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I just hate buffs


Advice

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This has been growing over the last few months as my PCs have levelled up. They're 9th-10th level now. And buffs, once a simple no-big-deal part of the game ("I cast mage armor before entering the cave") have grown from a nuisance to a PITA to something that's really starting to detract from the game.

Yeah, an occasional buff or two is unavoidable. But as you go up in levels, buffs come to dominate play. Party casters throw hours/level buffs at breakfast, minutes/level buffs before a first encounter, and rounds/level buffs as an opening gambit in combat. Everyone throws Haste. (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.) In designing opponents, I have to pause and calculate THEIR buffs -- the vrock throws Mirror Image and Heroism, the dragon casts Magic Fang and Shield.

Buffs mean that catching an enemy unaware becomes even more unbalancing. If your rogue sneaks ahead and spots the boss monster, instead of "sneak attack and a surprise round" it's "we spend five rounds casting rounds/level buffs, followed by sneak attack and a surprise round on the boss who has no buffs up". This is annoying. And the converse is just as bad -- if the enemy party spots the PC campsite, takes a few rounds to throw buffs, and then attacks, the PCs are screwed. I had exactly this happen in a recent session and two PCs got killed fast and I ended up having to throw the fight (by having one NPC do something totally stupid) to avoid a TPK. And I hate throwing fights.

There are too g&%%@!n many buffs. A midlevel party has acccess to haste, bless, heroism, mage armor, shield, barkskin, magic vestments, greater magic weapon, prayer, grace, defending bone, effortless armor, shield other, weapon of awe, blur, aid, cat's grace, bears endurance, all the other ability buffs, protection from evil/good/chaos law, magic circle against evil/good/chaos/law, swallow your fear, sanctuary, versatile weapon, align weapon, cloak of winds, obscuring mist, thorn body, defensive shock, ablative barrier, bullet shield, protection from arrows, deflection, resist energy, gravity bow, blessing of courage and light aaaahhhhh aaahhhhhhhhh and this is just a partial selection from the first through third level spell lists. We haven't even considered class powers like Inspire Courage, bloodline buffs, school buffs, domain buffs, or any of the other dozens of buffs that PCs, NPCs and monsters can get just by being their own awesome selves.

There are too g%*+#!n many buffs, and then you have to stop and figure out which ones stack. Morale, deflection, enhancement, dodge, luck, profane, holy, trait... wait, this doesn't stack with my ring of protection. No, that's an enhancement bonus, it doesn't add to your existing enhancement bonus, you're only hitting at +12 instead of +14.

Now that you've done that, start counting rounds for those rounds/level buffs. (But don't confuse it with the bloodline and domain buffs, which may be something like "one round, but 3+modifier times/day".) Rounds/level buffs will at least be over in a single combat, anyway -- as opposed to minutes/level buffs, which will encourage your PCs to hurry on to the next encounter as fast as they can before Cat's Grace wears off, or hours/level buffs, which by midlevel are effectively always on. (Except when the PCs are peacefully at home in town. Does the mage cast mage armor every morning? Okay, he's 9th level -- does he cast it a second time in the afternoon?) But anyway, buffs last different amounts of time -- we haven't even mentioned the few 10 minute/level ones (few, but including a couple of very popular ones) or the effects of feats and that one guy with the rod of extend lesser metamagic. Make sure you know how long, and keep track when it matters.

Now make sure you know which ones are other than a standard action -- a surprising lot of them, especially the bloodline and school powers, are free or swift, and then there are things like the paladin aura buffs which are always on. Except when the paladin is unconscious, of course. And don't forget the ranges -- some are 20 feet, some are 30 feet, while some affect X number of characters who must be within Y feet of each other. And make sure you understand their effects in detail, because they can be game-bending. (Protection from Evil protects against mind control but not against illusions or a phantasmal killer. Haste gives you an extra attack and a longer move but not another standard action or move action.)

This is tedious. This is distracting. This is non-fun. THIS DOES NOT ENHANCE THE GAME.

I don't know what else to add. This is the advice forum (there isn't a dedicated rants forum), so I guess I'll ask for advice: is there any way to run mid-to-high level play without all these friggin' buffs? I know they're hardwired into the game, but is there any way to at least prune them back a bit? I can't think of any offhand, but I'm open to suggestions.

I like 3.x. I like Pathfinder a lot. But the buffs are wearing me down a bit, guys. The buffs are wearing me down.

Thoughts?

Doug M.


if it is really a problem, tell your players that and work together to create a good houserule.
For example 1 hour, 1 minute, 1 round buff, or 1 buff per school of magic, or max of 3 buffs a time.

For my games, I only rarely take it further than lvl 6, probably because of buffs and general magic making not only combat but also the normal world crazy.


Here's a possible solution (which will have interesting balance effects.) Give constant buffs.

Choose a certain level to start and a pattern at which to give them (the most generous I might agree to would be 4th level and every even level thereafter)

Restrict them to spells of one level lower than the highest level a wizard of their character level can cast.

So, for example, the 4th level monk might take Mage Armor, while the 4th level Fighter might take Expeditious Retreat or similar.

Round per level buffs count as one level higher than normal for this purpose.


I have to agree to the OP. I am experiencing sth. similar (group is aaround lvl 10/11 at the time).

There also is no easy way for me to houserule this, because one of my players would be screwed without many buffs (monk with vow of poverty).

