|Bryan Stiltz Reaper Miniatures|
I've recently learned the true value and power of buffs. When I nerfed the wizard's in-combat abilities (lower hp, harder defensive casting, etc.) in the houserules, a lot of people thought that would mean the end of casters. Andostre stepped up to the plate by rolling up a buff-master wizard.
Buffed, the party fighter can easily beat enemy fighters 3-4 levels higher than he is -- enemies that would casually cut out his liver otherwise.
Buffing and battlefield control never go out of style. You could nerf them, as the OP has considered, but the other option is to embrace them the way we did -- buffs then redefine the casters' primary role, leading to a game in which cooperation between classes is paramount.
I don't find buffs to be a problem. Buffing up is trade off. If you cast buff you get fewer spells you have for the duration of the day. So if it's buffs then that is less healing save or suck spells, control and blasting spells. Sometimes groups go overboard on type though.
Buffs are easy to deal with, use tactic that wastes the time. Haste is only 1 round per level so run the spell out with movement and ranged attacks. If were pitting a dragon against a party that hasted I'd just have the dragon fly and use it's breath weapon till the spell wore off. Maybe toss a dispel magic down too.
There is really only 3 solutions to your problem IMHO.
Me personally if it ever got to be to much of a problem I would go with option 3. Though I would likely do a scaling version like 3 + 1/3rd level. So at first it would be 3, at third it would be 4 and at 18 it would be 9 buffs allowed. Or something like that.
Buffs cover all sorts of possible enemy tactics and abilities.
If your PC's are using Knowledge skills to identify some of the monster's abilities etc pre-combat then they should know what to buff with. The point being, limit the number [as someone else suggested].
Say 5 buffs max covering all sources. If more are applied, you choose which 5 are effecting you and then you're stuck with them until another buff is applied in which case you choose to stick with what you have, or, replace a current buff with the new one.
5 was just an example, you could drop that to 3.
My issue with placing a limit on the number of buffs you can have is that it's an arbitrary and capricious ruling based on GM fiat. Normally, I have no problem with GM fiat - except when it screws with people's characters, which this is exactly doing. (And it's not for the sake of balance, as many monsters assume your party is using buffs - try fighting a dragon with nary an energy protection spell around - and NPCs have access to the same buffs for a reason.)
If you're going to limit buffs for some reason, you have to equally allow players the opportunity to rebuild their characters. (Bards would be all but useless in your campaign. I suppose he can work on his Bluff/Diplomacy to the detriment of all of his other abilities...)
Aside from that, I agree with Dark_Mistress' summation.
In the Kingmaker game I'm in, we almost get to buff before a fight. Other then Hour/Level buffs, we are usually caught off guard or if we take too long, have the enemy charging after us. As the DM you can decide if something feels logical and just go with it. The rules do state that the DM should use them as he/her see fit to.
On keeping track of Buffs,
I don't know if anyone has mentioned this but if you are fortunate enough to have a laptop at game that you as the GM uses...
The above free program has really helped streamline combats for the games I've been in. It allows tracking of HP, Conditions, turns etc.. It does have the potential to track some buffs as well.
This may help a lot.
Just My Two Cents.
personally i enjoy buffs and what they offer both when i am DMing and as a player.
They are a limited resource from a few classes that need to be used wisely (or should be anyway)to help a party out. I agree some buffs might last a bit to long but if that's the case just house rule a lesser duration on them.
Because they are a limited resource i like the strategy element they can provide. If you think they have access to them to much as a DM you could add more encounters to bleed out their spells. Make them really think before casting them.
Right I've been thinking about this and maybe another approach could be followed:
1) Show them they don't NEED all those buff's.
Give them some cake walks. "You enter the room notice several goblins and slaughter them all. None escape. This took around a minute. What do you do?"
Now don't lull them into a false sense of security so they don't buff then hit them with something nasty. Hit them with something that need a few buffs.
SIDE NOTE: If they DO need the buff's you have got yourself into an arms race which will only continue to get worse.
2) You need to stretch them out.
