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High Level PFS play


Pathfinder Society® General Discussion

Grand Lodge

Where does it start? I mean, where does the game shift from pure hit point damage in fights to death by being incapacitated by status effects, ability drain/damage, etc? Our group is teetering on the edge, I think. What tiers does this start to happen in PFS? How vital is a cleric in group at that point, compared to a creative wizard and a rogue or ninja with UMD?

A second question, what advice does anyone have for a group looking to kick up their game? What common mistakes are made or preparations overlooked as players move from the minors leagues to the majors? Does Kyle Baird have a top ten list, maybe? Or one of Painlord's snazzy monologues?

Looking to learn in some manner that does not involve putting in twenty sessions followed by painful life lesson.

Thanks!

Taldor *****

Pathfinder Card Game Subscriber

The jump to Tier 5-9 seems to be the minors to major transition.

Painlord's Guide

Silver Crusade **

Ballpark lvl 5-7 is where you start to notice the shift. 7-9 is where you are feeling it. 10-11? If you haven't made the shift, you're in for some serious hurting.

Aiming to kick up their game? Ask each player in your group "What is the worst possible thing that could happen to you?". Then find a way to A) prevent that, and B) do that to NPC's with said classes.

For example: Casters don't like losing spells to damage. Readying actions to cast an attack or shoot when an enemy tries to cast a spell is huge. Magic missile is *NASTY* for this.

Andoran ***

1 person marked this as a favorite.

In most cases PCs outnumber the badguys. This means that each PC's action is worth less than the enemy's. Thus if you can do something with your action to invalidate the enemy's action, you're ahead.

Example: Readying to disrupt.

Worst case, the enemy caster gets wise and stops casting. This is a win even if it means your caster/archer/whatever basically does nothing the rest of the encounter.

Example: Withdraw Spam.

It doesn't feel terribly heroic but Withdraw can be an incredibly powerful tactic. If the enemy dragon moves up on the party cleric, rather than 5-foot back and cast a spell (and eat a full attack next turn) consider withdrawing. This means the dragon has to waste a full-round action moving into position get to get a single attack on its next turn.

Example: Dispel.

I know in a lot of cases dispelling seams like a weak choice due to enemy boss caster levels generally being higher than the PCs' but dispel is a lot more powerful than people give it credit. Sure you might have to cast it 2-3 three times to nail that Displacement but increasing the hit chance of your melee/archers by 50% is worth the action investment. If the enemy caster recasts that displacement on his next turn, you essentially traded your standard action for his - an excellent trade.

Druids, this includes you.

Example: Stay Grappled.

In 90% of cases, grappling is the worst thing a monster can do. It's a bit counter-intuitive but unless the tentacle-monster/bear/ooze has something like Swallow Whole that carries a risk of killing you super quickly, letting the monster have its way with your character for a while is often the best-case-scenario for your party. You might be taking some grapple damage and/or constrict each turn but in exchange the monster is losing its full attack, its ability to take AoOs, and is taking an AC penalty.

Next time an ally gets grabbed don't panic and do everything in your power to break him free. Tell your buddy to suck it while the party pours on the damage.

Silver Crusade **

2 people marked this as FAQ candidate. Answered in the errata.
Feral wrote:

Example: Dispel.

I know in a lot of cases dispelling seams like a weak choice due to enemy boss caster levels generally being higher than the PCs' but dispel is a lot more powerful than people give it credit. Sure you might have to cast it 2-3 three times to nail that Displacement but increasing the hit chance of your melee/archers by 50% is worth the action investment. If the enemy caster recasts that displacement on his next turn, you essentially traded your standard action for his - an excellent trade.

Druids, this includes you.

Factor in that if you do a targeted dispel, you only have to hit the Save DC and not the caster level check....dispelling becomes a *really* good option. Dispel shield + ready magic missiles = caster be gone.


I started noticing "if you don't have specific ability X, then it sucks to be you" encounters in tier 5-9, as others have noted.

Qadira ***** Venture-Captain, Indiana—Indianapolis aka Red-Assassin

Feral good advice except, the stayed grappled.

The following is just my opinion.

High level games, if you are a very experienced player and know what consumables and abilities to invest in; the higher levels will be a bit easier. If you are a new player half of the fun is figuring what these will be.

I had the pleasure of running player choice scenarios for a while. Around 8 sessions in a row most if not all had deeper darkness. What did the players figure out, leave the darkness and their pathfinder buddies. Find lighted conditions then buff, forget those screams that is your friend getting sneak attacked. After this run, these players took to having light precautions. Running or withdraw can be critical to avoid tpk's. Sure it sucks to watch or hear a fellow die. If you can recover his body and return to the Grand Lodge your group can relive the dramatic tale.

