all decision making to the SRD, rather than allow DM judgment to dictate tactics and strategies, then one should follow all of the instructions. Not just the ones that fit with someone's idea of "correct" play.

Wraith set the encounter and ran the creatures as he saw fit. I have no problem with that. Obviously some do. As I stated before anyone can see how anything done differently would result in a different outcome. Some just need to be negative about it rather than constructive.

Cheers

PS Can the Balor actually use his Telekinesis as a swift action? Where can I find that in the rules? I was under the impression that all spell like abilities use the casting time of the spell they mimic? That would make it a standard action no?

Cheliax

DM_Blake wrote:

Well, actually, according to both Pathfinder and the d20 SRD, Telekinesis can only move a person at a rate of 20' per round:

"Sustained Force: A sustained force moves an object weighing no more than 25 pounds per caster level (maximum 375 pounds at 15th level) up to 20 feet per round. A creature can negate the effect on an object it possesses with a successful Will save or with spell resistance.

Just noticed this part....

Sustained force cannot move creatures. It is for objects only. The bit about the creature in there is in reference to taking objects from creatures by telekinesis.

You need to use the Violent Thrust to move creatures.


Lord oKOyA wrote:
DM_Blake wrote:

To heck with the garbage that Balor are too uppity to summon other Balor unless they're losing the fight - by then, they may not have a round left to get off their summons; damage outputs at the ~CR20 levels could wipe him out in a single round by the time he knows he's losing. Balors shouldn't be too uppity if they want to live.

Keep in mind that this is not what I was actually suggesting. I was merely pointing out that if one is to abdicate all decision making to the SRD, rather than allow DM judgment to dictate tactics and strategies, then one should follow all of the instructions. Not just the ones that fit with someone's idea of "correct" play.

Nope, didn't mean to debate you - I was debating the SRD. It says Balor are too uppity to summon other demons, but I disagree. Such attitude would only apply in an arbitrary game system. If Balor actually existed, and actually encountered ultra-powerful heroes, they would never face such dangers alone and risk their very existence, uppity or not.

Lord oKOyA wrote:
Wraith set the encounter and ran the creatures as he saw fit. I have no problem with that. Obviously some do. As I stated before anyone can see how anything done differently would result in a different outcome. Some just need to be negative about it rather than constructive.

Actually, I agree with both sides of that one.

If you're going to test the CR to the limits, then the bad guy must be run to the best of its ability.

For example, if we rewrote the Balor in the RAW so that it didn't have Blasphemy at will, we might have to change the encounter to a CR 19, or maybe even 18.

Ultimately, what the OP did was test a CR 18/19 encounter to the limits.

Which is just fine if we're observing or critiquing his game. More power to him.

But if he is playtesting, and claiming to test a CR20 encounter to the limits, then the only way he can truly test those limits is to run the encounter at maximum efficiency.

(I could go into more detail. I am a software quality assurance engineer - I test software and networks and websites and databases to their limits every day, for a living)

I would never criticize the OP's handling of his encounter in his game.

But I would criticize his handling of the encounter as not being a valid test of the limits of a CR20 encounter. Hopefully such criticism is a learning experience for the OP, and his next Balor encounter will be much deadlier, and more representative of the paramaters expected at the limits of CR20 testing.

Lord oKOyA wrote:
PS Can the Balor actually use his Telekinesis as a swift action? Where can I find that in the rules? I was under the impression that all spell like abilities use the casting time of the spell they mimic? That would make it a standard action no?

Yes it can, because it has "Quicken Spell-like Ability (Telekinesis)" as one of its special qualities.


Lord oKOyA wrote:
DM_Blake wrote:

Well, actually, according to both Pathfinder and the d20 SRD, Telekinesis can only move a person at a rate of 20' per round:

"Sustained Force: A sustained force moves an object weighing no more than 25 pounds per caster level (maximum 375 pounds at 15th level) up to 20 feet per round. A creature can negate the effect on an object it possesses with a successful Will save or with spell resistance.

Just noticed this part....

Sustained force cannot move creatures. It is for objects only. The bit about the creature in there is in reference to taking objects from creatures by telekinesis.

You need to use the Violent Thrust to move creatures.

Oh, good catch.

This is really vague then, come to think of it.

How far is the creature hurled?

The text says you can hurl the creture toward any target within 10'/level, so I guess that is the range limit. The Balor is Caster Level 20, but the Telekinesis spell has several of its factors limited to to 15th level, so I would probably assume 15th level is the maximum caster level of this spell, which fits with the text somewhere in the core books about setting spell caps at 10th level for 1-3, 15th level for 4-6, and 20th level for 7-9.

