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On building a balanced group: working out just what works and why you may have been doing it all along.


Advice

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ciretose wrote:

Conceptually I don't disagree that this is "an" approach, and a well presented one at that, but the beauty of the system is how many ways there are to skin the proverbial cat.

The mistake of 4e was over-defining roles. The outcome is thing, not the path to the outcome. Some builds/classes have better synergies, but when you start over-defining what everyone's "Role" is rather than asking what is needed in a given group.

I don't think of it as an approach. I think of it as the best result of actual thought and contemplation on what it is you actually do in combat. And in the end it usually boils down to one of three things.

Can you mix and match based on build and circumstance? Of course you can. I've already proven that. But in the end the result if done correctly is the same.


I really like this TarkXT. I think that it's rather accurate overall. Sure, some groups might find some minor variations and I don't think that it's all meant to be carved in stone. I think it's meant to be more of an overall guideline of what you've seen work in your games and from conversations with others on various message boards.

I would like to see you take the time to expand the arm, hammer, and anvil a bit based on archetype if you ever get the time. Some, like the lore warden, will probably fill a different role than the weapon master. I would like to see your thoughts on that.

I think there is a lot of hair splitting with some of the terms from some people and that's fine if they want to expand things for their own understanding. I agree that it isn't necessary. Some things, like "eyes" or "iron" are often pre-combat and are important but not the thesis of your essay. Perhaps the title led people to see one thing when you meant another.


Bob_Loblaw wrote:


I would like to see you take the time to expand the arm, hammer, and anvil a bit based on archetype if you ever get the time. Some, like the lore warden, will probably fill a different role than the weapon master. I would like to see your thoughts on that.

That would take a long long time and I think is best left to those who are more familiar with those classes than I.

Really though reading this you should be able to go back, particularly after reading some class guides, and be able to tell fairly quickly how good some classes are at fulfilling the particular roles I mentioned. It should be obvious to those reading my guide on clerics, for example, that clerics can fairly easily segue into any of the three tasks or even take one all three utilizing certain build options.


So by popular demand I'll see about putting this in google docs and adding one or two things I know will complement it well and support the argument tht this is making. I do encourage some of you to take a look at expanding this into some subjects like:

How and what classes can fit what tasks and how well.

Positioning. We never ever talk about positioning it seems. And yet it's so important.

Out of combat roles and combat prep: This is outside the focus of the model presented but that never made it unimportant. So perhaps it's worth discussing?


Great way to look at our groups through a particular lens. I like the analogy you chose (Hammer-Arm-Andvil). I'll mention this page in my games.

Thanks for sharing all this good work.


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The Google Docs version.

I'll see about putting it in the class guide sticky for convenience.

Scarab Sages

Your Cleric guide makes me sad, because I get all excited reading about the Undead Controller option, before remembering that I never get to play the undead controller. Perhaps, with Albina, that will change. :>


This thread is really interesting. My groups and I have probably made many of the mistakes mentioned above;
Having a cleric try to heal during combat, only to be outpaced by damage output
Having Hammers who moved too fast for the Anvils to support
Having Hammers who were ineffective because they either focused solely on shtick, or defense

However, I’ve had very successful groups who had no spell focused PCs at all (fighter, rogue, paladin, and ranger). Offense was their defense, but they could also fall back on minor spell casting after combat. Of course, they also relied heavily on NPCs for gear and down-time spells.


TarkXT wrote:

I do encourage some of you to take a look at expanding this into some subjects like:

How and what classes can fit what tasks and how well.

Should this be a different thread?

Assuming not, it seems obvious that most spell casters can fill the role of Anvil. Can a Fighter or Rogue ever fill the slot of an Anvil?

A fighter may use a reach weapon and combat maneuvers to control the battlefield. Or he could even use smokesticks or other mundane means to control the battlefield too (Smokesticks against ranged opponents for example).

A Rogue could use things like Acrobatics for positioning (Anvil), or the Feint feats to give bonuses to his allies (Arm). Even Aid Other or flanking offer things that would aid allies.

