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We know it's not just about the numbers


Pathfinder RPG General Discussion

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Riiiise!


As a player, my favourite class tends to be bard, which should give a good indication of how much importance I put on optimisation. However, as primarily a GM, I find numbers (and discussions of numbers) important for a couple of reasons.

Firstly, so that I can feel comfortable when creating strings of encounters about how challenged the party will be, particularly when I'm using lots of class levels on monsters.

But mostly, it's so that I can help the players that aren't focused on optimisation when they're pondering their advancement options. It took me a long time as a GM to figure out how important this is. Cutting loose the players and expecting someone that just likes playing (but that isn't into poring over those weighty tomes) to be as useful in combat is sort of negligent IMO. And I've seen it happen so many times, where someone that I have neglected gets to lvl 5, and then stops having fun, because everyone around them is kicking ass, while they struggle to find effective options.

To reiterate, I'm way more about roleplaying and story than rollplaying and crunch, but combat is nearly always a significant part of rpgs, and if your character sucks at combat it can be pretty disheartening.

As a side note, the current campaign I'm running with our long-term group features our super powergamer as an elderly elf enchanter whose only damaging spell is acid splash. In dungeons, apart from his moderately useful CC abilities, he kinda sucks. But Mr Powergamer has found a new challenge - and he shines when in any kind of urban environment, and benefits the party quite a lot while "in town". Good for him!


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My only issue with "X suck"-threads is that they seem to often say "hey, this level X character can't even beat a CR X opponent without risking life and limb! it sucks!". If a level 12 character can't beat a CR 12 opponent without large risk of dying, it means the DM is doing something good compared to the game's assumptions. An standard encounter for a level 12 party of four is four CR8 creatures, or one CR12 creature.

A single level 12 character should thus usually be compared to a CR8 creature. Or a CR10 as a hard encounter.

I think this stems from optimized characters of classes with large optimization potentials being the standard in groups that optimize, which means they can beat appropriate-CR encounters with ease, which leads to the DM increasing opposition to the point where a CR15 encounter is common for a standard 12th level party - which means a lvl 12 vs CR12 seems appropriate.

Basically, at "easy" mode (DM taking it soft), all characters will make it. At "average" mode (DM going hard but using appropriate-CR encounters), some classes require a bit optimization but all classes will be able to pull through without large difficulties. At "hard" mode (DM using high CR encounters a lot), the "weak" classes might have trouble.

Since optimizers often play on "hard" mode, that's the point they're/we're arguing from.


stringburka wrote:
My only issue with "X suck"-threads is that they seem to often say "hey, this level X character can't even beat a CR X opponent without risking life and limb! it sucks!". If a level 12 character can't beat a CR 12 opponent without large risk of dying, it means the DM is doing something good compared to the game's assumptions. An standard encounter for a level 12 party of four is four CR8 creatures, or one CR12 creature.

It is my honest belief that the game only gets harder as you gain levels. There's a reason why stuff like Raise Dead and Resurrection are so easy at high levels. Everything wants to kill you, and most of it can. :P


Ashiel wrote:


It is my honest belief that the game only gets harder as you gain levels. There's a reason why stuff like Raise Dead and Resurrection are so easy at high levels. Everything wants to kill you, and most of it can. :P

Mine too. A CR12 creature has much larger chance to kill a character in a level 12 average party than a CR 1 has in an average level 1 party. But an appropriate average encounter for a level 12 party - appropriate by the games standard - is CR12.

Osirion

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Thalin wrote:


The issue starts to become when you have the high-powered mage, his well-built tanking fighter, a solid buffing cleric... and a monk. The monk tries to be front-line melee, but gets pummeled down.

Suddenly he is no fun for everyone; the party feels they constantly have to use resources to make him managable, and he feels like he can't really contribute enough...

Again see, the problem that comes up is that experience playing a Monk in an organized setting with CR appropriate enemies does NOT prove this to be accurate at all.

My Monk got hit 1 time, by only a critical hit in a fight in which he specifically tries to provoke AoO (Panther Style) and deliberately does not have the Improved: version of ANY of the Combat Maneuvers. I hustled about the battlefield faster and further than anyone in the party, I hit more frequently and for similar damage to the party Ranger, I often did more damage (because of the AoO I provoked, and the AoO I got to take when the enemies moved) and I barely got scratched myself. I incorporated skills, Ki powers, and unique to the Monk class abilities to essentially dominate several encounters, including a solid ambush where there were archers firing down upon the party.

Were that the ONLY time that had happened, I might agree. But in EVERY...and again let me repeat EVERY game I have been a part of, either GMing or playing in, the Monk has delivered. Highest nigh impenetrable AC, mastery and ownage of the CMB/CMD battle which makes enemies look buffoonish in their execution. This whole bit about Monks not being able to hold up their end is pretty much junk, in my opinion.

Further, I'd suggest that once again, you have compared the Monk to a front line fighter. The Monk as a class is exactly NOT a front line fighter. To play a Monk as that is to ignore about 95% of what the class is capable of, and will usually fail...resulting in an incorrect view of the class and usually some sort of "MONKS SUX!" kind of posting in one of the multitude of threads.

I don't have the time nor the inclination to sit here and fart around with builds to compare one class versus another, or versus a common enemy. I don't need to. I have seen the balance each/any class brings. I do not feel that there is any real class disparity, nor do I feel that it is a broken class nor do I feel that it is designed poorly.

About the ONLY gripe I can agree with is that a Monk is very difficult to find enchanted weapons for, and faces a price/ability disparity with other classes in that regard.

I do not however think that means the class is broken and I do not think that a Monk really needs that in the grand scheme of things.