Thus, I guess the maxiumum range of the hurl is 150', though it would be nice if the Telekinesis spell would clarify this point.

What if you don't hurl them at a target? The text says you must have a target, but I suppose you could choose no target and just hurl them toward the sky.

What about hurling more than one creature? The text lets you get one per caster level (maxiumum 15), so the Balor could hurl the whole group of heroes. It says it can hurl them at "any target" but it does not say "any one target" so maybe the balor can hurl one of them north, one south, one east, and one west, splitting them all over the landscape, none of them within 212 feet of any other.

That could be pretty brutal too.


DM_Blake wrote:
Also, maintaining the Telekinesis to sustain a grapple is a standard action (any form of concentration to maintain Telekinesis or any other spell that has a duration of "Concentration" requires a standard action to maintain.

He doesn't have to maintain, though. He can just re-cast telekinesis as a swift action, leaving him his standard+move to full attack with. Admittedly, only 3 times, but that's more than enough time for a Balor's full attacks to wipe out at least one character.


Zurai wrote:
DM_Blake wrote:
Also, maintaining the Telekinesis to sustain a grapple is a standard action (any form of concentration to maintain Telekinesis or any other spell that has a duration of "Concentration" requires a standard action to maintain.
He doesn't have to maintain, though. He can just re-cast telekinesis as a swift action, leaving him his standard+move to full attack with. Admittedly, only 3 times, but that's more than enough time for a Balor's full attacks to wipe out at least one character.

Interesting plan.

I like it.

Hmmmm...

Isn't there a chance when you attack a grappled opponent that you might hit the grappler instead of the target?

If the Balor is the grappler, telekinetically, does that mean he risks hitting himself in the brain? With a vorpal sword?

OK, that random chance seems to only be with ranged attacks. /sigh.

Cheliax

DM_Blake wrote:


Nope, didn't mean to debate you - I was debating the SRD. It says Balor are too uppity to summon other demons, but I disagree. Such attitude would only apply in an arbitrary game system. If Balor actually existed, and actually encountered ultra-powerful heroes, they would never face such dangers alone and risk their very existence, uppity or not.

No worries, not debating here either. Let's call it exploring.

Upon further reflection, I am going to stand with the SRD's assertion that the Balor would be reluctant to summon another demon, especially anther Balor. It is not a question of intelligence, it is rather an observation of the nature of the Balor. The Balor is near the top of the demonic food chain as it were. They are the epitome of chaotic evil. They kill all creatures, even other demons, for the sheer fun of it. They have no loyalty beyond that which can be pressed upon them by force. They do not follow rules or contracts, agreements etc. A creature such as this would have an enormous ego and sense of pride. They are the generals of the demonic armies! I can totally buy that a Balor would not like to admit that he needs help to another demon (ie show weakness), let alone another Balor, unless pressed with imminent death. Balor's do not want to be beholden to another demon (they are chaotic after all). Is there actually even a compelling reason that a summoned Balor would automatically or even reliably help the summoning Balor? Beyond magic compulsion?

I would also point out that devils do not have this stipulation (reluctance to summon other devils) in their description because they are lawful evil and as such do not hold the same views as their demonic counterparts. Demons are the "don't tell me what to do!" crowd, while the devils are the "yes, my master, I will do as you order!" crowd.

DM_Blake wrote:
Lord oKOyA wrote:
Wraith set the encounter and ran the creatures as he saw fit. I have no problem with that. Obviously some do. As I stated before anyone can see how anything done differently would result in a different outcome. Some just need to be negative about it rather than constructive.

Actually, I agree with both sides of that one.

If you're going to test the CR to the limits, then the bad guy must be run to the best of its ability.

For example, if we rewrote the Balor in the RAW so that it didn't have Blasphemy at will, we might have to change the encounter to a CR 19, or maybe even 18.

Ultimately, what the OP did was test a CR 18/19 encounter to the limits.

Which is just fine if we're observing or critiquing his game. More power to him.

But if he is playtesting, and claiming to test a CR20 encounter to the limits, then the only way he can truly test those limits is to run the...