However, are these enough to be considered effective as an Anvil or Arm.

TarkXT wrote:
Positioning. We never ever talk about positioning it seems. And yet it's so important.

I think this is very important too. The easiest tactic whic we use is taking advantage of a bottleneck. If there are multiple opponents, the fighter typically acts as the plug (blocking movement through a doorway or narrow hall for example). The Anvil and Arms buff away, making the fighter a killing machine, or creating distractions in the open space beyond. If the bottleneck is a little wider, fill the hole with two fighters.

If there isn't a bottleneck, we often leave and reposition. (I think it annoys the DM when we enter a room, see a gang of monsters, and we back down the hall for a more advantageous position.)

If people have any other positioning tactics, I'd love to hear them too.


Dragonchess Player wrote:
TarkXT wrote:
For the record I am happy people are finding this useful and easy to understand. If you do have ideas to apply in your own games (like the eyes and the iron) feel free to do so. I jut think it's unnecessary.

Having spent the last 16 years in the military, as well as nearly twice that playing RPGs, I may have a greater appreciation of the importance of the intelligence and logistics functions. How well you perform is tremendously influenced by what you know about the situation and what resources you have.

I've also seen plenty of groups that shortchange them, for one reason or another. Which is a shame, because a party that fills the eyes and the iron roles performs much better in the anvil, arm, and hammer roles. You seem to be making an assumption on how well the party prepares before combat; in my experience, that's not always a safe assumption.

The eyes may be able to find a way to avoid unnecessary fights in pursuit of their goal, so that the party can concentrate on the critical ones; or possibly just find a way to defeat the opposition in detail, instead of facing them together in a tougher fight. Even if neither of these is possible, having a good idea of the enemy's strengths, weaknesses, and position before engaging in combat provides the party with an advantage: they know generally what to expect and can plan ways to blunt the enemy's attacks while the party attacks at a weak point.

The iron is all about having the best resources possible. It's usually better to have one +2 weapon than four +1 weapons. A wand of cure light wounds is more immediately useful in/after combat than 750 gp (or 375 gp if using the magic item creation feats).

Logistics is certainly not a party role unless you have one busybody telling everyone else what equipment they have to use. In and of itself it's useless. You can have perfect logistics but if you're preparing for a royal wedding instead of a battle you'll have a very short adventuring career. Besides, iron in the analogy is the enemy.

The eye role is irrelevant to the model because it happens outside of initiative. If something happens outside of initiative it doesn't matter how the role is split up. If you have a mediocre hammer you have a problem that can get you killed. If you have a mediocre diplomat aid another has a DC anyone with undumped charisma can hit on a take 10 for +2 per party member because there's no opportunity cost to actions outside of initiative. The only eye skill you can't split is stealth, and one guy stealthing is asking for defeat in detail.


So I am currently in the process of converting bits of the Skinsaw murders to a Mythic level.

I was going to take the party I had written up for here, run them solo-wise through the encounters and possibly record the results as I have neither the time nor the patience to write out a full report. Video would be more entertaining.

But then I thought, hey why not stream it while rambling on about about strategy and positioning and group make up while b~+~&ing/exalting the virtues of the mythic system? Get people involved, entertain/boretodeath with the discussion and all that noise.

I'll post link up on the forums here once I go. Going to try and shoot for the first stream around 1:00 pm est saturday. Even if no one shows up I still get the desired effect of the recording.

Sczarni RPG Superstar Season 9 Top 32, RPG Superstar 2015 Top 32

Thanks for the shout-out in your doc. I should go back and work on that guide.


I like all this, and look forward to your podcast.


Stream Channel is here.

Will start live streaming in about 15 minutes. Just trying to get things so it runs okay. Sadly my computer is somewhat crappy.


Problems should eb dealt with. Will be streaming in 7 minutes.


