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RPG Superstar 2015

Low Level and High Level Gear Acquisition


Pathfinder Adventure Path General Discussion


I've noticed a trend in all the Adventure Paths I've played, which is that low-level and very high-level PCs simply cannot buy items easily. I've played Kingmaker, am in the final book of Carrion Crown, am in the middle of Jade Regent, and am running Skull and Shackles.

Basically, there is something in each early module and late module that makes buying very difficult. This is a problem- gold is basically a second XP track and tied firmly to PC power. A 3rd level PC with 2nd level gear is simply not as powerful as they are "supposed to be" and the module assumes they are. The majority of the PC deaths I've seen happen at 4th-8th level; that's because magic gear becomes much more important at those levels but it's still before teleport comes into play.

Yes, GMs can and should tweak treasure to match the PCs' needs better (a scimitar fighter might find a scimitar instead of the written longsword, for example). But that is effort, and sometimes basic items are simply unavailable for long stretches. Stat items, cloaks of resistance, metamagic rods, magical weapons ... all critical to PC success, and sometimes very hard to come by.

This is also a problem at the high levels (14+). In both Kingmaker and Carrion Crown, something prevents the party from buying gear with the gold they get. At this moment, our newly 15th level party is 50,000gp to 100,000gp behind per PC on suggested gear levels for 15th level PCs, and that's after we've crafted a fair bit and saved giant piles of cash doing so. We're struggling because of it.

Kingmaker:
You have to go to a demi-plane and do stuff. It is technically possible, though highly discouraged, to leave the demi-plane and go shopping and then come back.

Carrion Crown:
You're in the middle of a bunch of teleport traps and quite far from any city. It's apparently too far even for a spell like mass phantom steed to get you there and back in a day.

So please Paizo, when you write APs, think about how the PCs can buy gear. Make sure that in each adventure, there is at least one easy way to get to Ye Olde Magick Shoppe and buy necessary items. Levels 9-13 work out because teleport fixes that problem, and I understand wanting to take tactical teleports away from the PCs at high levels, but make sure to provide a way to power up gear.

RPG Superstar 2011 Top 16

2 people marked this as a favorite.

I love the fact that this is a problem. Having magic mini-marts breaks immersion and breaks the fun of finding treasure. It also encourages entitlement mentality.

The fact that APs work to break this entitlement menality is great. For me, this is a feature.

However, my opinion does not invalidate yours, and it's interesting to see how the different APs get written to try to alternatively cater to both of us at different times. Not all APs have the issue that you mentioned. Some (like KM & CC, and especially LoF) do. Others (like CoT, JR, or ShS) don't. We each get to pick and choose our favorites.

Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

While my party makes occasional forays to a big city like Magnimar, they spend a lot of time in the wilderness. Even in a big city, finding specific magic items takes time, as I don't like having a lot of Merlin's Magic Mart franchises located in every town. Generally, if a PC wants to buy an item, they have to find a crafter and place a special order, as no crafter wizard just churns out stuff (other than, perhaps, common CL1 potions, like cure light wounds).


Haladir wrote:
While my party makes occasional forays to a big city like Magnimar, they spend a lot of time in the wilderness. Even in a big city, finding specific magic items takes time, as I don't like having a lot of Merlin's Magic Mart franchises located in every town. Generally, if a PC wants to buy an item, they have to find a crafter and place a special order, as no crafter wizard just churns out stuff (other than, perhaps, common CL1 potions, like cure light wounds).

I'm ok with that for specific magic items, or rare big-ticket items. But if the cap on a city is 120,000gp, and a PC is looking for a 40,000gp ring that's in the CRB, I think they can find it. It might take them some time and asking around, but someone has one for sale. That's just me, of course, and YMMV, but I figure a city that big has a flourishing trade in magical items. Many expensive antique shops make few sales in a week, but the ones they do are so big it's worth their time to have a store.

What I'm talking about is in CC or KM, we are on a time crunch. In CC, there is no option for commissioning an item and getting it delivered in a month. It's either available or it's not, period. And that either has to be made perfectly clear at the beginning of the campaign to both the players and GM, or it ought to change. Having appropriate magic items is an important part of the game- part of your CR is your expected AC, damage, hit bonus, spells/day, spell DC, etc. It's a cold numerical way of looking at the game, I suppose, but it's also one valid way to do so.

