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DM's house rules - frustrated


Advice

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Silver Crusade

A friend of mine wants to start running Jade Regent, but his house rules and tendency to buff encounters have been frustrating to me in the past, and I'm not sure how to cope with them without making the game unfun.

The main thing is that he gives everyone Step Up. The reason for this is that he feels spellcasters are overpowered and he dislikes that they can 5 foot step away and cast spells. Apart from always taking Combat Casting, how do I cope with this if I want to play a (Witch or Wizard) spellcaster? Especially at low levels when I don't have flight or other evasion abilities?

The (perhaps) unintended consequence of this is that all ranged characters are also penalized by this. If you're going to be provoking attacks of opportunity every time you try to shoot when in cramped quarters, your life just got a lot worse.

He also likes to buff encounters and (frequently) overdoes it to the point that a fight takes most of a session and we've expended so many resources by the end we have to rest or retreat. I am by no means an expert player, and a couple of the others playing with us are less so than I. While I know there are tactical ways to mitigate these issues, many of us are not 'built that way' in our gaming.

Do I talk to him and try to convince him to stick with the rules as written? Or can you help me build a character (preferably a full caster) that will survive his caprice?


The "everyone gets Step Up" rule, I wouldn't have a problem with. If you're looking for a way around it, you could try focusing on tumbling with Acrobatics (which won't work at high levels, but should be feasible at low levels). You can also focus on getting a high AC so that you're willing to just suck up the occasional attack of opportunity when you move away.

I've also had GMs who thought every battle should be almost lethal, and I don't think there's much you can do about it. Unless you can get ALL the players to agree that near-TPKs every battle are not fun, then the GM can just say "well, Joe and Frank like my campaigns!". And even if you can manage to get unanimous agreement, the GM might feel ganged up on.

The easiest solution, of course, is to start GMing your own campaign. Then you can be assured that everything is done the proper way! :-)


Consider taking Dodge and Mobility, this will help you get out of melee without getting hit too often.


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House rules are great fun when you're the one creating them. My opinion is that it is, in general, a better practice to not have any, and then make exceptions on a case-by-case basis. If anything, the DM should be creating them based on feedback from the group members, instead of front-loading the game.


5 people marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

A simple "you know, if you increase the challenge too much, you force players to optimize just to survive" should get the point across.


1 person marked this as a favorite.

First off, giving everyone Step Up for free is absurd, it's a feat that doesn't help everyone equally. It's like giving everyone Power Attack and saying that's fair since "everyone" can use it.

Otherwise you should talk to him into actually trying to stick to the rules in the book. He should also try to keep the CR of encounters within the groups level; Average Party Level = Level of Character. Somewhere between APL and APL+5 with "boss" fights as APL+5.

Finally, if that doesn't work, does anyone else in your group feel the same as you? If so you should talk about someone else running as Gm or confront your GM into playing the Adventure Path by the book to be fair.

Silver Crusade

I need to take Acrobatics? Or spend feats on Dodge and Mobility? This is not a problem if I'm playing a Rogue or a Monk or even a Barbarian, but it's a little harder to stomach when playing a Wizard or Witch when I want to be taking other feats.


As a witch, I'm fairly sure Hexes don't provoke.

In that game I'd go scarred Witch Doctor, focus on tons of con to survive his more difficult encounters, and take the game winning hexes like slumber and whatnot. Spells can be secondary.


First, switch off some. Don't have just one person always be GM. Take a turn yourself. Use RAW and let him see that casters don't necessarily dominate the game.

Second, I don't really think casters are overpowered until very high levels.
But if he feels that way, he is going to find a way to nerf them in his games.
I would suggest not playing the full caster. If you start doing well it sounds like (from your description) that he will just add new rules to make your life harsh.
I would recommend playing a hybrid or multiclass.
Magus with high intelligence - Cast attack spells at range then when something closes with you swith to the weapon and spell strike.
Dragon disciple build - Again cast at a distance and when close, claw the carp out the threat.


