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RPG Superstar 2015

The risks of playing certain classes. Part 2


Pathfinder RPG General Discussion

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Silver Crusade

In the Paladin thread, an interesting discussion about the Cavalier popped up and I figured I would create a new thread so the discussion wouldn't derail the thread even more.

Someone mentioned that a DM is essentially being a bad DM if they target a Cavalier's horse during battle.

I don't agree with this at all because that is one of the risks of playing that class. Just like it's a risk with a Wizard's spellbook and familiar, or a Witches' familiar etc...

There are certain classes that you know are there and you can't hold your DM to the wall with threats of being a bad DM if he does this.

I know there are extremes but a DM should never be made to feel like he can't at all. Fighter's have their weapons sundered at times, Wizard's spellbooks get destroyed, Paladin's have their code, Witches' familiar dies etc....

It's just one of the challenges that you face when playing these classes.

Silver Crusade

In the other thread someone mentioned encumbrance.

Carrying Capacity
These carrying capacity rules determine how much a
character’s equipment slows him down. Encumbrance
comes in two parts: encumbrance by armor and
encumbrance by total weight.

Now it doesn't say guidelines, it's says rules. Some people ignore encumbrance in their games and to be technical, that is something you would need to sit down with your PC's ahead of time and discuss. Using encumbrance on the other hand is something that should be assumed, same goes for ammunition.


shallowsoul wrote:

Someone mentioned that a DM is essentially being a bad DM if they target a Cavalier's horse during battle.

...
It's just one of the challenges that you face when playing these classes.

I play a samurai in one of my games (Nobu).

Nobu* welcomes any and all attacks against his mount, Uma** (who is well-armored, has lots of hp and is generally more survivable than a number of squishier fellow party members). Also, it is a samurai's duty to lay down his life for his lord and it is a samurai's horse's duty to lay down it's life for its samurai.

* Also, Nobu fights equally well on foot as on horseback. While it's fun getting lance attacks and riding down fleeing enemies the mount isn't essential to his combat effectiveness.
** Uma = Japanese for "horse". Nobu is on Uma VI or VII (not really keeping an exact count, better not to get overly attached).


shallowsoul wrote:

In the other thread someone mentioned encumbrance.

Carrying Capacity
These carrying capacity rules determine how much a
character’s equipment slows him down. Encumbrance
comes in two parts: encumbrance by armor and
encumbrance by total weight.

Now it doesn't say guidelines, it's says rules. Some people ignore encumbrance in their games and to be technical, that is something you would need to sit down with your PC's ahead of time and discuss. Using encumbrance on the other hand is something that should be assumed, same goes for ammunition.

When I play a game with anyone for the first time, or after a long enough time that it might as well be the first time, I tend to discuss the rules to make sure we all have the same understanding of them. Sometimes it can be brief, sometimes it can be longer. This goes for RPGs, games of Monopoly, Pool, whatever. People get used to playing things a certain way and it is good to have a mature discussion with everyone involved. The more complicated the game, the more need for said discussion.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

What does encumbrance have to do with the risk of playing classes that have a 'pet' or special item that can be targeted?

At any rate to address the OP...

The only time it's a "dick move" to target a mount, spellbook, familiar, etc. Is when you focus all your efforts as GM on trying to screw the player over. Should a cavalier's mount get attacked sometimes? Yes. However it shouldn't be the ONLY thing that ever happens anymore than focusing on trying to trick a paladin into falling at every turn.

If you RP enemies believably, and don't play favorites or act on a vendetta then it should be a non-issue.

Silver Crusade

Laithoron wrote:

What does encumbrance have to do with the risk of playing classes that have a 'pet' or special item that can be targeted?

At any rate to address the OP...

The only time it's a "dick move" to target a mount, spellbook, familiar, etc. Is when you focus all your efforts as GM on trying to screw the player over. Should a cavalier's mount get attacked sometimes? Yes. However it shouldn't be the ONLY thing that ever happens anymore than focusing on trying to trick a paladin into falling at every turn.

If you RP enemies believably, and don't play favorites or act on a vendetta then it should be a non-issue.

People don't seem to mind if a group of enemies or a BBEG focuses all their effort into killing a single PC and actually succeeding.

Did you know that if you have Mounted Combat and you make a ride check you can successfully negate an attack on your mount?


After reading the former thread, I largely agree w Shadowsoul.

I think however, my answer is this:
If they are veteran gamers, never take it easy on them. Ever. They expect the GM to always provide that sense of adventure fueled by a sense of loss if they mess up. If the game is soft, they won't really enjoy it.

