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Problem player - Nothing seems to work!


Advice

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I've been having problems with a particular player for a while now, but nothing seems to work.

This player - let's call him Bill - is an excellent roleplayer and a clever tactician. However, he's also several times more skilled in character building than my other players combined. We've had to make encounters at 4 or 5 above APL just to challenge him.

We're playing through the Emerald Spire module, and are on floor 6.

Bill is playing as a 4th level LN Hellknight Cleric, and used much of his WBL to create a Bloody Skeletal Dire Lioness, a Bloody Skeletal Ogre, and a Bloody Skeletal Bunyip. As such, his minions have ungodly attack power and defense for the character's level, and his minions just keep regenerating unless killed with positive energy or holy water - Neither of which the Evil opponents he's facing are likely to be using!

A high CHA means that Command Undead is likely to fizzle when trying to take control of his minions away, and he's clever enough to use a spell to avoid one of our GM's countermeasures (positive energy traps).

This wouldn't be such a big issue if this were the first time this happened, but Bill's characters are consistently several times stronger than anyone else in the group. Anything that challenges him simply flattens the rest of the party, and his ungodly luck means that the dice are almost always on his side.

I've talked to him about the problem several times before, and even tried having him help the other players in making characters. Inevitably, he ends up outshining almost everyone else in the party.

This has been going on for far too long, and I'm sick and tired of it. He's not doing it maliciously, but he doesn't see why he should be punished for being good at building characters. I honestly don't know what to do at this point.


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If you've talked to the player, explained that his characters unbalance everything for the rest of the table, that the choices he makes affect everyone else, he isn't willing to help get everyone else up to his level, and he still hasn't been willing to change his behavior, you basically have only two options left.

Accept the situation, realize there is nothing you can do, and continue to allow his behavior to dictate the fun the rest of the table (including you) have.

Or tell him that your table isn't for him. He needs to be at a table that is less casual and is also full of people who can keep up with him and a DM to match (not criticizing you on the DM front here).

In the end, I'm not trying to say you or Bill are playing the wrong way. But it sounds like you're playing with two different table expectations. If everyone else is at one level of power, and he's far above that, he either needs to adjust (I had a player who once said as an optimizer he preferred to play bad classes because it kept him at roughly the same level of power as the other players) or find a table where he'll fit better.

Also, remember that before you start a campaign you have the final say as DM. You can absolutely tell a player that while it may be rules legal to have bloody skeletons, that you aren't going to allow it because it unbalances things. That is your choice as DM.

Anyway, that's a bit long but I hope it helps.


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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

You may be sick of it, but how does everyone else feel?


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Bioboygamer wrote:
...and used much of his WBL to create a Bloody Skeletal Dire Lioness, a Bloody Skeletal Ogre, and a Bloody Skeletal Bunyip. ...

He doesnt have "skill in character building", but simply abuses a too-nice DM.

Bill: "I want XYZ special individualised gear/weapons/monster-minions" - DM: "No. No, you may not abuse a loophole."

Problem solved.

As a DM it is hard, but you need to harness the power of "No".


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How is using a spell on your spell list to create undead minions a loophole?


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Depends what spell he is using, if he is using a scroll, etc. Level 4 cleric would only be able to (regularly) cast Lesser Animate dead (I think) unless he was using other means, and that spell specifically calls out no variants. Also, no larges. So I'm guessing scrolls?

Animate Dead, Lesser:

School necromancy [evil]; Level cleric 2, sorcerer/wizard 3

Target one corpse

Duration instantaneous

This spell functions as animate dead, except you can only create a single Small or Medium skeleton or zombie. You cannot create variant skeletons or zombies with this spell.


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Looking a little deeper
Dire lion = 8 HD
Ogre = 4 HD
Bunyip = 5 HD
Total of 17 HD.
as per Animate Dead - No matter how many times you use this spell, however, you can control only 4 HD worth of undead creatures per caster level.

So at CL4 He can do a max of 16HD. Plus, the whole part of actually getting these corpses...

Animate Dead:

School necromancy [evil]; Level cleric 3, sorcerer/wizard 4

Casting Time 1 standard action

Components V, S, M (an onyx gem worth at least 25 gp per Hit Die of the undead)

Range touch

Targets one or more corpses touched

Duration instantaneous

Saving Throw none; Spell Resistance no

This spell turns corpses into undead skeletons or zombies that obey your spoken commands.