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stringburka wrote:
Ashiel wrote:


It is my honest belief that the game only gets harder as you gain levels. There's a reason why stuff like Raise Dead and Resurrection are so easy at high levels. Everything wants to kill you, and most of it can. :P
Mine too. A CR12 creature has much larger chance to kill a character in a level 12 average party than a CR 1 has in an average level 1 party. But an appropriate average encounter for a level 12 party - appropriate by the games standard - is CR12.

I think the biggest detriment to gaining levels past 20th is simply the sheer difficulty vs reward of extremely high level encounters. I posted a CR 20 encounter on the boards a while back. I've spoilered a copy of it below:

CR 20 Demon Horde:
The few individual monsters who can actually take on a party do so because they have the means to prepare, and many of them have powerful summons. For example, solars are excessively powerful and could take on an entire party, but they can also gate more solars, chain-spam summon monster VII to call in celestial Tyrannosaurs to swallow PCs and their minions whole, etc, etc, etc, etc.

High level combat is NOT like low level combat. It is a tactical game of dropping nukes and bio-weapons on your enemies while shielding yourself with your star-wars program and hazmat teams. A high level encounter where enemies are using their full resources is a terrifying ordeal. A 20th level party vs a Solar for example is akin to the freakin' Ragnarok on the scale of extreme terror that it would incite in normal humans, as on this scale you are literally hurling meteors at people, calling upon earth shattering storms, and cracking the land and sundering buildings, while the legions of heaven and hell descend or crawl up from their realms to join the battle.

For example...

CR 20 encounter = 307,200 XP
Succubus x 4 (CR 7) = 12,800 XP
Shadow Demon x 4 (CR 7) = 12,800 XP
Nabasu x 6 (CR 8) = 28,800 XP
Glabrezu x 2 (CR 13) = 51,200 XP
Marilith x 1 (CR 17) = 102,400 XP
Vrock x 15 (CR 9) = 96,000 XP
Dretch x 5 (CR 2) = 3,000 XP

This is a demon horde led by a Marilith, who commands their fiendish legions. The entire horde can greater teleport at will, and works together. Most of them can summon more demons as spell-like abilities. Here is a quick rundown of the types of things these demons might do.

Marilith uses telekinesis at range to hurl objects or even other demons at the party, or uses it to grapple an enemy magician. If she sees an opening, she will get in and attack an opponent with her tail and constrict them. Anyone who is constricted must make a DC 25 fortitude save or fall unconscious for 1d8 rounds. At this point she moves on to the next foe, as one of the succubi coup de grace the unconscious character with a caster level 12 vampiric touch, likely killing the victim and buffing the succubus to hell and back with temporary HP. Blade barrier controls the battlefield and makes moving around a pain for those without teleportation.

The Nebasu wander around spamming enervation at targets, especially those in heavy armor, inflicting 1d4 negative levels with each ray that hits, no save. There are 6 of them, so that's a potential for 6-24 negative levels. Every negative level inflicts a -1 penalty to all saving throws. When they are out of rays, they will spam telekinesis to hurl objects at the party, or force DC 19 will saves or be hurled about like a rag doll.

The shadow demons seep through the floor and attack anyone who is on land using their blind-fight feat to ignore the miss %, and since they have cover you can't make AoOs against them, and retaliating against them is something of a pain, since you can't ready a full-attack against them. Your best bet is to take to the air. Each shadow demon of course attempts to summon another shadow demon with a 50% success rate, so 4 demons becomes 6 more than likely. They too can also stand back and spam telekinesis.

The succubi screech about the battlefield charm-bombing enemies and taking pot-shots at downed foes with vampiric touch when they're down. Of course, they all attempt to summon Babau demons with a 50% chance, so that adds another 2 acid-coated demons into the mix as cannon fodder. They also will not hesitate to dominate animal companions, mounts, and similar creatures. They're not difficult to kill, but they will generally spread out and distract the party, and can turn ethereal at-will, allowing them very good tactics. If desired, they can fly around and drop nets on the party to entangle them, as they can comfortably carry plenty of them and still greater teleport around the field.

The vrocks all begin a dance of ruin, spreading out into groups of 4 vrocks for maximum effectiveness. Every 3rd round, each group unleashes a 20d6 blast of lightning in a 100 ft. radius, which all of the demons are immune to. So if you don't break up or crowd control the vrocks, you will be eating up to 4 instances of 20d6 electricity damage, which is an average of 280 damage anywhere the radius's overlap. Alternatively, they can keep flying around the party screeching hellishly, forcing DC 21 saves vs stun for 1 round. Becoming stunned can easily mean death in this battle, and you can get hit by up to 15 of these at once, making saving a harry business. That's not counting the auto-damaging spores they can shake every 3 rounds.

The Glabrezu play hell with the party's counters. They possess at-will mirror image, making taking them out difficult, and they can function as spotters for the team, utilizing their constant true-seeing ability. Each can cast power word stun to screw over any foe with 150 HP or less. All can cast reverse gravity and dispel magic, and won't hesitate to shut down the magic items of the party, since a CL 16 dispel magic can shut down the vast majority of magic items easily. Finally they can drop unholy blight every round without fail, dealing 8d8 damage to all good creatures in an area and forcing saves vs nausea. If pushed into combat, they have a 15 ft. reach and decent natural attacks.

Dretch simply skulk about the battlefield dropping stinking clouds into the fray. All the demons are immune to the cloud, but it forces a 5% chance per round to become nauseated for 1d4 rounds, potentially causing some PCs to lose several rounds worth of actions. They also use it because the 20% concealment it provides to people inside the cloud completely negates sneak attack, and thus ruins any chance a rogue has to sneak attack their bosses. With five of them, they should also be able to summon an additional dretch, allowing up to 5-6 stinking clouds throughout the battle.

All of the above is assuming, of course, that none of them are using any of their treasures themselves (such as the marilith using any superior weapons, or clad in armor, or any of them wearing rings or cloaks or anything cool like that, which may indeed be part of their treasure and thus added to their statblock by the GM).

