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My PCs are kicking butt -- help me raise my game, please


Advice

51 to 100 of 114 << first < prev | 1 | 2 | 3 | next > last >>
RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Maybe instead of Magic Dead, have Magic Resistant areas, that require a DC 10, 15, 20, or 25 caster level check to successfully cast a spell, with Spell Penetration and Greater Spell Penetration helping overcome this.


Douglas Muir 406 wrote:


Party of 6 PCs, all 7th level. Sorceror, cleric, barbarian, rogue/shadowdancer, paladin, Zen Archer monk. They're really making my life difficult. Some tactics:

-- Haste. This is their standard opening: the sorceror does a burst Haste on the whole party. It lasts 7 rounds, which is the duration of most combats, and the sorceror can do this four times per day. The extra move speed is tactically very handy, and the extra attack turns the fighters -- especially the barbarian -- into whirling hurricanes of slashy death.

-- Clever use of buffs and debuffs. They get long-lasting buffs up well in advance, including Protection from Evil on the low-will-save characters. If there's a high-AC opponent in sight, the barbarian gets a Bull's Strength early on, pushing his already-high attack bonus and damage out of sight. With Haste, on a full attack, the barbarian has little difficulty hitting an AC 25 opponent three times for 100 or more points of total damage.

In group combats, mass debuffs are also popular -- the sorceror will generally follow Haste with Slow, while the cleric casts Archon's Wrath. (A spell I have come to loathe, btw, since it requires me to keep careful track not only of who's affected but of who has done what.)

-- Burst heals. The cleric rarely fights; he just casts buffs and burst heals. (He has the feat that lets him exclude one enemy.) 4d6 on the whole party every round = it's very hard to bring PCs down just by doing damage. We recently had a mass combat where the barbarian and the smiting paladin took the fore, with the cleric just standing behind them healing and buffing. They were able to mow their way through something like 20 CR 3 opponents to reach the CR 9 boss in like three rounds.

On one hand, I can't complain too hard -- the players aren't bending the rules, they're just playing cleverly. On the other hand, there are six of them and one of me. I could use some help. I don't want to just mirror their tactics back at them; that would be boring. I'd like to...

None of that is even terribly clever. Your players are playing efficiently and as a party. You want to fix that? Rocks fall on the Cleric and Sorcerer. They now have to play in a game with other people.

EDIT: There isn't really a lot to do against players actually playing as a team and knowing what their characters can do. Up the CR maybe? Swarms are a huge pain. Clouds are all sorts of fun - way better at locking down a character than grappling, especially at the "Freedom of Movement" level. Pretty sure Freedom of Movement won't get you through a Solid Fog any faster.


Matt Gwinn wrote:

Grapple

Throw in some NPCs or monsters that have super high CMBs
A Viper Vine would work great for your group. 4 Tentacle attacks with a 20' reach and a +28 grapple can really be a challenge. Plus its Captivating Cloud ability will lock down your PCs with low Will Saves. Sure, it's a CR 13, but 6 lvl 7 PCs might be a match for it. If not, save it for later.

A group playing this well together is going to throw Freedom of Movement on any grappled characters if they have it.

Quote:

Damage Reduction

DR is a great way to cut back on the PCs damage capacity without making them frustrated like a super high AC might. A sorcerer casting Stone Skin on the villains is an easy way to accomplish this without limiting your selection of monsters.

You are thinking of archers and dual wielders. Barbarians and Paladins will eat DR for breakfast.

Quote:

Magic Dead Areas

Occasionally throw a nasty monster in a dead magic area to negate the PC's advantage. Don't do this too often though, because it can really make things boring for your spell casters.

Does dead magic negate magic items? It isn't just casters antimagic affects.

Cheliax Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

1 person marked this as a favorite.
A Man In Black wrote:
I don't see the problem. They're playing smart and being rewarded for it, and you still have options (by your own description) to make them step up their game when you want a challenging combat scene.

As a first cut, I'd keep the above in mind. I like to get on the other screen from time to time because it's easy to forget how different the game feels as a player. Gaming culture is overly influenced by the spectre of the Mony Haul DM - it's easy to fool yourself into thinking that a compentent party makes you an incompetent DM. As a player, it feels good to see your well-built character locking into a well-built party and creating a Voltron of ass-beating fun. There's a lot of good advice here about how to challenge the party, but it sounds to me like you're running a good game and everyone's having fun. Make sure to stop and smell the roses.

And then hit them with a dozen swarms led by a pit fiend!


Cartigan wrote:


A group playing this well together is going to throw Freedom of Movement on any grappled characters if they have it.

If they have it. Either may it will cost them at least a round of spell casting.

Quote:

You are thinking of archers and dual wielders. Barbarians and Paladins will eat DR for breakfast.

DR will still cut down on the damage done, giving the monster more rounds to attack. And if you use DR/Iron magic items won't help. Most parties never have back-up Iron weapons laying around.

Quote:
Does dead magic negate magic items? It isn't just casters antimagic affects.

Dead Magic areas work the same as an Antimagic Field, so magic items would lose their abilities too. Though magic weapons would get the benefit of being Masterwork weapons.


a few more things.

Use monsters that can move quick, can teleport or have invisibility or something, so they can strike and withdraw. Someone mentioned Hounds of Tindalos earlier, and they are perfect for this. If you do it right, the players end up standing around waiting for the next strike (that may or may not happen on the next round). Meanwhile their buff spells are slowly fading away. There's no rule that says monsters have to attack every round or attack until they die. If things are going bad for your monster, have it flee and come back later when the PCs are less prepared.

Soul Eaters are a great CR7 monster for this too, because they have a fly movement rate of 100', +10 initiative, a +28 Stealth, immunity to critical hits, AND they do 16d worth of Wisdom damage. Have it do a flyby attack on a front or rear character, then move out of sight, make a new stealth roll then repeat. PCs can't attack something that isn't there.

Also, DRAGONs. Claw, Claw, Bite, wing buffet, wing buffet, tail slap, crush. Plus SR & DR. And to be extra oppressive, give it the Maximized Breath weapon and Lingering Breath Weapon feats from the old Draconomicon, or Arcing Breath Weapon from Forgotten Foes..

And finally, if you think you're having a hard time challenging them now, wait til they hit 10th level and the system breaks. I recommend starting a new campaign at that point. But that's just my opinion.


Golden-Esque wrote:

One of my favorite baddies to use is the Hound of Tindalos (Bestiary 2)...

The Hounds are my favorite monster from Bestiary 2. Due to a weakened dimensional barrier in my campaign these alien creatures appeared 50% of the time anyone used teleport or used dimensional travel spells. They were the perfect police force to keep my higher level PCs hoping all over the place and for keeping them on their toes. Have one or more of them pop into an encounter the PCs are mowing through and introduce a little bit of chaos.