The same advice as everyone else: There is nothing that says they don't burst into the throne room all buffed up only for the BBEG to run away into the tunnels beneath, only to spend the next 2 hours searching for him, following the train of foot prints through the dust.
Fighting the occasional minion on the way, or perhaps the inhabitants of the tunnels? Giant spiders or something sounds appropriate.
Then eventually as they press on (remember "time pressure" which is the other standard piece of advice in the thread) they catch up with him as he climbs up a spiralling staircase around the perimeter of a large circular chamber reaching up to the surface.
Buff with less than hours duration are now used up. They might have used a few more in the earlier fights.
However possibly the best advice in the thread is this:
You hate the paperwork.
Make someone else do it.
Rotate the post, use computer software, make everyone do it for themselves.
Finally house rules have far reaching consequences. Putting aside for a moment that if buff's are nerfed a lot of characters take a huge hit.
Unintended consequences and balance issues will result. How do you adjust difficulty with no buffs? Do some classes get much better? Some certainly get much worse.
I'd try to avoid sweeping changes if possible.
Ok looks like that wasn't 'finally' since I just thought of one last thing: Run games up to level 6 or 10 or whenever the problem kicks in. No reason why not.
I for one like building characters. I'd rather build one every few months than keep the same one for years...
Let me give you some player insight:
Lazurin Arborlon wrote:
Our group is also engaged in a buff war with out DM and I have been mulling over ways to get out of it. Currently we run haste and bard music and occasionally one other buff that varies. Not too bad, the problem started in my mind when we started hitting encounters where our melee guys couldnt hit the monsters without a few dispells to tear down some defenses. Which was all well and good for a while, but then I stupidly played a Warlock who can cast dispell over and over. Now we have situations where the BBEG casts scrying to see what we do..throws on 4-5 buffs, then casts a handful more to ensure that when I dispell I will at least get a few that dont matter before I hit the ones that do. The end result is I spend most of the entire combat spamming dispell to get to the point where we can hit the bad guy. Its a tough spot to be in, if I dont cast it nobody plays, if I continue to cast it...I dont play.
Talk with your DM. Remind him that his job is not to defeat the party.Tell him that you're not having fun playing a dispel wand, and the rest of the party is not having fun with unbeatable enemies.
Your party seems to be completely reaosanable with their buffs so there is no reason for him to start an arms race like that.
Option 4) Limit the sources of (buffing) spells.
The number of buffing spells can be kept to a reasonable levels if you consider the core rulebook's spells only (i.e. no spells from APG, UM and UC etc.)
As for Haste, this spell alone may be the cause of half of the OP's frustrations (and of my own). Haste comes-up regularly as a problematic spell on these boards. I like the suggestion of making it a 5th level spell.
Don't speak for every player VM. Because the OP is a player as well.
Nope, he's a DM.You can notice when he mentions "I am getting really sick of running hasted combats. But if the PCs are going to throw it, the bad guys have to do the same."
Sometimes DMs can forget what it is, being a player. Too much time on the other side of the screen can create a division.
I'm seeing alot of this DM/PC divide these days, first with Haste and now with buffs in general. Maybe some players are overusing, I give you that.
But nerfing something that the rest of the players love is just asking to get another group. Talk to them, ask them to cut it back a little and try some other spells/tactics. If you're so close to the breaking point, step down and ask someone else to DM for a while. Be a player again and remember the awesomeness you felt the first time you cast haste on the party. Remember how cool it is to be able to finally take down an enemy that had forced you to flee, just because this time you're fully buffed. The players buff because it helps them win fights and winning fights is fun. Avoid ruining everybodys fun just because you're stressed or else you might wind up between realms.
Zadarra the Amazing wrote:
Friendly reminder, Taking 10 does not increase time. It can be used on any skill roll that isn't during combat or dealing with distractions (which I use anything requiring a concentration check as a guideline). It takes the same amount of time as a normal skill check.
No they are not. At best you have semantics on your side. Participating in the game and playing the game are different. If being a GM is being a player then GM's would not complain because they "never get to play."