I've taken to improve my buff-managment techniques (sheets etc.).


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Pawns, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Douglas Muir 406 wrote:
Buffs mean that catching an enemy unaware becomes even more unbalancing. If your rogue sneaks ahead and spots the boss monster, instead of "sneak attack and a surprise round" it's "we spend five rounds casting rounds/level buffs, followed by sneak attack and a surprise round on the boss who has no buffs up". This is annoying. And the converse is just as bad -- if the enemy party spots the PC campsite, takes a few rounds to throw buffs, and then attacks, the PCs are screwed. I had exactly this happen in a recent session and two PCs got killed fast and I ended up having to throw the fight (by having one NPC do something totally stupid) to avoid a TPK. And I hate throwing fights.

I guess my question to you, Mr. Muir, is what are the bad guys doing while the party sits there for 30 seconds buffing? You're aware that the DC to Perceive someone talking (IE, casting a spell) is 0? They should be able to, at best, get off 1 buff during their surprise round before the bad guys realize they're about to be ambushed. (If the PCs retreat a safe distance away, have the NPC leave the area he was in. Or have a different group of NPCs surprise the PCs as they're in the middle of their buffs.)

The ideas I gave above are meant to discourage their metagame behavior. That being said, the PCs are supposed to win. (Also - why do you hate running hasted combats? You really dislike rolling that extra attack?)

If your PCs are asleep at their campsite, why would the NPCs stop and waste two minutes just outside of it to buff? (And again, same question to you as before - what the hell are the PCs doing? Did they not set a watchman?)

Generally speaking this is how I solve the buffs problem: Your character sheet should already calculate all of your hour and 10 min/level buffs. (All of my players include a "Buffed" section of their AC/HP/Saves/Attacks.) For minute-per-level stuff, the PCs have to do the bookkeeping, and I tell them when 5 minutes are up (based largely on guesswork, or if I want a tougher challenge.) Round per level buffs don't survive the first combat (I only keep actual track of their duration until around level 5 - most combats won't last longer than 5 rounds.)

Similarly, your NPCs should be written with their hour and 10 minute buffs written up (unless there's very specifically a good reason why those NPCs aren't on high alert with a bunch of home invaders prowling around.) For boss fights include even minute per level stuff. Your PCs are neither going to know nor particularly care exactly when the guy cast that shield spell; for all they know he cast it from a 20th level scroll 10 minutes ago.

(Also - say it with me - dispel magic is your friend.)


Dispel Magic is kind of a pain in the ass to be honest. It works, but I really would rather not have to deal with the paperwork it creates. (I played an abjuration specialist once in 3.5 taking advantage of the different ways to dispel, my GM had me trade places with him while he ran the Abjurer and uh... just let me say it was miserable xD)


I agree the buffs become hard to manage, besides players constantly asking wether their 1 minute/level buffs are still active it is a load of book keeping to do for the bad guys than there are dispels, debuffs and situational modifiers.

It is certainly something that increases the appeal of low magic campaigning.


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Post it notes, tick down counters like mtg uses, big dice, harsh rules on creative maths.

My group uses the full rules but we have a rather harsh system of if you say "hit ac 32" thats what you hit, even if you forgot +10 worth of bonuses. This has resulted in our party cleric having a huge bless die, me using a spindown counter for haste and people tracking their own buffs. Everyone uses a postit for their to stat modifiers, after a while people naturally start using the same buffs and the confusion disappears, as our cleric said "use the bonus or i might as well cast a summon monster spell".

Part of the gaming contract is the players run their characters, tye gm runs the world. If you need to spend ages working out buffs its you running their characters, all you need is a note pad with their names on it and a column for bonuses etc, after that it should take about ten seconds each time someone buffs to track their stats.

If your having real trouble make an A3 wall chart, make some buff markers for +1 to +10 and set columns for the different types, write in what items they don't stack with or even each pc's existing bonus for that type and have people pin stuff to the board when they buff, the buff board is a great way to help new players learn the game as well as help the gm keep track. Reward the Vordaman with a hero point at the end of the session if they eun the board all night.


Make players keep track of their buffs, I've used a buff sheet on a board where palyers would show their buffs and cross off rounds, minutes, or hours as time went by.

Remember, taking 10 or 20 will do a number of all but hour/level buffs. Dispel magic used by the dm should not create any extra work, players just adjust their sheets. Also debuffs can work in much the same way. It's a favorite trick of mine for the bad guy caster to ready an action to dispel, debuff, or incapacitate the uber buffed fighter type when he's 10 feet away, leaving him in a good spot for flunkies to surround him and making it hard for the party to rescue hin.

Bosses should be played intelligently, meaning a aprty outside the door casting spells will be noticed, either ruin their day will a preempted attack, or equally buff the boss. Having uber buffed parties all the time is metagaming. When in a dungeon, PC's should not feel like they cna just chill out in an area once it's cleared. Wandering patrols/monsters should keep them on their toes, and an alerited dungeon, probably from sounds of battle, mean 2-3 rounds off buffing max before your group is attacked.

Cheliax

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If you want to make it tougher on them... Next time try 15 point buy in w/ lower gold per level then suggested. We did in Legacy of Fire and it was tough as hell. First time in a long time that PC's had to flee battle and we had to use tactics.