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Atarlost wrote:
The eye role is irrelevant to the model because it happens outside of initiative. If something happens outside of initiative it doesn't matter how the role is split up. If you have a mediocre hammer you have a problem that can get you killed. If you have a mediocre diplomat aid another has a DC anyone with undumped charisma can hit on a take 10 for +2 per party member because there's no opportunity cost to actions outside of initiative. The only eye skill you can't split is stealth, and one guy stealthing is asking for defeat in detail.
CRB, pg. 86 wrote:
(You can't take 10 on a skill check to aid another.)


TarkXT wrote:

Stream Channel is here.

Will start live streaming in about 15 minutes. Just trying to get things so it runs okay. Sadly my computer is somewhat crappy.

For those interested my internet connection blinked about halfway through so sadly it seems only the second half is saved to the stream page.

In the first half I explained the characters im using and why im going with skinsaw murders.

First combat done was the hambley farm encounter (Buffs abused Wild Arcana to cast invisibility that lasted 8 minutes on grumpy so he could scout the place. Found the ghoul barn, lit it on fire and reenacted the walking dead.

Buffs tossed a glitterdust ona trio of ghouls as they ran out nailing only one with blindness but effectively taking him out of the fight for 4 rounds. Some shots were fired and soon some ghouls were taken out.

So that's what's been missed so far.

Also you'll noticed that grumpy the dwarf moved 30ft instead of 20ft. That is my bad. Buuuuttttt considering i forgot about his wolf and also didnt factor in his favored enemy the entire fight that one instance of heightened dwarven speed can be forgiven.


TarkXT wrote:
TarkXT wrote:

Stream Channel is here.

Will start live streaming in about 15 minutes. Just trying to get things so it runs okay. Sadly my computer is somewhat crappy.

For those interested my internet connection blinked about halfway through so sadly it seems only the second half is saved to the stream page.

In the first half I explained the characters im using and why im going with skinsaw murders.

First combat done was the hambley farm encounter (Buffs abused Wild Arcana to cast invisibility that lasted 8 minutes on grumpy so he could scout the place. Found the ghoul barn, lit it on fire and reenacted the walking dead.

Buffs tossed a glitterdust ona trio of ghouls as they ran out nailing only one with blindness but effectively taking him out of the fight for 4 rounds. Some shots were fired and soon some ghouls were taken out.

So that's what's been missed so far.

Also you'll noticed that grumpy the dwarf moved 30ft instead of 20ft. That is my bad. Buuuuttttt considering i forgot about his wolf and also didnt factor in his favored enemy the entire fight that one instance of heightened dwarven speed can be forgiven.

Oh hey just found that livestream saved all the stuff before the cut off of that last video as a draft. Published it and now you can watch all the mistakes in its full 2 hour glory.


Mythic playtest robots versus an Agile templated Dire Ghoul bat!

A bit of talk about marching orders, a bit more showcasing of the mythic powers, a very quick and absolutely brutal combat that lasts 1 surprise round and 1.7 real rounds.

RPG Superstar 2014 Top 32

Excellent and interesting article.

You may or may not care, but I actually saw some guy on Youtube basically read this word for word in a series of videos. Possibly taking credit for the ideas.
I know gamers steal ideas all the time, it is to be expected, but seemed kind of odd that he would read it word for word.


Got a link?

In truth I don't particularly care too much. If someone added their own spin on it and took the time to yak in front of a webcam that's their business. But reading it word for word and not bothering to give credit is mildly irksome. It's the writer in me.


Well, I got a link but the second I commented he removed it instantaneously.

Sad really, this is the second time such a thing happened on completely free content where it would have been no thing to just cite the source.


Wonderful job Tark, it will be most helpful to me and my gaming group, thank you very much : )

Grand Lodge

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

Consider for a moment what your ultimate goal in combat is;

”TO OVER COME THE ENCOUNTER AS EFFICIENTLY AS POSSIBLE”

Call me strange, but I always thought that my goal in this game was to have fun. Efficiency is for boosting my net margin at work, so I can be considered a "valued employee."