Grand Lodge

OberonViking wrote:
Throw more NPCs at them.

Danger, danger - NPCs have lots of magical goodies that can make your PCs even harder to contend with if they win. They're great for recurring villains, but you need to make them high-enough level to ensure that they will get away to recur. I usually go for 5+ levels higher for a single bad guy, or 3-ish for a group of the same number as the PCs. Sometimes more, though. Remember, you have the ability to pull punches if you want, or to toy with the PCs and then leave them abttered and bloody and itching for a rematch... just because the bad guy *could* squish you like a bug, doesn't mean they will.

It also sounds like your party is good at min/maxing the rules in the absence of any reason not to, so introduce story elements that either limit their ability to buff or rest, or put them in situations where they are less effective. Shipboard combat is one way - limted space, and you're all standing on the same flammable platform. One fireball kills all the sailors and dooms you to being shipwrecked! High-AC fighters are much easier to hit with a bull rush, and the sound they make as they fall off the deck and sink out of sight in that heavy armor is priceless. This forces your spellcasters to do something other than just buff and heal.

Lots of other good ideas here...


You can always make some NPC monks to handle their clerics and wizard types. A level 6 monk can have improved grapple and improved trip and with their superior battlefield movement, flurry while grappling, you could even have an enemy caster cast invisbility on the monks so they can move past the parties frontline fighters. Trip the casters and grapple their fighters, casters waste rounds standing up if tripped or trying to break grapples.

As a player I love the monk class and I especially hate fighting them as NPCs. lol

I agree with using limited movement terrain/dungeons its the easiest change to make. Terrain has been one of the main problems my group has when fighting. Difficult terrain plus elevated enemies, either on ledges, roofs or across bridges where ranged combat comes into play and if the melees in the group have no access to ranged then that pretty much takes them out of the fight.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Druid with Natural Spell and Silent Spell, elmental form, Obscuring Mists, and lots of Summon Swarms.

Solid Fog. And just about any lasting area effect.

Bard and cleric leaders of 1st level horde of barbarian orc axe throwers. Let the orcs have precise strike feat.

Vampire. Dominate. Any martial or caster character. A privy.

Pugwampis.

Night time encounters.

Regards,
Ruemere

Cheliax

or you could use some underhand tactics (just don't do it often, max like once per story arc)

sunder, disarm and making the party lose a couple of nights of sleep due to periodic encounters during the night

that will sort them out...

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

And you don't want to obliterate the PCs, just challenge them. Rocking through bad guys is fun, and overcoming a challenge is even more fun.

Some of the witch Hexes are pretty nasty, especially the ones that de-buff or require you to roll twice and take the worse result. I'm playing a 10th level witch right now, and it takes a while to lay the debuffs on, especially if you are also trying to buff the party and/or do battlefield control. It might take some numerous minions to slow down the PCs so you can lay on the deadly debuff combos.

Sczarni

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
Brendimar wrote:

You can always make some NPC monks to handle their clerics and wizard types. A level 6 monk can have improved grapple and improved trip and with their superior battlefield movement, flurry while grappling, you could even have an enemy caster cast invisbility on the monks so they can move past the parties frontline fighters. Trip the casters and grapple their fighters, casters waste rounds standing up if tripped or trying to break grapples.

As a player I love the monk class and I especially hate fighting them as NPCs. lol

I agree with using limited movement terrain/dungeons its the easiest change to make. Terrain has been one of the main problems my group has when fighting. Difficult terrain plus elevated enemies, either on ledges, roofs or across bridges where ranged combat comes into play and if the melees in the group have no access to ranged then that pretty much takes them out of the fight.

Deflect/catch arrows sucks when you have 3 ranged rangers in the group. Just saying.

Shadow Lodge

Everyone has already thrown out some good advice, but I thought I'd emphasize the DR thing and underscore monster selection. Some of those baddies have some REALLY nasty specials. And against such a well-oiled machine, you can use them every round without much regret.

Werebeasts with magic and magic items of their own, for example. Ooh, and poisons.

Also any enemy with an Int of more than, say, 7 is going to nuke that cleric if he's bombing an AoE 4d6 heal repeatedly. Your party certainly would.

And, speaking of clerics, AoE 4d6 INFLICT is also available for their foes...


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber
Lamplighter wrote:
OberonViking wrote:
Throw more NPCs at them.

Danger, danger - NPCs have lots of magical goodies that can make your PCs even harder to contend with if they win.

This is very true. In my campaign the players are required to give half their loot as tithe to the thieve's guild that they work for. So when they loot the body of an NPC and pick up a powerful sword they are always stuck with that 50% tithe. They sell the sword for the tithe, keep some other items, sell some and then go shopping.

Another way to hamper the players is to give them story bits that require cash. The need info - have an NPC sell it to them for 5,000 gp. It means they aren't using all their gold to improve their characters, and my players at least enjoy the sort of story arc this creates. This particular information broker already knew a lot about the PCs, and now they are in his debt, as he doesn't always ask for coin as payment.

Which brings up another idea - skill challenges. They may eat them up with buffs, but that is fun for players too. My players will have to eavesdrop on the City Council's secret meetings.

Just in case my players are reading this:
But the councillors are all dragons, and they want to keep that secret very well hidden. A wrong move, a failed stealth check against very perceptive foes and they could have 6 aged dragons after them.

And when they have completed that task, give them a bit of combat to see what buffs they have left. And have the Information Broker protected by monks.


Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

Oh, and another thing on NPCs (and monsters too, to an extent) is to consider what method of character creation did you use? 25 point-buy and 2 traits? Give your NPCs the same.

I like to use the NPCs from the GMG. I print them out from my pdf, then write all over them. I usually start with Abilities, and I'll often bump the primary attribute by two as a quick method of bringing their stats on par with the characters point-buy. Or I'll bump Dex, Con or Will thinking about the sort of spells they may be hit with. Then I go through and swap out feats (where I sometimes forget that they have prereqs), and equipment and spells etc.

Don't forget that NPCs can take the Leadership feat. Whilst I rarely give the feat to them, I do apply it and use it to work out what level their sidekick is, and how many minions they have running around for them. Monsters can have the same thing happening.


A Man In Black wrote:
I don't see the problem. They're playing smart and being rewarded for it, and you still have options (by your own description) to make them step up their game when you want a challenging combat scene. If you're worried about them getting sick of mowing down foes, give them more challenges that aren't murdering fools. Make them chase enemies into crowds, or track down a spy, or investigate a murder, or face environmental challenges, or overcome an innocent foe to accomplish their goals, or face enemies they can't possibly defeat face-to-face and have to outwit/avoid/outmaneuver/outthink.

This, double this and triple this.

The OP raises some concerns as it seems to imply the GM is frustrated that the players are succeeding. If the players are doing well, it's not a problem unless they are bored (or seem bored). As long as you're providing varied challenges and the players are having fun, what's the problem?

