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[PFS] Request for consideration...


Roleplaying Guild General Discussion

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Liberty's Edge

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There have been a few scenarios in the past couple of years that have been downright terrifying/disturbing from one key factor...

A table of five to six characters sitting down, with only one or two people *actually* in the higher tier, and everyone else either 'between tiers' or in the 'lower tier'.

With the math and current campaign rulesunless I'm mistaken, entirely possible, when the party sits in the higher tier mathematically averaged (even if it is at the 'low end' of the higher tier) the most that can be hoped for is the 'four player adjustment' of the higher tier.

Would it be possible for the rule to change so that such a table (that is barely being pushed into the higher tier) may also choose to 'play down' to the lower tier?

The consideration of 'being overpowered for the tier' is a potential issue, but if players lack confidence and/or skills/abilities to participate at the higher tier, isn't that effectively a punishment to the players?

Has this been discussed before? What sort of viewpoints are there on this topic?

It's not as if 'playing down' is going to be any huge reward in most cases, right?

*****

Bit of relevant history:

Once upon a time, before the 4 player adjustment, if you had 6 players you got +1 to your APL. If that bumped you into the higher tier, and had no players in that tier you could choose to play down.

Sczarni ****

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@Wei Ji

You are scratching the waters of very old history where all sorts of things happened before. If I remember right, players had bigger liberty before of choosing which subtier they might play. The end result was that some players crossed the WBL boundary by obtaining too much gold. While this might not be the only reason of changes back then, I believe it was a primary one.

I do feel that players are often forced to play certain subtier with current rules, but I didn't have any bad experiences with it. It seems generally as correct as it can be.

Adam

Scarab Sages ***

There were also issues of players feeling pressured to play up with their lower level characters (EDIT: so taking the decision away from the players was in part meant to alleviate peer pressure).

For the most part, I think the current tier decision points are working pretty well. There are definitely scenarios where the 4-player adjustment isn't as helpful as it could be, but the more recent ones seem a lot better about it.

I recently played in a season 5 7-11 with a party of 10, 10, 9, 9, 9, 8. APL 9.167, round to 9, play up with the 4-player. We did fine. We didn't dominate the scenario, and people were in danger of dropping unconscious, but we didn't have problems succeeding, either. Season 4 I would not have wanted to try this.

My only potential issue at this point is a party that averages between tier having to play up with a 5 player party. That could put a group of 10, 9, 9, 8, 7 playing high tier with the 4-player adjustment, event hough there are more players in the low tier than high. I could see that being an issue in some scenarios.

One thing the season 8 guide did clarify, which is good, is that when the APL is between tiers, if no one is actually in the high tier, the group has the option to play down regardless of which season the scenario is from. Previously it was unclear, and many took it that rule to only apply to seasons 0-3.

Liberty's Edge *****

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber, Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Modules, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber

What Wei Ji talks about is still an issue, though. I GMed a season 1 scenario recently where the addition of one high-subtier character in a 5-9 brought the APL to a level where they had to play high subtier; that PC was the only one in-tier at that point. It very nearly led to a TPK.

Scarab Sages ***

Well, like I said, I think it's working for the most part. That doesn't mean it always works. There are definitely combinations where things can get deadly. So much depends on the players/characters involved. Groups without high damage output playing up in that situation could be in trouble. Groups without utility playing up in that situation in higher tier scenarios could also be an issue. Groups with players who don't have a lot of higher level experience in that situation can be deadly. I'm not sure how much a formula can account for those things. I do believe if you're between subtiers, and more of the players are in the low subtier than the high subtier, then you should probably be playing the low subtier in most situations. But I can think of plenty of times where a group of 3,3,3,3,2 would steamroll low tier of a 1-5 scenario, and that's a group that currently has the option to play down.

I know some areas/GMs prefer to just run with whatever players/characters sign up, regardless of the content or difficulty of the scenario. But the GM does also have the option of letting the group know when they see a bad situation coming. If it's clear that the mostly out of tier group can't handle high tier Krune, suggesting that they might want to look at their options is valid. It won't always work out. Not everyone like playing pregens or sometimes they want a specific scenario on a specific character that might push the tier up. But it's at least something helpful.

5-9 is a tier where there can be a pretty big gap between the power level of a high tier fight and a low tier fight. I know some GMs have stopped allowing 6 player groups in their early season games. A 6 player in-tier group tends to overwhelm most scenarios. But also, if a group is out of tier, they're only forced to play up in a (EDIT: Season) 0-3 if they have 6 or 7 players. 5 players plays down. So one way to help the situation you describe is to limit the table to 5 players. That keeps all groups who average between tiers from playing up. It's not the greatest when 6 people show up to the game day wanting to play, though.

Grand Lodge *

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I highly support. Playing Waking Rune with 11 9 9 9 8 8 is not fun.

Scarab Sages ***

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If anything, I could see changing the rule that currently says if no one is in the high tier, the players can choose to play down to instead saying if more players are in the low tier than in the high tier and the APL rounds to between tiers, then the group can choose to play down. That would take care of the situation claudekennilol described, but still give that group an option to play up (in a different scenario! Don't try that with Krune!).

Playing down in that situation, the level 11, and the two level 8s would receive less gold, so there's still some incentive to play high tier if the group thinks they can handle it.

Liberty's Edge

The scenarios where I've seen this be an issue are 3-7 and 5-9.

It's no fun to sit at a table and the 'high' characters are 'support' and none of the actual melee/ranged can hit the broad side of a barn due to the DCs being out of reach.