In VM's use of it he means...well you know what he means. :)
This seems like a state of mind issue to me Wraithstrike. As GM I get to play even more than the players of PC's do. I get to play the whole world.
That is clearly not what I said. Put simply the GM and Player roles are different. When VM he was talking of the "player" role. You can play while GM'ing, but you are not a "player" in the sense of how most people use it when referring the difference between players and GM/DM's.
GM=normally runs the game.
That is clearly not what I said.
VM mercenario wrote:
Let me give you some player insight:
This is what I was correcting. His statement suggested he thought the OP had no player insight. This is nearly impossible, as most DMs start out as players, and those that do usually get a chance to play at some time or another, either from burn-out or moving into a group already equipped with a DM.
A DM does not sudden stop being a player when he moves behind the screen.
Just because you have been a player doesn't mean you automatically have insight. For example I am a human but if you asked me if I understood the feelings of a group of 4 random other humans I'd have to say no chance in hell. Just take it as what it was, an attempt to give the OP some advice.
PS. - Being disassociated from the players as a DM is relatively easy because you end up feeling like you're playing against each other. For example as a player you think "Man look at this awesome thing I can do!" as a dm your first thought is "G++ d*%n players ruined this whole fight with their stupid buffs! MUST BAN RAWR!"
Players due to constraints placed on them are more limited in diversity than people are. Yeah players are people, but as a person(taken as a whole) there is a lot more potential for differences than when being compared to someone as only a player. I think the stretch between the two is too far apart to make a good comparison.
I do see TOZ's point. GM's should strive to look at it from both sides of the table. Sometimes you just have to step your game up*. For me if it is something the game expects for me to be able to handle I raise the bar on my end. Now if it some crazy combination possibly based on a hard to interpret rule I might pull the nerf hammer out.
*Doing more prepping before the game starts, taking time to find out how to avoid/counter strategy X, and so on. Yeah it might cut into your free time, but it comes with the territory.
Failing to use your time as a player to inform your DM reactions does not mean you don't have that insight.
Yes, yes it does. Check the definition for insight - VIA Google.1)The capacity to gain an accurate and deep intuitive understanding of a person or thing.
2)An understanding of this kind: "new insights into the behavior of whales".
If you fail to understand the players and to apply that understanding then you have not gained insight into the player feelings regardless of whether or not you have been a player.
They got what I tried to say. Someone who hasn't DMed will never understand that buffing too much ruins the encounters, someone who hasn't played in a while might forget that buffs are downright enjoyable.Too much buffing could ruin a campaign, I get that. But it's easier to ask the players to cut down a bit than to make a nerf that will infuriate the players.
VM mercenario wrote:
I'll admit I haven't DM'd in a very long time and at that time we never really got up quite so high in levels but I can't see the buffs being game ending under a DM who cares enough to do something about it.
For example, who is casting all these buffs? If it's the wizard just toss in a lot of problems that make him regret not memorizing other utility spells or throw on DR/- to your mobs so that they suffer for not taking enough damage spells. Alternatively just don't let them know when a fight is coming set up creaky doors in your dungeon or wards that can't be disarmed and things like that, limit their sight and reduce foreknowledge of their target enemies without knowledge they have to buff in combat which blows chunks it seems simple.
Sounds like a well crafted combat management app could handle this. All it sounds like it needs is a way for the GM to tick certain buffs on/off and it handles the calculation for you. Hmm...
Hero lab manages buffs quite nicely, although you do have to track durations manually.
I entered all of my PCs into my Hero Lab - it lets me have all PCs open in one portfolio called "Serpent Skull Party" and then I just turn on the buffs when they apply, it self modifies the stats, and knows which buffs stack and don't,etc.
Once a certain buff is entered - like "mage armor" it stays on that sheet, and you check active or inactive, so if they use the same 10 buffs over and over, you just click ten boxes and poof! Fully buffed. If it ends, you uncheck it, and poof!