Also multiple multiple encounters that look tough to make them buff to use up resources.
EX: Fiendish wolf pack. Low CR, detect as evil, fast movement, trip and run then hit back again minutes / hours later. Could lead to a big bad "boss battle"... Fiendish Gaint template Orc's (Orc) with toothy trait. Easy battle / low CR but they could be missed knowledged check as Demons/Devils could be cause for a lot of buffing...


Zadarra the Amazing wrote:

When in a dungeon, PC's should not feel like they cna just chill out in an area once it's cleared. Wandering patrols/monsters should keep them on their toes, and an alerited dungeon, probably from sounds of battle, mean 2-3 rounds off buffing max before your group is attacked.

This is unrealistic. 2-3 rounds are 12- 18 secs. Even high security prisons do not have guards partolling in that frequency. It would mean hundreds of guards, each group able to hear the next (because they are just 100 ft behing and combat is +10 to hear), which would mean a single fight could (and should with trained guards) chainalert all the hundreds of guards.

And rule wise with boss monster (or vice versa with PCs) it is correct, if the sneaker spots the target position and sneaks back some hundred feets and the target does not spot him and has no reason to change position every 10 mins, the ambushing side has all the time they want to throw minutes/level and longer buffs, because moving the hundred feet will take just half a minute. And after 30 rounds of buffing (3 mins) all minute buffs should be up, leaving enough duration for any fight.

The only rule solution is that if the BBEG spots the sneaking char, that char is 100 ft away from his buddies and without teleport or fast running (or maybe even with) the boss will rip him apart. And even if he escapes the APL+3 CR boss can knock on the next 2 doors and inform his 2 groups of APL+1 CR henchman to gather, turning this into a nice APL+5 CR encounter - then they need their buffs.

Silver Crusade

Buffs do not need to be such a distraction. 1st make the players responsible for their own buffs. If they forget a buff then they have till the end of their turn to remember it.
Before a combat give them a minute or so to get it all together.

During that time you get your monster or NPC together. The benefit for most NPCs and monsters is that they can nova with their strongest abilities while the party has to save resources for the next fight.

But that leads to the next point. Never let them get off with less than 4 fights a day unless it is an epic boss fight. If they are blowing a lot of resources in one or two fights a day and then resting then they are going to be much stronger in each fight.

If they are doing this then bring the fights to them. Battles make a lot of noise and will attract more creatures. After the fight when the round/level buffs have worn out and the party is searching everything have enemies attack them. Enemies who got to buff themselves.

Make them have 4 fights a day. Make some of those fights be on the enemies terms. They will start to ration their buffs.

As others have said at midlevel dispel magic is your friend. After watching their buffs get dispelled for the third or fourth time in a row your party will spend less time buffing up. You do not need to run hasted fights. PCs cast haste. Enemy casts slow.

Feel free to throw in some really low level one hit mooks in every fight. These guys make the players waste attacks, rounds, and abilities. if ignored they provide flanking buddies who also do aid another for the more competent in their group. They also buy any casters among the enemy time to cast debuffs/buffs.


Archmage_Atrus wrote:


I guess my question to you, Mr. Muir, is what are the bad guys doing while the party sits there for 30 seconds buffing? You're aware that the DC to Perceive someone talking (IE, casting a spell) is 0?

Under the RAW it's +1 DC for every 10 feet. Voila: enemy party buffs at a distance then moves fast to close. That means they probably give up the surprise round, but who cares? They've had five frickin' rounds to buff. They win.

Quote:
If your PCs are asleep at their campsite, why would the NPCs stop and waste two minutes just outside of it to buff? (And again, same question to you as before - what the hell are the PCs doing? Did they not set a watchman?)

In this particular case, yes, they did. And the high perception watchman rolled a natural 1, while the low perception guy rolled a modified 4.

Bad rolls happen! But bad rolls should mean "eat a surprise round, suckers". Not "enemy sneaks off, alerts his party, enemy party buffs themselves into the stratosphere, and now my friends you are oh so very screwed". 5 rounds of casting bulls strength, cats grace, owls wisdom, heroism, blur, barkskin, shield of faith, aid another, enlarge, haste, invisibility on their rogue, resist energy, bless -- by the time Team Evil shows up, they'll be about 2 CRs higher than they would have been otherwise.

That just doesn't seem right.

Quote:
- why do you hate running hasted combats? You really dislike rolling that extra attack?

Deserves a thread of its own.

Doug M.


Pathfinder Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

If you're getting to 9th level / 10th level, then you're nearing the point where you can start to throw nasty magic back at them. Antimagic Zone, for example, is a 7th level spell. It is castable by a 13th level Wizard. It's CR would therefore be between CR 11 and CR 12, which is right around the level range of your party anyway. I agree that having to micromanage millions of buffs can be annoying, but if your players are using them, you need to use them as well. One thing I like to do is post the buffs my monsters have active on sticky notes on my DM screen, for example.

Andoran

Don't allow a 5 minute work day. If they're casting the hours / level buffs, blowing 5 spells before combat, then casting during combat, that's pretty well everything they're going to have at 9th level. Make them pay for that. Alternatively, put them on a clock. This sounds like your biggest mistake and you need to adjust how you play the game to work on it.

What they thought was the boss is an illusion designed specifically to make people buff and waste spell slots. When they try and run away counter their teleport. Or dimensional anchor or whatever.