LazarX wrote:
TarkXT wrote:

Consider for a moment what your ultimate goal in combat is;

”TO OVER COME THE ENCOUNTER AS EFFICIENTLY AS POSSIBLE”

Call me strange, but I always thought that my goal in this game was to have fun. Efficiency is for boosting my net margin at work, so I can be considered a "valued employee."

Well you are talking about two different goals here. One's the goal of the group in combat. The other the goal of the game. That does not make them mutually exclusive.

You try to be efficient so you can get a raise, buy a new house, maybe consider installing that gaming cave you always wanted.

Adventurers try to be efficient to avoid dying. Horribly.


By the way dying horribly is no fun.

Unless you are strange. :)


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I had a character sacrifice himself to stop a wizard that had an infinite-charge staff of ogre creation. Sundered the staff straight up, thus ensuring that a possibly infinite number of ogres remained unborn/uncreated.

That was fun.


Cheapy wrote:

I had a character sacrifice himself to stop a wizard that had an infinite-charge staff of ogre creation. Sundered the staff straight up, thus ensuring that a possibly infinite number of ogres remained unborn/uncreated.

That was fun.

Well we already know you are weird.

Also unless the death involved ogres and the various horrible things they do it probably wasn't horrible.

If it's a death with manly tears and noble sacrifice it probably doesn't count.


I had a ranger that sacrificed her life to distract a rampaging God long enough for our Godly ally to get the decisive blow. She died saving the world from the rampages of a mad god. What more could a person ask for in a heroic story?


Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Oh, he died to the ogres. Well, he went negative from the explosion. The ogres ... well the ogres got a couple natural 20s on his unconscious body.

He earned a nickname for this act, which was engraved on his tombstone, but it's a bit too crude for public discourse.


Tels wrote:
I had a ranger that sacrificed her life to distract a rampaging God long enough for our Godly ally to get the decisive blow. She died saving the world from the rampages of a mad god. What more could a person ask for in a heroic story?

See above. Voluntary deaths to plot realted shenanigans don't count.

Meaningless avoidable deaths are more the province of what I'm thinking about.


Well, my friend had a Dwarf that was grappled then drowned in a lake by a black dragon, and couldn't be saved by the party. However, he thought it was an awesome combat and thought his character's death was cool. Everyone else that had died in the campaign were rather normal deaths involving being stabbed a bunch.


So I decided to perform a touch of thread necromancy to inform those who ahve read this that I plan on expanding it quite a bit. You see this essay dealt entirely with strategy, building a group to meet any challenge the game might throw at you, the next part will involve the actual fire of combat. In other words I want to break down and discuss tactics.

As a brief bit about my thoughts I concluded that groups in pathfinder win by leveraging one of three important parts of combat; numbers, actions, and positioning.

But anyway I've just begun writing the thing so it may be a bit before I have anything solid. Just wanted to toss out some food for thought.


TarkXT wrote:

So I decided to perform a touch of thread necromancy to inform those who ahve read this that I plan on expanding it quite a bit. You see this essay dealt entirely with strategy, building a group to meet any challenge the game might throw at you, the next part will involve the actual fire of combat. In other words I want to break down and discuss tactics.

As a brief bit about my thoughts I concluded that groups in pathfinder win by leveraging one of three important parts of combat; numbers, actions, and positioning.

But anyway I've just begun writing the thing so it may be a bit before I have anything solid. Just wanted to toss out some food for thought.

Thank you. I loved this and found it highly informative.


Very much looking forwards to more on this from you TarkXT, have already showed this to a few of the less combat oriented players I know and it really helped them understand what will aid them in being a valuable party member in combat.

Silver Crusade

Looking forward to seeing this, Tark. Nice job. I've shown that essay to a lot of people.


Dotted.


As fun as it is to watch everything suddenly bubble to the top I think I'm just going to stick all these thigsg in my profile.


So, I decided on a bit of thread necromancy because I'm taking notes for a thing.

But basically, I decided to take a look back on this to see where it went when I left it alone and was surprised by the results. So a little over two years after the fact I'm curious to see how this has helped/harmed others.

So, let me know.