A CR 25 encounter would be a truly heinous thing to behold. The difference between a 20th level character and a 25th level character is not so large in the core rules (you've gained about 2-5 points of BAB, some more HP, +2 to good saves, +1 to poor saves, 10-40 more skill points, up to 14th level spells (hooray metamagic), and some new feats feats. Some class abilities have gotten marginally better. But a CR equivalent encounter at this point will likely wipe your party, unless you were fighting really, really dirty.


Ashiel wrote:
stringburka wrote:
Ashiel wrote:


It is my honest belief that the game only gets harder as you gain levels. There's a reason why stuff like Raise Dead and Resurrection are so easy at high levels. Everything wants to kill you, and most of it can. :P
Mine too. A CR12 creature has much larger chance to kill a character in a level 12 average party than a CR 1 has in an average level 1 party. But an appropriate average encounter for a level 12 party - appropriate by the games standard - is CR12.
I think the biggest detriment to gaining levels past 20th is simply the sheer difficulty vs reward of extremely high level encounters. I posted a CR 20 encounter on the boards a while back. I've spoilered a copy of it below: ** spoiler omitted **...

The action economy in this battle is not in the party's favor. If they don't know what is coming they are in a lot of trouble.


Let me pull things back to the original post and be the jerk in the mix when I say "in no case is number crunching to discover balance ever valid and in no case will it ever be valid in pen and paper role play".

Why?

Because pen and paper role play is absolutely and completely not about the numbers. It is about individual creativity, group synergy, problem solving, and story. Any half-decent DM out there can handle both a character super-optimized for straight-rules, no-frills, combat and a character super-nerfed for straight-rules, no-frills, combat in the same party. If your DM can't, they need to spend some time learning about running pen and paper campaigns. There are many good resources out there, both official and unofficial.

Stat crunching makes sense in an MMO where the only thing that matters is how optimized your character is to run dungeons made primarily of baddies to kill. Run - kill - loot - sell is the name of the game in MMOs and you should crunch yourself silly making sure you do it right.

In pen and paper gaming, actual raw rolls with no modifiers and no special situations and no creativity come into play, but not often. Even no-frills DMs who are just learning the ropes acknowledge things like terrain in combat. Even newbies recognize that a real adventure includes socializing with NPCs, solving puzzles, making skill checks, and creative problem solving in addition to combat.

Honestly ... if stats become an issue in your campaign ... it is a sign that at least one person in the gaming group needs to spend more time learning about pen and paper RP. It's that simple ... and stat crunching is that meaningless. As in 100% meaningless.


mem0ri wrote:

Let me pull things back to the original post and be the jerk in the mix when I say "in no case is number crunching to discover balance ever valid and in no case will it ever be valid in pen and paper role play".

Why?

Because pen and paper role play is absolutely and completely not about the numbers. It is about individual creativity, group synergy, problem solving, and story. Any half-decent DM out there can handle both a character super-optimized for straight-rules, no-frills, combat and a character super-nerfed for straight-rules, no-frills, combat in the same party. If your DM can't, they need to spend some time learning about running pen and paper campaigns. There are many good resources out there, both official and unofficial.

I am going to assume you are not trolling.

The idea when you are developer is to find balance. RP'ing and all is nice, but RP alone won't keep characters alive. You must also know how the rules interact. As a player you need to know what you need to bring to the table in order to contribute to your party. If you can't meet the DC(in this case save DC, Armor Class so the enemy does not hit you, to-hit bonus, and so on) then you will not succeed in the quest barring GM fiat. Now some of us play narrative based RPG, and the GM's fudge dice for us to an extent. Some fudge dice to a lesser extent, and some don't fudge dice at all. You can show up with a fighter who put his good scores in mental stats, and ignored the physical ones, but you have nobody to blame, but yourself you for how effective you may or may not me.

Quote:


Stat crunching makes sense in an MMO where the only thing that matters is how optimized your character is to run dungeons made primarily of baddies to kill. Run - kill - loot - sell is the name of the game in MMOs and you should crunch yourself silly making sure you do it right.

PF is part RPG, part tactical fighting game. Ignoring the fighting part is not something that should be strongly advocated. Would you like to tell me how a weak party(people are not able to perform the function because they don't try to make decent characters mechanically)?

Just to be clear number crunching threads are not about having the best character possible, but making sure you at least have a decent character. You don't need to have a bluff modifier of 45 by level 10, but somewhere between the high teens and mid twenties is nice. I think you have been around to many people who go for overkill(200 points of damage in one round well before it is needed or desired). That is not what it is about.

Quote:


In pen and paper gaming, actual raw rolls with no modifiers and no special situations and no creativity come into play, but not often. Even no-frills DMs who are just learning the ropes acknowledge things like terrain in combat. Even newbies recognize that a real adventure includes socializing with NPCs, solving puzzles, making skill checks, and creative problem solving in addition to combat.

Most new GM's never account for terrain in combat due to lack of rules knowledge. Since when does making a mechanically good character mean you can't RP as well or be creative? Who says I have to choose between RP, and wanting to be good in combat? Is there some unwritten rule that I don't know about. Surely I can do both. I have before and I will continue to do so. Have you read the stormwind fallacy?

Stormwind Fallacy:
Originally Posted by Tempest Stormwind
Tempest Stormwind
05-15-06, 03:58 PM
I still stand by the argument that this is a fundamental difference between old school (basic D&D: 1 race/class, AD&D: very limted multi-classing) vrs new school (I buy a book and there is a class in their and I want it gimmie gimmie). The trend I see is old school = roleplayers, new school = optomizers.