The undead can be made to follow you, or they can be made to remain in an area and attack any creature (or just a specific kind of creature) entering the place. They remain animated until they are destroyed. A destroyed skeleton or zombie can't be animated again.

Regardless of the type of undead you create with this spell, you can't create more HD of undead than twice your caster level with a single casting of animate dead. The desecrate spell doubles this limit.

The undead you create remain under your control indefinitely. No matter how many times you use this spell, however, you can control only 4 HD worth of undead creatures per caster level. If you exceed this number, all the newly created creatures fall under your control, and any excess undead from previous castings become uncontrolled. You choose which creatures are released. Undead you control through the Command Undead feat do not count toward this limit.

Skeletons: A skeleton can be created only from a mostly intact corpse or skeleton. The corpse must have bones. If a skeleton is made from a corpse, the flesh falls off the bones.

Zombies: A zombie can be created only from a mostly intact corpse. The corpse must be that of a creature with a physical anatomy.


elcaleeb wrote:

Looking a little deeper

Dire lion = 8 HD
Ogre = 4 HD
Bunyip = 5 HD
Total of 17 HD.
as per Animate Dead - No matter how many times you use this spell, however, you can control only 4 HD worth of undead creatures per caster level.

I actually didn't look at the HD until now. Also, my understanding that while you can create bloody skeletons with the animate dead spell, they count as twice their HD when casting the spell. So at level 4 he couldn't have created the Bunyip bloody skeleton or the Dire Lion bloody skeleton, even if he had access to the spell.


Throw some clerics in to the fray and have them channel a bunch to damage undead. There are ways of giving clerics the ability to channel both positive and negative. If Bill is causing problems and the DM is running Emerald Spire by the book then it's about time he starts making some changes to the module and throwing in some custom encounters. I'm not saying just play a hate game against Bill but throw stuff in that would pose a challenge to him and allow the rest of the group a chance to do things too. Or you could just go to the old fall back. Rocks fall, Bill dies.


If the player has been warned and continues to do the same things, then he is not cooperating with the game. Mention a last time that something needs to change or he will not be invited back.


THUNDER_Jeffro wrote:
elcaleeb wrote:

Looking a little deeper

Dire lion = 8 HD
Ogre = 4 HD
Bunyip = 5 HD
Total of 17 HD.
as per Animate Dead - No matter how many times you use this spell, however, you can control only 4 HD worth of undead creatures per caster level.

I actually didn't look at the HD until now. Also, my understanding that while you can create bloody skeletons with the animate dead spell, they count as twice their HD when casting the spell. So at level 4 he couldn't have created the Bunyip bloody skeleton or the Dire Lion bloody skeleton, even if he had access to the spell.

Or Audit his character and make sure everything actually is correct. This works too. Failed to read his level and stuff in the initial post.


THUNDER_Jeffro wrote:
elcaleeb wrote:

Looking a little deeper

Dire lion = 8 HD
Ogre = 4 HD
Bunyip = 5 HD
Total of 17 HD.
as per Animate Dead - No matter how many times you use this spell, however, you can control only 4 HD worth of undead creatures per caster level.

I actually didn't look at the HD until now. Also, my understanding that while you can create bloody skeletons with the animate dead spell, they count as twice their HD when casting the spell. So at level 4 he couldn't have created the Bunyip bloody skeleton or the Dire Lion bloody skeleton, even if he had access to the spell.

Just came across that quote for variants myself (see below), unless he is in a desecrated area.

Animate Dead wrote:
Regardless of the type of undead you create with this spell, you can't create more HD of undead than twice your caster level with a single casting of animate dead. The desecrate spell doubles this limit.

Variant Skeletons:

Numerous variant skeletons exist, such as those whose bones burn with an unending fire and those who drip with gore and reassemble themselves over time. Both of these variant skeletons can be created using animate dead, but they count as twice their normal number of Hit Dice per casting. Once controlled, they count normally against the controller's limit.


So, it appears that Bill's character creation skills aren't really that much better than the rest of the party. Unless there is more to the situation than has been discussed, he shouldn't be able to have either the Dire Lion or Bunyip based Bloody Skeletons.