If you're trying to "win" against them, at what point do you consider it a win? Stomping them into the ground where your tactics beat theirs? If a GM finds a TPK fun, he/she is probably the only one. I guarantee the death of a PC is worse on them than the defeat of any encounter you design, no matter how much time or personal energy you put into it.

If the players tell you they aren't challenged or you feel like your encounters are an absolute pushover, then vary your encounters using some of the previous suggestions (terrain, battlefield control spells, creatures with atypical movement-affecting abilities like burrowers, incorporeal creatures phasing through walls and floors, etc). You may want to not treat the game like it's "you vs. them"; in my experience game sessions are the most fun when a GM doesn't consider the PC's adversaries as being on "his/her side".


Pathfinder Maps, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Wendall Roy wrote:
A Man In Black wrote:
I don't see the problem. They're playing smart and being rewarded for it, and you still have options (by your own description) to make them step up their game when you want a challenging combat scene. If you're worried about them getting sick of mowing down foes, give them more challenges that aren't murdering fools. Make them chase enemies into crowds, or track down a spy, or investigate a murder, or face environmental challenges, or overcome an innocent foe to accomplish their goals, or face enemies they can't possibly defeat face-to-face and have to outwit/avoid/outmaneuver/outthink.

This, double this and triple this.

The OP raises some concerns as it seems to imply the GM is frustrated that the players are succeeding. If the players are doing well, it's not a problem unless they are bored (or seem bored). As long as you're providing varied challenges and the players are having fun, what's the problem?

I call double and triple BS on this.

The OP was concerned that his players were mowing through his encounters too easily, and that he was not giving them a challenge. Part of the GM's job is to make sure his players enjoy themselves. If I am in a game where I mow through the enemies with absolutely no chance of dying, and no real effort on my part, I'm not having fun, I'm bored out of my skull.

This idea that any GM who is having trouble challenging his players and asks for help is somehow a badwrongfun GM that is trying to 'win the game' is utter BS.


mdt wrote:


I call double and triple BS on this.

The OP was concerned that his players were mowing through his encounters too easily, and that he was not giving them a challenge. Part of the GM's job is to make sure his players enjoy themselves. If I am in a game where I mow through the enemies with absolutely no chance of dying, and no real effort on my part, I'm not having fun, I'm bored out of my skull.

This idea that any GM who is having trouble challenging his players and asks for help is somehow a badwrongfun GM that is trying to 'win the game' is utter BS.

Sorry if I misread it. The post didn't seem to read that his PCs were never challenged to me.


Pathfinder Maps, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Wendall Roy wrote:


Sorry if I misread it. The post didn't seem to read that his PCs were never challenged to me.

That's ok, sore spot for me. I usually read someone saying 'They mowed through the mooks in 2 rounds and took out the bad guy in 1 round' as saying 'I seriously underpowered the combat, what did I do wrong?'. I just take exception to the idea that trying to provide a challenge is 'me vs them'. Since I didn't read anything in his post about 'What do I do to really eff them up?', I took it as the 'what am I doing wrong' question, not the 'how do I win' question.

Cheliax Bella Sara Charter Superscriber

mdt wrote:
Wendall Roy wrote:


Sorry if I misread it. The post didn't seem to read that his PCs were never challenged to me.
That's ok, sore spot for me. I usually read someone saying 'They mowed through the mooks in 2 rounds and took out the bad guy in 1 round' as saying 'I seriously underpowered the combat, what did I do wrong?'. I just take exception to the idea that trying to provide a challenge is 'me vs them'. Since I didn't read anything in his post about 'What do I do to really eff them up?', I took it as the 'what am I doing wrong' question, not the 'how do I win' question.

This is weird that I'm saying this, but...

It looks like Wendall hasn't posted much here on Paizo. I don't think he was using those phrases to start a flamewar (which is how they are frequently deployed online) or belittle the OP.

But, just as a heads-up, Wendall, your post is well intentioned, but might receive more reactions similar to mdt's due to the way it's written. Not a huge deal generally, but the topic of the "correct" way to DM can inspire heated debates, and many posters here are sensitive to certain phrases bandied about in such debates.

Also, welcome to the Paizo forums!


Sebastian wrote:


Also, welcome to the Paizo forums!

Thanks. And no, definitely not trying to flame anyone. I can understand how it came across that way.

Shadow Lodge

Dotting for future reference.

Sczarni

Dot

Qadira

Sebastian wrote:

This is weird that I'm saying this, but...

What happened? Did you take a level of Bard? ;)


And there is always the old Number game. Yeah you have a party of 6 level 7's, and they take out that big bad level 7 encounter, or level 8 encounter, but what happens when you supprise them with 50-100 kobolds. Yeah they are weak, but that is made up for in numbers. In 2e this was always the most challenging opponent, even though they are easy to kill the sheer numbers made it a challenge.


Tharg The Pirate King wrote:
And there is always the old Number game. Yeah you have a party of 6 level 7's, and they take out that big bad level 7 encounter, or level 8 encounter, but what happens when you supprise them with 50-100 kobolds. Yeah they are weak, but that is made up for in numbers. In 2e this was always the most challenging opponent, even though they are easy to kill the sheer numbers made it a challenge.

Mind you, large numbers of low threat opponents are where your spell casters will really shine, if they've invested in some blasting abilities.

This is alright, though. It burns through resources super quickly to try and deal with hordes, which means that if there are a few higher threat enemies hiding in the horde, who fireball/lightning bolt/blasting spell of choice won't kill, the party could easily find themselves having just burnt a large number of their higher spell slots thinning the horde out, and then be facing the real threat.

Another thing: If the BBEG is an alchemist, you might want to consider having enemies show up with implanted bombs, which go off when they die. It's thematic, foreshadows who the real threat is, and eats up resources in the form of healing and so forth, since a 'victory' will potentially be as costly as a defeat.


mdt wrote:


That's ok, sore spot for me. I usually read someone saying 'They mowed through the mooks in 2 rounds and took out the bad guy in 1 round' as saying 'I seriously underpowered the combat, what did I do wrong?'. I just take exception to the idea that trying to provide a challenge is 'me vs them'. Since I didn't read anything in his post about 'What do I do to really eff them up?', I took it as the 'what am I doing wrong' question, not the 'how do I win' question.

Yeah, I think my initial interpretation was probably influenced by the fact that a few months ago I sat in on a game where the GM got visibly more and more frustrated every time the PCs accomplished a goal and defeated a challenge he presented. Was a very odd and uncomfortable experience.

Like I said, definitely misread it and sorry for any temporary derailment. Re-railing:

To challenge PCs that rely on Protection from Evil for their low-Will brawlers, try using Will save effects that aren't charms or compulsions. Curses and fear effects can be very annoying... and a sorc I played found Wandering Star Motes to be a very amusing spell.