2 people marked this as a favorite.
Capricornus wrote:
I need to take Acrobatics? Or spend feats on Dodge and Mobility?

You don't need to. Cowering at the back of the party and sucking up the occasional AoO should be pretty effective most of the time.


There's a trait that gives a bonus to casting defensively. Between that and Combat Casting, those concentration checks should be pretty easy, unless everyone gets Disruptive for free as well or something.

Shadow Lodge

Is there a reason you and the other players have to play under this specific DM? I know you said you are fairly new and so are the other layers, but is it a deal where one of you could give it a try, or even find another DM, or are you more stuck in a situation where it is them or nothing?

I would suggest that you see what the other players think, and then as a group inform the DM you are not enjoying it, and explain you just want a normal game and soem less lengthy or lethat fights more often.


1 person marked this as a favorite.
Weables wrote:
As a witch, I'm fairly sure Hexes don't provoke.

"Unless otherwise noted, using a hex is a standard action that does not provoke an attack of opportunity."

.
If I were building a full caster for this game, I'd definitely make:

  • A witch (so I could avoid provoking by using hexes when threatened)
  • A wizard of the teleportation subschool so that I could swift-action teleport out of danger starting at level 1
  • A melee oriented cleric or battle oracle (So I could fight when threatened, and only cast spells when I'm in the clear).


  • You could take the nimble moves feat and make your 5ft steps through difficult terrain. If there is none create it yourself with spells. That way others can't follow you with step up.

    Or you could take that wizard subschool that lets you do short teleports as swift action: Not sure but could be a conjuration subschool.

    Or use spells that damage those who are in a square beside you like call the void. Perhaps they will move away.


    Honestly, it seems like a reasonable house rule to me, as far as evening the field between casters and martial characters. The fact that OP seems reluctant to play a martial character even with this free buff speaks to that to some extent. However, it's true that at low levels martial characters are already strong enough - perhaps you can compromise with your GM and say characters don't gain Step Up as a free feat until, say, level 7. This helps casters not die at low levels while they're weak, but limits their power at high levels where they tend to be much stronger.

    Blueluck wrote:
  • A wizard of the teleportation subschool so that I could swift-action teleport out of danger starting at level 1
  • I don't think this would help, because after using that ability he can't take any actions until his next turn (as Dimension Door.)


    There is a second level spell that allows you to cast without provoking AoO and without casting defensively for rounds/level. It's called Warding Weapon. He could get around that by giving everything the Disruptive feat, but there just comes a point where you are really going to need to talk to him about his problems with casters. Also, you can try stacking temps up so you can just take a move action away from enemies, soaking the single AoO, then casting.


    Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

    Litany of Sloth helps.

    Grand Lodge

    Get elven gloves +5 to concentration and the bracer (forgot the name) +2 to cast defensively and 3 double roll per day and get the elven +2 racial concentration trait along with the +2 magical concentration trait and start off with 20 int for another +5, and add in your CL you should never fail to cast defensively again.


    RumpinRufus wrote:
    Honestly, it seems like a reasonable house rule to me, as far as evening the field between casters and martial characters. The fact that OP seems reluctant to play a martial character even with this free buff speaks to that to some extent.

    The OP might just not like martial characters. Not everyone does.

    Sczarni

    There are few spells which would help your spellcaster completely negate the AoO-s and they are lv 1 spells.

    Adjuring Step
    Grease (helps vs grapple and can slow down opponents)
    Illusion of Calm
    Vanish or Invisibility are classics for escaping.

    You can consider going with feat buffs such as Dodge + Mobility as RumpinRufus said, but it will only help out slightly. It's not worth it if you ask me, especially if your GM is buffing up the encounters.

    At certain levels however your Concentration will get much higher and DC for Concentration will be much easier.
    Example: lv4 spellcaster with Combat Casting and 18 in his casting stat, has +12 on Concentration checks while casting defensively. DC to cast 1st level spell is 17, so you need to get 5 or more on dice to succeed. That's 75% chance of success.