*Warning. Personal views ahead. No punches are pulled. That said, I realize all things in moderation are good and that give and take is a must in any social setting. What lies ahead are purely my personal views and I don't expect any agreement with them in any way. Commentary is not expected but I realize it may grate at people who feel exactly the opposite. This is not an intent to start a flame war but is rather a venting moment in what I have seen here and elsewhere to be blatant GM abuses to players and the spirit of the game and am therefore simply speaking my mind on the subject of GM/player relations.*
Personally, a DM saying I can't take a feature duly granted my class by a game publisher is anathema to my soul unless it is stated from the outset, preferably before I've even started conceptualizing a character. If you can't construct a game within the rules that can fairly challenge a group of players then you shouldn't GM that game. Perhaps I'm a "particular breed" but if I want to play a certain class I scour what that class can/should be able to do and I expect to be able to do such with all handicaps and bonuses taken into account. Players should not be restricted ad-hoc. I HATE GMs who, just because they know a particular person, or group of persons, in the group has a certain ability, randomly adjusts a scenario simply to gimp that character/group such as to say to themselves: "oh this group of kobolds is now a huge freakin pack because the adventuring group has an average BAB of x." F-you GM, dude! Talk about breaking verisimilitude. If a pack that large was really holed up there they would have been marauding up and down the coastline a long time ago because they gotta eat and that would probably be a larger plot point rather than some half-session side quest. The mantra of GMs everywhere is "don't meta game or you'll break my mod" when they meta game more and worse than any player and "break" their fun! Think through the stories you piece together and think about what each character class would reasonably do in each situation. Doing this tiny bit of forethought can help balance out your custom mods easily.
Also, you need to take into account what happens if they go shrine x and acquire item y by rolling exceptionally high with skill z which is required to grant them access. If they do, they should rightfully be able to go through other encounters easier than intended. You're the one who should have your materials straight and be prepared if the group wraps up earlier than expected or you're really just wasting more of the groups' time. Some may ask about the respect for the GM. I ask where's the respect for the group?! The group is there to have fun and to play. The GM is a servant to the group whose sole responsibility is to build their sandbox and to let them have fun within the confines of the rules which should be available equally to everyone at all times.
If something isn't working out then you should wrap up play and be honest with your group. I've seen and heard of several play sessions that were planned to take hours to only be done in a few minutes because the players had an ability specifically suited for it. You know what the GMs handled this? "Touche, good player" and rightly so! You're playing a game where the main actors have super human abilities! So, if you're one of those GMs out there that changes entire sessions or campaigns just because of the abilities of your players then know this: I hate you and you're breaking the game for the players just as bad as a player who tries to do something they can't rightly do or employs meta gaming profusely. Even the GM Fiat block states that you should strive to keep things balanced, to listen to your players and that if you wrong your players that you should make it up to them ASAP. It's about balance. If you're hell bent on killing your players then why play at all?? Stick to your mod and if you're players are walking all over then build a new campaign. Monsters don't magically change tactics or get replaced by an entirely different "thing" just because the adventuring party has something that will decimate them. You are the jack hole who gave them that item to begin with, live with it or roleplay out their reason for not having it anymore which includes doing more than saying "you reach for your axe of SoPowerfulIShouldNeverHaveGivenItToYouInTheFirstPlace only to find it's not there."
"But its my story and I want it told a certain way..." BOOHOO! >:O You're playing with a group of perfectly sentient human beings so handicapping them so they're forced to play YOUR way is really doing them a disservice. You would do better by them by tucking them in bed with some milk and cookies and read them "your story" you have all perfectly prepared instead of wasting their time giving them a glimmer of "fun" only to bash them into your way of doing things. Get off your high horse. You make me ill.
OP here. To bring it back to reality, I think the buffs are detracting from my experience of the game without significantly adding to the players'. In my case, having to keep track of all the buffs, mine and theirs, is a PITA. (And yes, as DM I have to at least be aware of what buffs they have up. As my NPCs and monsters become aware of PC buffs, they'll have to respond intelligently. If the dragon sees that his breath isn't doing much because the PCs have cast Communal Resist Energy, then he'll have to try another tactic.)
The players love their buffs, sure. But I don't think it's a net positive for them. The game is running slower because everyone is casting buffs and keeping track of buffs, and we're spending nearly as much time talking about the rules as we are actually playing the game. For example:
[Six months ago, when PCs were 1st level]
Me: Okay, the orc swings at you. What's your AC?