However, if the players are new EXPLAIN yourself every step of the way...
If they are new, you do want to warn them of certain dangers they put themselves in.
If the player is still learning, its ok to say "as a ranger you know that these dire wolves use pack tactics and will therefore be flanking as much as possible so be careful." Or, "because the villian has studied the party, he will of course eliminate the biggest threat first so that is why im mazeing the barb."

I have told my party several times "now after a few sessions you will be expected to figure this out on your own, but since you are newer gamers blah blah blah."

Relevance to thread: kill the mount if it makes sense, and kill that over-powered barbarian. but, make sure the party isn't going in blind w no clue that they should have prepared themselves for that dynamic of gameplay. Our younger generation of players comes from the video game era... if it isn't presented as a possible dynamic from the beginning, they will never know to prepare against it.

Liberty's Edge Star Voter 2015

shallowsoul wrote:
Someone mentioned that a DM is essentially being a bad DM if they target a Cavalier's horse during battle.

And one more time (reposted from the other thread, because I want to make this perfectly clear):

Deadmanwalking wrote:

As the person in question: This isn't what I said at all.

What I said, is that the Cavalier's horse is, pretty much definitionally, less badass than any of the PCs, and should thus come in for a lower share of fire, proportionally (as a general rule, anyway) than any of those PCs do.

And that any GM who routinely targeted the horse a lot more than that just to screw the Cavalier was a dick.
.
.
.
Now, on the actual subject, I like realism. I think a logical degree of targeting such things is fine, but targeting them more than the enemies in question logically would is being a dick (because you, the GM [as opposed to the enemies], are trying to screw the player in question).

Not targeting them at all could work, I suppose, but seems vaguely immersion breaking for several reasons.

That's really all I've got to say on the subject. And, for the record, I meant offensively badass when saying the horse'd be less so than the actual PCs.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
shallowsoul wrote:

People don't seem to mind if a group of enemies or a BBEG focuses all their effort into killing a single PC and actually succeeding.

Did you know that if you have Mounted Combat and you make a ride check you can successfully negate an attack on your mount?

What does any of that have to do with what I said?

Laithoron (Cliff Notes version) wrote:
Roleplay enemies realistically and don't be a dick.

Silver Crusade

Laithoron wrote:
shallowsoul wrote:

People don't seem to mind if a group of enemies or a BBEG focuses all their effort into killing a single PC and actually succeeding.

Did you know that if you have Mounted Combat and you make a ride check you can successfully negate an attack on your mount?

What does any of that have to do with what I said?

Laithoron (Cliff Notes version) wrote:
Roleplay enemies realistically and don't be a dick.

"Is when you focus all your efforts as GM on trying to screw the player over."

People don't seem to mind when their PC is targeted instead.

Grand Lodge

3 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Actually, we do, when the enemies act like bots swarming one character without any regard to reason or self-interest.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

SS: If you're going to willfully ignore what I'm saying even when you quote it, then I see no point in feeding into such nonsense.

Quite simply there's a difference between enemies ganging up on a target because it makes sense without metagaming, and going out of your way to screw over a particular player over the long-haul of a campaign. Having not read this "other thread", your OP had seemed to be about players misjudging GMs as abusive for using realistic tactics. Judging by your subsequent responses though, I'm not so sure what you're driving at.

I was attempting to illustrate the criteria and intent that separates a reasonable GM from an abusive one. Evidently we're arguing two different points though.

Edit: Also +1 to what TOZ summarized.


Personally, I think some enemies - such as oozes - would be more likely to target the mount than the cavalier. Why? Because the mount is typically bigger and meatier (or being bigger, may seem more threatening to a creature with very low intelligence), or because the monstrosity in question makes heavy use of tremorsense while hunting.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

When I joined mdt's group, I rolled a dwarven fighter/cleric. My wife rolled a half-elf cavalier. Both in heavy armor, my dwarf with a tower shield, her cavalier with a warhorse (obviously).

The campaign started with the party on a whaling ship being destroyed by doom whales. We ended up on a deserted island.

Had we known that the game would start that way, (not stranded on an island, just merely that we would be on a sea expedition) we would have rolled characters with better reasons to be there. As it was, we slugged along with what we had, until we could get back to town and retrieve the shield and warhorse that obviously would have been little use on the sea.

Did mdt break any rules? No. Should he have mentioned that our characters did not make sense for the setting? Yes.


Personally, I think it makes sense for the mount to be targeted first. If you go up against mounted combatants and you're not mounted, the first priority would be to get rid of their advantage by getting them off of their mounts. Attacking the mounts directly is a common way of achieving this, I think.

The Exchange

There were actual weapons designed to attack either the horse or the rider in every culture.

Liberty's Edge Star Voter 2013

The BBEG should do whatever the BBEG thinks will make them the most likely to defeat the PCs. Sometimes this will be things that target PC vulnerabilties.