I agree that the encounter, in an ideal situation, should have been run closer to the maximum potential. That would mean that,yes, the Balor(s) would have used different tactics. I have not championed that this encounter endeavored to this lofty goal (sorry Wraith) but it's value as a examination of the rules is still intact. That was the real value here. Not to measure anyone's competency to run or play in high CR encounters. I'm sure Wraith would run things differently given another go. Keep in mind that his player's would likewise choose different tactics. In the end, people can plainly see that mistakes were made (and admittedly) and that things weren't run to their optimal level. This forum was not created to rank poster's by their play/GMing skill but rather to examine the rules. If a poster fails to "run things properly" there are nicer ways of making that statement. That is what I'm really annoyed with certain comment(er)s. I mean, it is pretty obvious that a 15th level party is no match for a Balor (if run to it's potential, again, sorry Wraith) but I don't have to pound the whole process as "pointless". Just look at the rules we have discovered as troublesome already in this thread for the real value.

<deep breath>

DM_Blake wrote:

Lord oKOyA wrote:

PS Can the Balor actually use his Telekinesis as a swift action? Where can I find that in the rules? I was under the impression that all spell like abilities use the casting time of the spell they mimic? That would make it a standard action no?

Yes it can, because it has "Quicken Spell-like Ability (Telekinesis)" as one of its special qualities.

Ah crap! What am I? 1 for 4? 2 for 5? Brutal. Maybe I need glasses.

Cheers

Cheliax

Ok in all honesty wanna run the ecounter as stated with the Balor in the SRD as written? (ignoring the whole I'm not gonna summon another till I'm sure I'm going to die tactic)

Prep round 1: Balor 1 summons Balor 2
Prep round 2: Both Balors ready an action to cast blasphemy when the party appears.
Round 1: Both Balors cast blasphemy before the party can act. They use quickened telekinesis to hurl unaffected PC's off the edge of the arean forcing them to fly or take falling damage.
Round 2: Balor 1 continues with the telekinesis tactic and also starts implosion. Balor 2 drops a quickened fireball and begins coup de graceing stunned pc's

Rinse and repeat until you have a room full of unhappy players. Telekinesis would also work well for hurling flying players to the ground forcing them to take fall damage in my opinion.

Cheliax

DM_Blake wrote:


Oh, good catch.

This is really vague then, come to think of it.

How far is the creature hurled?

The text says you can hurl the creture toward any target within 10'/level, so I guess that is the range limit. The Balor is Caster Level 20, but the Telekinesis spell has several of its factors limited to to 15th level, so I would probably assume 15th level is the maximum caster level of this spell, which fits with the text somewhere in the core books about setting spell caps at 10th level for 1-3, 15th level for 4-6, and 20th level for 7-9.

Thus, I guess the maxiumum range of the hurl is 150', though it would be nice if the Telekinesis spell would clarify this point.

What if you don't hurl them at a target? The text says you must have a target, but I suppose you could choose no target and just hurl them toward the sky.

What about hurling more than one creature? The text lets you get one per caster level (maxiumum 15), so the Balor could hurl the whole group of heroes. It says it can hurl them at "any target" but it does not say "any one target" so maybe the balor can hurl one of them north, one south, one east, and one west, splitting them all over the landscape, none of them within 212 feet of any other.

That could be pretty brutal too.

When you are finished mulling that stuff over, take a hard look at his entangle ability too. Lots of questions there as well. Entangle doesn't equal grapple. His ability is unique and leaves a lot to be adjudicated by the GM. I don't have time right now to get into all the questions I have. Besides that I can't even begin to form an articulate explanation of my concerns regarding this ability's uses.

For a starting point, when the paladin killed the Balor and it fell from the sky, did that really mean that the Paladin was automatically dragged down with him? I'm not so sure. Entangled does not equal grappled. Besides, the grapple would end upon the Balor's death no? So when the Balor died, the Paladin no longer "tethered by an opposing force" (as per SRD), which meant that he was simply entangled, "Being entangled impedes movement, but does not entirely prevent it..." (again as per the SRD). Which means the Paladin would be able to fly, but with a penalty.

If the Paladin's mount had made it's opposed strength check when the whip hit and the Balor had been subsequently killed anyways, would you still think that the Paladin and mount would get dragged down? What is the nature of the whip? Does it grapple creatures itself? etc etc etc.

See what I mean?

Cheers


The balor's Entangle ability works like the net weapon.