Greater dispel magic. Also, traps of greater dispel magic.

Give them higher CR enemies.

Scry and fry, or just plain ol' assassins, while they're asleep.

Basically, everything but: "You encounter 1 level appropriate encounter standing around waiting on you then can go home and rest peacefully and come back tomorrow and everything will be the exact same."


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I completely agree with the OP. I don't like sounding like Grampa complaining about the good old days, but I don't recall having this same angst playing back in 1st or even 2nd edition. What I originally thought was a blessing back when 3rd edition first released, buff spells with long durations, I now know was a curse in disguise.

PCs might actually fear dragon breath weapons again if every spell casting class in the game, mas o menos, didn't have energy resist spells on their list, or if adding energy resists to armor wasn't so cheap for the amount gained. Blaster casters would be a much more viable build for the same reason.

But the sad reality is that numerous long lasting buffs are not going away from this game. They've become a part of every player's game plan.

Unfortunately I think there are two solutions to dealing with the problem of 'buff overload': house rule the heck out of the game until it bears little resemblance to what the books present, or choose a different game.

I'll be honest, there are days, after the group stomps an encounter that I built for 2 hours in three rounds and the BBEG didn't even get anyone to below half health, and no one failed a save due to the numerous 'reroll even on a 1' feats/spells/class abilities....

...Champions or Vampire The Masquerade starts looking pretty good...

Good gaming to all,

DJF


Easy way to control buffs : don't let them cumulate. Houserule that they are all the same type. Your players will still buff themselves but they will spend less time to do it, will have smaller bonuses and will be able to work more thant just 5 minutes a day.


ShadowcatX wrote:
If they're casting the hours / level buffs, blowing 5 spells before combat, then casting during combat, that's pretty well everything they're going to have at 9th level.

9th level full caster gets 6/6/5/4/3. That's 24 spell slots, not counting domain/school/bloodline powers. And by this level they're using wands for low-level utility spells (wands of CLW, shield, grease), so their lower level slots can be pure buffage.

It's not unlimited casting, but they're definitely good for more than a couple of combats.

Doug M.


I have not yet played Pathfinder--the game is in the works.

However, the one 3rd edition PC I've played as used Abjurant Champion and some Spellthief shenanigans to have 24 hour+ buffs (except for Shield and Haste, which I could cast as a Swift and Free action respectively) that were essentially un-dispellable.

So, on my sheet, I had one set of stats for my buffed self, and one set for my "The GM is a jerk and I'm in an anti-magic field" self.

When I ran D&D games (which I did roughly 95% of the time), I banned PC spellcasters and non-MacGuffin magic items, and that worked out fantastically.


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ShadowcatX wrote:
... What they thought was the boss is an illusion designed specifically to make people buff and waste spell slots. When they try and run away counter their teleport. Or dimensional anchor or whatever...

I particularly like this one. Back in 3.0 era a placed a continuous loop illusion of the bad guy yelling at his underlings. Every so often it would interrupt it's diatribe with "what was that?", "did you hear something?", "I tell you I heard something, go check it out." rolled randomely for which one on the list it was. It worked perfectly. The group retreated a little ways to buff and plan while I watched the clock. After a couple minutes I rolled for which statement on the list (they thought I was making a listen check). The party heard "go check it out" and they went into emergency nova mode.

The wizard threw fireball, the cleric threw hold monster, the rogue started manuvering for a back stab, the barbarian charged melee the BBEG, ... And set off all the very noisy traps in the room.
It was just around the corner from the actual audience chamber.


First, douglasmuir, is I hear ya. I ran a very high level campaign with three out of four characters having spellcasting, and sometimes waiting for the party to finish rattling off their litany of buffs can be boring if nothing else. It is also something that you always have to be aware of and take into account when planning challenges, which makes planning ahead harder. So believe me, I definitely get the frustration.

That said...

Archmage_Atrus wrote:
Douglas Muir 406 wrote:
Buffs mean that catching an enemy unaware becomes even more unbalancing. If your rogue sneaks ahead and spots the boss monster, instead of "sneak attack and a surprise round" it's "we spend five rounds casting rounds/level buffs, followed by sneak attack and a surprise round on the boss who has no buffs up". This is annoying. And the converse is just as bad -- if the enemy party spots the PC campsite, takes a few rounds to throw buffs, and then attacks, the PCs are screwed. I had exactly this happen in a recent session and two PCs got killed fast and I ended up having to throw the fight (by having one NPC do something totally stupid) to avoid a TPK. And I hate throwing fights.
I guess my question to you, Mr. Muir, is what are the bad guys doing while the party sits there for 30 seconds buffing? You're aware that the DC to Perceive someone talking (IE, casting a spell) is 0? They should be able to, at best, get off 1 buff during their surprise round before the bad guys realize they're about to be ambushed. (If the PCs retreat a safe distance away, have the NPC leave the area he was in. Or have a different group of NPCs surprise the PCs as they're in the middle of their buffs.)

This. It actually took me a ridiculously long time to learn this myself, but there is absolutely no reason your baddies cannot also be pre-buffed. It's not unfair, it's part of the challenge of fighting a big bad, especially if you're getting up in levels.