Can these be "dick moves"? Yes. Hence being BBEG and not just BBG.

Know your group, play the baddies as you think they would act, it all works out.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game, Tales Subscriber
TriOmegaZero wrote:

When I joined mdt's group, I rolled a dwarven fighter/cleric. My wife rolled a half-elf cavalier. Both in heavy armor, my dwarf with a tower shield, her cavalier with a warhorse (obviously).

The campaign started with the party on a whaling ship being destroyed by doom whales. We ended up on a deserted island.

Had we known that the game would start that way, (not stranded on an island, just merely that we would be on a sea expedition) we would have rolled characters with better reasons to be there. As it was, we slugged along with what we had, until we could get back to town and retrieve the shield and warhorse that obviously would have been little use on the sea.

Did mdt break any rules? No. Should he have mentioned that our characters did not make sense for the setting? Yes.

I see things the other way. If the DM has a particular adventure in mind, he should give some guidelines on making characters, just like the Adventure Path on what people should not be making. If the characters are being made first and then the adventure is being chosen, the DM should be building his campaign around what people choose.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
shallowsoul wrote:
Laithoron wrote:
shallowsoul wrote:

People don't seem to mind if a group of enemies or a BBEG focuses all their effort into killing a single PC and actually succeeding.

Did you know that if you have Mounted Combat and you make a ride check you can successfully negate an attack on your mount?

What does any of that have to do with what I said?

Laithoron (Cliff Notes version) wrote:
Roleplay enemies realistically and don't be a dick.

"Is when you focus all your efforts as GM on trying to screw the player over."

People don't seem to mind when their PC is targeted instead.

Its all about expectations. And obviously just from this thread, different people have different expectations. I have played in games where the wizards familiar popped in and out of existance order of the stick style (where it only exhisted when the player thought of a reason to exist otherwise it just stuck to the background and was completely ignored). I have also played in a game where the familiar was a part of the party, was roleplayed by the dm (much like later order of the stick issues actually), and was involved in major plot points. And thats fine too.

However as a player I would make different choices about my familiar if I expect it to be completely ignored (and thus little more then a skill bonus) or if I expect to have it roleplayed, and it actively involved in the adventure and in encounters.

A good dm, sets those expectations before the game starts. Thats all. The rules are there sure, but they are not set in stone, and dms make small changes, ommissions, adjustements so often, that certain parts are about as solid as water across gaming groups. And especially if someone is new to the game or to a specific group/dm, the dm should talk to them about what kind of game they run.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
LazarX wrote:


I see things the other way. If the DM has a particular adventure in mind, he should give some guidelines on making characters, just like the Adventure Path on what people should not be making. If the characters are being made first and then the adventure is being chosen, the DM should be building his campaign around what people choose.

As far as I know, this was an adventure he had run before, and he did not mention anything about where we would be beforehand. Characters were generated in the weeks leading to the game. He also runs in his own homebrew setting, which I doubt he changes just for the players.

Silver Crusade

TriOmegaZero wrote:
Actually, we do, when the enemies act like bots swarming one character without any regard to reason or self-interest.

That's just how the DM prefers to run his games.

If the barbarian runs up and knocks the crap out of the BBEG and drops that sucker below half then expect the minions and everyone to jump on the largest threat at that moment.

Having "bots" just stand there while you play wack-a-mole could arguably be worse.

Silver Crusade

Kolokotroni wrote:
shallowsoul wrote:
Laithoron wrote:
shallowsoul wrote:

People don't seem to mind if a group of enemies or a BBEG focuses all their effort into killing a single PC and actually succeeding.

Did you know that if you have Mounted Combat and you make a ride check you can successfully negate an attack on your mount?

What does any of that have to do with what I said?

Laithoron (Cliff Notes version) wrote:
Roleplay enemies realistically and don't be a dick.

"Is when you focus all your efforts as GM on trying to screw the player over."

People don't seem to mind when their PC is targeted instead.

Its all about expectations. And obviously just from this thread, different people have different expectations. I have played in games where the wizards familiar popped in and out of existance order of the stick style (where it only exhisted when the player thought of a reason to exist otherwise it just stuck to the background and was completely ignored). I have also played in a game where the familiar was a part of the party, was roleplayed by the dm (much like later order of the stick issues actually), and was involved in major plot points. And thats fine too.

However as a player I would make different choices about my familiar if I expect it to be completely ignored (and thus little more then a skill bonus) or if I expect to have it roleplayed, and it actively involved in the adventure and in encounters.

A good dm, sets those expectations before the game starts. Thats all. The rules are there sure, but they are not set in stone, and dms make small changes, ommissions, adjustements so often, that certain parts are about as solid as water across gaming groups. And especially if someone is new to the game or to a specific group/dm, the dm should talk to them about what kind of game they run.