If he cast the spells under the effect of a Desecrate spell, he could have created those undead. However, the total HD of creatures he has right now is above what he should be able to control.


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I haven't read Emerald Spire. Is it a fortress full of enemies who work together, or is it a bunch of random rooms with monsters who don't care about the monsters in the next room down the hall?

If it's the latter, just replace a couple encounters with stuff that can destroy those undead. Summoners work (even an evil character can summon archons, etc., to defeat enemy undead).

If it's the former, assume that the leaders have investigated to find out who has been killing all their minions, and they've prepared for it by purchasing a truckload of holy water. Arm those minions with it, beat on the bloody skeletons and then finish them off with holy water.

In-game problem solved.

But really, the GM needs to resolve this out of game. I had much the same problem, one player who really knows the system and reads the class guides and wanted to create highly optimized characters, but the rest of the players wanted a more casual game. So I talked to the optimizer, let him know what kind of game we're playing, and he agreed to play more casually.

Out-of-game problem solved.

Sovereign Court

DM_Blake wrote:

But really, the GM needs to resolve this out of game. I had much the same problem, one player who really knows the system and reads the class guides and wanted to create highly optimized characters, but the rest of the players wanted a more casual game. So I talked to the optimizer, let him know what kind of game we're playing, and he agreed to play more casually.

Out-of-game problem solved.

Or - if they're more like me and want to keep optimizing, they can optimize otherwise sub-par concepts and/or support roles. (Nobody cares if the bard is super amazing at buffing along with being a pretty decent warrior.)


Charon's Little Helper wrote:
DM_Blake wrote:

But really, the GM needs to resolve this out of game. I had much the same problem, one player who really knows the system and reads the class guides and wanted to create highly optimized characters, but the rest of the players wanted a more casual game. So I talked to the optimizer, let him know what kind of game we're playing, and he agreed to play more casually.

Out-of-game problem solved.

Or - if they're more like me and want to keep optimizing, they can optimize otherwise sub-par concepts and/or support roles. (Nobody cares if the bard is super amazing at buffing along with being a pretty decent warrior.)

Yeah. My optimizer is currently playing a blaster sorcerer. Deliberately NOT taking the game changing spells and focusing only on what mages are worst at: blasting.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

There are several possible ways the character could be legal. Things that increase CL aren't unknown, and scrolls of animate dead are a possibility if he isn't able to cast the spell himself. Since WBL was blown on this those are distinct possibilities.

The OP doesn't really explain the problem very well. It isn't even very clear if he is the GM or a fellow player, but in any event he doesn't describe why one player being stronger is an issue. I'm not denying that it often does cause issues, but there are several different issues it could cause, and without knowing exactly what sort if issues it is causing, it is hard to give a good solution.

Depending on the nature of the real issue, what the other players are doing may be relevant as well.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
elcaleeb wrote:

Looking a little deeper

Dire lion = 8 HD
Ogre = 4 HD
Bunyip = 5 HD
Total of 17 HD.
as per Animate Dead - No matter how many times you use this spell, however, you can control only 4 HD worth of undead creatures per caster level.

So at CL4 He can do a max of 16HD. Plus, the whole part of actually getting these corpses...

If he also has the command undead feat, he could have up to 20 HD of undead under his control. Four from the feat (up to cleric level) and 16 from the animate dead spell.

The issue with bloody skeletons costing double to animate is a good point - but the follow-up sentence may be problematic.

Bestiary wrote:

Both of these variant skeletons can be created using animate dead, but they count as twice their normal number of Hit Dice per casting. Once controlled, they count normally against

the controller’s limit.

Clearly this means the 4HD bloody ogre skeleton costs the equivalent of 8HD to animate. But does it still cost that in control when the caster has a limit of 4xCleric level? Or does it "count normally" as 4HD? If the latter is the correct interpretation (or at least the interpretation used) and a couple of these skeletons were animated within the confines of a desecrated area, then he's got a case for being legal.


I have to agree with some of the other advice: ask the player to either stop trying to optimize everything or not be invited back to a casual player table. It is not fair to the rest of the casual players to have one player decide to be Superman all the time and the rest of the party gets to sit back and stare in wonder. Where's the fun in that? Also, as the DM, it has to be painful to try and balance encounters that will challenge the optimizer while also NOT wiping out the other party members.