    I would NOT recommend taking Acrobatics in your situation. Sure, you could if you absolutely wanted to, but a better choice IMO would be optimizing your concentration checks. This is not a bad thing, especially if you want to play a full spellcasting class. Personally, the first two things I usually focus on with a full spellcaster are concentration checks and overcoming spell resistance anyway (but that's just me).

    Besides taking Combat Casting, there are a couple of things you can do to help your defensive casting. My favorite is getting your hands on an Orange Prism Ioun Stone if you can afford it. +1 caster level might not seem like much, but look at what all it can do for you. Your spells last 1 increment longer. ALL of your damage dice increases by 1. Buff spells that scale based on caster level (such as Divine Shield) do so that much sooner. And, all of your concentration checks AND caster level checks to overcome spell resistance are both +1 better. Good stuff.

    You could also take Uncanny Concentration if you need an extra boost in casting defensively. Bottom line, finding ways to boost your defensive casting is probably your best bet in your situation.


    Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

    If everyone has this feat, then just go extreme trip focused.

    Turn the tables against him.


    There's also the spell Grace. It may not help much, because you'll provoke by casting it, but since it's a low-level spell you could cast it defensively with an easy concentration check, then move and cast a high-level spell with no check.


    Honestly, it isn't that hard for a caster to just stay out of the thick of things. If this "everyone Steps-Up" rule were introduced in my Runelords campaign, it would rarely if ever have come up. And when it did, people would cast defensively. That DC is paltry.

    It's not about what the Wizard PC must do, it's about making sure the other PCs do their job and defend their caster.


    RumpinRufus wrote:
    Honestly, it seems like a reasonable house rule to me, as far as evening the field between casters and martial characters. The fact that OP seems reluctant to play a martial character even with this free buff speaks to that to some extent.

    So what you're saying is: Casters are overpowered and the OP wants to abuse that, because otherwise he'd cave in and just play a martial character. Is that what you're saying?

    Not everyone likes martial characters. Or sometimes wants to play a concept that needs a caster.

    And as he said, that feat also penalises ranged characters.

    Do the PCs also get Step Up for free, or just his NPCs?

    As an advice: I'd try talking to him, be honest with him and say you're not really comfortable with that. Say that, sure it's his right as GM to make houserules, but wouldn't it be better to actually see how it plays out?
    Once casters start dominating he can still give some enemies Step Up if he likes, but at low levels they're quite limited actually (only get a few spells/day etc).


    Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber; Pathfinder Modules Subscriber

    mirror image

    blur

    Also, don't forget that you can often deliberately provoke by doing something other than casting before you cast. Unless all the bad guys also have Combat Reflexes, you can often burn their AoO on something that doesn't risk loss of spell.

    You can also stand in the middle of a puddle of grease. If you don't try to move, you don't need to make a save. Those trying to 5ft up to you have to.

    There's also a metamagic feat that lets you sculpt the shape of a spell. Leaving yourself a nice hole in the middle of entangle might be helpful.

    Remember that if someone's gone and blown their AoO to move up to you, you suddenly have other options open to you, like moving after your cast. You don't have to restrain yourself, doing just 5ft and cast actions. Lead them around, denying them full attacks. Shrug.


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    Evil Lincoln wrote:
    And when it did, people would cast defensively. That DC is paltry.

    Say what now? In my experience, 15 + 2x spell level is a pretty hefty DC (about 50%-60% chance of success for your highest level spell, say).


    hogarth wrote:
    Say what now? In my experience, 15 + 2x spell level is a pretty hefty DC (about 50%-60% chance of success for your highest level spell, say).

    Throw in Combat Casting and Desperate Focus. What are your odds of success now? Then cast your highest-level spells round one and use your second highest-level spells when someone manages to be adjacent to you. Now what are your odds of success?


    Evil Lincoln wrote:

    Honestly, it isn't that hard for a caster to just stay out of the thick of things. If this "everyone Steps-Up" rule were introduced in my Runelords campaign, it would rarely if ever have come up. And when it did, people would cast defensively. That DC is paltry.