The way the game is designed the DM should actually tell you before the game if he is going to ignore the familiar, not if he is going to target it. The rules give familiars defenses and hp so the game assumes, by default, that familiars will be targeted.

Silver Crusade

Shadowdweller wrote:
Personally, I think some enemies - such as oozes - would be more likely to target the mount than the cavalier. Why? Because the mount is typically bigger and meatier (or being bigger, may seem more threatening to a creature with very low intelligence), or because the monstrosity in question makes heavy use of tremorsense while hunting.

Well don't forget the fact that the mount is the one who is touching the ground.

Grand Lodge

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Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
shallowsoul wrote:
That's just how the DM prefers to run his games.

And it breaks my sense of verisimilitude to pieces. If he does that, he should tell me up front so we don't waste each others time.

shallowsoul wrote:
Having "bots" just stand there while you play wack-a-mole could arguably be worse.

I don't see a distinction. In both cases they are acting like game pieces and not real characters with self-preservation instincts, emotions, etc.

Would this help you understand better? I want to know what the DM expects from the game, because if we have incompatible playstyles, I want to drop out so another player who fits the DMs style can get in. To avoid making both of us miserable, we need to communicate. Do you see where I'm coming from?


Kolokotroni wrote:
shallowsoul wrote:
Laithoron wrote:
shallowsoul wrote:

People don't seem to mind if a group of enemies or a BBEG focuses all their effort into killing a single PC and actually succeeding.

Did you know that if you have Mounted Combat and you make a ride check you can successfully negate an attack on your mount?

What does any of that have to do with what I said?

Laithoron (Cliff Notes version) wrote:
Roleplay enemies realistically and don't be a dick.

"Is when you focus all your efforts as GM on trying to screw the player over."

People don't seem to mind when their PC is targeted instead.

Its all about expectations. And obviously just from this thread, different people have different expectations. I have played in games where the wizards familiar popped in and out of existance order of the stick style (where it only exhisted when the player thought of a reason to exist otherwise it just stuck to the background and was completely ignored). I have also played in a game where the familiar was a part of the party, was roleplayed by the dm (much like later order of the stick issues actually), and was involved in major plot points. And thats fine too.

However as a player I would make different choices about my familiar if I expect it to be completely ignored (and thus little more then a skill bonus) or if I expect to have it roleplayed, and it actively involved in the adventure and in encounters.

A good dm, sets those expectations before the game starts. Thats all. The rules are there sure, but they are not set in stone, and dms make small changes, ommissions, adjustements so often, that certain parts are about as solid as water across gaming groups. And especially if someone is new to the game or to a specific group/dm, the dm should talk to them about what kind of game they run.

What about variences though Not always or always doing things could be nice as well as targeting the horse but not always do the same thing so the game does not get boring. Familiars and animal companions can be hurt by area of effect attacks as well oh both the cavlier and the horse are cought in the enemy fireball.

Silver Crusade

TriOmegaZero wrote:
shallowsoul wrote:
That's just how the DM prefers to run his games.

And it breaks my sense of verisimilitude to pieces. If he does that, he should tell me up front so we don't waste each others time.

How does that break Verisimilitude? In WWII, soldiers used to focus fire on the big guns that were mowing people down left and right on the beaches of Normandy.

This is not an unusual tactic. Everyone doesn't spread out and engage one on one with each enemy they come across every time.

Going after the largest threat is not unusual in any case no matter how much you try and say it breaks your verisimilitude. Smart creatures know that guys in robes are usually spellcasters, who can also be known to be pretty dangerous.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber
shallowsoul wrote:
How does that break Verisimilitude? In WWII, soldiers used to focus fire on the big guns that were mowing people down left and right on the beaches of Normandy.

Recall I said 'without reason or self-interest'. Not every soldier on the beach had the intestinal fortitude to charge those pillboxes. Many of them did. Many had to be cajoled with the realization that they could either do it or die.

Not every man-at-arms is going to have the nerve to immediately pile on to the bloody axe-wielding screaming maniac that just killed his lord. And after the first squad of men that do pile on are dismembered corpses at the barbarians feet, the rest are going to be a lot more reluctant. Morale is not a foreign concept here.

If you run your NPCs like Warcraft units, mindlessly hacking until they or the target fall, I'm not going to enjoy your game. And the sooner you tell me that, the sooner I can step out and let someone who DOES enjoy that step in.


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Pathfinder Modules Subscriber
Shadowdweller wrote:
Personally, I think some enemies - such as oozes - would be more likely to target the mount than the cavalier. Why? Because the mount is typically bigger and meatier (or being bigger, may seem more threatening to a creature with very low intelligence), or because the monstrosity in question makes heavy use of tremorsense while hunting.