For the record, I don't believe this was ever revolutionary, new, etc. Merely a thoughtful clarification on why's of what people do when they build groups and why optimization tends towards certain directions based on class and ability. I hoped that the observations and considerations made in it would encourage people to build groups that worked together better so no one would feel the need to carry which is often a reason some people optimize a great deal (i.e. "I do it because because the rest of us are bad at making characters and I hate losing all the time.").

I'm also aware of the criticisms, mainly that it encourages a gamist attitude, but I'm not going to address that now.

Right now I just want to see if anyone has made any serious use of this in all that time or if it has helped them understand the game and allowed them to build better teams, not necessarily better characters. Also, if you have any gripes and criticisms share them.

Silver Crusade

Well, the terminology of the metaphor is now well known and understood on these boards. Works for me. Thanks, TarkXT.


I also took the time to actually link the fueling the forge article to it though that's obviously the less referenced one.


This is a most interesting thread.
The long post at that started the thread is most interesting and presents a good and detailed analysis.
I suspect I am not saying anything that will be disagreed with, but RPGs are by their nature extremely complicated and varied. Not all clerics or wizards are the same or even similar. Ditto Hammers, Anvils and Arms.
Consider joining a party that currently has an Arcane Trickster and a White Haired witch with one or two levels of monk.
That gives you two support casters, one doubling as a rogue and one as a reach grappler melee combatant. This is a most unusual structure and that is why I chose it.
What is needed? Well a tank and healing. A dedicated caster would not go astray either.
If one player is joining, the optimal choice is a Paladin, both roles filled.
If 2 players are joining, there is more room for debate. A Paladin and any other sort of tank is good.
A dedicated tank and divine caster, or any caster with good healing, perhaps a mystic theurge.
If 3 players are joining, a Paladin and any other sort of tank and a dedicated caster seems indicated.
I think what I have said above is pretty close to best and most experienced players would agree or at least half agree. I am not sure how it fits the hammer/ anvil/ arm analysis however.


Joynt Jezebel wrote:

This is a most interesting thread.

The long post at that started the thread is most interesting and presents a good and detailed analysis.
I suspect I am not saying anything that will be disagreed with, but RPGs are by their nature extremely complicated and varied. Not all clerics or wizards are the same or even similar. Ditto Hammers, Anvils and Arms.
Consider joining a party that currently has an Arcane Trickster and a White Haired witch with one or two levels of monk.
That gives you two support casters, one doubling as a rogue and one as a reach grappler melee combatant. This is a most unusual structure and that is why I chose it.
What is needed? Well a tank and healing. A dedicated caster would not go astray either.
If one player is joining, the optimal choice is a Paladin, both roles filled.
If 2 players are joining, there is more room for debate. A Paladin and any other sort of tank is good.
A dedicated tank and divine caster, or any caster with good healing, perhaps a mystic theurge.
If 3 players are joining, a Paladin and any other sort of tank and a dedicated caster seems indicated.
I think what I have said above is pretty close to best and most experienced players would agree or at least half agree. I am not sure how it fits the hammer/ anvil/ arm analysis however.

The thing of it is that the metaphor doesn't include concepts like tank and healer. As you can get by without either.

What's important is what and why you do it?

What do you do?

Heal.

Why?

To keep my team from dying.

So you're performing a support role.

Wht do you do?

Tank.

Why?

To keep the enemy from harming my team.

So you're playing a controlling role.

Scarab Sages

I agree. In the above mentioned group, they have plenty of Anvil (spells and grappling), a bit of Arm (Spells from both), but no Hammer. A paladin would work really well because the group lacks a means of killing their foes without expending excessive resources. The healing is nice, but something like a Slayer or Warpriest could work just as well as the Paladin.

Tanking is typically used to refer to being difficult to kill as an Hammer, but it is often exceedingly difficult to maintain viable Hammer status while remaining difficult to kill. This is what the Anvil and Arm are there for: A blinded, misfortune'd opponent is far less likely to hit your powerhouse Paladin than your paladin taking 3 more rounds to kill it because he picked up a bunch of survival options instead of opting to do more damage. It's not bad to make sure your character has some element of self sufficiency, which is why your Paladin can fill the Arm role in a pinch (especially if you take the right Paladin options), but every option he takes spreads his abilities too thin, and eventually he fails to adequately fulfill a single role with good consistency.