In other words, if the PCs aren't going to be able to buy things, don't give out all the treasure in the form of "15 amulets of natural armor +1". That's not useful. Some of that is fine, of course, but give out the big, expensive, useful items as well. A rod of quicken, lesser, a pearl of power 5, +5 light fortification mithral full plate, a bunch of cloaks of resistance of appropriate level (level x3 for the bonus is the standard. A 12th level PC with a cloak +2 is taking a risk). Big items that are useful.

Also, you should (in my opinion of course) always be able to upgrade your weapons and armor appropriately. CC is so fast, the 15th level front-liner who wishes to be hard to kill may wind up with +2 full plate. That's ridiculously underpowered. There has to be some mechanism to have this not happen.


Planar ally for magic mart:
Mercane, probably other outsiders could serve as well.

In soviet Ustalav, magic shop comes to you! :-)

Personally, I prefer heroic crafting by PCs acquiring feats rather than magic marts (too MMO), although low-level items (potions, wands, minor wondrous, some average) are certainly acceptable.

Although in my early years, I'd have an interdimensional magic mart show up so certain items would be available and to dispose of the 20 +1 longswords you'd acquire (1st and 2nd edition) in your adventures (at higher levels). I was inspired by the crosstime saloon.

In those days, treasure counted towards XP, so player would scrounge every last GP worth of treasure...


I like crafting too, honestly. It's an investment by the PCs, even if only a feat, and it lets people tailor their magic items quite nicely.

Unfortunately, crafting takes a ton of time if you don't houserule it. At best, you can do 2,000gp per day on an item, which assumes fast crafting for 8 hours a day with no interruptions. A single 50,000gp item takes almost a month to make. In a fast-paced game, or one up against a time limit, there just isn't time to craft the things a high-level party needs/wants.

There are other crafting feats that make crafting faster, but to my mind crafting shouldn't interfere too much with the effectiveness of a character. Feats are a limited resource, and a PC who is full of crafting feats is much less effective than s/he could otherwise be. Crafting is a major increase in potential power, so it does make some sense, but still ... Besides, it still doesn't answer the problem of not being able to access gear in a timely manner if the whole game takes place in a month's time.


Melissa Litwin wrote:
Feats are a limited resource, and a PC who is full of crafting feats is much less effective than s/he could otherwise be. Crafting is a major increase in potential power, so it does make some sense, but still

Not to quibble, but but how could this be both?


darkwarriorkarg wrote:
Melissa Litwin wrote:
Feats are a limited resource, and a PC who is full of crafting feats is much less effective than s/he could otherwise be. Crafting is a major increase in potential power, so it does make some sense, but still
Not to quibble, but but how could this be both?

If the PC only crafts for him/herself, the crafted items will increase that PC's power level enough past the ideal gold/XP ratio to overcome the feat tax. If, however, a PC has a ton of feats and crafts for a while party, they are still weaker than the other members of the party. The party as a whole is stronger, of course, but the crafting PC is less likely to survive the fight, contribute meaningfully to the fight, or have fun during the fight. A DM will up the power level of fights to provide a challenge to the party as a whole, which leaves the crafting PC in an awkward spot.

"Did you see that? I did something awesome!" is much more fun than "Well the monster missed due to my awesome armor-crafting skills, and you hit him with your awesome sword that-I-made, and ..."

Dedicated Voter 2013

Erik Freund wrote:

I love the fact that this is a problem. Having magic mini-marts breaks immersion and breaks the fun of finding treasure. It also encourages entitlement mentality.

The fact that APs work to break this entitlement menality is great. For me, this is a feature.

However, my opinion does not invalidate yours, and it's interesting to see how the different APs get written to try to alternatively cater to both of us at different times. Not all APs have the issue that you mentioned. Some (like KM & CC, and especially LoF) do. Others (like CoT, JR, or ShS) don't. We each get to pick and choose our favorites.

This is a great post Erik, I work diligently in all of my campaigns (mostly AP's now days)at all levels to limit the magic-mart mentality and entitlement mentality.

Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Comics Subscriber; Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Melissa Litwin wrote:
I'm ok with that for specific magic items, or rare big-ticket items. But if the cap on a city is 120,000gp, and a PC is looking for a 40,000gp ring that's in the CRB, I think they can find it. It might take them some time and asking around, but someone has one for sale.

I don't mean to nitpick (and if you were just throwing numbers out for the sake of example, feel free to ignore me).

But there are two numbers involved with settlements and magical items, the "base limit" and "purchase limit." The purchase limit is the one that would head into the 100,000+ gp range. But the purchase limit actually tells you the highest amount the PCs can sell an item for.

The base limit is what you're looking for. Any item under the base limit can probably (75% chance) be found in a given settlement. But it's much, much lower.

Magnimar, for example, has 75,000 gp purchase limit but only 12,800 gp base limit. So you can find a buyer for a +5 flaming sword, but wouldn't generally find a +3 sword on the market.

Which is to say: Even going by the rules, players don't get to pick high level items to buy. There will be a few randomly available, but that's it.

Cheers!
Landon


Melissa Litwin wrote:


"Did you see that? I did something awesome!" is much more fun than "Well the monster missed due to my awesome armor-crafting skills, and you hit him with your awesome sword that-I-made, and ..."

Well, for one point, item craffting doesn't net you much more than a +1 to hist and damage, unless all you're giving out is GP. Plenty of feats do that already. So I don't see why vthe PC would be so much weaker.

For another point, this is a cooperative game. Sometimes a vcharacter functions better as an enabler.

Sorry, but what a sad view of crafting. It should be incorporated in finding the solution, not just be a checkbox. Example below:

"hmm... we seem to to be on the trail of a Glabrezu sponsoring a demonic cult."

(long explanation from wizard on what a Glabrezu is and how to kill it)

"I'll prepare some scrolls while Thorin Forgehammer here" (points to dwarven fighter) will ask around for a cold iron weapon, preferably a sword. Once we have that, I will enchant it to harm demonkind."

(Thorin returns)

"My people have raw cold iron that they've mined. They're willing to craft a blade for you to enchant, but they need our help. It seems that something from below is snatching itself a snack. Might just be ghouls, but..."


Melissa Litwin wrote:
So please Paizo, when you write APs, think about how the PCs can buy gear. Make sure that in each adventure, there is at least one easy way to get to Ye Olde Magick Shoppe and buy necessary items.

No thanks. This is something the GM should add (and save precious space in the AP in the process).

Oh yeah, and see Erik Freund's post above. Feature, not a bug.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

For some players, selecting each and every piece of equipment is as important a part of customizing their characters as selecting feats and spells. While most GM's will allow players to choose their own feats, a significant fraction will limit players' equipment to what is scavenged and not add the ability to buy/sell/trade items beyond what is written into a published module.

As long as the expectations of the GM and players are in agreement regarding the ease of customizing their gear versus making creative use of what they've found, no style of play is wrong.

For better or worse, equipment is a big source of character power in PF/3.5. My personal opinion is that players should be able to fully customize their gear up WBL no less frequently than every 2-3 levels of xp gained. As written, not every AP will allow that. LoF may be the most egregious, where a party could gain 6-7 levels of xp without having access to a single merchant during that time. When GM'ing that, that was longer than I felt appropriate (considering the challenges that I knew lay ahead), and I altered it.

Regarding parties falling behind the WBL curve in some AP's, that seems bound to happen, particularly if groups prefer creative or diplomatic solutions to playing murder hoboes. Add side treks, increase rewards if needed, or let your players carry on regardless if you think they have a decen chance not to be slaughtered.

TLDR: whatever works for your group; in an AP, add or remove access to customizing gear as needed. Clarify the general ease of accessing custom gear before starting a campaign.


Problem with limiting goodies found is that there are many monsters that just won't talk and are there to fight. No matter how high your Diplomacy score, they will just go "WARGBBHHLLBLLL!" and start smashing, so you need that silver/cold iron/twinkie weapon to put them down.

Sneaking? Possible but again, creatures like dragons are front loaded with all of those super detection powers.

ACs and powers on later monsters get crazy high as well so that +5 weapon, while seeming unbalanced, may very well still be hitting on only a 19-20 and is more for the 'rider' abilities like Holy,Bane, etc..
(Really, I have seen buffed creatures go right to AC 50!)