Naturally. In our party's case, it was giant leeches writhing in the mud. Delicious horse underbelly slogging overhead is just too tempting to resist. Same with stirges and other bloodsuckers, especially if the horses aren't wearing barding or anything. Wolves and other animals known for hamstringing their prey (look for animals with the trip attack property) are also very likely to go for the mount. In this case, though, it may work against them, as horses, especially murderhorses, are difficult to trip.

More intelligent opponents, especially combat veterans, will quickly figure out that taking out a character's mount will reduce his mobility and ability to charge. For example, one tactic for breaking a cavalry rush is to take out the horses of the front riders with ranged attacks, turning men and mounts into so many marbles for the other riders to trip over. That's not as big a deal in PF, as there's no required mechanic for being impeded by dropped riders unless the GM says so, and there's no mechanism for being pinned under your horse like there is in real life. But still, attacking a charging rider's horse is just common sense. I'd be insulted if I was the charging cavalier/paladin/fighter and the GM's BBEG didn't go for the horse.

Now, if the PC is already dismounted and in melee, few creatures will bother to attack the horse. They're too busy fighting for their lives to waste actions. If the horse is also in melee separately, they might attack it, but only if the horse is in the way, serving as cover for another attacker, or for whatever strange reason outshining the PCs as a threat (not often, but it is a murderhorse, after all). Otherwise, there's just no tactical advantage. If the enemies are goblins, kobolds, or other suicidally psychotic creatures, they might go for the horse anyway just for being there, but even then only if it's at least as close a target as the rest of the party.

Non-mount animal companions, familiars, constructs, and other pets will follow rules similar to the above paragraph. Note that some of them do outshine PCs at low levels and, thus, will pull aggro, at least from whichever bad guy the badger is currently mauling. If your dog clamps down on the ogre's foot to grapple it, don't be surprised if the ogre just clubs Lassie over the head instead of breaking the grapple. If it stays out of the fight or sticks to enemies that it can handle, there probably won't be any problems.

In short, play it so that it makes sense from the bad guys' perspective--and the animal companion's perspective, if you're the kind of GM that prefers to control companions' turns as well.


shallowsoul wrote:

In the Paladin thread, an interesting discussion about the Cavalier popped up and I figured I would create a new thread so the discussion wouldn't derail the thread even more.

Someone mentioned that a DM is essentially being a bad DM if they target a Cavalier's horse during battle.

I don't agree with this at all because that is one of the risks of playing that class. Just like it's a risk with a Wizard's spellbook and familiar, or a Witches' familiar etc...

There are certain classes that you know are there and you can't hold your DM to the wall with threats of being a bad DM if he does this.

I know there are extremes but a DM should never be made to feel like he can't at all. Fighter's have their weapons sundered at times, Wizard's spellbooks get destroyed, Paladin's have their code, Witches' familiar dies etc....

It's just one of the challenges that you face when playing these classes.

There is targeting and targeting.

In the other thread there was as I read it an undercurrent implying that a GM should make mounts a priority, no matter what (such as in the example of ten spells attacking a single horse). When enemy spell casters (and archer s for that matter, but less significant) routinely start going after mounts when the mount and rider are not in a position to be an immediate threat (read: in a position to charge next round) instead of potentially immediate threats or simply more dangerous opponents, then the GM is just out to grief.
This is really no different then a GM going to of his way to coup-de-grace cohorts (and PCs) in the middle of the fight just to get rid of them.

Basically a GM who creates the feeling in the players that the enemies she control is more interested in draining the PCs resources (for the next fight) then try to win the fight they are in, is a bad GM.

When discussing targeting priorities, I am ignoring melee, as there one simply fights the ones that are fighting you. Also, it is pretty common that the mount have the best AC in the entire party so often the PCs are quite happy to see attack directed towards the mount.


IF a GM is intentionally targeting my mount he is going to be highly disappointed when I break out my high AC Ankylosaurus and Master of Many Styles Pegasus (gained through leadership) with crane wing and Snake fang.

Silly GM quirks can be worked around. Often to the detriment of the GM.


It amazes me that if a GM is targeting the mount they must be a bad GM rather than a GM playing an enemy intelligently. Fighter type built for mounted combat is far less effective if there is no mount. As I posted in the other thread, militaries used to target mounts since they were easier to take out and nullified the calvarymen. Now, a stupid monster would target based on its intelligence and natural behavior. Things like 'meaty horse' would come into its thinking. Of course, so would 'ow that hurt, you die now' whch would be the man on the horse. It all depends on the situation.

My players should be prepared that their mounts/familiars/companions will die and die often if they place them in harms way. It isnt targeting to remove resources. It is based on the appropriate response of the creatures the PC is fighting.