Something else to consider about evil summoning evil -- usually there is some sort of payment expected in return... the summoning represented deals made between the various demons and devils over the centuries (and flat out requirements of servitude), hence the reluctance to actually summon someone else... they mentioned this back in the old monster manuals (read 1st and 2nd ed.) but it got left out in 3rd which changes the over all flavor of the ability.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Telekinesis according to Balor

1. Balor's caster level: 20.
2a. Telekinesis - caster's distance from target: 400' + 40' * 20 = 1200'
2b. Telekinesis - caster's horizontal distance from target: 1183'
3. Telekinesis - target's violent thrust distance: 10' * 20 = 200'

Quoting Pathfinder BETA web enhancement version of Telekinesis spell:
You can hurl one object or creature per caster
level (maximum 15) that are within range and all within 10 feet
of each other toward any target within 10 feet per level of all
the objects.

The example above mentioned limited space (arena), hence my abbreviation of spell range to 200'. It's unlikely that the poster wanted arena bigger than 1183' in diameter.

Finally, please note, that the goal of hurling target character was not to inflict falling damage but grappling damage rather. Many high level characters have feather fall/fly/dimension door items at their disposal. However, separating such character from the support of the part and then inflicting one round of tender care by Balor while maintaining free grapple is fun. Bonus points for the rest of the party watching from distance.

Actually, a Balor and his summoned brother could play ping pong...

Regards,
Ruemere

Cheliax

Abraham spalding wrote:
The balor's Entangle ability works like the net weapon.

The emphasis here is on the like a net, as in similarly to, but not exactly like a net. The net does not allow the user to "reel in" the target with an opposed strength check. Incidentally neither does a normal whip. A net uses a ranged touch attack. A whip makes a normal ranged attack. A normal whip does not entangle the target either. A net does, however, the SRD description for the entangled condition and the description of the net penalties don't match up.

Condition: The character is ensnared. Being entangled impedes movement, but does not entirely prevent it unless the bonds are anchored to an immobile object or tethered by an opposing force. An entangled creature moves at half speed, cannot run or charge, and takes a -2 penalty on all attack rolls and a -4 penalty to Dexterity. An entangled character who attempts to cast a spell must make a Concentration check (DC 15 + the spell’s level) or lose the spell.

Net: If you hit, the target is entangled. An entangled creature takes a -2 penalty on attack rolls and a -4 penalty on Dexterity, can move at only half speed, and cannot charge or run. If you control the trailing rope by succeeding on an opposed Strength check while holding it, the entangled creature can move only within the limits that the rope allows.

So which is it? When you are entangled and someone is holding the rope (whip) are you entirely prevented from moving as per the condition or are you able to move at half speed within the confines of the "rope" as per the net? The Balor is not an immobile object but is an opposing force.

The Balor's whip appears to be a unique exception to the rules. Once you are anchored against the Balor's body your only means of escape is to sunder the whip. "Anchored" is no condition I know of. It apparently means an infinite grapple score as you cannot use Escape Artist or a break grapple check to escape. You can't even use a strength check to break free once anchored, according to the rules.

Something is amiss IMO.

Abraham spalding wrote:
Something else to consider about evil summoning evil -- usually there is some sort of payment expected in return... the summoning represented deals made between the various demons and devils over the centuries (and flat out requirements of servitude), hence the reluctance to actually summon someone else... they mentioned this back in the old monster manuals (read 1st and 2nd ed.) but it got left out in 3rd which changes the over all flavor of the ability.

It's still there in 3.x (pg. 40 of the MM under Tanar’ri Traits and in the SRD).

@ OTHERS: I still don't understand why people would insist on following the suggested tactics verbatim except the two references to the demons reluctance to summon other demons. Once in the general description of demons and then again right in the suggested tactics itself. "If the balor does not deem itself seriously threatened, it conserves abilities usable only once per day and uses blasphemy instead." Summoning additional demons is a once a day ability. I guess it is all right for the Balor to metagame because he realizes that this is his only combat today because he is a NPC/monster. He doesn't have to worry that he might need that once a day summoning ability in a few hours from now when he is really in trouble in that other encounter. Right? Or maybe the Balor has already used his summoning ability earlier that day. Nah. That could never happen.

And another thing. Why does it seem that the only demon ever summoned is another Balor? Why does the summoning line include those other lesser demons if they are never an "intelligent" (meta-gaming) option? Maybe one could make an argument that multiple lesser demons might have their use, but why summon in one nalfeshnee, glabrezu or marilith when you can get a balor? If the balor's are meant to "always" summon another balor then that is what the suggested tactics should read. "Balor's should always be encountered in pairs. One normal and one summoned. Or two normal, two summoned... 1st round: Summon Balor or Teleport away, summon Balor and return with summoned Balor." Forget any other tactics as they aren't optimal.