Note to New school people: Don't listen to what you hear, you aren't a dork if you roleplay. It is ok to indulge in what D&D is all about, roleplay. If you try it and have a good DM, I guarantee you'll have a blast and won't care so much about optomizing.
Okay, that's it.

I'm hereby proposing a new logical fallacy. It's not a new idea, but maybe with a catchy name (like the Oberoni Fallacy) it will catch on.

The Stormwind Fallacy, aka the Roleplayer vs Rollplayer Fallacy
Just because one optimizes his characters mechanically does not mean that they cannot also roleplay, and vice versa.

Corollary: Doing one in a game does not preclude, nor infringe upon, the ability to do the other in the same game.

Generalization 1: One is not automatically a worse roleplayer if he optimizes, and vice versa.
Generalization 2: A non-optimized character is not automatically roleplayed better than an optimized one, and vice versa.

(I admit that there are some diehards on both sides -- the RP fanatics who refuse to optimize as if strong characters were the mark of the Devil and the min/max munchkins who couldn't RP their way out of a paper bag without setting it on fire -- though I see these as extreme examples. The vast majority of people are in between, and thus the generalizations hold. The key word is 'automatically')

Proof: These two elements rely on different aspects of a player's gameplay. Optimization factors in to how well one understands the rules and handles synergies to produce a very effective end result. Roleplaying deals with how well a player can act in character and behave as if he was someone else.
A person can act while understanding the rules, and can build something powerful while still handling an effective character. There is nothing in the game -- mechanical or otherwise -- restricting one if you participate in the other.

Claiming that an optimizer cannot roleplay (or is participating in a playstyle that isn't supportive of roleplaying) because he is an optimizer, or vice versa, is committing the Stormwind Fallacy.

How does this impact "builds"? Simple.

In one extreme (say, Pun-Pun), they are thought experiments. Optimization tests that are not intended to see actual gameplay. Because they do not see gameplay, they do not commit the fallacy.

In the other extreme, you get the drama queens. They could care less about the rules, and are, essentially, playing free-form RP. Because the game is not necessary to this particular character, it doesn't fall into the fallacy.

By playing D&D, you opt in to an agreement of sorts -- the rules describe the world you live in, including yourself. To get the most out of those rules, in the same way you would get the most out of yourself, you must optimize in some respect (and don't look at me funny; you do it already, you just don't like to admit it. You don't need multiclassing or splatbooks to optimize). However, because it is a role-playing game, you also agree to play a role. This is dependent completely on you, and is independent of the rules.

And no, this isn't dependent on edition, or even what roleplaying game you're doing. If you are playing a roleplaying game with any form of rules or regulation, this fallacy can apply. The only difference is the nature of the optimization (based on the rules of that game; Tri-Stat optimizes differently than d20) or the flavor of the roleplay (based on the setting; Exalted feels different from Cthulu).

Conclusion: D&D, like it or not, has elements of both optimization AND roleplay in it. Any game that involves rules has optimization, and any role-playing game has roleplay. These are inherent to the game.

They go hand-in-hand in this sort of game. Deal with it. And in the name of all that is good and holy, stop committing the Stormwind Fallacy in the meantime.

Quote:


Honestly ... if stats become an issue in your campaign ... it is a sign that at least one person in the gaming group needs to spend more time learning about pen and paper RP. It's that simple ... and stat crunching is that meaningless. As in 100% meaningless.

Stats should never be an issue. They are just enablers for you to bring to help bring a concept to life. You say stat crunching is meaningless, but I bet you do it.---> Stat cruching does not have to involve formulas and spreadsheets. Just focusing on strength to make sure you hit harder is using stats.


wraithstrike wrote:
I am going to assume you are not trolling.

Good assumption. When I'm trolling, I'll let people know.

wraithstrike wrote:
The idea when you are developer is to find balance.

As someone who has written and published both one pen and paper game played by others (out of print - called "The Beginning" - and was not very successful, but it was published) as well as several similarly small computer games (one of which is still an active system ... going on 5 years now), I agree that the idea of a developer in a computer game is to find balance. I, however, disagree to a limited extent in a pen and paper game. The idea of a pen and paper game is more about finding complimentary roles and simply ensuring that each is attractive. That does, somewhat, include a sort of balancing in simply making roles attractive, but this balancing is much different from x's and o's.

wraithstrike wrote:
RP'ing and all is nice, but RP alone won't keep characters alive. You must also know how the rules interact. As a player you need to know what you need to bring to the table in order to contribute to your party.

I absolutely, 100%, unequivocally agree with that statement.

wraithstrike wrote:
PF is part RPG, part tactical fighting game. Ignoring the fighting part is not something that should be strongly advocated.

I do not advocate ignoring combat. One of the worst things I did in high school was go through a 2-3 month period where I took pride in having sessions with zero combat. In fact, our whole group took pride in that for a short time. Quite frankly, it was dumb. A role-playing game is balanced through all aspects of the game, including combat. My advocating that stats are relatively meaningless has less to do with ignoring combat and more to do with stating that creative players can find ways to cover statistical weaknesses in combat. Ignoring combat is a problem, but stopping role-play and switching straight to a tactical map and dice only during combat is equally a problem. Use the map, roll the dice, but don't forget to role-play through the battle. It doesn't just have to be swing-sword, 5ft step, swing-sword.

Stormwind Fallacy:

Thank you for bringing that to my attention. I do not entirely disagree with its basic premise, but there are some things that appear "wrong" with it ... though it could also be a matter of semantics.

wraithstrike wrote:
You say stat crunching is meaningless, but I bet you do it.

In the strictest sense of the word, yeah, I do do it ... and I guess I encourage others in my gaming group to do it ... so I may end up conceding your point with a caveat.