- Gauss


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Gauss wrote:


My players should be prepared that their mounts/familiars/companions will die and die often if they place them in harms way. It isnt targeting to remove resources. It is based on the appropriate response of the creatures the PC is fighting.

- Gauss

Adventuring is being in harms way.


Pathfinder Modules Subscriber
Korpen wrote:
This is really no different then a GM going to of his way to coup-de-grace cohorts (and PCs) in the middle of the fight just to get rid of them.

Just to be clear, you're not entirely against bad guys finishing fallen good guys in battle, right? Because in a world where one turn later that fallen good guy could be right back on his feet at full offensive capability thanks to the party healer, that's a legitimate tactic for a smart foe who knows there's a healer in the mix.


blahpers, if my (intelligent) monsters can target a healing cleric they will. One time an eyrines nearly took out the party cleric. Only a hero point saved her. - Gauss


Using a coup-de-grace against a helpless opponent is a legit tactic for the NPCs as much as it is for the PCs. Not using it as a GM , even if it's the most effective option avaible on the spot, is softballing the players. Now softballing isn't necessarily wrong, especially against unexperienced players.


3 people marked this as a favorite.
blahpers wrote:
Korpen wrote:
This is really no different then a GM going to of his way to coup-de-grace cohorts (and PCs) in the middle of the fight just to get rid of them.
Just to be clear, you're not entirely against bad guys finishing fallen good guys in battle, right? Because in a world where one turn later that fallen good guy could be right back on his feet at full offensive capability thanks to the party healer, that's a legitimate tactic for a smart foe who knows there's a healer in the mix.

And a bloody nuisance for the player whose character you straight up murdered.

As a GM I really don't want to deal with the hurt feelings and wasted time of a player trying to rebuild a character or familiar or cohort.

Let's cut to the chase. Each of these things requires an investment of time on part of the player. Investment in writing, investment in book keeping, and investment in reading.

This investment is what attaches players to their characters and to those aspects of that character.

This actually is a good thing to me since I tend to run character driven games where much of the plot is determined by the actions of the characters.

You see I understand the investment that players have with their characters and understand that it's an immense nuisance to have to make a new one up particularly with the demands I make in detailing characterization and history to bring said character to life.

This does not mean I softball my players. And I think my players would agree that any softballing on my part is an illusion leading to the acid filled pit. The thing is I find practical ways of negating advantages and resources without resorting to making the player waste an hour of his time writing a new character.

Let's take for example the mounted character. "Kill the horse" feels like the mantra of a GM who is lazy with his encounter design. Why aren't your archers using low cover such as a wall or a log? Why aren't they disrupting charge lanes or flying out of reach of the mounted character? Where's the hindering terrain?

You want to kill the horse. I think that's a great way to have an angry cavalier rip your head off and a disgruntled player consider rerolling a barbarian with a far more annoying characterization because you keep murdering his mounts. I'd rather disrupt it and make the cavalier waste actions trying to fish out that potion of remove paralysis to force down the horses throat.

And TOZ makes an excellent point about the failure of communication. Player's need to know what they're getting into before rolling the dice. If you love targeting familiars and killing animal companions because that's "smart" they need to be aware that's a favored tactic so they can choose to work with something else. Fair warning is often all a player asks or needs.


I am not lazy about encounter design. Im murderous about it. I use all you said and more. BUT I also roleplay the monsters appropriately. Horse = food to many (not all) of the dumb monsters. Horse = easiest weakpoint of the mounted combatant to the smart monsters. Within those two points exist a myraid of reactions.

Yes, players put time, energy, and emotion into these things. This is why I use the hero point system. If the mounted rider wants to save his mount at a critical juncture: use a hero point. Alternately, use shield other. There are a number of ways to counter how monsters will (Rightly) go after the weakest link.

- Gauss


Gauss wrote:

I am not lazy about encounter design. Im murderous about it. I use all you said and more. BUT I also roleplay the monsters appropriately. Horse = food to many (not all) of the dumb monsters. Horse = easiest weakpoint of the mounted combatant to the smart monsters. Within those two points exist a myraid of reactions.

Yes, players put time, energy, and emotion into these things. This is why I use the hero point system. If the mounted rider wants to save his mount at a critical juncture: use a hero point. Alternately, use shield other. There are a number of ways to counter how monsters will (Rightly) go after the weakest link.

- Gauss

Alternatively. Not bother playing those classes.


TarkXT, mount death has been part of the problem with mounted combat for ages. The weak link (not just death but care also) has always been the horse. Its why they gave paladins an option to bond with a weapon instead of a mount.

Familiars are better in that you do not ever have to risk them. A cat hiding in your pouch is virtually ignored. The same cat trying to deliver a touch spell is not.