At high levels, characters died faster for instance you dropped x stat to y sat ability damage happens. You ac is 43, creatures can attack with touch, what's your touch 13 time for a touch ac course, btw 1d6 str damage per hit. Also don't be the player that puts himself in a position to be flanked by enemies each and every combat.

The x vs y ability thing is often over rated, so you can't be ready for everything, lucky you are with fellow pathfinders. Is it expected that a group of pathfinders will have every tactic covered of course not.

I think most of my personally kills have been against the °lone° hero types. The player who charges a large mob of enemies their first action, when most of the party wants a round to prepare. The next round he is the target for x number of full attacks.

*

Akeela Valerian, the Wolf wrote:
I mean, where does the game shift from pure hit point damage in fights to death by being incapacitated by status effects, ability drain/damage, etc?

Things get "serious" around subtier 5-6 and 6-7. Subtier 6-7 still tends to softball instant death effects from what I've read.

You can have save or suck spells that incapacitate at any level though, even in First Steps.

Akeela Valerian, the Wolf wrote:
How vital is a cleric in group at that point, compared to a creative wizard and a rogue or ninja with UMD?

I'm not a fan of in-combat healing, my 9th level melee PC has gotten by with out-of-combat healing so far (and has never been knocked unconscious).

However, I am a fan of 'Breath of Life', probably the best 5th level spell. I'm going to say that it's a big deal at levels 9+.

If you want to survive consistently at high level, it's more of a question of stepping up your overall game:
- Tactics: Which will depend on the PC

- Teamwork: Tied to tactics. Often there is little teamwork in PUGs.

- PC build and feats

- Making the right gear purchases

- Knowing your spells and how to effectively use them

- Buying enough consumables to get your group out of a hole. Most players will see this as a waste of money, however it's a lot cheaper than paying for a TPK.

- Having a tshirt re-roll: As you gain level I think this is more and more important. When you flub a key roll that you should have made, this is so important. At high level, it's the difference between kicking ass or dying. If a player has a Paizo tshirt, I know they're serious about playing.

Then again, PFS still isn't that hard, so 90% of the time this isn't needed. It's only a problem if you get an entire table of players that are sandbagging it and a tough scenario, then you're in trouble.

Akeela Valerian, the Wolf wrote:
A second question, what advice does anyone have for a group looking to kick up their game?

That's an entire post in itself. I hope some experienced players give us their thoughts.

I have examples, but they apply on a class to class basis.

Akeela Valerian, the Wolf wrote:
What common mistakes are made or preparations overlooked as players move from the minors leagues to the majors?

Here are some big differences I've seen between the minor and major leagues.

- Reach: Either go first and avoid it or go last and have the reach to make a Full Attack yourself.
- Multiple attacks: You saw the thread where the PC took 150 damage in one round? No level 10 PC can take that kind of damage. To me, sometimes it's a good idea to run and take the AoO instead of a Full Attack. So many times I've seen melee PCs stay in combat and die instead of withdrawing, and I just don't understand why. lol.
- Saving throws: Become more important. Cloak of Resistance is cheap and helps a lot.
- Defense: For melee, having some basic defense matters. This is why ninjas and rogues die so often, they lack AC and hit points, and when focused they go down.
- Spell Resistance: Either use consumables/feats to bypass it or focus on defense/counters/buffs.
- Knowledge skills: Having a PC with the right knowledge skills to tell everyone else what they should be doing. This assumes the GM actually tells you something useful, which isn't always the case.
- Counters: You need counters to basic problems, like darkness, enchantments, fear, paralysis, language barriers, ranged attacks, and ability damage.
- Consumables: Again, it's a lot cheaper to have an emergency scroll of restoration to cure ability damage than to pay for Raise Dead.

That's off the top of my head.

Grand Lodge ** RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Jason S wrote:
- Knowledge skills: Having a PC with the right knowledge skills to tell everyone else what they should be doing. This assumes the GM actually tells you something useful, which isn't always the case.

Knowledge Derail:
I've decided to try this for my games: For every monster, write up a series of descriptions (i.e., "This is an X, known for its ability to Y") for the base DC and every 5 points thereafter, giving each "tier" information that's actually useful, and also making sure that all relevant info is covered before the DC hits the stratosphere. Unfortunately, I don't have any player feedback yet on the practice, as in the one game I tried it, not a single PC had a relevant knowledge skill. :/

Shadow Lodge ***

Heh Jiggy I did the same thing when I ran Eyes of the Ten. Of course nobody knew anything and the effort was wasted.