If the group has access to Freedom of Movement, grappling creatures and effects like Black Tentacles will have limited effect. The group may not have enough time/resources to make every member immune to grapple, however, so you could still get some mileage out of this tactic. Also, battlefield control spells can still hinder sight even if the party is immune to the movement-limiting effects. Nonmagical obstacles like difficult terrain, narrow/unsteady combat areas that require Acrobatics checks, slick floors, etc. can also complicate things for someone using Freedom of Movement.

Haste can really be annoying, but you can turn the party's advantage against them. Nasty melee fighters charging you at high speed while the support casters and zen archer stay back? Dump a wall in between them, preferably one that breaks line of effect (wall of ice/stone depending on the CR of the enemy, or maybe even a trap wall that rises from the floor in a crafty enemy's lair).

Swarms and swarm effects, cloud effects (particularly ones with Fort saves to avoid nastiness), traps or the Create Pit line of spells can definitely challenge even a well-prepared party's tactics. Resilient Sphere is also extremely annoying to trap and isolate casters or melee characters with mediocre Ref saves.

Taldor

I just had a bunch of threads asking to help me with much of the same.

I've got 6 Pathfinder RPG characters, and last night they reached level 12. All range from young to old, tenured to relatively new.

To respond to the OP: a lot of good advice is above. Here's what I did:

Recalculate their PL. Add +1 since you have 6 players, and add +1 if their stats are epic or since they play with good synergy.

Thus, my group of 6 L12s, I would say functions at about an effective party level of CR 17 - but I would never throw a CR 17 at them at this point. Here's what I do...

I create encounters with three layers:
Boss,
Henchmen
Lackeys

You can call these components anything you like. The key is, create a scenario, related to the story, where you have more than 2 levels of encounters going at the same time. This creates a lot of keen in-game work on your part, but the result is rewarding.

Next, place the "boss" at APL+3, which means CR 15.
Place the rest any way you like, but lower in stats significantly.
For example two other CR 13s=1 CR15, for a total of CR17 overall (CR15+CR15)

Otherwise, distribute the henchmen and lackeys (call them what you like) over lower levels... such as 16 creatures of CR6, or 8 creatures at CR 8 for a total of CR 14.

Basically... that would all be the high end of the challenge. The xp is good, and since your party has a great strategy/tactic/communication base, although this extreme APL+3 scenario would be really challenging, they should survive with 0-2 deaths.

Now, overall, you can create scenarios much lower for your every day encounters:

APL=7 (in your case) +2 synergy +1 misc = APL 10
(I'm making big assumptions, but you can do the math based on your knowledge and the variables you consider.)
Then create encounters like:

1 Boss CR10 = CR10
2 Henchmen CR 8 each = CR10
4 Lackeys CR 4 each = CR8
TOTALS: CR10+CR10=CR12 + CR8 = maybe CR13 which results in an encounter approxiamtely +3 OVER your perceived APL of 10 (even though your party is L7.

Yep. This could kill them.
So start much lower, work your way up. Notice when they feel the burn...
Trial and error works, but tweaking this to your liking really finds the sweet spot.

Here's what I learned: not all parties are made the same. And your groups seems extra bright and resourceful, as is mine.

Thus, you're not punishing them, just challenging assumptions made on APL cold. You're refining your APL estimate into what I call PAPL (Perceived APL) or EAPL, Effective Average Party Level.

Good luck,
just my 2 cp
Pax


7 people marked this as a favorite.
Douglas Muir 406 wrote:


Party of 6 PCs, all 7th level. Sorceror, cleric, barbarian, rogue/shadowdancer, paladin, Zen Archer monk. They're really making my life difficult. Some tactics:

-- Haste. This is their standard opening: the sorceror does a burst Haste on the whole party. It lasts 7 rounds, which is the duration of most combats, and the sorceror can do this four times per day. The extra move speed is tactically very handy, and the extra attack turns the fighters -- especially the barbarian -- into whirling hurricanes of slashy death.

Good spell. You should be proud of your sorcerer for taking this teamwork spell over something like fireball.

Quote:
-- Clever use of buffs and debuffs. They get long-lasting buffs up well in advance, including Protection from Evil on the low-will-save characters. If there's a high-AC opponent in sight, the barbarian gets a Bull's Strength early on, pushing his already-high attack bonus and damage out of sight. With Haste, on a full attack, the barbarian has little difficulty hitting an AC 25 opponent three times for 100 or more points of total damage.

Again, sounds like doing their job. :)

Quote:
In group combats, mass debuffs are also popular -- the sorceror will generally follow Haste with Slow, while the cleric casts Archon's Wrath. (A spell I have come to loathe, btw, since it requires me to keep careful track not only of who's affected but of who has done what.)

I'm not familiar with Archon's Wrath, but again your sorcerer is doing his job marvelously and should receive a medal. ^-^

Quote:
-- Burst heals. The cleric rarely fights; he just casts buffs and burst heals. (He has the feat that lets him exclude one enemy.) 4d6 on the whole party every round = it's very hard to bring PCs down just by doing damage. We recently had a mass combat where the barbarian and the smiting paladin took the fore, with the cleric just standing behind them healing and buffing. They were able to mow their way through something like 20 CR 3 opponents to reach the CR 9 boss in like three rounds.

Very nice. :D

Quote:

On one hand, I can't complain too hard -- the players aren't bending the rules, they're just playing cleverly. On the other hand, there are six of them and one of me. I could use some help. I don't want to just mirror their tactics back at them; that would be boring. I'd like to come up with a suite of tactics that counter or bypass what they're doing.

The only level-appropriate opponent who's been able to consistently beat them is a gnome alchemist who's a recurring enemy. He wins by buffing like crazy, getting his AC up over 30, then casting Haste and Fly and bombing them. He has Protection Against Arrows and Shield, so they can't easily reach him. But the uber-buffed opponent is a card I don't want to play too often. I need some other tactics.

Sounds like a solid group you got their. I applaud.

Now as for challenging them, I'd advise against the counterspelling deal. Counterspelling kinda sucks, and to have any luck at doing it, you will need to use Dispel Magic as your primary counter, since otherwise you have to have the spell to counter prepared. Now, against the same group, that's not very hard but it's kinda metagamist IMHO.

Also, splitting up the party isn't a great idea, unless it's via wall spells. It also tends to slow down the game a bit unless you're used to dealing with multiple people in different places.

What I would recommend, however, is tuning up your NPCs and encounters a bit. Personally I love classed enemies because humanoids and classed characters tend to have the easiest time adapting to different problems, whereas most monsters tend to have glaring weak points (can't fly, low save, reliance on physical damage, etc), but I'll make some suggestions for monsters a bit lower down. In the meantime, we're going to discuss classed-NPC tactics first.