If characters have to act according to alignment/nature or suffer consequences, why shouldn't monsters? Most DMs play monsters to the monsters intelligence ability (dumb monsters do dumb things) so why should the demons get a free pass? Chaotic creatures don't work well together, for various reasons. I think I touched on a few reasons above.

Anyways. Getting late.

Cheers

Cheliax

ruemere wrote:

Telekinesis according to Balor

1. Balor's caster level: 20.
2a. Telekinesis - caster's distance from target: 400' + 40' * 20 = 1200'
2b. Telekinesis - caster's horizontal distance from target: 1183'
3. Telekinesis - target's violent thrust distance: 10' * 20 = 200'

Quoting Pathfinder BETA web enhancement version of Telekinesis spell:
You can hurl one object or creature per caster
level (maximum 15) that are within range and all within 10 feet
of each other toward any target within 10 feet per level of all
the objects.

The example above mentioned limited space (arena), hence my abbreviation of spell range to 200'. It's unlikely that the poster wanted arena bigger than 1183' in diameter.

Finally, please note, that the goal of hurling target character was not to inflict falling damage but grappling damage rather. Many high level characters have feather fall/fly/dimension door items at their disposal. However, separating such character from the support of the part and then inflicting one round of tender care by Balor while maintaining free grapple is fun. Bonus points for the rest of the party watching from distance.

Actually, a Balor and his summoned brother could play ping pong...

Regards,
Ruemere

I have some questions, but they will have to wait til I get some sleep.


Lord oKOyA wrote:
Abraham spalding wrote:
The balor's Entangle ability works like the net weapon.

The emphasis here is on the like a net, as in similarly to, but not exactly like a net. The net does not allow the user to "reel in" the target with an opposed strength check. Incidentally neither does a normal whip. A net uses a ranged touch attack. A whip makes a normal ranged attack. A normal whip does not entangle the target either. A net does, however, the SRD description for the entangled condition and the description of the net penalties don't match up.

Condition: The character is ensnared. Being entangled impedes movement, but does not entirely prevent it unless the bonds are anchored to an immobile object or tethered by an opposing force. An entangled creature moves at half speed, cannot run or charge, and takes a -2 penalty on all attack rolls and a -4 penalty to Dexterity. An entangled character who attempts to cast a spell must make a Concentration check (DC 15 + the spell’s level) or lose the spell.

Net: If you hit, the target is entangled. An entangled creature takes a -2 penalty on attack rolls and a -4 penalty on Dexterity, can move at only half speed, and cannot charge or run. If you control the trailing rope by succeeding on an opposed Strength check while holding it, the entangled creature can move only within the limits that the rope allows.

So which is it? When you are entangled and someone is holding the rope (whip) are you entirely prevented from moving as per the condition or are you able to move at half speed within the confines of the "rope" as per the net? The Balor is not an immobile object but is an opposing force.

The Balor's whip appears to be a unique exception to the rules. Once you are anchored against the Balor's body your only means of escape is to sunder the whip. "Anchored" is no condition I know of. It apparently means an infinite grapple score as you cannot use Escape Artist or a break grapple check to escape. You can't even use...

Well lets look at the ability as a whole:

Entangle (Ex)
A balor’s +1 flaming whip entangles foes much like an attack with a net. The whip has 20 hit points. The whip needs no folding. If it hits, the target and the balor immediately make opposed Strength checks; if the balor wins, it drags the target against its flaming body (see below). The target remains anchored against the balor’s body until it escapes the whip.

First it's a specific ability of a balor, which means that few if any other creatures have this ability. The unfortunate part is that the ability name is also a name for a condition. So this is not the entangle condition, it is a new and seperate thing from that. However it is noted that it works like the net, with the exceptions of the points made in the abilities discription (namely that the 'whip/net' has 20 hp, needs no folding, and has an effective length of 0 feet if the balor wins his opposed strength check. Now it still functions like a net though, so it would be reasonable to say you can escape the whip/net entangle ability just like you would a net:

"An entangled creature can escape with a DC 20 Escape Artist check (a full-round action). The net has 5 hit points and can be burst with a DC 25 Strength check (also a full-round action)."

Or you can simply try and break the whip/net thing holding you in place (which again has 20 hp instead of the 5 of a normal net). It would also be safe (IMO) to say you take the penalties from being in the whip/net thing just like you would for a net.

All in all it's one of those "some of the above but not all" situations that arise with unique monster abilities.

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