    The DC is not that low actually. It's 15 + twice the spell level, unlike 3.5 where it's just spell level.

    For a concentration you roll 1d20 + Casterlevel + Ability mod.

    Casterlevel and spell level*2 almost balance each other out, assuming you cast the highest level of spells available to you.

    Which means the 1d20+ability mod has to be around 15. Sure at higher levels that becomes more easy, especially if you cast lower level spells and you've stacked up those +Ability stuff.

    But at low levels? Not really that easy. Even if you start with a 20 int at level 1 and cast a 1st level spell, you still have to roll a 11 or higher.
    Even Combat Casting doesn't make that a sure thing and you'll still fizzle 1/3 or more of your spells.


    hogarth wrote:
    Evil Lincoln wrote:
    And when it did, people would cast defensively. That DC is paltry.
    Say what now? In my experience, 15 + 2x spell level is a pretty hefty DC (about 50%-60% chance of success for your highest level spell, say).

    If you really push it, it is pretty easy to have a 0% failure chance on all but maybe highest level of spell once you get higher level. For a full caster, the highest DC for defensive casting goes up by 2 for every 2 caster levels, meaning that the chance of failure wouldn't change if the caster wasn't also gaining feats, gear, and stat boosts to close the gap. I have had several characters who would have maybe 10% fail chance on a max level spell by the end.

    Grand Lodge

    Roberta Yang wrote:
    hogarth wrote:
    Say what now? In my experience, 15 + 2x spell level is a pretty hefty DC (about 50%-60% chance of success for your highest level spell, say).
    Throw in Combat Casting and Desperate Focus. What are your odds of success now? Then cast your highest-level spells round one and use your second highest-level spells when someone manages to be adjacent to you. Now what are your odds of success?

    Don't forget items...

    Grand Lodge

    Quatar wrote:
    Evil Lincoln wrote:

    Honestly, it isn't that hard for a caster to just stay out of the thick of things. If this "everyone Steps-Up" rule were introduced in my Runelords campaign, it would rarely if ever have come up. And when it did, people would cast defensively. That DC is paltry.

    The DC is not that low actually. It's 15 + twice the spell level, unlike 3.5 where it's just spell level.

    For a concentration you roll 1d20 + Casterlevel + Ability mod.

    Casterlevel and spell level*2 almost balance each other out, assuming you cast the highest level of spells available to you.

    Which means the 1d20+ability mod has to be around 15. Sure at higher levels that becomes more easy, especially if you cast lower level spells and you've stacked up those +Ability stuff.

    But at low levels? Not really that easy. Even if you start with a 20 int at level 1 and cast a 1st level spell, you still have to roll a 11 or higher.
    Even Combat Casting doesn't make that a sure thing and you'll still fizzle 1/3 or more of your spells.

    +2 trait, +2 racial trait, +4 combat casting +5 stat...and at least a 1 on the dice roll...that is 14 of the 15 you need right there if you so choose.


    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    So why not just give wizards only 1 race to choose from, scratch their 1st level feat and give them only 1 instead of 2 traits.

    Because that's essentially what you did there. With that houserule you basically force casters to take those feats, traits and maybe even races to not suck totally.


    Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

    Withdraw action helps.


    Roberta Yang wrote:
    hogarth wrote:
    Say what now? In my experience, 15 + 2x spell level is a pretty hefty DC (about 50%-60% chance of success for your highest level spell, say).
    Throw in Combat Casting and Desperate Focus. What are your odds of success now?

    Obviously, if you invest enough resources into your concentration checks, the DC starts to approach "paltry". But not in general.


    Quatar wrote:
    RumpinRufus wrote:
    Honestly, it seems like a reasonable house rule to me, as far as evening the field between casters and martial characters. The fact that OP seems reluctant to play a martial character even with this free buff speaks to that to some extent.