- Gauss


TarkXT wrote:
Gauss wrote:

I am not lazy about encounter design. Im murderous about it. I use all you said and more. BUT I also roleplay the monsters appropriately. Horse = food to many (not all) of the dumb monsters. Horse = easiest weakpoint of the mounted combatant to the smart monsters. Within those two points exist a myraid of reactions.

Yes, players put time, energy, and emotion into these things. This is why I use the hero point system. If the mounted rider wants to save his mount at a critical juncture: use a hero point. Alternately, use shield other. There are a number of ways to counter how monsters will (Rightly) go after the weakest link.

- Gauss

Alternatively. Not bother playing those classes.

Why? If opponents focus fire on the horse, it's a big win for all the players, because their characters remain alive, the cavalier included. A raging barbarian with -2 to AC wouldn't have as much survivability if he's the target of a focused fire.

Star Voter 2013

I do not see any problem for targeting the mount of the cavalier, unless that happens at every opportunity.


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Pathfinder Modules Subscriber

My players know that their characters could die at any time. They know that I play NPCs and other critters from their own perspectives, and not all bad guys are out for a TPK. A hostile dire bear in the woods might drop one PC and drag it off to its cave to be eaten, and some (but not all) bandits are out to rob people, not murder them. But I'm not going to insult the players and break their suspension of disbelief by having ostensibly smart bad guys do stupid things any more than I'd have stupid bad guys do smart things. That cheapens the experience and makes the players feel less satisfied with their accomplishments; after all, they wasn't any real risk.


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Maerimydra wrote:
TarkXT wrote:
Gauss wrote:

I am not lazy about encounter design. Im murderous about it. I use all you said and more. BUT I also roleplay the monsters appropriately. Horse = food to many (not all) of the dumb monsters. Horse = easiest weakpoint of the mounted combatant to the smart monsters. Within those two points exist a myraid of reactions.

Yes, players put time, energy, and emotion into these things. This is why I use the hero point system. If the mounted rider wants to save his mount at a critical juncture: use a hero point. Alternately, use shield other. There are a number of ways to counter how monsters will (Rightly) go after the weakest link.

- Gauss

Alternatively. Not bother playing those classes.
Why? If opponents focus fire on the horse, it's a big win for all the players, because their characters remain alive, the cavalier included. A raging barbarian with -2 to AC wouldn't have as much survivability if he's the target of a focused fire.

I think you fail to see my point.

All the strategy, tactics, rolling, writing, and roleplaying are simply a means to an end. That end being fun.

Ruthlessness works for some groups. In other's not so much. When you ask your players to bring multiple character sheets and expect lots of death and destruction then they know what to expect. However this expectation is where the problem lies. If you ask a person to make an elaborate backstory with detailed relationships and then proceed to murder all those people you do little more than slap that persons work in his face. Many GM's I've noticed make the mistake of believing that there player's have no attachments to their characters, or to the tropes of their character that make them work and ruthlessly. Other GM's make the opposite mistake as has been pointed out before. They coddle the players, make it too easy or routinely remove them from tough situations with arbitrary deus ex machina or with easy encounters.

Personally, I believe in a balance. The end goal of the bad guys in a fight is not "tpk the group" it's "end the fight". I can always kill everyone once they're unconscious, paralyzed, helpless and what not. Or I can use the opportunity to take the story a different route. They can wake up imprisoned, enslaved, dressed for a gladiator brawl, or banished to a different plane of existence. The player's are still punished for their failure but I don't ruin the gaming night by forcing them to spend the rest of it rolling up new characters. I think it's fine if every once in a whole a Bullette attempts to chow down on the paladin's mount or if a cohort bites it in a face off with a major villain or if a crazy book burning cult gets inflammatory with the wizards spellbook. But this kind of thing has to be balanced with some kind of reward down the line to make it worth it. And it can't be seen as trivial. If you routinely target a mounted characters mount or shatter a cleric's holy symbol or go after the various "weak links" of classes you quickly erode the player's fun as they're forced to take ever more drastic measures to keep from having these weak links ruthlessly exploited up to and including not playing those classes from the start. It feels arbitrary even if that's what you think that's what smart bad guys do.

However I will concede that if it works for your group than good on you. However don't believe that the practice will work for everyone.


As a GM I tend to go light on coups de grace unless there's a very specific reason. My assumption is that, generally speaking, anyone involved in a fight either is expecting his side to win or is trying to get out of the fight. If you expect to win, you're better served putting down the people who are still up and fighting (although targeting healers is very sensible). If you don't expect to win, you're more likely to haul it out of there than waste time slitting someone's throat before you go. There are exceptions - a cowardly goblin hanger-on to a stronger orcish war party might run around slitting throats so that his superiors don't hang him out for goldbricking, fanatic cultists might decide to take an easy target with them before they go out, and so on - but if it's a "typical" scenario of two groups clashing, neither PCs nor monsters are likely to waste their time with it.