Andoran ***

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game, Companion, Modules Subscriber
Jiggy wrote:
Jason S wrote:
- Knowledge skills: Having a PC with the right knowledge skills to tell everyone else what they should be doing. This assumes the GM actually tells you something useful, which isn't always the case.
** spoiler omitted **

Hmmm. COmmon practice, at least in my neighborhood, in both PFS and non-PFS Pathfinder games, is for the person who made the skill check to be able to ask for the types of knowledge they want (You get X pieces, what do you want to know?)

Silver Crusade **

Pirate Rob wrote:
Heh Jiggy I did the same thing when I ran Eyes of the Ten. Of course nobody knew anything and the effort was wasted.

Just wait till Damocles hits it. Give him a few rounds to think about it, and he'll drop 37s for ya...

Shadow Lodge ***

I think that gets you the name and maybe an extra piece of info if it's one of the easier creatures :-)

Grand Lodge ** RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

kinevon wrote:
Jiggy wrote:
Jason S wrote:
- Knowledge skills: Having a PC with the right knowledge skills to tell everyone else what they should be doing. This assumes the GM actually tells you something useful, which isn't always the case.
** spoiler omitted **
Hmmm. COmmon practice, at least in my neighborhood, in both PFS and non-PFS Pathfinder games, is for the person who made the skill check to be able to ask for the types of knowledge they want (You get X pieces, what do you want to know?)

Spoiler:
Some folks locally do that, but then there's ambiguity about how much info you can ask for as a single "question". If I ask about defenses, do I need one question for DR, another for SR, another for one of its energy immunities, another for its other energy immunity, another for each of its three energy resistances, another for its exceptionally high AC, another for its incorporeality, another for its elemental traits (like being immune to crits), and another for its weakness? Or do I get all elemental immunities and resistances with one question; its AC, DR, and incorp with another, and its traits and weakness with a third?

As a result, I considered making cards by what I thought were reasonable categories, and letting PCs pick a number of them based on their check result. But then I decided that it would be really weird if a creature's most famous ability was the infernal wounds it can give you, yet somehow your third-tier knowledge got you all its obscure resistances without you knowing about that feature.

So I decided to approach each creature in a scenario I run with a mindset of "Among those who know things about this creature at all, what things is it 'famous' for? What things would those with more experience with the creature know? What things would only be known by those who have studied it extensively, or by those who were aware of all previous issues and tried some other way to fight it?"

This, I think, gets me a very reasonable progression of knowledge results (though I also keep a hard rule of "every tier MUST have something that's actually useful for the fight").

Silver Crusade **

Pirate Rob wrote:

I think that gets you the name and maybe an extra piece of info if it's one of the easier creatures :-)

Right, never mind.....

Andoran ***

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Card Game, Companion, Modules Subscriber
Jiggy wrote:
kinevon wrote:
Jiggy wrote:
Jason S wrote:
- Knowledge skills: Having a PC with the right knowledge skills to tell everyone else what they should be doing. This assumes the GM actually tells you something useful, which isn't always the case.
** spoiler omitted **
Hmmm. COmmon practice, at least in my neighborhood, in both PFS and non-PFS Pathfinder games, is for the person who made the skill check to be able to ask for the types of knowledge they want (You get X pieces, what do you want to know?)
** spoiler omitted **...

Spoiler:
We tend to group things together, more or less logically. Resistances as a group, DR as a group, no numerical values, i.e. a little DR against everything but cold iron, it will resist some fire damage, it has a mild/medium/strong poison bite, etc.
Shadow Lodge ***

Actually 37 should get 2-3 pieces for most creatures. I don't think there's a single creature above cr16 although a lot are unusual

Silver Crusade **

Pirate Rob wrote:
Actually 37 should get 2-3 pieces for most creatures. I don't think there's a single creature above cr16 although a lot are unusual

Thank Abadar....I was worried if a 37 wasn't gonna get us much. 2-3 pieces works for me! Most important question....what languages do they speak?! (Ask Painlord....he should remember...)

**

Alexander_Damocles wrote:
Pirate Rob wrote:
Actually 37 should get 2-3 pieces for most creatures. I don't think there's a single creature above cr16 although a lot are unusual
Thank Abadar....I was worried if a 37 wasn't gonna get us much. 2-3 pieces works for me! Most important question....what languages do they speak?! (Ask Painlord....he should remember...)

Yeah, 20 knowledge history gets you a huge bit of box text telling about some obscure guy's exploits 500 years ago.