Star Voter 2014

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

This is just how I GM, and your miles may vary...

When I run an AP, obviously I know what challenges lie ahead. Consequently, I will place loot for the PCs to recover that they'll need to face future challenges.

I've had the occasion in the past of PCs not recognizing that a particular item was a "quest item" (to borrow parlance from video games) and selling it off. This made the subsequent encounter a LOT harder, if not impossible. Preventing that scenario is one reason I've limited the ubiquity of magic shops in my current campaign.

Another thing I do as GM is periodically ask the players what items they're especially interested in acquiring. I tend to have those items then show up as loot. I'll also change the loot presented in a published module to be things the party could actually use-- sometimes stuff that the party wouldn't have thought of!

I don't run a low-magic game, but I do prefer magic items to be unusual, distinctive, and kind of mysterious. If there's a Merlin's Magic Mart™ in every village, then your party will all suit up with pretty much the same old gear every time (headband of mental prowess/belt of physical perfection, ring of protection, amulet of natural armor, cloak of resistance, +2 weapon of [energy type]). While that sort of utilitarian gear might be statistically "better", I prefer my party to have more varied and interesting equipment that has more of a "wow" factor in some circumstances than devices that just give stat bumps.


Wizard Discovery: Truename to get a Mercane at your beck and call.


I tend to limit magic shops and their inventory to "city I feel is big enough". So Sandpoint might have a +1 or +2 sword in an ornate trapped case with the possibility of shipping things in from Magnimar within a week if the PCs put forward a "small down payment".

Quantium has what they want to buy. They might have to ask around or commission a wizard but the point is they could find it.

A city built on trade of things like Katapesh or Zirnakaynin might involve some asking around (and maybe being followed by thugs if I'm feeling vindictive) but they could find it.

Unnamed Town in Middle of Nowhere has a general store and maybe some feather tokens, sovereign glue, random useful wondrous items, a masterwork composite longbow...


The point I have is that all these solutions work well for different groups. But for each of them, there is a lot of work a GM has to do- customization of loot, side quests, addition of loot, changing loot, etc. I agree that those are part of what a GM does, but the APs don't make that clear. Many GMs run them as written, because it is easier and because that's how they think it ought to be done, and there simply isn't enough treasure or varied enough treasure in them. In my opinion, this is a serious problem. Gold/XP ratio matters to character power. Having appropriate gear to face appropriate challenges matters. Letting GMs of the APs know that they have to do some work to customize and add loot to make it all work matters.

@TinyCoffeeGolem- that's one solution, but it's not a good one. It doesn't work in 1) an outer/non-connected planes, 2) a silence, 3) a dimensional locked area, or 4) an area within a teleport trap. Further, it assumes you a) have a wizard in the party and b) that wizard has a feat to spare. I prefer to make no assumptions about party composition when discussing a solution to this problem.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Card Game Subscriber

Melissa, I had the same problem as you until I wrapped my head around the way the new community stat block works (from GMG). Combined with the new tables in Ultimate Equipment, it doesn't take much time to come up with the items available in a city.
I also find that they have been much better lately (ex Jade Regent) at providing more info about what is available in "cities" like Sandpoint or Kalsgard.
I haven't read any of Shattered Star, but it may have less info available because the major settlements have Campaign Setting books of their own.


Melissa Litwin wrote:
@TinyCoffeeGolem- that's one solution, but it's not a good one. It doesn't work in 1) an outer/non-connected planes, 2) a silence, 3) a dimensional locked area, or 4) an area within a teleport trap. Further, it assumes you a) have a wizard in the party and b) that wizard has a feat to spare. I prefer to make no assumptions about party composition when discussing a solution to this problem.

A mercane wouldn't be a combat monster, so you wouldn't be summoning it into a silenced area, teleport trap, etc. You'd summon it at home cup of tea in one hand list of gear for it to find in the other. Then send it back to whatever planar market it's from in order fetch your stuff.

Also, you could pull a similar trick with an item and without a wizard. Or you could just use planar binding/planar ally (Item or spell), but it's a bit more work with more risk. It's a bit videogame-ish, but it is a solution.

or an NPC wizard using any or all of the above suggestions could be your "magic mart" connection.

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