1) NPC classes are your friend. Before I progress any further talking about them, it's worth noting that there is a bit of a conflict in the suggested rules. The guidelines for CR in the Core Rulebook for NPCs is way off in terms of their strength, so I would advise using the Bestiary guidelines for determining their CR (as in 2 NPC levels = +1 CR and they have heroic NPC wealth based on CR) instead of the Core Rulebook's class level -2 (you will get wildly inaccurate CRs at all but the lowest levels this way).

However, using the bestiary guidelines will result in statistics and capabilities much closer to the desired CR range (a gnoll with 8 NPC levels is a solid CR 5 encounter, for example), so I will be discussing primarily based on this method of calculation.

1.1) NPC classes are pretty good for padding an opponent without adding a lot of powerful abilities. Every 2 levels adds 2 HD, a feat, 1-2 BAB, a boost in their saves, a few skill points, and increases CR by +1. My favorite of the NPC classes are probably the Adept and Warrior, because one has light spellcasting and good will saves (as well as a surprisingly good list of class skills) and the second gives good HP, base attack, weapon and armor proficiencies, and fortitude saves.

Higher level warriors have excellent to-hit modifiers based on BAB, and with Power Attack can keep their damage respectable as brute enemies. Adepts likewise can use spell-trigger items (I'll discuss this more shortly) and provide simple buffs for allies.

1.2) NPCs should use equipment, and their gear should be selected wisely. Ever play Baldur's Gate I or II for the PC? It's based on 2E, but many of the tactics carry over to 3E/PF quite well. The main tactic I speak of is using potions and consumables. There are enemies in that game who are nightmares because they use potions or similar, and if not dispelled or somehow neutralized will wreak havoc (the end boss will destroy your whole party in short order if you don't de-haste him).

If you have a CR 3 NPC (say due to having a number of levels in Warrior), and a level 3 heroic NPC (again, going by the Bestiary guidelines for adding class levels instead of the core rulebook since the Bestiary is more accurate - if not he would have inflated wealth with a low CR) the NPC should have about 1,650 gp worth of gear.

As part of this 1,650 gp, we grab some basic weapons (perhaps a composite longbow, a melee weapon, etc) and some basic armor (perhaps some chainmail as a general purpose armor), and then stock out the rest of his gear in consumables and tools.

Good consumables include stuff like potions of enlarge person (50 gp / 10 rounds), magic weapon (50 gp, turns his mundane weapon into a +1 weapon for 10 rounds, applied to ranged weapons pierces Prot from Arrows), a potion of invisibility (150 gp) nearly assures he can surprise somebody, a potion of blur (150 gp) gives him a 20% concealment against attacks and allows Stealth checks.

1.3) Use Spell-triggers. Like the example of the warrior using potions, adepts, and any NPC with caster levels, should seriously consider carrying wands. Wands are pretty cheap on a per-charge basis, and a wand of lightning bolt costs 225 gp per charge and can be used by an adept. Ergo your CR 3 adept could have a 5d6/DC14 lightning bolt 1-2 times per day as part of his NPC gear. That will catch people by surprise.

2) Use groups. From the sound of your post you are already beyond the stage of GMing where you think grabbing a high CR enemy and throwing them at the party is somehow going to be effective. You mentioned groups of CR 3s and CR 9s, so you're on the right track.

Now, the biggest thing is getting them to work together. With low CR foes, alchemical items are an evil-GM's best friend. As are nets (the weapon), and poisons can be fun too. Seriously, any of this stuff can screw with somebody's day, but let's look at some serious considerations.

2.1) Strategy. There are a lot of strategies that will drive people up the wall, and most of them are actually highly troublesome when used by low-level mooks because they are touch attacks or relatively mundane methods of attack.

Casting silence on some arrows and having them shot around the battlefield will piss off non-psionic spellcasters pretty good. In a mixed group, a psionic caster can then attempt to destroy all the silence-arrows via something like energy missile to allow the casters to resume casting (good teamwork is good, and makes the fight more interesting).

Having a group of low CR enemies bomb the party with alchemist fire is pretty harsh. A group of CR 1/3 enemies with point blank shot can lob alchemist fire that deals 1d6+1 initially and 1d6 on the following round. If your party doesn't buff up with resist energy, this can become terrifying fast. Likewise, most NPCs can comfortably carry at least one of each alchemical type (acid, cold, electricity, and fire, as found on the d20pfsrd.com), meaning that if an element doesn't work on round 1, then try a different one on round 2.

To put that into perspective, if you have 3 CR 1/3 guys with Point Blank Shot bomb some poor fool, that's 3d6+3 damage initially and then 3d6 damage on the next turn. With 6, that's 6d6+6 initially and 6d6 on the following round. OUCH!

Nets are evil. Nets are an exotic weapon so most NPCs will suffer a -4 to hit with them, but they're touch attacks and entangle foes up to large size easily. If you have a group of CR 1/3 mooks run up and net people, you inflict the Entangled condition which has some harsh penalties and cuts movement speed in half (and possibly forces Strength checks to move away from the NPCs at all). It's also an excellent opener before an alchemist bombing since it hoses their touch-AC badly. And since getting out of the net requires you to waste actions, getting hit with multiple nets generally means that you are going to have to deal with it.

A single level 1 adept in a group of low CR opponents can cast bless, giving everyone in a wide radius a +1 to hit and saves vs fear for 10 rounds. It might not sound like much, but those +1s can go a long way towards affecting the overall damage of a group of NPCs.

3) Terrain. Most people overlook the value and benefit of terrain, but it can be a really useful thing. Most mundane terrain issues can be overcome by flying, but in various tight spaces (such as dungeons, caves, particularly dense forests and so forth) mere obstacles can prevent stuff like charging.

Difficult terrain means no charging and no 5ft steps. A group of NPCs with the Nimble Moves and Acrobatic Steps can drive your barbarian a bit crazy in areas with difficult terrain, especially if they're ranged attackers with Acrobatics to keep their distance while firing (running start->jump + standard action shoot) while the Barbarian cannot charge and is limited to 1 attack/round against them even if hasted.

Using terrain such as trees with readied actions means that you can't use them to attack foes as they weave through to come get you.

If dealing with small creatures such as kobolds, small tunnels can be used to allow them to quickly maneuver around, while medium sized people have to squeeze through them (-4 AC and attacks), and weight based pressure traps can be the party's bane, as the light kobolds can skip merrily down a hallway that is near certain death for the majority of the party members, who will spring and trigger the traps while they give chase.

4) Monsters. A lot of people have difficulty running non-NPCs in strong ways. A lot of this is due to the fact most monsters come pre-built as one-trick ponies. However, due to feats and natural predatory tactics they can be very, very dangerous.