Let me try to better explain my point of view. There are two general types of "bad" role play (in my opinion ... which is only MY opinion) and one type of "good" role play ... and here they are:

BAD #1: The optimizer
The optimizer chooses a class based on what he or she thinks will be most advantageous for the campaign at hand and selects skills, feats, etc based on maximizing their in-game capabilities. Their weapons, armors, equipment, etc are all carefully built on a statistical basis. They may have a great backstory, wonderful character personality, and role-play well ... but they have game-optimized.

BAD #2: The anti-optimizer
In order to prove a point, the anti-optimizer chooses race and class combos with skills and feats that make no sense and provide no game capabilities. They are essentially out to prove that the "game" part of RPGing has no meaning. The DM version of this individual always fudges dice rolls and never leaves characters with real fear of death or failure.

GOOD #1: The character driven player
The character driven player thinks of a persona that they feel fits into the campaign setting and that they would like to play. They choose a race and class that makes sense for the setting and add skills and feats based on background and personality. Their equipment is representative of what might be available to them ( small town fighters might start with pitchforks, for instance ) and their character looks and feels "complete" as a person all around ... stats, background, personality, role-play.

The great fear I have with anyone doing any bit of optimizing is that they stop worrying about "what WOULD my character do as a person" and start instead worrying about "what SHOULD my character do for game optimization". Optimize to the story and let the DM take care of the combat difficulties.


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GOOD #2: The player having fun.
This player is someone who plays the game because it's fun. Ideally, this player is a healthy mix of mechanical optimizer (because those who know the mechanics can most accurately represent their characters as desired) and socialite (because it's a social game) and imaginative roleplayer (because it's not just a wargame). The player has fun, and thus wins D&D.


Ashiel wrote:

GOOD #2: The player having fun.

This player is someone who plays the game because it's fun. Ideally, this player is a healthy mix of mechanical optimizer (because those who know the mechanics can most accurately represent their characters as desired) and socialite (because it's a social game) and imaginative roleplayer (because it's not just a wargame). The player has fun, and thus wins D&D.

Well, yes, everyone's goal is to have fun. I am simply stating that I have more fun with players who are story-driven than players who are optimizing or are anti-optimizing. Pen and paper gaming, to me, is a collaborative story. When one or more individuals are instead "statting" (to be the badass) or "anti-statting" (to prove a point), then the game can often devolve into something I do not wish it to be, and therefore reduce my fun.


Ashiel wrote:
stringburka wrote:
Ashiel wrote:


It is my honest belief that the game only gets harder as you gain levels. There's a reason why stuff like Raise Dead and Resurrection are so easy at high levels. Everything wants to kill you, and most of it can. :P
Mine too. A CR12 creature has much larger chance to kill a character in a level 12 average party than a CR 1 has in an average level 1 party. But an appropriate average encounter for a level 12 party - appropriate by the games standard - is CR12.
I think the biggest detriment to gaining levels past 20th is simply the sheer difficulty vs reward of extremely high level encounters. I posted a CR 20 encounter on the boards a while back. I've spoilered a copy of it below: ** spoiler omitted **...

I looked at your encounter and I'm having difficulty coming up with feasible completion without at least one max level caster going first (probably Diviner Wizard) to ensure that the party doesn't get pounded before it can set itself up.


Serisan wrote:
Ashiel wrote:
stringburka wrote:
Ashiel wrote:


It is my honest belief that the game only gets harder as you gain levels. There's a reason why stuff like Raise Dead and Resurrection are so easy at high levels. Everything wants to kill you, and most of it can. :P
Mine too. A CR12 creature has much larger chance to kill a character in a level 12 average party than a CR 1 has in an average level 1 party. But an appropriate average encounter for a level 12 party - appropriate by the games standard - is CR12.
I think the biggest detriment to gaining levels past 20th is simply the sheer difficulty vs reward of extremely high level encounters. I posted a CR 20 encounter on the boards a while back. I've spoilered a copy of it below: ** spoiler omitted **...
I looked at your encounter and I'm having difficulty coming up with feasible completion without at least one max level caster going first (probably Diviner Wizard) to ensure that the party doesn't get pounded before it can set itself up.

This is the kind of stuff my PCs put up with. High levels are mean. Aelyrinth posted what he would try. If your defenses are as good as they should be around that level, then you can do it. It might require some wall spells, resilient spheres, choosing your targets wisely, and so forth.

Play with that encounter in your head for a while. Try to think of ways to build your characters to survive that while using as few resources as possible. It'll be a fun little activity.


mem0ri wrote:
The idea of a pen and paper game is more about finding complimentary roles and simply ensuring that each is attractive. That does, somewhat, include a sort of balancing in simply making roles attractive, but this balancing is much different from x's and o's.

Actually that varies by system. In PF the numbers matter. They are not the sole factor, but many players don't have the time or inclination to figure out what strategies help them survive. If the GM is having his encounters ruined because the players have a better understanding of the game then the X's and O's help a lot.

Balancing is not just numbers. I get that. Some things such as the teleport spell can't even be measured with numbers. Most of these threads that you look down on also give advice on strategy.
It not just making sure XdY+w>Z. All of the ways to balance the game come together. If one segment is ignored you get bad results, at least in pathfinder. For games like Amber, and Exalted math is less important.

wraithstrike wrote:
RP'ing and all is nice, but RP alone won't keep characters alive. You must also know how the rules interact. As a player you need to know what you need to bring to the table in order to contribute to your party.

I absolutely, 100%, unequivocally agree with that statement.

wraithstrike wrote:
PF is part RPG, part tactical fighting game. Ignoring the fighting part is not something that should be strongly advocated.
I do not advocate ignoring combat. One of the worst things I did in high school was go through a 2-3 month period where I took pride in having sessions with zero combat. In fact, our whole group took pride in that for a short time. Quite frankly, it was dumb. A role-playing game is balanced through all aspects of the game, including combat. My advocating that stats are relatively meaningless has less to do with ignoring combat and more to do with stating that creative players can find ways to cover statistical weaknesses in combat. Ignoring combat is a problem, but stopping role-play and switching straight to a tactical map and dice only during combat is equally a problem. Use the map, roll the dice, but don't forget to role-play through the battle. It doesn't just have to be swing-sword, 5ft step, swing-sword.