So, he has helped the other players build characters? And he still outshined them? If so then maybe you can have him teach the other players some tactics to make their characters more effective. He obviously is willing to help out the group.

I hate to say it but it actually sounds like either you are being too lenient or he is just a good player and unfortunately his skill is just outshining everyone at the table. Without knowing more I am not sure what to offer.


I have kind of the same issue. the archer dishes out over 100 damage per turn while everyone else struggle to do over 30. so when I throw monsters that the archer can't kill in one turn they all say.

"man it's a good thing we have an archer we would all die if we had anything else."

I just kind of ignore comments like that the goal is fun, not challenge. sometimes challenge is fun but too much challenge is not that fun.

I threw a bunch of vampire spawn during an epic boss fight. the archer was greater invisible and while using the feats snap shot/improved snap shot and combat reflexes (they threaten squares within 10 feet with a bow). the archer continually destroyed the spawn with nothing but attacks of opportunity.

from the spawns' point of view anytime a spawn went around the corner to attack, they came back as mist in the same turn.

That right there was the funnest part of the battle the players could not stop laughing at the slaughter fest. and then the BBEG showed up.


The best way to handle inveterate optimizers is probably to channel them into doing something narrow, primarily complementary, or with limited game-warping power. A player who optimizes much more than the rest of the party is a serious problem when they're playing a full caster, but is pretty manageable if they're playing say, a Monk, Swashbuckler, Mesmerist, Cavalier, etc. Optimizers who crave power are going to do a lot less damage to the game balance with a bard, paladin, or a barbarian than they will with a wizard, druid, or cleric.

But this specific example seem to be more of a case of "a misinterpretation of the rules allows the character to do something they shouldn't be able to." Paring Bill down to the total limit of minions he should be able to control ought to help a lot.


not sure if there is something I am missing on the Command Undead feat, or an errata or something, but from my read it uses a channel negative energy, and acts as control undead, which lasts for minutes per level. There is a reference in the command undead feat that says intelligent undead get a new save every day, but that doesn't make much sense on an ability that lasts minutes per level. It also doesn't make sense for a 1st level cleric to be able to cast a more powerful version of a 7th level wizard spell multiple times a day if you were to say it is pemenant. My guess is the feat is supposed to reference the 2nd level command undead spell, not the 7th level control undead spell, but can't currently find anything to back that up one way or the other

Command Undead:

Using foul powers of necromancy, you can command undead creatures, making them into your servants.

Prerequisites: Channel negative energy class feature.

Benefit: As a standard action, you can use one of your uses of channel negative energy to enslave undead within 30 feet. Undead receive a Will save to negate the effect. The DC for this Will save is equal to 10 + 1/2 your cleric level + your Charisma modifier. Undead that fail their saves fall under your control, obeying your commands to the best of their ability, as if under the effects of control undead. Intelligent undead receive a new saving throw each day to resist your command. You can control any number of undead, so long as their total Hit Dice do not exceed your cleric level. If you use channel energy in this way, it has no other effect (it does not heal or harm nearby creatures). If an undead creature is under the control of another creature, you must make an opposed Charisma check whenever your orders conflict.

Control Undead:

School necromancy; Level sorcerer/wizard 7

Casting Time 1 standard action

Components V, S, M (a piece of bone and a piece of raw meat)

Range close (25 ft. + 5 ft./2 levels)

Targets up to 2 HD/level of undead creatures, no two of which can be more than 30 ft. apart

Duration 1 min./level

Saving Throw Will negates; Spell Resistance yes

This spell enables you to control undead creatures for a short period of time. You command them by voice and they understand you, no matter what language you speak. Even if vocal communication is impossible, the controlled undead do not attack you. At the end of the spell, the subjects revert to their normal behavior.

Intelligent undead creatures remember that you controlled them, and they may seek revenge after the spell's effects end.


Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Roleplaying Game Subscriber
elcaleeb wrote:
not sure if there is something I am missing on the Command Undead feat, or an errata or something, but from my read it uses a channel negative energy, and acts as control undead, which lasts for minutes per level.

Don't want to derail, but in brief command undead has its own duration (indefinite) but the 'effects' i.e. what commanding means, are the same is if the creatures were under a control undead spell. You aren't casting control undead, you are just using the same mechanics for controlling.