Player: My armor, plus this dodge thing... 16.
Me: Okay, great. The orc roars in rage and swings his battle axe twice around his head before launching a mighty blow. [rolls] He misses.
[Today, when PCs are 10th level]
Me: The demon lets out a shriek and dances forward, flapping and hissing. It's ripping and tearing at you in a frenzy. Claw-claw-bite attack. What's your AC?
Me: 33? How the hell do you get 33?
Player: [starts counting on fingers] So, seven for my +1 armor, one for two-weapon fighting, one for dodge, four for barkskin, four for shield, one from that protection thing the cleric does, one from my ring of protection, two from shield of faith...
Me: Wait. Does ring of protection stack with the cleric's domain power?
Player: I dunno.
Me: I don't think it does.
Player: Geez. Okay, um, seven plus two plus four plus three... is my cat's grace still on from the last combat? It should be.
Me: I guess so. Yeah, still on.
Player: Okay. 31. Huh, I coulda sworn it was 33.
Other player: Wait! My Magic Circle Against Evil! That's +2. 33!
Me: Doesn't stack.
Me: So anyway, the demon is still swinging. [Rolls] Okay, he hits with one claw --
Player: Wait! I'm hasted. +1! AC 32.
Me: He still hit.
Player: He hit AC 32?
Me: He's a /demon/.
Other player: Dude! Don't forget, I cast Blur on you back when we fought that lion thing. 20% miss chance.
Player: Oh yeah! 20% miss chance.
Me: Isn't blur a minutes/level spell? That combat was more than 10 minutes ago.
Other player: Was it? I mean, we had a couple of combats since then, but we didn't stop to rest or anything.
Me: Okay, whatevs. Miss chance. [rolls] He misses.
-- Now, if you see the game as adversarial, then you may think, hey, good for the players! they're "winning". But I see the game as a cooperative effort where the goal is to have fun. And I'm definitely having less fun, while I don't think the players are having more. Yes, they get to high five each other because the demon missed them on every attack. But every combat is turning into a protracted, tedious exercise in bookkeeping punctuated by debates about what the range of a spell is, how long an effect lasts, and whether this stacks with that. It's really slowing the game down, and -- more to the point -- it's non-fun.
[Epilogue, 10 minutes later. Player has been consulting d20 PFSRD on his iPad.]
Player: It does so stack!
Player: Magic Circle. It doesn't stack with my ring, but it does stack with the cleric's protection thing. You were wrong, man.
Me: So you would take whichever is higher. So... you get another +1.
Player: Right! So I'm AC 33.
Player: Okay, but 33 when hasted.
Me: No, we already counted that. 31 if you're not hasted, 32 if you are.
Player: Well, but that demon should totally have missed me.
Me: He DID miss you. I think he hit you once in like nine attacks.
Player: Well, maybe he shouldn't have hit me at all. That one time he hit, I had to save against disease.
Me: He was a demon. Demons carry diseases. Also, you made your save. You have like +12 Fortitude.
Player: +13 with my cloak.
Player: +15 when I'm raging.
Me: Yes, yes. Don't forget to keep track of those rage rounds, by the way.
Player: I got plenty left. Oh, and +2 for the cleric's magic circle thing. +17.
Me: Does that stack with the cleric's protection domain thing?
Player: How would I know? [to cleric's player] Does it stack?
Other Player: Should.
Player: Okay, so. +17.
Me: You MADE your save. I SAID that.
Player: Yeah, but if there are more of these disease demons around, I just want you to know I have +17 fortitude.
Index cards with each buffs end results written down?
Example: the card says either "Shield of Faith: +2 Deflection to AC for [insert caster's level as an actual number here] minutes," or "Shield of Faith: +2 AC for [insert caster's level as an actual number here] minutes. Does not stack with: [list out all other deflection bonuses the party currently has at their disposal]"
or a combination of the two.
My group, we track buffs by writing down the effects and duration next to the player's character sheet on our giant vinyl gaming mat that covers all but the portion of our gaming table behind my GM screen.