I agree that RP'ing while fighting is good, but ignoring PR in combat is not advocated. I have yet to see any of these people you look down upon advocate that stance.

How can you say you agree with me in the above statement when you said "and stat crunching is that meaningless. As in 100% meaningless."

I took that as "the numbers don't matter at all. If that is not what you meant then could you explain it again.

There is nothing wrong with the optimizer. It does not harm the game in any way. Now if he starts to look for loopholes to abuse that is different. If he goes outside his group's accepted power limits that is also bad.

Some GM's don't change combats or fudge for players. That is ok if you do, but even if other GM's don't it is not bad. It just means other people enjoy a different game. I know I don't give players a lot of help. You don't have to make the best character, but if you take a feat for fluff it is at the risk of your character's life.


For Ashiel's demon horde I would suggest putting up a barrier, maybe wall of force depending on the location. This gives the other caster time to bring in summons and/or gate monsters in.

Once you bring the wall down killing the monsters that you consider to be the biggest threat outside of the marilith would be next. The monsters that really are low on the threat scale can be left around until later. In short kill the middlings starting at the top if possible.

Be prepared to readjust as needed depending on who is alive on either side.


wraithstrike wrote:

For Ashiel's demon horde I would suggest putting up a barrier, maybe wall of force depending on the location. This gives the other caster time to bring in summons and/or gate monsters in.

Once you bring the wall down killing the monsters that you consider to be the biggest threat outside of the marilith would be next. The monsters that really are low on the threat scale can be left around until later. In short kill the middlings starting at the top if possible.

Be prepared to readjust as needed depending on who is alive on either side.

Reminds me of this time where my players were becoming a thorn in the side of an evil cabal of wizards. A group of wizards around 7th level used scry & die tactics on the party. Imagine the look on the party's face when they're just walking along, minding their own business, and then bam, next thing you know there's like a dozen wizards suddenly teleporting to you and hurling fireballs at you like it was their job. O.o

Fortunately the party's wizard (a rather odd wizard, as he was using the Pathfinder beta rules at the time, which allowed him to pick a free weapon proficiency as a human, so he chose a battleaxe to represent his backstory as a rural farmboy who worked all day chopping stuff with axes before he was picked as an apprentice to a wandering wizard) specialized in abjuration magics and threw up a resilient sphere in time to deflect most of the blasts. What a battle they ended up having.

Not long after that, the party decided they really liked the private sanctum spell. :3


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A Man In Black wrote:


One of the tools for figuring out roughly where a class is balance-wise are Same Game Tests. Under these tests, optimized examples of a class are expected to be able to handle challenges - including some non-combat challenges - of CR equal to their level approximately 50% of the time.

One of the problems I have with "theoretical" optimizers is that they seem to always begin the discussion by trying to slip in an inappropriate assumption. Defeating a challenge of a CR equal to a character's level is not an appropriate challenge. Defeating a challenge of a CR equal to a character's level minus one is an appropriate challenge.

The Maths: Four fifth level characters (CR 5 each) have an APL of 5. Four CR 5 creatures (one per PC) is an encounter of CR 9, or APL +4. An "Epic" encounter is only APL +3. Four fifth level characters (CR 5 each, APL 5) should face a maximum of four CR4 creatures (for a CR 8 encounter, or APL +3). For a PC to be considered "effective," it must be viable against a maximum (in a 1 on 1 encounter) of it's own CR (-1). Any more is applying a standard that is simply not supported by the RAW of the game.

TL;DR: An appropriate challenge, by the RAW, for a character of level X is a CR of X-1.

As for "DMs that don't pull punches", well, that's just childish and, I suspect, deliberately meant to be insulting. If you want to know why optimizers get a bad rap, this is it: The attitude that if optimizing isn't necessary in a particular game, then that game is "easy mode." The exact opposite is true. Taking out a level appropriate challenge with over optimized characters is easy. Dealing with the same challenge with non-optimized characters is far more difficult. And, I would add, much more fun and rewarding.


Mynameisjake wrote:
A Man In Black wrote:


One of the tools for figuring out roughly where a class is balance-wise are Same Game Tests. Under these tests, optimized examples of a class are expected to be able to handle challenges - including some non-combat challenges - of CR equal to their level approximately 50% of the time.

One of the problems I have with "theoretical" optimizers is that they seem to always begin the discussion by trying to slip in an inappropriate assumption. Defeating a challenge of a CR equal to a character's level is not an appropriate challenge. Defeating a challenge of a CR equal to a character's level minus one is an appropriate challenge.

The Maths: Four fifth level characters (CR 5 each) have an APL of 5. Four CR 5 creatures (one per PC) is an encounter of CR 9, or APL +4. An "Epic" encounter is only APL +3. Four fifth level characters (CR 5 each, APL 5) should face a maximum of four CR4 creatures (for a CR 8 encounter, or APL +3). For a PC to be considered "effective," it must be viable against a maximum (in a 1 on 1 encounter) of it's own CR (-1). Any more is applying a standard that is simply not supported by the RAW of the game.

TL;DR: An appropriate challenge, by the RAW, for a character of level X is a CR of X-1.

As for "DMs that don't pull punches", well, that's just childish and, I suspect, deliberately meant to be insulting. If you want to know why optimizers get a bad rap, this is it: The attitude that if optimizing isn't necessary in a particular game, then that game is "easy mode." The exact opposite is true. Taking out a level appropriate challenge with over optimized characters is easy. Dealing with the same challenge with non-optimized characters is far more difficult. And, I would add, much more fun and rewarding.