A 30 or so knowledge religion has literally let me know the name of the obviously undead zombie-like creature, that the obviously undead creature has undead traits, and no DR. I then had one more piece of information, so I asked about the biggest attack. The DM rolled randomly instead, and I figured out the zombie-like creature could hit people with it's limbs. You know, like a zombie.

Everything that made it not a normal zombie, other than its name, was outside of the bounds of my 30 knowledge check.

Thank the gods my witch could help the party out with that information.

*

kinevon wrote:
Hmmm. COmmon practice, at least in my neighborhood, in both PFS and non-PFS Pathfinder games, is for the person who made the skill check to be able to ask for the types of knowledge they want (You get X pieces, what do you want to know?)

At conventions, there's an incredible amount of table variation.

Derail for Knowledge skills:

I've seen the DC beaten by 10 or more (rolled a nat 20), and the PC asked for weaknesses and the GM gave him *nothing*. Since the DC increases with CR, sometimes it's even hard to match the DC and ID the creature (which in itself is useless unless you're metagaming).

Knowledge skills need to rewritten and made more useful for PF 2.0.

For example, if I were to see a vampire in real life (heh), I'm pretty sure I didn't just make a K-Religion check of 160 to get all of her strengths and weaknesses. Yet that's what I would need in the game if you're giving me 1 piece of information for every 5 above 10+CR. And that makes no sense and needs to be designed better.

Grand Lodge ** RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Jason S wrote:

At conventions, there's an incredible amount of table variation.

** spoiler omitted **

Spoiler:
This is why I always give more than just the name for anyone who merely matches the DC (after all, the CRB says that earns you a "useful" piece of information).

At my table, hitting the base DC will generally get you the name, any standardized traits (i.e., Undead Traits, Swarm Traits, Construct Traits, etc), and typically its most "famous" or unique/identifying feature.

Andoran ***** Venture-Lieutenant, Minnesota—Anoka

If the creature is unusual or rare, then the GM can also add 5 to the standard 10 + CR for the DC.

Qadira ****

the knowledge skill says.

"You can use this skill to identify monsters and their special powers or vulnerabilities. In general, the DC of such a check equals 10 + the monster’s CR."

it goes on to say -5 for common monsters, +5 for rare monsters.

I wish it would be clearer, my interpretation is. Vulnerabilities OR special powers is the first one, both is succeeding by 5.

Vulnerabilities = what bypasses their DR, elements that hurt them more, or things they get penalties against.

Special powers: Fast healing, regeneration, SLAs, or crazy stuff like mummy rot, energy drain, ect.

Then i'd go into specifics like combat tactics "prefers to keep it's distance and cast spells" or "will try to knock out one creature then carry it off to feed"

Maybe i'm too generous with the knowledge skills, but that is my interpretation of the rules.

It makes sense to me.

I probably have a couple ranks in knowledge:Geek Lore, and I certainly know a lot about a lot of these monsters. I remember that vampires are magic/silver to overcome DR, they can do some weaker mind control by looking into your eyes. they have fast healing, and staking their heart will get em.

I try to think about it that way, there is no way each of those things is a +5.

I tend to think that most books adventurers would read about creatures are about how to kill them, or what to be wary of (see medusa+mirror).

So I give those two first, deciding which one is a more prominent thing to be discussed by people who had had run ins with such creatures to decide preference. Obviously a basilisk people are going to mention "it turned billy to stone" where a devil you're more likely to get "it seemed unharmed by my attacks, then I stabbed it with a silver letter opener and it seemed surprised and harmed then retreated"

maybe I think about this stuff too much, but I try to logic out the world when possible to determine ambiguous rules.

**

Yeah, sadly you are unlikely to find out that Medusas turn people to stone with a knowledge check. From what I can tell, most of the time you just figure out that those weapons they carry can be used to attack you and these snakes snapping at you can "bite" you.

Grand Lodge ** RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

1 person marked this as a favorite.

If a GM is only rewarding knowledge checks with visually-obvious information, that probably merits a friendly chat with them after the game or, failing that, a talk with their VC.

Qadira ***** RPG Superstar 2010 Top 16

I probably run knowledge checks wrong. If there's something that a monster ought to be notorious for, I'll mention that, and always in-character.

"That large, four-armed creature with a sidewise maw in place of a face is a Gug. Aram Zey calls them aberrations, and his only advice about fighting one is to get the hell away from it. Venture Captain Luna Adred just shakes her head. 'I fought one, one night. It was elastic. It could squeeze through impossibly narrow passages, or reach over a team of six horses to attack the coachman. And I have never had a tougher fight than a gug." At that you recall that she was once torn apart by a pack of werewolves. 'The gug was worse.'"