Every round my party took to buff, another buff I added to the bad guy. Or if it made sense for the bad guy to walk around with a buff active (some buffs have very long durations that they could have reasonably cast it as a general precaution, even if they were not expecting the party). For example, the high priest of the God of Ultimate Evil is used to having assassination attempts against him. He's probably going to have a few buffs or at least contingencies up as a matter of course, regardless of whether he's aware of the PCs coming to get him or not.

I treat my NPCs/baddies and the world they live in as living and breathing with or without the NPCs. They aren't preprogrammed robots that don't boot up upon seeing a PC--they have their own issues and goals and are working constantly to succeed on their goals with or without the PCs' presence. They are going to proceed with their plans and do their best to protect themselves no matter what.

Remember that casting buffs takes time. If one person cast 5 buffs, that's 30 seconds. That's long enough not just for the bad guy to cast his own buffs, but also for the bad guy to slit the person's throat the PCs are trying to rescue, or to finish summoning the balrog, or what have you. It doesn't matter if the evil high priest isn't aware of the PCs if they waste their time buffing while he cuts the fairy princess's heart out.

If your PCs are not getting the sense that time is of the essence, that they aren't always going to have the time to buff up, it's your job to give them that sense of urgency.

This does NOT mean turn the tables and be completely unfair; what it does mean is raise the stakes, and make the players realize they are part of an ongoing story here, not a video game dungeon crawl where the NPCs have the AI of a small rock.

Quote:
(Also - say it with me - dispel magic is your friend.)

While I agree, I also agree with kurt-ryder that dispel and its greater version can be a pain in the rear. Both of those spells have entries about 8 miles long with lots of stipulations and permutations, and there were lots of misunderstandings over how it worked in different circumstances even in a group of veteran players. This is one of those spells I like to have bookmarked/up on the screen/printed out so we can reference it very easily and figure out how to mediate it quickly.

As an aside, this is definitely a set of spells that in a Pathfinder 2.0 I'd love to see streamlined and simplified. And indeed, I think it would be nice if there were fewer buff spells in general -- not to reduce the ability to buff, but have one spell that's your general save booster, one that's your attack booster, one that speeds you up, one that protects you from certain kinds of attacks... and these handful of buffs scale with level, so they're always useful, but you don't have to worry about heroism versus greater heroism etc.

Back to the subject at hand, there's also--to be used in extreme moderation so as to remain fair--antimagic field. That can really ruin a buff-reliant character's day. As a rare trick, however, it can challenge the party to find new ways to solve a problem rather than rely upon the same old issues.

FINALLY -

Something one of my players did to help me -- he gave me a list of spells his character cast on himself as a matter of the course in the morning (spells with long duration, like moment of prescience). I kept that printed out on a piece of paper in front of me, or noted in my adventure notes, to remind me he had those up to bear in mind during combat, as otherwise it could be easily forgotten.


Douglas Muir 406 wrote:


9th level full caster gets 6/6/5/4/3. That's 24 spell slots, not counting domain/school/bloodline powers. And by this level they're using wands for low-level utility spells (wands of CLW, shield, grease), so their lower level slots can be pure buffage.

It's not unlimited casting, but they're definitely good for more than a couple of combats.

Doug M.

I so much prefer buffs to save or die spells. buffs and debuffs are more fun for the whole party because everyone gets to do the killing of the bad guys.

and every so often the bad guys should be prepared too when they have the chance.

Taldor

My suggestion:

End the campaign, start a new one on the slow experience track and focus more on role-playing, politics and exploration. Think Star Trek: The Next Generation. Lots of stand offs and not a lot of huge inflated XP fights.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

This is really a case of allowing the players to be sure of when encounters will happen and having security in knowing they can spend the resources without fear of running out. In my last session, my magus tried i think 3 times to buff prior to combat, only to find out there was no fight. The problem isnt buffs, the problem is that the style of game you are playing is incompatible with the vancian system.

If you are playing with spell slots and a wide variety of capable spells (the vancian system we use) and you have knowledgable players as casters, you HAVE to keep them off balance. The ALWAYS have to worry about running out of spells, and not being sure when and where combat will happen. Primary casters who can burn spells (even from wands) without major concern of wasted resources AND knowing when and where the fight will happen will cause havoc in ANY vancian based game.

One or two buffs cast right before or in the first rounds of combat DO enhance the game. They allow casters to help their fellow players succeed instead of dominating the game all on their own (which they could do instead), this is a good thing. But it should be just one or two buffs. The players should not have the opportunity for more, and they should be worried that there is a bigger badder something around the next bend (or preferably about to ambush them from behind) and that they will need resources left over to deal with that 3 fights from now. If they arent worried about this, buffs arent your issue, the whole magic system (and several other resource based systems) is.

Cheliax

Douglas Muir 406 wrote:


I like 3.x. I like Pathfinder a lot. But the buffs are wearing me down a bit, guys. The buffs are wearing me down.

Thoughts?

First thing, I completely agree with your point of view. Buffs have grown in variety, versatility and options available, but when they pile up they also become such a burden for the game they actually grind away from balance and ease of play.

I apply a house rule derived from the healing optional rules presented in Monte Cook's Book of Experimental Might: magic users might cast whatever kind of buff they like, in any number, but the recipient (target) might be loaded with only so many of them (level + Int/Wis/Cha mod, chosen by the player).
A character with 4 available "buff slots" might have two long-term effects going on, and keep the other two available for short duration and/or situational buffs.