Snatch. If you want your party to cry, give a Hydra the Snatch feat. Take a moment for that to sink in. Yes, that means every time they bite someone with any of their heads they get a free grapple with a +4 bonus. With their natural size, reach, and ability to be a pyro or cryo-hydra with a breath weapon, that gets terrifying fast. They can put the best of them in lockdown, and then unleash fiery or frosty hell upon them.

Grapple move. A lot of monsters have the ability to grapple and pin opponents. Worse yet, a lot of monsters have a surprisingly good speed, which means that grappling and then moving with the target can be surprisingly effective. This is the worst underwater. If an aquatic creature such as a hydra, sea-cat, sharks, or similar beast of the depths grapples you, it can pull you further down into the depths with virtually no way to save you.

Example: A CR 2 shark gets a surprise round (via Keen Scent) against the party who are swimming in the water for some reason. During the surprise round the shark charges as a standard action, moving up to 60 ft and plowing into the party's wizard and grapples him with his +7 Combat Maneuver check. On round 1, the shark goes first again due to his +5 Initiative rolled during the surprise round. The shark immediately rolls another grapple check and begins dragging the wizard down into the depths at a speed of 30 ft. That's 20 ft. faster that you can swim with a successful swim check. The Dire Sharks is even worse, at CR 9, and possesses Swallow Hole. Good luck getting that wizard back.

Example 2: As with the shark, but replace the shark with something with a burrow speed. Your players will probably hate or fear you forever after that, however.

Perception. Most wild creatures have pretty good perception modifiers, and generally possess things like low-light and/or darkvision, allowing them to notice potential threats or prey easily. Most party members need light sources, which means they will likely auto-fail at hiding from creatures. A kobold down a long hallway can take pot-shots at a party with his bow with relative impunity. Likewise, it gives most ambush predators more than enough opportunity to find a good hiding place.

Poison and Disease. Poisons can be an amazingly effective method of wearing down people over multiple rounds or combats. Spiders and spider-swarms are excellent for this, and many of them are low CR. Small spiders can have potent poisons and can also spray webs at a range of 50 ft to entangle foes. Coupled with their ability to spin web-traps, a hobbit-style spider forest or the like can be a terrible, terrible thing.

Diseases are potentially worse. As written, there's nothing preventing you from having multiple instances of the same afflictions. Thus you could get infected with filth fever or zombie rot multiple times, which can make curing it more complicated, and can mean suffering pretty hard when the symptoms begin acting up. Disease is an often forgotten and often underestimated weapon in a GM's arsenal. Diseases are often a way for an enemy to remain a threat long after they have been put to the sword.

Protip: People often died of infection from being shot with arrows as often as they died from the arrows themselves. This was because archers on a battlefield would stick their arrows into the ground for faster firing (fire, grab, fire, etc), and having been in the ground were infected with bacterias. Enemies who are spiteful might smear their arrowheads in animal excrement, thus adding filth-fever to their arrows. Old rusty arrows from an undead crypt might inflict -1 damage but force saves vs tetanus.

=====

That should get you started. This post was getting long. ^.^"

Sczarni

DOT


Improved counterspell means you can counter with any spell of the same school if it is at least one spell level higher. A sage sorceror can get an extremely high spellcraft check. If you have enough spells known, the spells per day of a sorc will be able to out endure most primary casters. The only trouble is that you will need more levels for the higher spell slots.

As an npc, your counterspeller sorc can pick spells from your partys favorite schools and be ready to roll.

A magician bard can also counterspell with bardic performance. Put both characters together for extra synergy.


dot

Andoran

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Another method is to work out over the course of a few battles what the average damage output is of the party. Increase the hp of the monsters for later encounters by an amount that would have them survive a few more rounds. It'll take a little tinkering but it should give you the desired effect without unbalancing things too much. Of course you could do this on the fly also. I 15 hp creature gets hit for 17 hp, suddenly finds itself with 20 hp - clerical error (no pun intended). I agree that if the players aren't thinking their PC's are ever in danger the game becomes boring. D&D isn't about killing PC's it's about making them think they may be killed...

Good luck,
S.

Cheliax

Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

skimming thru I didnt see this so here goes... someone had a canyon ambush idea.. use that make it around 50 scattered kobolds ( leveled or not your call) at difficult places to reach but so that they can all lob around 30 or more pots in the same general are. Acid flasks only do one point splash damage, but there isnt a save(no evasion) or way to avoid it unless they already have up a resistance of some kind. 30 pots in a round ( ac 5 to hit just a 5' square) is 30 points dmg unavaoidable if they are in the range. the kobbies won't last long but 3 rounds in and they just might scare the tar out of the group. but more likely only in the 1st round. did this with 50 kobbies to one of my groups and now they kill kobolds on site.8D


CR +2 Ghost Arcane Sorcerer with Malevolence and its invisible familiar Imp with a Wand of Dispel Magic.
Play tag until you've attacked all 6 PCs with a magic jar.
Inviz imp dispels the buffs.

Retreat and try again later.


Such a good thread.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

lordfeint wrote:

CR +2 Ghost Arcane Sorcerer with Malevolence and its invisible familiar Imp with a Wand of Dispel Magic.

Play tag until you've attacked all 6 PCs with a magic jar.
Inviz imp dispels the buffs.

Retreat and try again later.

I've run an encounter with a party of 6 PCs against a possessing ghost that kept switching which body it was in, and it was super fun! Don't forget to get Ability Focus--Malevolence! The PCs had to try all sorts of tricks to not hurt their possessed companion (too much). Non-lethal damage, grappling, Deep Slumber/Flesh to Stone/Hold Person, gagging the possessed PC so the ghost couldn't cast spells, etc. etc.

What level Wand of Dispel Magic would be best? Remember, it's going to be a nifty bit of treasure for the PCs when (if) they win....

Maybe make a cleric (or some kind of oracle that gets Channel Energy somehow, sorcerer with bizarre bloodline, or necromancer variant) ghost with Swift Channel. Then it could attack using a standard action, a move action (Swift Channel), and a Quickened spell. 3 attacks a round, while possessing 1 of 6 PCs, really goes a long way with balancing action economy. Instead of 1 action vs 6, it's 3 vs 5. And those 5 probably don't want to toast their ally....