Targeting a cavalier's horse, on the other hand, is extremely sensible and is the kind of thing that will happen pretty often. It's what you do against a mounted enemy. That's why barding was invented.

Scarab Sages

I think it is appropriate to target spellbooks, mounts, familiars, etc of players as long as it isnt too frequent, it is story or NPC personality appropriate, and it isnt an automatic "screw you". No one wants to feel persecuted or like they are being railroaded into a storyline where they lose something precious with no chance to prevent it because the GM thinks its a cool idea. Its the GMs who are not able to properly challenge the strengths of a character or party that rely on crippling characters with these sorts of personal assaults that get annoying when you are a player.

On the flip side, I hear this outrage among players now about GMs even considering doing anything to a wizards spellbook. I just don't get it. It is one of the downsides of playing a wizard vs a sorcerer. If the game designers never wanted anything bad to potentially be able to happen to a spellbook, the wizard class would be able to store it safely in a pocket dimension only they could access when it wasnt being used.

Same with familiars. Players will often target a familiar first because they are usually weaker and hurt the caster when they die. So turnabout is fair play.

Same with a mount, I have had melee NPCs target my cavalier's horse since he is so much more effective when mounted. And of course trolls think Horse 2.0 (the first one died) is finger licking good, so these type of encounters its appropriate to target a mount.

The main thing IMO is to be sure you aren't breaking the GM/player pact of trust at the table. That results in people having not fun experiences and the game tends to break down.


Pathfinder Modules Subscriber
TarkXT wrote:
Personally, I believe in a balance. The end goal of the bad guys in a fight is not "tpk the group" it's "end the fight". I can always kill everyone once they're unconscious, paralyzed, helpless and what not. Or I can use the opportunity to take the story a different route. They can wake up imprisoned, enslaved, dressed for a gladiator brawl, or banished to a different plane of existence. The player's are still punished for their failure but I don't ruin the gaming night by forcing them to spend the rest of it rolling up new characters.

That's fine, if it makes sense for those particular bad guys in that particular setting. If it doesn't, it comes off as forced, not much different than the deus ex machina mentioned earlier.

Current campaign: The only reason that we didn't have to start over our campaign after the party, leaving their first dungeon, fell victim to the best crit I have ever rolled (as a player or a GM) is because the bandits weren't there to murder them--they were there to take a particular piece of treasure that the party had so helpfully extracted for them. So the ranger goes down to -7 and almost bites it, but the next PC up the rope takes one look at the situation and surrenders. Mind you, this wasn't a meat grinder or a railroad; there was a decent chance that the party would win the fight, especially if they used a bit of tactics, but sometimes the dice just don't cooperate with either the player or the GM. That said, if that crit had happened after the bandit leader had already connected once and softened the ranger up instead of the first hit--well, that would have been tragic, but there's simply no way I could justify a different outcome. Sometimes even heroes die, sometimes before they even get to be heroes.

On the other hand, there are some bad guys in this campaign that have no reason or inclination to keep potential threats alive. If they go up against some of those bad guys and start losing, they'd best start shouting "better part of valor!!" and running. I do not want to kill the party, but neither am I afraid to do it--in fact, I've done my best to plan for the possibility as much as is feasible at this point in the game.

Some groups prefer a system where the heroes can fall but are never truly defeated. This is goodrightfun, and I encourage it. In my current campaign, though, I'd prefer that to happen through heroics rather than fiat.


redcelt32 wrote:


Same with familiars. Players will often target a familiar first because they are usually weaker and hurt the caster when they die. So turnabout is fair play.

Unfortunately this is not true. Weaker yes but unless said caster is making use of said familiar most of the time they're doing little more than providing small benefits like Alertness.


Pathfinder Modules Subscriber
TarkXT wrote:
redcelt32 wrote:


Same with familiars. Players will often target a familiar first because they are usually weaker and hurt the caster when they die. So turnabout is fair play.
Unfortunately this is not true. Weaker yes but unless said caster is making use of said familiar most of the time they're doing little more than providing small benefits like Alertness.

I do miss that mechanic. At the least, it ought to stun the wizard for a round or something. I don't approve of permanent damage, though.


Mounts should have more health to make up for their abysmal AC. Seriously, 2d8? That's crap. They should have a full d8 to start at least, with 2d8 average for a light horse and a 3d8 average for a heavy horse, and their level for determining Constitution bonuses should be based on hit dice.

This would make mounts more survivable.

Scarab Sages

RE: familiars, I was thinking more of witches when I brought that up, but yes you would think being staggered for a round at least would be appropriate.

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