You have an ability score enhancing item (or an item constantly enhancing some other kind of bonus)? Good for you, but though luck with the buffs: it eats away a buffing slot.
This has the added effect of A) not destroying abilities such as the bard inspire courage one, or the short duration spell and B) it also limits the xmas tree effect on the players side, as he has to choose whether to keep a minor item and give up a buffing option or not.

Yes, I'm harsh. But I find the game too much high-powered, and as a result too much hassle to manage.

Regarding tactics, from level 6 onwards I also use pre-buffed baddies. They've grown up to that level not by chance, but using tactics as smart as the character's - if not even better - so it wouldn't be strange for them to be already prepared for the chance to fight/be ambushed.
Estote parati.


DeathQuaker wrote:
Archmage_Atrus wrote:
I guess my question to you, Mr. Muir, is what are the bad guys doing while the party sits there for 30 seconds buffing? You're aware that the DC to Perceive someone talking (IE, casting a spell) is 0? They should be able to, at best, get off 1 buff during their surprise round before the bad guys realize they're about to be ambushed. (If the PCs retreat a safe distance away, have the NPC leave the area he was in. Or have a different group of NPCs surprise the PCs as they're in the middle of their buffs.)

This. It actually took me a ridiculously long time to learn this myself, but there is absolutely no reason your baddies cannot also be pre-buffed. It's not unfair, it's part of the challenge of fighting a big bad, especially if you're getting up in levels.

Every round my party took to buff, another buff I added to the bad guy. Or if it made sense for the bad guy to walk around with a buff active (some buffs have very long durations that they could have reasonably cast it as a general precaution, even if they were not expecting the party). For example, the high priest of the God of Ultimate Evil is used to having assassination attempts against him. He's probably going to have a few buffs or at least contingencies up as a matter of course, regardless of whether he's aware of the PCs coming to get him or not.

I treat my NPCs/baddies and the world they live in as living and breathing with or without the NPCs. They aren't preprogrammed robots that don't boot up upon seeing a PC--they have their own issues and goals and are working constantly to succeed on their goals with or without the PCs' presence. They are going to proceed with their plans and do their best to protect themselves no matter what.

Remember that casting buffs takes time. If one person cast 5 buffs, that's 30 seconds. That's long enough not just for the bad guy to cast his own buffs, but also for the bad guy to slit the person's throat the PCs are trying to rescue, or to finish summoning the balrog, or what have you. It doesn't matter if the evil high priest isn't aware of the PCs if they waste their time buffing while he cuts the fairy princess's heart out.

If your PCs are not getting the sense that time is of the essence, that they aren't always going to have the time to buff up, it's your job to give them that sense of urgency.

But all of that (other than the long duration buffs) only makes sense if the bad guy knows the PCs are there. If the PCs back off, they'll be able to cast without him knowing. If he notices of course, he can either start buffing or attack before they finish.

Sometimes it makes sense for the NPC to move or another group to attack, but unless the NPCs are constantly in motion, it smacks of metagaming if it happens too often. It's less than a minute, does it really make sense for the NPC to decide to leave or have another arrive. Or to suddenly decide to kill the captive, for that matter.

If the ritual sacrifice is already in progress, that's a different story. Though that can also be metagaming in the PCs always arrive in the nick of time sense.


Morgen wrote:

My suggestion:

End the campaign, start a new one on the slow experience track and focus more on role-playing, politics and exploration. Think Star Trek: The Next Generation. Lots of stand offs and not a lot of huge inflated XP fights.

sadly this is getting into GMing area, but how i do it is based on how the story is enriched and how creative the players are, and I level them up when i think they have done something to deserve it story wise. if they don't contribute to my story, they don't level up quickly. if they totally go off the beaten path and make things really interesting, they gain lots of XP. I don't think fights should give XP

but I also give my party uniform growth, and reward players that stand out with small but fun abilities like evasion when a PC includes himself in his own damaging spell area (because he did that a lot)


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.


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...

Andoran

Guess my group is lazy. Our buffs include Wizard Mage armour at beginning of the day, Haste during a fight and Bard singing. That's all we use at 9th and have no issues


thejeff wrote:

But all of that (other than the long duration buffs) only makes sense if the bad guy knows the PCs are there. If the PCs back off, they'll be able to cast without him knowing. If he notices of course, he can either start buffing or attack before they finish.

Sometimes it makes sense for the NPC to move or another group to attack, but unless the NPCs are constantly in motion, it smacks of metagaming if it happens too often. It's less than a minute, does it really make sense for the NPC to decide to leave or have another arrive. Or to suddenly decide to kill the captive, for that matter.

If the ritual sacrifice is already in progress, that's a different story. Though that can also be metagaming in the PCs always arrive in the nick of time sense.

My post cited several examples where it would make sense for them to be buffing whether they're aware or not. Of course, sometimes the PC's legit going to catch the bad guy off guard, and hey, good on them when they do!

But I also don't think you need to really bend anyone's sense of disbelief to come up with legit reasons why a bad guy is going to be prepared (unless he's a truly incompetent bad guy).

As for the "nick of time" scenes -- that's a bit requisite of the adventure genre, no? I think absolutely it could grow old if every single scene happened that way, and if you thought my suggestions were aiming the OP toward that ridiculous extreme, then I expressed myself very poorly.