A sudden attack by 12 Shadows (CR10) works nice too.
All 12 can focus a single PC (like the Paladin or Cleric) with incorpereal touch attacks on the opening round. (they fly, so they have 17 squares of fun to attack a single PC from, with up to 6 flanking attacks)
Sure they'll likely eat a Channel from the surviving cleric or paladin, unless the shadows get lucky and win surprise AND initiative, which could possibly bring a TPK. (I like to drop the dodge feat on my shadows and replace it with improved initiative)


I generally agree with Cartigan, that if a 6 person party with some casters in it is even using low level team tactics and smart casting, the odds of consistently challenging them are stacked against you. That said, I'll throw in my two cents on some methods that may work:

Audit their character sheets and abilities. Sometimes with the purest of intentions, players will fudge their math on accident and give them selves phantom abilities. While its perfectly possible they are legitimately as formidable as they seem, it doesn't hurt to look here first. Make sure that they have calculated the right number of spells per day and spells known. Make sure the Save DCs for their spells look right and echo what their telling you in battle. AC especially can be a complicated thing to calculate, so make sure that you review it carefully. Make sure their HP, makes sense. Make sure their initiative, saves, and attack bonuses make sense. While you're doing this keep your eyes open for the limitations of your PCs. Make notes like 'wow, I didn't know Bob had such a shabby Fort save... RE necromancers'.

Once you have torn through the character sheets, go and look at the top 5 spells and effects that are really chewing up your encounters. Read the spell descriptions carefully, looking for errors in the way your group has been interpreting the effects, and also looking for weakness and dependencies for these effects to work. Then flip through the bestiary or generate npcs to exploit the shortcomings of these spells. There's very rarely a single effect that can't be countered several ways by the rules. As long as you know in advance what tricks your party is going to spam, it should be fairly simple to stack the cards against them.

Also spam the same stuff at them. Throw some encounters at them where there are as many casters as the group has with a fair amount of meat shields, and build your casters with high initiative. Then just out-debuff, out battlefield control, and out-buff them. Don't worry too much about spells like Dispel that are reactive to what they do, but focus on spells that will mess them up proactively, and buff up your meatshields. If you feel like they are just picking better magic than you, I'd google Treantmonk's guide to playing a wizard.

Also it sounds like you're rewarding metagaming a little. If they assume that something that looks big scary and armored must have bad will saves, throw them up against some evil clerics who burn some feats to wear Heavy Plate and Greatswords, and let them waste some will save spells on them, before busting out their effects. Use illusions to eat their spells. Don't advertise the stat blocks of your enemies by the way you describe them. Try to play with their heads and bait the wrong spells out of them at the wrong times. Just try to do it without stepping outside the mechanics of the rules.

Also, it doesn't sound like your group is properly exploiting fly spells, which is a time honored cheap caster tactic, so maybe you need to teach it to them. Have some casters with fly bombard them with spells from above, moving into and out of spell/archery range to frequently blip in and out danger. Don't let up on this until the Players find away around it. If your enemies run out of Fly spell and things to bombard on them, and the party still hasn't died, come up with an effective counter, or fled for safety, let the NPC casters do what the PC's would do and retreat, recharge, and repeat. This obviously can also work with scary flying creatures like dragons. If you get the party really well with a mean trick like this, they won't feel so bored the next time the mow-down an easy encounter because they know it isn't a given.

Consider setting up some battles in waves. Plan encounters where only a limited number of the enemies are originally visible or target-able. Let the party burn a bunch of spells on hoards of flunkies, while their leader gets buffed in a back room with some better flunkies, then when they've already gotten several rounds into their haste spell and used some of their crowd control magic, out comes BBEG on steroids with some backup, casting and clobbering. Then when they land some debuffs on wave 2, use some good summoning magic to bring in some fresh, un-debuffed monsters.

One thing to be grateful for, is either your cleric isn't quite as clever as the others, or you're actually damaging the party with enough consistency that it makes sense for your cleric to spend turns on healing people instead of buffing/striking. Anytime your monsters get the cleric to throw away a turn on healing instead of actually tipping the scales of the battle, consider it a success.

If you do decide to fudge any rules, the one I would fudge is how much XP you have to hand out per encounter. The rules are basically set up where a 6 person party gets half the XP as a 3 person party, but the difficulty of encounters vs. party size don't really scale that way when you make use of effective team tactics and you have ample casters coordinating spells. If you think you're not going to be able to adequately challenge the group on a regular basis without giving them an experience orgy, I'd talk to them and let them know that your going to houserule some of the experience awards to more accurately reflect the realities of your game.


edross wrote:
Also it sounds like you're rewarding metagaming a little. If they assume that something that looks big scary and armored must have bad will saves, throw them up against some evil clerics who burn some feats to wear Heavy Plate and Greatswords, and let them waste some will save spells on them, before busting out their effects.

I'd argue that seeing somebody in heavy armor and focusing on their will saves is the exact opposite of metagaming. It's using in-game knowledge to influence decisions. These are seasoned adventurers - they probably have quite a lot of experience with enemies with class levels. It doesn't take very many combats to learn that heavy armor = poor reflex & will saves, strong fort, and high hp.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Also, use creatures with several different kinds of special abilities. An ideal NPC will have a melee attack, a ranged attack, and a small variety of special abilities that require different types of saves (Fortitude, Reflex, and Will), plus a special and unexpected defensive ability.

For example, I made up a druidic orc undead tomb guardian that was basically a skeleton filled with earth and stone. It wielded a shillelaghed greatclub, could throw "magic stones" from its chest cavity or gut, had a Will-based fear attack, a Reflex-based difficult terrain/trip attack aura, some kind of DR, and Fortitude-based "instant grave" ability that buried opponents...and possibly suffocated them. Their one weakness was that they were kind of slow, but they hit hard and were capable of taking several hits due to DR and good HD.

Lots of relatively simple but versatile opponents can be fun to run and challenging to overcome.


Another encounter that I like to call "The Mirror Match" may be in order if you really want to get the point of tactics across to them.
Take a party of 6 equal level adventurers and throw them against each other. In this case I'd use a Conjuration-specialist Wizard (complete with Invisible Imp wielding Wand of Dispel Magic), a Rogue-Assassin (with Poisoned weapons), An Anti-Paladin (to duel the Paladin!), A Bard (What fun!), A Cleric (with a full compliment of animated dead) and a Ranger with hated-enemy Humans (or whatever the primary race in the party is, plus a tricked out Leopard companion).

Use similar tactics of buffing through the roof and singular targeting and see who gets to the finish line first.

I'd use this as a "last straw" encounter ONLY if the PCs are resorting to the same tactical approach over and over ...and over... I appreciate sound battle plans and group effort as much as any GM, but I'll only eat grilled cheese for so long before they start seeing those same tactics or worse getting drilled right back at them.
Even then, if your counter-party gets a quick upper hand, just humiliate the PCs and have the bad guys leave, insulting the PCs for their uselessness as they dimension door (or whatever) away. Giving them (the PCs that is) a chance to go kick their butts later in the campaign.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Card Game, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

This is a great thread, I agree.

A lot of these bits of advice assume that the DM is creating and statting his/her own encounters. I don't have time to do this - we play the Adventure Paths (which are fantastic by the way) and I run the encounters mostly as written. The default encounters in the APs seem too easy for appropriately-leveled characters.