My point was more that its a mistake to think the metaphors are everything. You can get good answers with a bit of sense and experience, some of the time anyway.
But you are right I think that your metaphors are more useful than the older ones like tank and healer.
And you may be able to get bye w/o a healer as such, but you really do want some way of restoring HPs. Even if its just someone who can use a wand of CLW [the best value you can get for 750 GPs.]


Joynt Jezebel wrote:

My point was more that its a mistake to think the metaphors are everything. You can get good answers with a bit of sense and experience, some of the time anyway.

The metaphors, or rather the reasoning behind them, is to help direct a sense of thinking. They're not everything but they don't come with any more baggage than they come in with reducing confusion. You can come to the same conclusions with a long enough discussion so I prefer to think of them as something like shortcuts that get to the point.

So rather than thinking "what classes do we need?"

You ask. "What jobs do we need covered?"

That's actually quite liberating as it frees you from the burden of having to meet some imaginary class standard the game doesn't naturally enforce.

So at that point character concepts no longer have to match a class standard but a capability standard.

So if you have a two handing barbarian focusing on damage, a bard focusing on buffs, and a reach cleric focusing on summons your wizard or sorcerer can choose to be a blaster/battlefield controller mix seeing as the cleric and bard have arm and anvil roles pretty decently covered. That leaves you only considering how you want to blow things up.

The honest trick here, and the one thing I notice people get caught up on is even after building groups with this sort of analysis as a guide is that they end to drop the initiative concerns immediately. In my thinking, the only time it's acceptable for a hammer to go before his groups anvils/arms is if those in that role have managed to get behind the enemy in the initiative with the hammer above the enemy. Even then it's situational on what you do. Typically I just act in an anvilish kind of way, trying to drop a small hp enemy to get action advantage, or interpose my threatened squares to impede movement.


First, the metaphor just doesn't do it for me. It posits that the roles are "do damage" "debuff" and "buff". So yes, of course every party who tries to be more combat capable ends up sort of resembling your model, you've taken every useful combat action and lumped them into 3 broad categories. I laughed when your ideal initiative order ended with "everyone else", because they don't exist, unless by that you meant to say "the opposition". There's no way to become stronger at combat without increasing your ability to do damage, to remove opponent's options, or to help other PCs do the same.

Second, it writes off healing as a kind of buff. That's neither more nor less legitimate as writing damage off as kind of debuff, because dead creatures do no damage. A lack of combat healing presupposes a combat model in which the PCs have already won, and we're just trying to see how many resources they have to spend to get through the fight. I'm not saying a cleric should ONLY heal in many or most fights, nor am I saying a cleric should not be able to fill other roles, but if you're having many encounters in which no character will die, or stand a significant chance of dying with no combat heals, then your encounters are probably just too easy. No sane amount of battlefield control can replace the ability to undo the enemy's attacks in a tactical and selective manner. Eventually, some BBEG will fail to be shut down by solid fog/icy prison/a grappling T-Rex, and a member of your party will be put on 4 hp. Would you rather buff everyone and hope the BBEG dies before his next turn, hit him and hope he dies? Debuff him and hope his turn is made useless? Hope the GM plays the villain dumb and attacks someone else? No, the right move is to push the PC on death's door back into two-shot territory.

Secondly, a group without support classes can exist quite comfortably. I've played a bunch of APs with a 2 man party, where nobody had native access to divine magic. I needed to UMD the occasional utility scroll, but as far as combat is concerned, parties are rarely so big and so optimized that it makes more sense to add a buffer than another character who can control or kill foes. Support is a thing that you do before combat, or when your primary role is impaired, or when it doesn't cost you significant actions.