    So what you're saying is: Casters are overpowered and the OP wants to abuse that, because otherwise he'd cave in and just play a martial character. Is that what you're saying?

    Not everyone likes martial characters. Or sometimes wants to play a concept that needs a caster.

    I wasn't trying to accuse OP of power-gaming, just pointing out that one reason (out of many) that some players prefer casters is because they're more powerful. If the OP doesn't care about power and just wants to play a caster for flavor reasons, then he shouldn't care about taking the occasional AoO. If he's concerned casters won't be effective with these rules and cares about power, he should just play a melee character and get the free buff.


    blackbloodtroll wrote:
    Withdraw action helps.

    Except you can't cast, since that's a full round action, and by next round the melee character will have charged you again.

    Don't get me wrong: At higher level I totally see many martial NPCs to have this feat, especially if they're somewhat specilising in hunting casters.
    But everyone from level 1 on?

    There are other ways to lock down casters if you really want to, without something like that (like an archer readying an action to shoot when the wizard casts a spell). It just feels like a cheap "casters, f!@& off, you won't have fun with my game cause I like screwing you over. And if you find a way around this one, I find something else".

    Shadow Lodge

    Traits, Stats, Items, and a lot of other stuff may not be an option.

    The DC is still very hefty, even with Combat Casting, concidering that you not only fail on a failed roll, but also lose the spell. To be honest, it sounds like this DM listens to a lot of this sort of message boards rubish, assumes that all casters are "schrodinger's casters", and obviously the players have already had some bad experiences before this new prepossed game. If that's the case, honestly no tactic (in game) will really work s the DM will just make a new house rule, (Hexes now Provoke, all casters automatically have 50% chance for spell failure on Concentation checks, or whatever) to undermine any steps the players do to enjoy the game.


    RumpinRufus wrote:


    I wasn't trying to accuse OP of power-gaming, just pointing out that one reason (out of many) that some players prefer casters is because they're more powerful. If the OP doesn't care about power and just wants to play a caster for flavor reasons, then he shouldn't care about taking the occasional AoO. If he's concerned casters won't be effective with these rules and cares about power, he should just play a melee character and get the free buff.

    Why does "playing a concept" has to be opposite "making a fun and effective character"?

    Can't I try to play a character that's effective and doesn't get marginalised and still have a strong RP concept?

    Also the OP seems to have experience with this particular GM. From what I read the GM doesn't like casters, and probably goes out of his way to focus fire on them, so tactics like "stay back" or "suffer the occational AoO" won't work, because they'll always have one or two melees on them from round 2 on.
    That's just a suspicion now, I don't know that GM.


    Pathfinder Companion Subscriber

    Can casters and Ranged weapon users chose another feat?

    This "free feat" that only benefits some players and NPCs, is unbalancing.

    Imagine if this was Combat Casting or Weapon Finesse as a free feat for all.

    How would that effect the balance?


    Quatar wrote:
    blackbloodtroll wrote:
    Withdraw action helps.
    Except you can't cast, since that's a full round action, and by next round the melee character will have charged you again.

    Eating the full-round action is indeed painful, but with a little bit of tactics the charge shouldn't be terribly hard to avoid. Just put an obstacle (or character) in between yourself and the monster, and move far enough away that a single move action won't put you in melee range.

    Grand Lodge

    Quatar wrote:

    So why not just give wizards only 1 race to choose from, scratch their 1st level feat and give them only 1 instead of 2 traits.

    Because that's essentially what you did there. With that houserule you basically force casters to take those feats, traits and maybe even races to not suck totally.

    That is a basic optimization. You can ignore any part of that for flavor reason...and I certainly do...even if everyone had step up. But lack of resources spent here can be easily made up for with some rather cheap items later as well. So even if the first few levels are rough for the wizard (they usually are...standing 75 feet away and plinking with a crossbow anyone?), the issue isn't a long standing one.