I know it's hard unless I call out specific encounters, but any general advice from you seasoned folks for running pre-gen encounters against optimized parties?


Pathfinder Maps, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
MUKid wrote:

This is a great thread, I agree.

A lot of these bits of advice assume that the DM is creating and statting his/her own encounters. I don't have time to do this - we play the Adventure Paths (which are fantastic by the way) and I run the encounters mostly as written. The default encounters in the APs seem too easy for appropriately-leveled characters.

I know it's hard unless I call out specific encounters, but any general advice from you seasoned folks for running pre-gen encounters against optimized parties?

Fast dirty rules : Max the HP of the enemies.

More detailed but still fast and dirty rules :

For each effective party level you think the party is above their actual level (IE: They are level 5, but they fight like a level 7 or 8 party) add a cumulative 25% to the enemies HP. For example, the stated enemies are CR 5 BBEG with 30 hp, and 6 mooks at CR 2 each with 10 hp. The party is level 5, but they fight like a level 7 party. That's 2 levels above what they 'should' be. So, 25% (+1 level) + 25%x2 (+2 levels) = 75% boost in enemy HP. So 55hp for our BBEG and 18hp for each mook. If the party had been fighting at level 8, then you'd boost HP by 25% + 2x25% + 3x25% = 150%.

Grand Lodge

MUKid wrote:

This is a great thread, I agree.

A lot of these bits of advice assume that the DM is creating and statting his/her own encounters. I don't have time to do this - we play the Adventure Paths (which are fantastic by the way) and I run the encounters mostly as written. The default encounters in the APs seem too easy for appropriately-leveled characters.

I know it's hard unless I call out specific encounters, but any general advice from you seasoned folks for running pre-gen encounters against optimized parties?

Throw in a couple more of the lowish level mooks into the fights. Experiment until you can estimate just the right number of enemies for your party.

Additionally, remember to look over the stat blocks for the enemies very carefully, looking to see what a monster may be good at, and then try to play to that monster's strength. For instance, a goblin may not be terribly good at anything, but odds are there are at least three or four other goblins (think of them in cockroach terms). Swarming a single opponent with many enemies can make up for the overall weakness of the individual enemies.

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

harte035 wrote:
MUKid wrote:

This is a great thread, I agree.

A lot of these bits of advice assume that the DM is creating and statting his/her own encounters. I don't have time to do this - we play the Adventure Paths (which are fantastic by the way) and I run the encounters mostly as written. The default encounters in the APs seem too easy for appropriately-leveled characters.

I know it's hard unless I call out specific encounters, but any general advice from you seasoned folks for running pre-gen encounters against optimized parties?

Throw in a couple more of the lowish level mooks into the fights. Experiment until you can estimate just the right number of enemies for your party.

Additionally, remember to look over the stat blocks for the enemies very carefully, looking to see what a monster may be good at, and then try to play to that monster's strength. For instance, a goblin may not be terribly good at anything, but odds are there are at least three or four other goblins (think of them in cockroach terms). Swarming a single opponent with many enemies can make up for the overall weakness of the individual enemies.

Especially if they flank and use the aid another action. 4 goblins can flank and aid another, so you can have 2 hitting at +4 instead of 4 hitting at +0 or +2. And swap out kind of weak static feats for teamwork feats, like Alertness or Improved Initiative, for Precise Strike (+1d6 damage), Improved Flanking, etc. etc.

Grand Lodge

SmiloDan wrote:
harte035 wrote:
MUKid wrote:

This is a great thread, I agree.

A lot of these bits of advice assume that the DM is creating and statting his/her own encounters. I don't have time to do this - we play the Adventure Paths (which are fantastic by the way) and I run the encounters mostly as written. The default encounters in the APs seem too easy for appropriately-leveled characters.

I know it's hard unless I call out specific encounters, but any general advice from you seasoned folks for running pre-gen encounters against optimized parties?

Throw in a couple more of the lowish level mooks into the fights. Experiment until you can estimate just the right number of enemies for your party.

Additionally, remember to look over the stat blocks for the enemies very carefully, looking to see what a monster may be good at, and then try to play to that monster's strength. For instance, a goblin may not be terribly good at anything, but odds are there are at least three or four other goblins (think of them in cockroach terms). Swarming a single opponent with many enemies can make up for the overall weakness of the individual enemies.

Especially if they flank and use the aid another action. 4 goblins can flank and aid another, so you can have 2 hitting at +4 instead of 4 hitting at +0 or +2. And swap out kind of weak static feats for teamwork feats, like Alertness or Improved Initiative, for Precise Strike (+1d6 damage), Improved Flanking, etc. etc.

So I suppose the best advice we can give is: don't run them as written for pre-gen.

In order to truly challenge your party, you'll have to tailor the encounter to them (even if it is just a leetle). Monsters in the pre-gen adventures aren't usually optimized to murder parties, that's what the critters you customize are for.

Shadow Lodge

alientude wrote:
edross wrote:
Also it sounds like you're rewarding metagaming a little. If they assume that something that looks big scary and armored must have bad will saves, throw them up against some evil clerics who burn some feats to wear Heavy Plate and Greatswords, and let them waste some will save spells on them, before busting out their effects.
I'd argue that seeing somebody in heavy armor and focusing on their will saves is the exact opposite of metagaming. It's using in-game knowledge to influence decisions. These are seasoned adventurers - they probably have quite a lot of experience with enemies with class levels. It doesn't take very many combats to learn that heavy armor = poor reflex & will saves, strong fort, and high hp.

It could be that your definition of 'metagaming' only includes negative uses. A classic example of metagaming which also wouldn't meet with your definition goes something like:

Players find a room split by a chasm. They immediately begin searching for a hidden lever to extend a bridge.

Now that might be valid, and it might not. Perhaps the ladder the inhabitants normally use is simply on the other side. But in an RPG, there's always a lever, thus the search.

Same goes for the Saving Throws issue above. Assuming they're not arcane casters is probably logical. Assuming they have low will saves, which do not exist in the game world by the way, probably isn't. Especially, like in the case of clerics and/or other races, it isn't always the case.


Note that adjusting pre-generated encounters doesn't need to be done one at a time.

For instance, if the adventure path has the group routinely running into monster type X, you can make a blanket change for yourself that all these monsters have Y ability instead of Z.

Feats are a great place to work on this, particularly with Teamwork feats as an option. Most pre-generated encounters have multiple enemies of the same type, who are theoretically "friends" with one another... whether it be kobolds who all live in the same hive, orcs who are all of the same tribe, a group of close knit cultists, or a band of mercenaries. At that point, it's rather easy to say "this group has some sort of special training that results in them all possessing _____ teamwork feat."

It helps to reinforce the thematic side of the enemies (damn those kobolds are nasty buggers when they swarm, aren't they?), and it's easier on book keeping for a harried GM.

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