Your critique of supportless parties is made even more baffling when you suggest that healerless parties have to waste wealth on CLW wands or have shorter adventuring days. If a party with a healer in it is having their cleric take care of most of their healing with his own spells, he's impairing his ability to actually function during combat (unless, as explained above, he's doing necessary combat healing), thus shortening the party's adventuring day and reducing the group's peak output. On the other hand, if short adventuring days aren't a problem, there's no need to waste a single charge whether or not you have a cleric. CLW wands are a staple of adventuring parties because for a relatively low cost, they allow you to bring your party's full strength to bear during combat, because the divine caster won't have burned all his spells on post-combat healing.

Third, as has already been noted upthread, your ability to prepare for combat is EXTREMELY influential in your combat performance, and not all parties are equally capable of making those preparations. I'm less sold on the logistical side, since that role ends once you set foot in the dungeon, but recon and scouting are hugely important from the moment you arrive (and oftimes, earlier than that). Yes, your group may naturally fill the necessary pre-combat roles, just like they may fill your paradigm without even ever having heard of it, but if they take your model as their sole source of guidance and structure, it's just as likely that they won't. Control Sorcerer, defensive Fighter, offensive Barbarian, and a supportive Oracle fills out your model just fine, but they'd be lucky to scrounge up a rogue's worth of skills between the four of them combined, and will have to rely on scrolls for any sort of utility casting they want done. Forget about diplomacy and K:religion and all those "it might bear on combat" skills. The first step of any combat isn't the first attack, it's locating the enemy. Every single time.

I'm glad that you've rejected the labels of "tank", "healer", and so on, instead boiling down party composition to the essential needs of combat, but it's both too general (it ignores out of combat party optimizing as something that just kinda happens if you optimize for combat) and too specific (support characters aren't necessary for combat, and often the opportunity cost exceeds the marginal utility they provide). If you really wanted to keep arms as a thing, I'd make their minimum requirements the ability to buff as a move action or better (swift, if they rely on full attacks), or to make favorable action trades rather than simply ability to make the trades at all. If giving your standard action to the Barbarian is a worthy trade, it means your spot would be better served with a second Barbarian.


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Thank you for writing this essay. It made clear terms for what works in combat. It got popular enough that lots of people are now using the terms. My only problem with it is that I am now more aware than ever which party members do something useful and which don't.


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TarkXT wrote:


For the record, I don't believe this was ever revolutionary, new, etc. Merely a thoughtful clarification on why's of what people do when they build groups and why optimization tends towards certain directions based on class and ability.

I didn't think so either, until I started talking to other people about it. I was pretty surprised how many players, even those who really enjoy the combat aspect of the game, hadn't really put any thought into how it worked or how to be successful.

I initially thought, "It was well written, good for him," but after talking to a few people I started thinking that we probably need to be having these sorts of discussions.

TarkXT wrote:


I'm also aware of the criticisms, mainly that it encourages a gamist attitude, but I'm not going to address that now.

That was pretty much the response from some, yes.

I do think that your essay was a well written examination of these roles (mechanics? objectives?) in Pathinder specifically. This line of thinking wasn't anything new to me as I'd essentially been 'round this same bush over and over throughout various MMOs.

------------------------------------------------------------------

Mechanically, every actor in a combat game like this boils down to two broad classifications. Their capabilities and how long they can perform before they cease whatever their output is and instead start being dead. The goal of combat being to make the enemy cease their output before your output ceases.

Therefore, and I'm speaking more broadly than Pathfinder here, there are 4 roles that can be performed.

1. Eliminate the enemy (In PF's case, usually HP damage. Though anything that removes bodies from the opposing force counts).

2. Increase your side's capabilities (buffing, gaining advantages, etc)

3. Hinder your enemy's capabilities (debuffing, control, etc)

4. Deal with casualties that the enemy inflicts.

Essentially, this will get you through most games that boil down combat to numbers. Give to us, take from them, kill them, keep our guys alive. Easy.

Modern most MMOs handle 4 with both Tanks and Healers. The player with the most defenses takes the hits and they have a cadre of people keeping them alive (as well as others whom take incidental damage).