I was not trying to insult anyone. It just sets a level playing field, from there adjust to your group*. The not pulling punches things is to get rid of GM playstyle influences. If a players or GM's sees how things might work out if no mercy is involved they can still adjust it to how their group really does things.

Player:I see what just happened, but I know my GM sometimes targets random people to help us instead of focusing fire.

With that aside it is a valid playstyle. Some players don't like to be helped. If you check some of the fudge or no-fudge thread some posters get very unhappy, to put it mildly, when the idea of a GM fudging in any instance is mentioned, and they think it is inherently wrong. I am not that hardcore, but the boards have shown me those that are.

I don't think many people actually play like that, but if I were to sit down at a new table I assume "no mercy" first. Then I change things up depending on the group.


What "not pulling punches" means differs though. For me, its not fudging when i roll, using the cr system to determine appropriate encounters, and using tactics appropriate for the creatures intelligence and perception. I think its a fair base line

Ive seen others that seem to mean "not pulling punches" is completely optimizing encounters to maximum difficulty, sometimes including reselecting feats for monsters, optimizing treasure for their equipment, applying templates in an optimal way ("young" "advanced" liches, +8 dex and +2 hp/level at no penalty or cr increase), selecting terrain and opponents suited to battle the party and always using optimal tactics. These things should when done to a large enough degree affect the CR.

Oh, and while ashiels encounter sounds like a great encounter, it doesnt follow the cr guidelines. 2 of a creature means creature cr +2 (four succubi are cr11). I think using it as a baseline for an average difficulty encounter at level 20 is a bad idea due to the level of optimization. It seems more like an epic encounter. But i dont play at those levels so its more of an outsiders view.


stringburka wrote:

What "not pulling punches" means differs though. For me, its not fudging when i roll, using the cr system to determine appropriate encounters, and using tactics appropriate for the creatures intelligence and perception. I think its a fair base line

Ive seen others that seem to mean "not pulling punches" is completely optimizing encounters to maximum difficulty, sometimes including reselecting feats for monsters, optimizing treasure for their equipment, applying templates in an optimal way ("young" "advanced" liches, +8 dex and +2 hp/level at no penalty or cr increase), selecting terrain and opponents suited to battle the party and always using optimal tactics. These things should when done to a large enough degree affect the CR.

Oh, and while ashiels encounter sounds like a great encounter, it doesnt follow the cr guidelines. 2 of a creature means creature cr +2 (four succubi are cr11). I think using it as a baseline for an average difficulty encounter at level 20 is a bad idea due to the level of optimization. It seems more like an epic encounter. But i dont play at those levels so its more of an outsiders view.

You might wish to re-check the CR rules Stringburka. The encounter is entirely legit, and follows them to the letter. It is entirely true that two creatures is worth the CR of 1 of such creature +2 (for example, two CR 1 creatures are valued the same on the CR scale as a CR 3 creature). Likewise, a 16 CR 1 creatures is the same value as a CR 9 encounter, which is CR+8 as it says.

Also...

"PRD wrote:

Step 3—Build the Encounter: Determine the total XP award for the encounter by looking it up by its CR on Table: Experience Point Awards. This gives you an “XP budget” for the encounter. Every creature, trap, and hazard is worth an amount of XP determined by its CR, as noted on Table: Experience Point Awards. To build your encounter, simply add creatures, traps, and hazards whose combined XP does not exceed the total XP budget for your encounter. It's easiest to add the highest CR challenges to the encounter first, filling out the remaining total with lesser challenges.

For example, let's say you want your group of six 8th-level PCs to face a challenging encounter against a group of gargoyles (each CR 4) and their stone giant boss (CR 8). The PCs have an APL of 9, and table 12–1 tells you that a challenging encounter for your APL 9 group is a CR 10 encounter—worth 9,600 XP according to Table: Experience Point Awards. At CR 8, the stone giant is worth 4,800 XP, leaving you with another 4,800 points in your XP budget for the gargoyles. Gargoyles are CR 4 each, and thus worth 1,200 XP apiece, meaning that the encounter can support four gargoyles in its XP budget. You could further refine the encounter by including only three gargoyles, leaving you with 1,200 XP to spend on a trio of Small earth elemental servants (at CR 1, each is worth 400 XP) to further aid the stone giant.

Just for reference. :)


Personally my group has never really been into min maxing/optimization, we all enjoy play PC that less than balanced and has issue or two, you using your skill to get around those issues.

Of course we have played since the late 70's and love games like Call of Cthulhu and GURPS where deficiencies are part or your character make up. We go that way with 3.5/Pathfinder. Love the challenge.


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Malach the Merciless wrote:

Personally my group has never really been into min maxing/optimization, we all enjoy play PC that less than balanced and has issue or two, you using your skill to get around those issues.

Of course we have played since the late 70's and love games like Call of Cthulhu and GURPS where deficiencies are part or your character make up. We go that way with 3.5/Pathfinder. Love the challenge.

I kind of like deficiencies as well. Mostly in terms of character flaws. Statistically, the most common mechanical flaw that is present in my characters is they aren't perfect across the ability score spectrum. Classically, values in your abilities range between 2-19 (based on racial mods) and later 1-20 (as of 3E, in 3E a creature that is normally sentient cannot adjust below 3 Int due to racial penalty); and I've played (and enjoyed greatly) games like Deadlands where characters have certain drawbacks that make them imperfect.

Many of my characters have personality quirks, phobias, and such (things that are entirely unrelated to game statistics). I don't think people who are into Optimization necessarily want to play Superman, because Superman is boring. I'm kind of a spiderman optimizer. I want my abilities to function, and do what I want to do, but I'm still just a real person who just happens to be really awesome at what he or she does.