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Regardless of power level, running three competent minions at a full table is a bit of a jerk move: you've increased the time it takes each turn in combat by 30-40%, and you've guaranteed that the focus is on you for most of the game. It's even worse if you have no personal regard for your minions and don't worry about them getting hurt, needing gear, etc.

Why have the rogue look for traps? Just have the undead minion walk in front and trigger everything.

We don't need a scout: I'll just have my minions walk around, since no one will recognize them as "out of town" monsters anyway.

I know you built a front line tank, but why don't we have my minions hold the front line instead? If they get killed, you can back them up.

And so on. A single player with 3 competent minions is a party all by himself.

Sovereign Court

Well, i dont blame him... a lot of people here loves to make their character as strong as they can, im one of those.
But when you are also smart, or maybe older, more experienced than the rest of the players things can go wrong. The solution? Making buffers and support characters o help other players make their characters
To give you an example, im one of the olders in the table, and usually i make all the strategies. Also i usually play with my two brothers and some friends BUT i "help" (luckily for me they are lazy so they dont mind) them make their characters as op as i can, that way all the group is in the same power level. If i play alone with other players i know they wont be that strong (last time our fighter had 15 int or so, 12 const and a lot of charisma) i just make a good support and make them deal all the damage... i think thats the best way.
That way you are still strong, but you make all your party feel like they are not behind you.
Speak a little with your friend and tell this, either help his mates while doing characters, or maybe give them the loot and items, o play a good support and have fun with all.
Also you may consider making a permanent energy drain to his character... I dont know, maybe a strange ghost with that supernatural ability and no spell seems to cure it... something like that. Being one (two if he is too strong) level less than the rest of the party may balance the game.


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Bill specifically stated that the skeletons were created in an area affected by Desecrate. So, unfortunately, it is very possible for him to have this many undead.

As for having him take a more passive role, like healing? The last time he created a cleric, he ended up making a character that was better at ranged combat than the party ranger.

Dave Justus, I am currently a player in the campaign, but I was previously the GM. I advise the current GM, formerly one of the players. I have definitely heard complaints from all the other players, stretching back several campaigns.

TPK, part of the issue is that the other players tend to not pay attention to tactics at all. Have you ever heard of a wizard who refused to use any of their 1st level spells? There's just such a large gap between Bill and the other players. Not necessarily a gap in experience, but more of a gap in effort.

DM_Blake,the first character Bill used was a blaster sorcerer, and e utterly annihilated any opposition via the use of Scorching Ray and building his character around increasing his effective caster level.


Dave Justus wrote:
elcaleeb wrote:
not sure if there is something I am missing on the Command Undead feat, or an errata or something, but from my read it uses a channel negative energy, and acts as control undead, which lasts for minutes per level.
Don't want to derail, but in brief command undead has its own duration (indefinite) but the 'effects' i.e. what commanding means, are the same is if the creatures were under a control undead spell. You aren't casting control undead, you are just using the same mechanics for controlling.

This is what I am saying though. There is no "duration" listed on the feat, so where is the assumption of "indefinte" coming from? As stated, I can't find one way or the other. Would using the mechanics not include the duration?


Get Bill on your side. Explain that he's changing the power curve and making the game difficult to balance because the other players don't have the same system mastery that he does.

Ask him to restrict his characters to non-casters, preferably in the Scout role. Having him play a Monk, Rogue, Slayer, Swashbuckler or Fighter would do a lot to bring his effectiveness down a few notches. Tell him to think of it as a tactical challenge. His job is to build an effective non-caster that can keep up with casters. That's pretty hard to do and very rewarding.


elcaleeb wrote:
Dave Justus wrote:
elcaleeb wrote:
not sure if there is something I am missing on the Command Undead feat, or an errata or something, but from my read it uses a channel negative energy, and acts as control undead, which lasts for minutes per level.
Don't want to derail, but in brief command undead has its own duration (indefinite) but the 'effects' i.e. what commanding means, are the same is if the creatures were under a control undead spell. You aren't casting control undead, you are just using the same mechanics for controlling.
This is what I am saying though. There is no "duration" listed on the feat, so where is the assumption of "indefinte" coming from? As stated, I can't find one way or the other. Would using the mechanics not include the duration?