*****

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Feral wrote:

Example: Readying to disrupt.

Worst case, the enemy caster gets wise and stops casting. This is a win even if it means your caster/archer/whatever basically does nothing the rest of the encounter.

I do this with NPC casters all the time. Surprises the hell out of players because they usually don't realize the bad guy didn't take his turn.

Qadira **

Kyle Baird wrote:
Feral wrote:

Example: Readying to disrupt.

Worst case, the enemy caster gets wise and stops casting. This is a win even if it means your caster/archer/whatever basically does nothing the rest of the encounter.

I do this with NPC casters all the time. Surprises the hell out of players because they usually don't realize the bad guy didn't take his turn.

What's even worse is when he does it from an invisible caster. Not the one who just DimDoored in but his buddy the other invisible caster. There goes my Blessing of Fervor.

Sidebar for Kyle:
Spoiler:
If the thing that did the dimdooring didn't have see invis, how did he bring his buddy with him?

Cheliax ****

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps, Modules Subscriber
Belafon wrote:
Kyle Baird wrote:
Feral wrote:

Example: Readying to disrupt.

Worst case, the enemy caster gets wise and stops casting. This is a win even if it means your caster/archer/whatever basically does nothing the rest of the encounter.

I do this with NPC casters all the time. Surprises the hell out of players because they usually don't realize the bad guy didn't take his turn.

What's even worse is when he does it from an invisible caster. Not the one who just DimDoored in but his buddy the other invisible caster. There goes my Blessing of Fervor.

Sidebar for Kyle:
** spoiler omitted **

not Kyle but:
Buddy grabbed onto him?
Grand Lodge

Thanks for all the input! What about the cleric-less party at this level? Bad idea? Or can UMD, items, scrolls, etc fill the gap with little difficulty? For instance, breath of life scroll in a springloaded wristsheath UMDd by a rogue or ninja a sufficient replacement for a cleric with same spell memorized? Etc etc.

Grand Lodge *

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Maps Subscriber
Akeela Valerian, the Wolf wrote:
Thanks for all the input! What about the cleric-less party at this level? Bad idea? Or can UMD, items, scrolls, etc fill the gap with little difficulty? For instance, breath of life scroll in a springloaded wristsheath UMDd by a rogue or ninja a sufficient replacement for a cleric with same spell memorized? Etc etc.

UMD is not as useful for scrolls as wands. Using a scroll of breath of life requires two separate UMD checks (assuming that the user does not have a 15 Wis or Cha), at DC 29 and DC 30. Those are generally not good odds.

Silver Crusade **

Akeela Valerian, the Wolf wrote:
Thanks for all the input! What about the cleric-less party at this level? Bad idea? Or can UMD, items, scrolls, etc fill the gap with little difficulty? For instance, breath of life scroll in a springloaded wristsheath UMDd by a rogue or ninja a sufficient replacement for a cleric with same spell memorized? Etc etc.

Survived Blood Under Absalom with a 4 man party, one of whom was playing up, and we had no cleric. On the other hand, we nearly died in The Ruby Phoenix Tournament with a 6 man table, and two Clerics. Clerics are always useful to have, but some days you can get along with out them.

Osirion **

At part 2 of the special (GenCon 2012), I think I dealt more damage to undead via channel then I did healing with my cleric. The first part of the special (GenCon 2012) I healed an enemy about as much as my allies.

*

I'm not sure that you "need" clerics at high levels, but support classes (casters) become very important. You need them to counter enemy tactics, provide save or suck effects, and AE for your group. Spells like Dispel Magic, Haste, Blessed Fervor, Energy Resistance, etc. And Knowledge skills.

For example, I just did 'King of the Storval Stairs' a few weeks ago, which has killed a lot of PCs and TPKed some groups so far . We didn't use a single point of in-combat healing and my melee PC took a total of 32 damage total over the course of the scenario. Why? Because the caster support (and our tactics) were so good it wasn't needed.

You can probably get by on any group configuration, if you play it smart and have good PCs. Disclaimer: I don't have experience in the subtier 10-11 range. Maybe someone with that experience can chime in.

I'll tell you my experience playing with one uber group of players. They had an oracle, wizard, monk (for saves, perception, mobility, and Disable Device), melee PC, and a ranged PC. They were heavily optimized, had the right gear, the right tactics, spell selection, and consumables. They tore through the scenario like it was a joke, they definitely didn't need me. I don't think you need this for PFS, but yes optimal configuration makes things easier, and in this case I think a little too easy. Personally, I would rather struggle a little sometimes rather than slam dunk every scenario.

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