Pathfinder doesn't really do 4. The system doesn't *really* have tanks (though it can be accomplished similarly through control of positioning, terrain, and funky reach tricks, etc) and healing (generally speaking) is an inefficient use of an action.

Therefore 4 isn't particularly worth talking about in the grand scheme of how Pathfinder works. Was covered adequately enough for this game and it certainly doesn't need it's own named role.

For an article pertaining exclusively to Pathfinder you covered everything coherently.

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As far as a "gamist attitude" goes, I don't feel it is particularly gamist at all. People spend a lot of time agonizing over tactical decisions both by Soldiers before/during the battle and by high level officers and historians after the battle. They spend all this time thinking through this stuff because it is, literally, their life. It isn't gamist, it's survival.

People who adventure for a living ought to spend quite a bit of time thinking about what that entails and, throughout their careers, they should probably gravitate towards other adventurers with whom they are most likely to be successful and survive. There isn't anything gamist about thinking that the characters we're portraying would want to take the steps necessary to be successful.

There can be just as much drama, intrigue, and tension with a well put together cooperative party than there can with 4 Mary Sues working independently on the same side. Even if this was "gamist" the repercussions should be minimal.

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Anyway, it was a well written article and one that was, frankly, overdue (a video game launches and people are going into this sort of stuff in depth almost over night). I also think this is a healthy line of conversation. It's not "cheesy combo" or "how to build an overpowered duo with a couple abused feats," it's "how to build an efficient cooperative combat force."

This article is much more suited to long-term cooperative play than most of the builds/ability discussions that I've seen here. We should probably have more of it.

Finally, I don't like the terminology. Hammer and Anvil make me think of ambush tactics. This is entirely a personal problem, and I don't even have the decency to offer new suggestions (though it's far too late to change the terms anyway). You asked for feedback though, so there you go.

I only just now realized how long it has been since you first made this post. I'm actually a little let down that I don't see the terminology more on the boards (e.g. "Help me build a better Arm" or whatever).


Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
TarkXT wrote:

The metaphors, or rather the reasoning behind them, is to help direct a sense of thinking. They're not everything but they don't come with any more baggage than they come in with reducing confusion. You can come to the same conclusions with a long enough discussion so I prefer to think of them as something like shortcuts that get to the point.

So rather than thinking "what classes do we need?"

You ask. "What jobs do we need covered?"

I would agree that one should ask what jobs need to be covered, the issue is that you sort of miss one. The shield. Someone has to present themselves as a target for the inevitable aggression that the party faces. This is seperate from the anvil, in so much as the iconic anvil, the controller wizard, cant do it. Even the very best controller wizard cant keep all the enemies under control 100% of the time. A summoning caster can, but that sort of blurs the lines between anvil and hammer.

Usually, the hammer, is also the shield. Fighters, paladins, barbarians, etc, can dish out the defined damage, and take hits with loads of hp, high ac, etc. But it doesnt have to be. In theory a squishy archer type, or even a blasty caster could be part or all of a hammer. But they wouldnt then be the thing that stands between the enemy and the party.

I know that by your definition, blocking the enemy or occupying its attention is the anvils job. It just isnt realistic for the role to be covered by a single character. The controller caster (barring summons) cant provide a target for the enemy's hostility. There is also a difference between limiting or even blocking mobility, and being the target of hostility. You could stop the enemy cold and they could still be shooting/casting spells/whatever. At some point, someone is taking hits.

And without that, the metaphore falls apart as even if you go first, you arent guaranteed to avoid hostility from the enemy. Particularly if you are operating in a real game, where if the players manage to be efficient enough to avoid said hostility, a gm (being the thinking being that he is) will make the encounters harder until said hostility reaches the party regardless of their initiative.

Consequently there needs to be something that stands between the party and the enemy and presents a target. And practicality says its clearly distinct from the hammer, anvil and arm in your definitions. Though ofcourse one might be more then one of these things, or part of more then one of these things based on the character, the role is distinct.

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