A cleric using command undead is indefinite.

The spell Command Undead is not.

4th post down.
http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2k41s?What-is-the-Command-Undead-Feat-Duration# 4


This is a very classic problem.

Some people are just better at using the system to create powerful characters than other players. I am one of those people, and if I'm not careful I do exactly what Bill does. Outshine the rest of the party.

Which is no fun for anybody except possibly Bill. Tell him honestly and openly what's going on and that he needs to take it down a notch. Yes he can build a god-like character to kick the crap out of your campaign, but that's like playing a video game for the first time and just watching as somebody more experienced does everything for you. It's not fun. Tell him to build his characters on a power level equal to everybody else so that everybody can have fun.

Most importantly, talk with him about this issue openly and honestly so you can work together on a solution.

Sovereign Court

Heal is a boring way to support your team... Theres better and more funny ways to do it.
For exaple:
-A super tank character that make poor damage while giving the team a good frontline.
-A Bard-like character that gives the party good inspire courage, haste them and trows massive buffs.
-A aid another master (currently im building one, can aid as swift move and standard action, giving them a +11 bonus)
-A have-the-right-tool for the situation character, like a divine scale of abaddar o a pathfinders cronicler.
All of them are funny (to me) and dont bring too many damage to the table.

If none of this is a posibility just give all the other players (exept bob of course) strong items to match the power of bob. Tell him the truth, most likely he will be plased to be considered that strong and may no have problems with that.
A horn of Valahala may be something like having an army of undead by your command, but brings even more minions to the table.
If you dont want to do nothing of this, you can make him lost his ditie favor by tricking him in some way, to loose his powers (for example attacking a church of his deity that he thought was another one).


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

Dave Justus, I am currently a player in the campaign, but I was previously the GM. I advise the current GM, formerly one of the players. I have definitely heard complaints from all the other players, stretching back several campaigns.

TPK, part of the issue is that the other players tend to not pay attention to tactics at all. Have you ever heard of a wizard who refused to use any of their 1st level spells? There's just such a large gap between Bill and the other players. Not necessarily a gap in experience, but more of a gap in effort.

This is then a fundamental problem of differing play styles. Bill wants to focus on the mechanics of the game and 'win' that way. Your other players don't seem interested in that, not enough to even use the basic capabilities their characters have. Better optimizing and better focus on the mechanics during gameplay is going to lead to a huge difference in capabilities.

These are almost certainly things that are not going to change.

Your choices are to live with the annoyance you feel at Bill, or not participate. If you run a game in the future, you can choose not to invite Bill, but this one isn't your game, and you don't have that choice.

I will note that from what I can tell, Bill is no more of a problem player than you are, it is just that you have different views and assumptions of what is fun about gaming.

Sovereign Court

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O you can make a character even stronger that bill´s, we can help you to do that haha!


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Make Bill GM. Maybe that will change things.


Bioboygamer wrote:

I've been having problems with a particular player for a while now, but nothing seems to work.

This player - let's call him Bill - is an excellent roleplayer and a clever tactician. However, he's also several times more skilled in character building than my other players combined. We've had to make encounters at 4 or 5 above APL just to challenge him.

We're playing through the Emerald Spire module, and are on floor 6.

Bill is playing as a 4th level LN Hellknight Cleric, and used much of his WBL to create a Bloody Skeletal Dire Lioness, a Bloody Skeletal Ogre, and a Bloody Skeletal Bunyip. As such, his minions have ungodly attack power and defense for the character's level, and his minions just keep regenerating unless killed with positive energy or holy water - Neither of which the Evil opponents he's facing are likely to be using!

A high CHA means that Command Undead is likely to fizzle when trying to take control of his minions away, and he's clever enough to use a spell to avoid one of our GM's countermeasures (positive energy traps).

This wouldn't be such a big issue if this were the first time this happened, but Bill's characters are consistently several times stronger than anyone else in the group. Anything that challenges him simply flattens the rest of the party, and his ungodly luck means that the dice are almost always on his side.

I've talked to him about the problem several times before, and even tried having him help the other players in making characters. Inevitably, he ends up outshining almost everyone else in the party.