    Honestly, I just wouldn't play with this DM. If he's arbitrarily giving every npc the 'counter-mage' feat, he obviously doesn't really have a strong grasp of the system (There are many far less cheesy ways to challenge mages), and will likely do more of this type thing as you gain power. And given how he likes to ramp up the difficulty of every encounter, he just sounds like he enjoys a very adversarial game. That's not everyone's thing. It sounds like it's not yours, and trying to min-max your character to counter his style is a futile effort. He will win the arms race every time. I personally hate that style of play. As a gm and player, I'm much more into creating an awesome story with a strong narrative than trying to beat the snot out of my players. I think it's more important for an encounter to be interesting and fun than technically challenging (though it is important to push the players time to time as well)


    Quatar wrote:
    But everyone from level 1 on?

    Yeah, I assumed this applied only at higher levels. It'snot like first-level martials are too weak and first-level wizards are too strong.


    blackbloodtroll wrote:

    Can casters and Ranged weapon users chose another feat?

    This "free feat" that only benefits some players and NPCs, is unbalancing.

    Imagine if this was Combat Casting or Weapon Finesse as a free feat for all.

    How would that effect the balance?

    The whole point is to nerf casters because the GM finds them unbalanced by RAW.

    He's laying it right out before character creation, so if his players really think that it disrupts the balance that much, they should play melee characters. Or build their casters around these rules.

    However, it seems to be almost unanimous that casters are more powerful than melee characters once you get to mid-levels, so if the GM wants to make a world where melee characters don't hit a ceiling at level 7, this seems like a reasonable way to do it.


    It'll take a little while before you can do it, but look at ways to fly. It doesn't matter how awesome the melee fighters are if they can't get close enough to touch you. Although I find most spellcasters who can take up flying as fast as possible...


    Casting spells that are swift actions doesn't provoke AoO, but Grace is still very limited by spell list and level.

    Anyway, I think it's a legit houserule for the right type of game. You can take feats to cast defensively better, or you can cower behind allies better. Remember, if your front liners have Step Up as well, they can follow their targets better and have an increased chance of protecting you, or at least punishing whoever your aggressor is.

    It hurts more at lower levels for sure though, when feats are at a premium and spells aren't as gamechanging yet (though there's Sleep, Color Spray...)

    Silver Crusade

    A little more info, I guess.

    - I am not a new player, and have been DMing for a long time. I DM most of our games and this is an opportunity for me to get out from behind the screen.
    - I don't have an exclusive preference for casters, and am considering a melee character (but not so much a ranged character, due to the above house rule). I want to play a caster this time, because my past few characters played have been melee or hybrids, (and also perhaps to stick it to the DM...), I like the flavour, and though I haven't discussed class choices with the other players, I'm pretty flexible when it comes to filling in party roles, and I wanted to snag the Arcane caster/battlefield control role. (Conjuror or Witch with Insanity patron focusing on debuffing)

    I know there are lots of in-game ways to mitigate the situation, and I thank you all for pointing out the ones you've had experience with. I don't like the idea that a significant portion of my customization (Feats, Traits, Spells Known) will be dictated in service of overcoming this house rule however. That being said, yes, it might not be so bad, but the last time I played with him DMing it was a pain in the rear.

    I will check with the other players on their feelings. And I will bring it up with the potential DM. I am waiting on a response from him as to his character creation guidelines and a list of his house rules. I don't have a problem saying no to this campaign either, as I am pretty busy and am running another campaign and Pathfinder Society scenarios as well.


    You know what? I've done all kinds of campaign-specific house rules (that is, they vary from game world to game world that I run). I've done some that are seriously punitive to casters---for instance
    I ran one with basically 2nd edition interrupt rules---any damage at all and you're interrupted and you can't start a spell in a round where you took damage earlier, along with giving all pure melees the ability to do a single move and full attack.

    The result: about 1/3 of the players STILL played casters, and enjoyed it. As long as the rules are known in advance of character creation, and consistent, there's not really any problem. There's nothing holy about the relative balance between melees and casters.


    Eh, these are not bad house rules. Things could be much, much worse.

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