Other than organization problems, it seems you have a group of players that consists of more than one character that regularly use buff spells... perhaps you could ask if some of those buff-using players might like to play characters with less buffs? I ask because I tend to see groups with 1 character as the primary "buff master" and there is never any confusion as to which buffs stack or not because a single person at the table (the guy playing the buff-tossing sorcerer, in our case) is keeping track of every buff spell the party has going for them.
Douglas Muir 406 wrote:
I'm hearing you and feeling you dude! Been there too many times, you're right, fun isn't being had.
Although I don't think my players cheat, there are too many occasions where their math just doesn't add up. I think it's a player thing - glossing over the stacking rules to suit.
I'd go with Haste effecting 1 player per 3 levels, and limiting buffs to 5.
5 buffs is plenty to deal with any monster.
Have you ASKED the players what they think of this situation? You don't think the buffs are a net positive for them, ask them to be sure. Maybe they think it's taking u a lot of time too, but they also think they need those buffs to survive the demons and dragons you throw at them.
Here's an idea to cut down the time they need to check their buffs:
HP: 80 73 55 40 52 30 -10 (Explanation: he starts with 80hp loses 7, then loses 18, then 15 then gets a cure spell for 12hp, then loses 22, then loses 40 possibly in a critical and is at -10)
Rage 22: ////\/// (He has 22 rounds of rage, each tally is one round used, he already used 8)
Power 12: ////\////\ (He can use this domain/school/bloodline power 12 times a day he has used 10 already)
AC: 20/24/28/30/32/33/31 (His unbuffed AC is 20 [10+armor+ring+feats, this should be written in the character sheet in AC], with barkskin it goes to 24, shield spell to 28, shield of faith to 30, cats grace to 32 and magic circle to 33, when cats grace ends he goes back to 31)
Also most of those spells are min/level(shield, shield of faith, cats grace, blur) or 10min/level(barkskin, magic circle, heroism). Remember to keep track of time between fights. Do they search for loot? 5-10 minutes per room. Search for traps along the way? Unles the rogue has invested against traps that takes a long time. Check every room along the hallway? Just a round to see if the room is empty but 5-10 minutes to see if there's any loot or clues or whatever they want to search for. Most of those spells would be cast in one battle and end long before the next battle. If they can't carry the buffs through all the battles they will start rationing them, use barkskin on the first battle, shield on the next, cats grace on the third.
Also ask the players to keep note of what kind of bonus their spells and abilities grant. Seriously, ask them to write that on the character sheet. That way instead of going "does x stack with y?" you go "x is morale and y is morale they don't stack". For instance Shield of Faith does not stack with Magic Circle (deflection bonuses to AC) and the Shield spell does not stack with normal shields (Shield bonus).
Douglas Muir 406 wrote:
Is it wrong that I actually enjoy that? I am a player right now but I am always reminding other players of buffs they forgot to add (or subtract if they expired). Our DM is fuzzy on the rules so I constantly remind him of bonuses that he forgot. That whole math and memory bit is fun for me.
Hello, my name is Karkon and I am a rule-a-holic.
Douglas Muir 406 wrote:
If your players can't keep their own stuff straight by level 10 I'd have them literally keep a notepad, line for line, what they have active, when it was cast with its duration, the numeric amount of the buff and it's type. Have them cross bonuses off when they're no longer active and have them only track their "core" number on their sheets, the ones that no matter the situation they always get. That way, at a glance they know exactly what they have and you should be able to easily cross-check this. It might slow down play on average by a few minutes but you won't spend many more minutes in a debate or research of what's what and should be self balancing unless someone is trying to cheat, which is a huge no no.
Douglas, does it matter that they have their numbers precisely calculated? For example:
Douglas Muir 406 wrote:
Why is this question important? Couldn't it have waited until after the game for you to analyze?
If there is ever a question of the rules, unless it can be answered in under a minute, I move on. I've had arguments like you outlined (at level 2! with a 2E player who didn't understand sneak attack), and it just bogged down the fun. Sticking hard to the rules is not as important as having fun. And if everyone is having fun, what does it matter that they miscalculated their numbers?