This has been going on for far too long, and I'm sick and tired of it. He's not doing it maliciously, but he doesn't see why he should be punished for being good at building characters. I honestly don't know what to do at this point.

You're the GM: you can do what you want here: my advice is to tilt the playing field.

Cheat: make the monsters Bill fights harder than the ones everyone else gets. You might have a reason to justify this in-game without actual cheating: just as the Nazis figured out exactly which units were commanded by Patton, so too might your bad guys single out the guy in Hellknight Armor surrounded by Undead minions.

Cheat: Give the other players rules advantages when designing characters. Let them take 3.5 or 3rd Party Publisher Feats and Classes or something while you force Bill to stick to just a few books.


voideternal wrote:
Make Bill GM. Maybe that will change things.

this is actually a great idea. if the guy is good at making characters to be Superman then let him be the GM and let the others have the more casual game they want.


If I did let a player start with undead at start, it would require rigorous accounting - i.e. he would need scrolls of animate dead (as animate dead lesser doesn't allow creation of bloody skeletons). 3 scrolls would cost 1000GP (600GP scroll +400GP material component) +625GP (375GP scroll +250GP material component) +625GP (8th level for the lion, 5th level for the other 2).

I wouldn't just let a player have the bodies free - maybe 1700 GP for the bodies - so maybe 3950GP to create them.

He can't control more than 16HD of undead, so ask what order he created them and then roll randomly to see whether the 1st or 2nd undead becomes uncontrolled.


Pathfinder Maps, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

It's a shame the idea of him helping the others make characters didn't work out. I myself know the system fairly well so I'm usually the one who ends up making the characters of the less savvy characters and it's worked out great for everyone involved.

One thing I think you should consider proposing to the group is a gentleman's agreement of only having one minion per character. So the necromancer, for example, could only have one undead minion at a time. Creating undead is already a ridiculously powerful ability in the hands of a player, and I think only allowing one minion per character would not only make it easier to balance around but it would also reduce the problem of a single player hogging the spotlight.

Obviously something needs to be changed, whether by talking it out as a group, balancing game mechanics through houserules or in the absolute worst case, forcing Bill to leave the group. In any case, I hope you can find a solution that makes everyone happy.


I'm going to suggest a read, actually: look for a copy of Robin's Laws of Good Game Mastering.

What you have here is a classic power gamer playing with a lot of *non*-power gamers.

That can actually be okay, and one of the ways to make it okay is to find out what drives the other players in your group and for the GM to start including encounters that really appeal to the other players in order to give their characters a chance to shine.

There are plenty of situations in which a hyper-optimized combat character like that wouldn't work.

Additionally, the DM can set up encounters that are designed - not to *screw* him, exactly, but that will challenge his character. The most glaringly obvious thing to me is that he's playing a Hellknight, who are bound strictly to law and honor (moreso than most paladins.)

All that said, I agree that the best thing is for Bill to begin trying to optimize things that are sub-optimal.

Optimize a halfling sling-wielder! Go!
Optimize a gnome barbarian! Have fun!
Optimize a goliath druid! Dino-riffic!

There are plenty of goofy builds out that could be optimized to the rest of the party's level.

To play devil's advocate, however, I think the other players are doing Bill just as much of a disservice. By being upset that he's a power gamer (it's a legitimate player type) and refusing to even attempt to reach a baseline level of player competency (like utilizing your spells), the other players are also limiting *his* ability to enjoy the game.

Everyone just needs to meet in the middle, here.

But trust me on Robin's Laws.


Have your other players tried getting good and learning how to make competent characters?


interesting point about experienced players.

so for the last couple years my DM who also DMs other groups has been telling me about the super dungeon he made, emerald spire and how it is so difficult that none of his players has been able to get through the whole thing without a death in the party or some setback or major difficulty.

We made sub-par characters non optimized classes from only the advanced class guide (brawler(me), arcanist, investigator, and shaman)

our first fight was a random encounter that almost killed us a CR 4 encounter against brand new fresh level ones. The investigator and the shaman's familiar were the only thing standing between us and a TPK right out of the gate. we licked our wounds and from there only got better.

Now we are level 5 with no deaths yet The DM continually tells us how much better we are doing. "No other group was able to get through that" he would say and "no one was able to find this secret thing but you guys did."

everyone in our group has been playing D&D for a combined 45 years now while the groups he has been DMing don't even have 10 years combined.