I think it is very possible to give the story a sense of urgency and make NPCs prepared bad guys with contingency plans without seeming very unreasonable at all. That's all I'm getting at, really. (And at least, none of my players have complained about my doing so in my own campaigns. Should they see this post, they're welcome to disagree.)


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Asteldian Caliskan wrote:
Guess my group is lazy. Our buffs include Wizard Mage armour at beginning of the day, Haste during a fight and Bard singing. That's all we use at 9th and have no issues

My group also doenst do a huge amount of buffing, usually because we are trying to defeat the foe while using as few resources as possible. Usually the 'buff fest' only happens if we know in advance a difficult fight is coming, which is extremely rare.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Zadarra the Amazing wrote:
Remember, taking 10 or 20 will do a number of all but hour/level buffs.

Say it with me, everyone:

Quote:
Taking 10 takes exactly 1 round to complete, just as if a die had been rolled.

The perpetuation of this misinformation must be stopped.


I have many thing precalculated as a player and a GM. If I know another player will always be providing a buff I do that also. Some math may still have to be done on the fly, but it makes things a lot easier. As far as anyone going to find the bad guy and report back, I have never seen it. My bad guys normally have really good perception or minions* that do. Other times they are in a closed room, and no amount of stealth in the world is going to stop the bad guys from noticing a door open. The rogue may be sneaky, but the door is not.

*Don't be fooled by the word minions. They are usually credible threats and not just cannon fodder.

PS:Setting up pseudo bosses is also a good idea. Just don't overplay it.

Shadow Lodge

Make it one buff spell per person, new buffs replace old. Then make a list of spells that qualify and those that do not.


You know I have rarely played a pure core pathfinder game. That being said their are tons of ways to make people pay for using buffs or get rid of them. Glyphs of warding with dispel magic in it, wall of dispel magic that people are forced to walk thru to get to their goal, and a personal fav of mine backlash versions of dispel magic which do dmg based on the number of buffs you have. Nothing sweeter then seeing an overbuffed person be killed by their own power. Good times good times. ;)


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
TOZ wrote:
Make it one buff spell per person, new buffs replace old. Then make a list of spells that qualify and those that do not.

then what do you with this non-spell buffs? Inquisitors judgements, Magus' arcane pool points spent to enhance weapons, paladins smite/divine bond, monk or ninja ki points, or especially a bard's song? Do those become incompatable with buff spells? Can a druid no longer use buff spells when wild shaped? What about magic items that simulate buff spells?


If you adjust the number or types of buffs of the players remember to adjust CL as necessary. If you're taking away the very options that make your players capable combatants, skillful "whatever they do", etc you should also be adjusting difficulty to be easier compared to players who have all rules-given options at their disposal.

Shadow Lodge

Kolokotroni wrote:
TOZ wrote:
Make it one buff spell per person, new buffs replace old. Then make a list of spells that qualify and those that do not.
then what do you with this non-spell buffs?

Decide which list they fall under.


In all of my time as DM, I've always seen that if you're running a fair and square game according to the CR vs. Party the favor is always on the side of the players.

My house rules as DM:

(1)Whatever I say goes. If Tiamat shows up and shoots flying monkeys out of her butt, it happens. Now, granted, this has NEVER happened. But there are no rules lawyers in my game. If I have a boss mob, and you want to do this or do that, he may simply be immune to it. I wouldn't do this if it was your major class ability, but you get my point.

(2) My mobs always have maximum hit points, 100% of the time. There are various levels of my mobs, SOMEWHAT like 4th edition. 3 tiers. The minions, the commanders, and the boss mobs. Each have varying degrees of hit points, AC bonuses, saves and possibly resistances.

You may or may no like the idea of these 2 rules, but they work for me. I'm an old school player. I play the monsters like I play my PCs. I want to win. But, the PCs are always the most powerful, so they usually come out on top. I've only had 1 total party kill, and that was because they began fighting amongst themselves. Selfish PCs.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
TOZ wrote:
Kolokotroni wrote:
TOZ wrote:
Make it one buff spell per person, new buffs replace old. Then make a list of spells that qualify and those that do not.
then what do you with this non-spell buffs?
Decide which list they fall under.

Obviously, my point is if you decide the fall under the same list as magic spells you essentially remove the bard, inquisitor and alchemist from the game, druid would be signficantly weakened as well. Though I guess it would remove alot of the ability for magic users to get into melee if that is something you are looking to do.

Shadow Lodge

Well, if you hate buffs, you probably hate buff classes too.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
TOZ wrote:
Well, if you hate buffs, you probably hate buff classes too.

That is entirely likely. And paizo has definately mored towards the concept of lots of different classes being able to use resource driven short duration buffs. In 3.5 it was the bard and barbarian outside of spells. In pathfinder all of the 3/4 casters, the paladin, the ranger (if he selects the other version of natures bond), the cavalier, the ninja, etc.

I personally dont mind buffs but like I said in my group they dont come up in the frequency the OP's group faces.

Shadow Lodge

Douglas Muir 406 wrote:


Under the RAW it's +1 DC for every 10 feet. Voila: enemy party buffs at a distance then moves fast to close. That means they probably give up the surprise round, but who cares? They've had five frickin' rounds to buff. They win.

actually that dc is to make out what is being said . unless they make stealth or linguistics checks you can auto hear the noise of talking.