Are you not having fun as DM? Why? Because of the rules arguments? You have the power to avoid those arguments. Or are you not having fun because the players seem too powerful and are walking over your monsters? Well, maybe you need to tweak the base numbers a bit higher. The players will never know that all the monsters get +4 to all ability scores, but it will bump the monsters power up some.
Above all, let them have their 'winnings' sometimes. A cooperative game has the goal of the players winning sometimes after all.
Douglas Muir 406 wrote:
Rather than restricting the buffs, I think you need to put more onus on your players to know what does and doesn't stack. Then, when they say it's 33, DON'T question it. If you have players you can trust, it's not a big deal if they miss a +1 or a -1 here and there. If you don't have players you can trust, tell them they need to be trustworthy or rocks fall everyone dies.
As a DM your job is to never say something like "I don't think they stack." If you don't know (or aren't willing to check on) the rules, can you really expect the players to know? Have them give you a heads-up if they're starting to use a new buff spell normally or something so you can read up on it.
Also, I'd suggest NEVER entertaining things like "hey I should have hit on that attack 2 rounds ago!" The answer to that statement is "then you should have known your bonuses." And that is yet another reason why "I don't think they stack" isn't kosher.
Here's why I, personally, absolutely hate this rule. And I don't want to turn this into a personal attack, but it's going to be tough, because this is absolutely my least favorite school of thought on gm'ing when it's done poorly.
I think if you're going to do this you have to let the players do the same thing, and most dm's don't. For instance,
"I cast comprehend languages to decipher the script in the ancient language."
This is how those turn out in my experience. And when you pull that ruling out of where the sun don't shine, do you let the player then say "ok, well if the spell doesn't work that way I never would have prepared it, so I'm switching it out for another magic missile?" Because most dm's like that don't. There are a perfectly fine # of options you can take to make the script indecipherable to comprehend languages, but instead of doing that, many of these types of dm's just take the lazy way out. It's also a side effect of the DM that won't let anything go the way the story isn't specifically planned out. We're not playing your novel, it's a cooperative game. There are rules in place, one of the most important of which is that you can change any of the rules to suit your game. But they ALWAYS need to be done ahead of time. Not just "I've decided creatures with clawed toes aren't affected by grease, so all the kobolds automatically make their save."
Don't mean to put words in your mouth, I don't know if this applies to you. But bringing it back to the OP, any house rule needs to be in place before the game, because they may affect how I build my character. If I'm a sorcerer who focuses on buffing, and you decide only one buff can be active at a time, you had BETTER let me trade out some of those spells known that I took for crazy buffing!
I understand that a lot of buffs takes the fun away from the game. Taking time out to do all the little math and changes the dynamics of the game. I don't think this is an issue as there only two scenairos for this: buffing prior and buffing during combat.
Buffing prior is easy as it is not too often players know when they will encounter the BBEG. If they buff before every small battle simply don't let them rest and make the adventure an endurance match. They will miss all of those 2nd and 3rd level spells when they are sucked dry of spells.
Buffing during battle makes no sense. As a player, if a player in my 10th level party took a round in combat to give me a +2 buff versus going for 10d6 points of damage I would be upset as a player. That +2 is nice, but doesn't change the encounter. Having the monster have a full round to hit me is bad. Monsters should take advantage of the first round and do serious damage.
Douglas Muir 406 wrote:
I'd recommend some of the other d20 systems floating around if you want to keep things somewhat D&D compatible. True20 and Castles & Crusaders are great for playing fast and furious games with that traditional D&D feel.
Luckily my own groups aren't so dead set on buffing up at every opportunity. We prefer a loose and fast style and only do the buffing for major encounters (well...some buffing gets through...but we don't maximize to insanity).
If anything the morale is that OP needs to make his players actually track their buffs. The problem seems to be that they don't know what they are doing, not that the buffs themselves are slowing things down.
You should never be trying to figure out AC in the middle of combat, and there shouldn't be questions about things stacking at that point.