The biggest reason I don't make characters intentionally gimped is because I believe such people have no place in an adventure. Adventuring by its very nature is dangerous, and most people do not survive for very long doing it. Most people who decide to become an adventurer end up dead in some dungeon, eaten by wild animals, killed by kobolds, and otherwise don't live very long. Most who succeed out of luck take their rewards and retire early; which makes some people want to be adventurers 'cause they see some rather unimpressive person retired at 25, and then they run off and get themselves killed.

As a campaign progresses, dangers get more extreme. Sure, you might have survived that brush with the carrion crawler in the Cave of Ysmir, but wyverns prowl the skies over the Fortress of Galdalag, and the very ground there is toxic. By the time you're 20th level, you're fighting literal hordes that consist of creatures of nightmares with powers that would cause most men to worship them out of awe. Essentially, if you don't man up and become a boss, then you will just become the guy who never came back. :P

If you look at high level iconics (Tenser, Mordenkainen, Eliminster, Drizzt, etc) they aren't dirt farmers, potatoe diggers, and while they have character flaws and development, they have their stuff together, and they are absolutely awesome at what they do. The folks that weren't all that great don't get to those levels, because they either die or retire before then.


I can agree in part with that. I don't ever make intentionally super characters that are impossible to play, if one was rolled up really poorly, it would just be re rolled (yes we roll stats for certain games). I don't mind though playing character with really physical or mental disabling conditions. I have played characters with missing limbs and other physical issues. I have always found a way to creatively contribute to combat even if it means picking my shots.

As for very high level campaigns, 3.5/Pathfinder is a very different game. I have not played a +12 level campaign since 2nd edition, if we are going super powered like that we play a different game like GURPS.


stringburka wrote:

What "not pulling punches" means differs though. For me, its not fudging when i roll, using the cr system to determine appropriate encounters, and using tactics appropriate for the creatures intelligence and perception. I think its a fair base line

Ive seen others that seem to mean "not pulling punches" is completely optimizing encounters to maximum difficulty, sometimes including reselecting feats for monsters, optimizing treasure for their equipment, applying templates in an optimal way ("young" "advanced" liches, +8 dex and +2 hp/level at no penalty or cr increase), selecting terrain and opponents suited to battle the party and always using optimal tactics. These things should when done to a large enough degree affect the CR.

Oh, and while ashiels encounter sounds like a great encounter, it doesnt follow the cr guidelines. 2 of a creature means creature cr +2 (four succubi are cr11). I think using it as a baseline for an average difficulty encounter at level 20 is a bad idea due to the level of optimization. It seems more like an epic encounter. But i dont play at those levels so its more of an outsiders view.

Good points. I was saying no fudging. I generally tend to assume stock monsters when speaking about such things on the boards. Now if a group is really optimized stock monsters don't work so well so the GM might have to raise the bar.


wraithstrike wrote:
Good points. I was saying no fudging. I generally tend to assume stock monsters when speaking about such things on the boards. Now if a group is really optimized stock monsters don't work so well so the GM might have to raise the bar.

Incidentally, the demon horde uses entirely stock monsters. But stock monsters is a bit misleading. Orcs are stock monsters but have much of their inventory glossed over (lists one or two weapons, cheap armor, "NPC gear"). Most other sentient monsters (such as the marilith) list the most basic items they might wield plus "other treasures". In essence, a group of orcs are still just stock-monsters when they pull a potion of enlarge person they got from their shaman and drink it. As is the marilith when she uses her +26 Use Magic Device skill to use something from her impressive inventory (say as scroll of spell immunity, making herself immune to dismissal, dimensional anchor, etc).

The game as it was written (that is 3.x/PF) assumes that enemies will use any treasures that are on hand and available. The example the 3.x DMG uses, if memory serves, is that if there is a +1 sword in the hobgoblin keep, then one of those hobgoblins will definitely be wielding it (likely whichever hobgoblin has the most clout). A marilith has 64,000 gp worth of treasure total. That's a lot of goodies and might include...

6 masterwork longswords (unless she has any more special weapons as treasure), +2 amulet of natural armor (8,000 gp), some finely crafted ruby-studded nipple rings with a gold chain connecting them to an equally fashionable belly-button ring (say 1,000 gp art object), a scroll of communal greater spell immunity (3,825 gp), a potion of displacement (750 gp), some gold earrings with little onyx skulls on them (maybe 300 gp), a belt giant strength +2 (4,000 gp), a +2 composite longbow (+7 str) (9,100 gp), a ring of mind shielding (8,000 gp), ring of evasion (25,000 gp), +2 large-nonhumanoid silken ceremonial armor (4,720 gp), about 5,205 gp worth of coins.

So "stock monster" is very misleading. The above is the kind of equipment you see on "stock monsters". The Bestiary gives them to you naked and then tells you how much shwag they should have. Leaving them naked does not make them stock, it makes them stupid. :P

Osirion

stringburka wrote:

A single level 12 character should thus usually be compared to a CR8 creature. Or a CR10 as a hard encounter.

I think this stems from optimized characters of classes with large optimization potentials being the standard in groups that optimize, which means they can beat appropriate-CR encounters with ease, which leads to the DM increasing opposition to the point where a CR15 encounter is common for a standard 12th level party - which means a lvl 12 vs CR12 seems appropriate.

Basically, at "easy" mode (DM taking it soft), all characters will make it. At "average" mode (DM going hard but using appropriate-CR encounters), some classes require a bit optimization but all classes will be able to pull through without large difficulties. At "hard" mode (DM using high CR encounters a lot), the "weak" classes might have trouble.

Since optimizers often play on "hard" mode, that's the point they're/we're arguing from.

Another problem with comparing ECL X to CR X (rather than X-4) is that at CR X the party is expected to lose 25% of their resources. 25% is equal to one character. If you only have one character...

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