TheSideKick wrote:
Douglas Muir 406 wrote:


Under the RAW it's +1 DC for every 10 feet. Voila: enemy party buffs at a distance then moves fast to close. That means they probably give up the surprise round, but who cares? They've had five frickin' rounds to buff. They win.

actually that dc is to make out what is being said . unless they make stealth or linguistics checks you can auto hear the noise of talking.

At what range? Can you auto hear the noise of talking at any distance? Through walls?


To the OP. To a certain extent that is just the game as it exists. It is built into the system.

However, it sounds to me like the bad guys are a bit too oblivious and naive.
- Give the bad guys listen checks when they start casting. If they are even in the same area there will be a non-zero chance that the will hear and check it out and/or prep themselves. Won't happen everytime but if it happens every once in a while. they will have to start taking it into account.
- If they are not in the area; that means they had to sneak in, find the next fight, sneak out to prep, sneak back in, then start the fight. Is the whole group really so good they never fail any of those rolls?
- Very few bad guys should be without guards, roving patrols, and/or animals that are very hard to sneak around.
- Fights are noisy and leave evidence. Other areas and groups should be on alert or investigating after a major fight.
- Also sounds like you need a bit more in the way of wondering monster/patrols built into the campaign.
- Remember, the bad guys are also trying not to lose. They should have plans and react to things. Not just sit in one place waiting to be killed.

Anyway, just some ideas.


Kydeem de'Morcaine wrote:

To the OP. To a certain extent that is just the game as it exists. It is built into the system.

However, it sounds to me like the bad guys are a bit too oblivious and naive.
- Give the bad guys listen checks when they start casting. If they are even in the same area there will be a non-zero chance that the will hear and check it out and/or prep themselves. Won't happen everytime but if it happens every once in a while. they will have to start taking it into account.
- If they are not in the area; that means they had to sneak in, find the next fight, sneak out to prep, sneak back in, then start the fight. Is the whole group really so good they never fail any of those rolls?
- Very few bad guys should be without guards, roving patrols, and/or animals that are very hard to sneak around.
- Fights are noisy and leave evidence. Other areas and groups should be on alert or investigating after a major fight.
- Also sounds like you need a bit more in the way of wondering monster/patrols built into the campaign.
- Remember, the bad guys are also trying not to lose. They should have plans and react to things. Not just sit in one place waiting to be killed.

Anyway, just some ideas.

One of the problems with that, admittedly more realistic, approach, is that any reasonably sized enemy area becomes a deathtrap. A single fight gives enough warning that infiltration should turn into all out battle. What was a series of winnable but damaging fights turns into a single overwhelming battle against everyone in the area.

I've seen too many modules where you're supposed to fight your way through the enemy's camp or fort or whatever, where, played realistically, the slightest slip-up would set off an alarm bringing multiple level-appropriate encounters down on you at once. Probably with the hard boss fight monsters present and buffing or joining in. If you're far enough in when you slip-up you shouldn't even be able to make it out.

Silver Crusade

Some modules do it well by having factions in each group. If one faction is in trouble the others will not move to help. In that way even if you use roving guards and all that stuff the group only faces a certain portion of the enemy at the most.


As a GM, my forts/camps/dungeons/etc generally have a defensive plan. How good it is depends a lot on who owns the place. But as soon as an alarm is raised, the plan starts going into effect. With orcs or the like, that usually means wave attacks. But yes, that nearly always means what MMO players would call 'adds' will start coming out of the woodwork, turning the fight into a running battle. The more you can accomplish before secrecy is torn, the better your chances are. Also, when you attack the first time, the defensive plan will tend to be executed far more sluggishly than any time after that. Nobody can be on hair-trigger alert ALL the time, so your 'first bite of the apple' is likely to be your best shot at victory.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Campaign Setting Subscriber

I would just like to second (or third, or whatever) the responses which suggest stretching out an adventuring day. I've found that my PCs respond fairly poorly to equally buffed baddies, which tends to create an arms race that always ends in a TPK, because with enough buffs, eventually somebody rolls a 1 and the house of cards falls down.

But if you stretch out the adventuring day and/or put them on a clock, buffing takes up only so much of combat. The PCs have to weigh each buff, and determine if now is the right time to use that Blessing of Fervor. Stretch it out enough, and the min/level buffs are only lasting 2 combats at most. Chase scenes are pretty good at causing this effect. This situation also causes more buffing in combat, rather than before, as the PCs are never quite sure how much resources to spend until they make contact with the enemy and assess its strengths.

And of course you can't consider long duration buffs as buffs, more like class features. Anybody who is a wizard is always assumed to have mage armor. Just pretend that at about 5th level the wizard loses one 1st level spell a day, and gets a +4 armor bonus. It makes it much easier to worry less about overbuffing.

For a personal anecdote, I am running a Carrion Crown game right now, where the PCs are 7th level. One player is a bard, and she is probably the MVP, as she easily delivers a full +7 to the Paladin's to hit, with a corresponding DPR increase as a result (along with actual damage increases). She can also turn the cleric into a semi-competent fighter. The downside is, at some point, an enemy will outstrip the pally's AC, and drop him in a round. That's when the buffs will be necessary, and the combat will turn into something really tense, as the cleric and bard will be tasked with doing actual damage to a BBEG, and only buffs will prevent a TPK. Well, buffs and the witch's debuffs. I'm ready for that fight, and I think its kinda fun that we can't predict when it will come.

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