Goblinsaurus wrote:
Have your other players tried getting good and learning how to make competent characters?

Apparently "Bill" tried to help the others players build good characters, but either his advice was ignored or the good builds were ruined by bad gameplay (like a wizard who never cast any spells).

Honestly, this really seems like a complete disconnect in playstyle. "Bill" wants to make strong, competent character while the rest of the group makes joke characters like wizards who never cast spells. Unless someone's willing to change how they game, it's not gonna work out.


Well, if they insist on making joke characters, then no amount of advice or instruction will work. I'd say you should poll your group and ask each of them what they want their gaming experience to be like? Some people like it to be all a silly joke. Your 1 "problem player" seems to want high-powered heroic fantasy. What do the others want? Perhaps they want to fail tragically and be all angsty. Perhaps they want to run from monsters like horror movie characters. It takes all kinds.


If someone has a great deal of system mastery, it's kind of sad to use it for ruthlessly optimizing already optimal builds. Picking out strange, fun, unique concepts that aren't supposed to work and making them work somehow instead of just grinding away with things that aren't a challenge is a way better use of build ability.

The GM could challenge him to create an improbable character - lets say a sorcerous Monk - as an involved hook in a campaign. "Bill, help me out here - sorcerous Monk is a really cool concept and I want to have a cabal of evil sorcerous Monks lurking around in this campaign, but they're a mess to design well. Let's (you) figure out how to do them well, and then you can play a unique renegade Monk member of the cabal that gets to plot-hook like crazy with his former associates". Now he's getting to take-on a fun challenge that's also a "handicap", working to make the campaign interesting, and getting some special attention in the plot. Honestly, if something like that isn't appealing to him... I'd consider turning a cold hose on him when he comes around.

Sczarni

@ Bioboygamer

Dear Bioboygamer, a lot of people have given you already some great advice. I am probably just repeating them by now, but note one thing; there is no right or wrong in Pathfinder game play. We all love the game in our own way. It's merely a difference in game play styles. Some people prefer maximally optimizing their characters, some just don't.

So how do you solve the problem? Adapt to his game style or choose your own game style. As a group, majority dictates what kind of game they want. It's a bit harsh way to put it, but from all my PF experience, it remained as an unspoken rule. Majority decides always and if his gaming style is becoming toxic or hindering, you have every right to put it back on track. We are talking about gaming experience for 4-8 here, not just a single individual. The GM should be a person to solve this out, because he sees the player's dominance best.

I know that this doesn't answer problem directly, but a lot of people mentioned already several mature ways to solve it. It's also quite possible that Bill will never learn to adapt because old habits die hard.

Adam


Kryzbyn wrote:
How is using a spell on your spell list to create undead minions a loophole?

1. You can buy the scrolls of spells you cant cast yet, but did Bill roll for a mishap when using them? They can go puff if you are unlucky, and if the scroll was a significant piece of your WBL this is a risk you need to check if the player wants to try this!

2. Where did he get the bodies of these exotic creatures from?

They have no listed price, so you cant just buy them, even after several months in a metropolis. And having no price does NOT mean you can simply have them, just like a mansion in Absalom has no listed price doesnt mean you can simply have one for free.

The exotic bodies to animate would have to be earned through the story. Or as per explicit placement by the DM. Which brings me back to the "No-Power" the DM needs to exercise sometimes.

The acquisition of exotic un-priced stuff is a non-defined area, aka DM needs to define it according to the specific situation, but Bill with his "supreme building-skills" simply choose to munchkin this to his uttermost advantage.

-

This is completly independent of the general problem with powerful minions, a.k.a. the Leadership-Effect. Not only does it skewer intra-party-balance, but also general CR-balancing thorugh the action-economy in-combat.
But most importanty this steals focus-time from the other players who have to wait not for Bill to do his turn, but for Bill to do 1+4 turns! This is a meta-problem.


BadBird wrote:
If someone has a great deal of system mastery, it's kind of sad to use it for ruthlessly optimizing already optimal builds. Picking out strange, fun, unique concepts that aren't supposed to work and making them work somehow instead of just grinding away with things that aren't a challenge is a way better use of build ability.

This


how does one become a Hellknight at level 4?

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