In 7-11, it's been pretty much understood that barring exceptional circumstances 'taking things slow' and 'obsessive compulsive healing' might carry the day, plus there are consumables that are affordable and available to mitigate massive damage/save-or-sit-out-rest-of-scenario effects.

Thanks to everyone for the insight thus far, and the ideas and suggestions, is there more to be gleaned from this, as to why the 'playing up' is the rule of the campaign?

The Exchange ***** Venture-Lieutenant, Texas—Dallas & Ft. Worth aka Belafon

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I will definitely agree that this can be a major problem in 5-9 scenarios.

I can think of two off the top of my head where at least one foe in 8-9 has 12 or 13 class levels (with the 4-player adjustment). Many others with 11 class levels. For a level 5 or 6 character that's basically "you're going to die." The low level characters don't have high enough DCs to reasonably affect the enemy (if they are casters) or attack bonuses to match the AC (if martial) and will have nowhere near enough hitpoints to survive typical attacks. So it usually ends up being one or two 8th or 9th level characters struggling against a much more powerful enemy.

My two most recent deaths as a player were in 5-player groups with level distribution very close to 6, 6, 6, 7, 8.

It's less of a problem in 3-7, though the occasionally high-damage fireball does exist. In 7-11 it's rarely a "TPK" issue playing up, though it can occasionally get personal when a Level 7 character gets targeted with a particularly nasty effect.

I'd be OK with changing the rule, it's just a matter of finding language that is both fair and simple to understand.

Shadow Lodge **** Venture-Captain, Texas—Dallas & Ft. Worth aka Azothath

Remember that sometimes "failing" an encounter and just taking a gold loss is an option. It's not a pretty option but it's there.

I think the option to social skill your way to victory for an encounter is the way to go for the less martial groups. Thankfully that's being written in scenarios now but the old ones still suffer from dungeon crawl syndrome. Scaling DCs also made a late showing in the scenario offerings.

Liberty's Edge

Stephen Ross wrote:

Remember that sometimes "failing" an encounter and just taking a gold loss is an option. It's not a pretty option but it's there.

I think the option to social skill your way to victory for an encounter is the way to go for the less martial groups. Thankfully that's being written in scenarios now but the old ones still suffer from dungeon crawl syndrome.

...some of the new ones STILL suffer from this.

EDIT: It's a pretty sad thing when the party is holding itself together with baling wire, gum, and duct tape and going "Okay, two more encounters... one more encounter... okay, we can walk away now with our experience, too bad about the prestige, though."

Shadow Lodge **** Venture-Captain, Texas—Dallas & Ft. Worth aka Azothath

Wei Ji the Learner wrote:
Stephen Ross wrote:

Remember that sometimes "failing" an encounter and just taking a gold loss is an option. It's not a pretty option but it's there.

I think the option to social skill your way to victory for an encounter is the way to go for the less martial groups. Thankfully that's being written in scenarios now but the old ones still suffer from dungeon crawl syndrome.

...some of the new ones STILL suffer from this.

EDIT: It's a pretty sad thing when the party is holding itself together with baling wire, gum, and duct tape and going "Okay, two more encounters... one more encounter... okay, we can walk away now with our experience, too bad about the prestige, though."

Expecting to get full gold and full prestige every time... hmmm... expect occasional disappointment.

Currently I'd estimate most players get full gold and prestige at least 80% of the time. There are some 'snapper' scenarios that will likely kill one PC if they are not very careful or prudent or just darn lucky. So statistically I'd say the games are generally designed for full success.

So if a party is having trouble... do the sensible thing. 1) recover as best you can. 2) be more prudent. 3) review party tactics & strategy and try to come up with a better plan. 4) Take a rest if you can do so, ask your GM about impacts and he may say something or not. Better to lose a bit of gold or prestige and come out whole.

Dark Archive ****

No. If you go into a scenario playing up with 4 person adjustment than let the dice fall where they may. We dont need to keep adding safety gloves upon safety gloves. Character deaths are meant to happen. Thats why there is recovery options.
If your counter arguments are "Well, My rp character shouldnt be subject to the chance of death" than honestly, why in the hell would the society even have accepted that character? Not saying you gotta ne a super munchkin death machiene but you should be able to do someyhing if combat happens.

Liberty's Edge

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Stephen Ross wrote:


Expecting to get full gold and full prestige every time... hmmm... expect occasional disappointment.
Currently I'd estimate most players get full gold and prestige at least 80% of the time. There are some 'snapper' scenarios that will likely kill one PC if they are not very careful or prudent or just darn lucky. So statistically I'd say the games are generally designed for full success.

So if a party is having trouble... do the sensible thing. 1) recover as best you can. 2) be more prudent. 3) review party tactics & strategy and try to come up with a better plan. 4) Take a rest if you can do so, ask your GM about impacts and he may say something or not. Better to lose a bit of gold or prestige and come out whole.

I think you misunderstood me.

When the *party* is seriously stating "Screw gold reward, screw prestige at this point -- because it will cost more prestige/gold to recover/raise members than we'll get from the scenario -- how many more encounters do we *have* to do before we can run away and not get screwed on experience?" that's a pretty good indication that the tier was wrong for the party.

In response to Sin's comment, if the party does *not* have the resources to be able to compete or complete the higher tier, but are being forced into certain death mechanically, that's a less-than-fun experience for the players and potentially the GM, unless they are an adversarial GM.

EDIT: 'Resources' being such things as characters actually *at* the higher tier of the scenario that are combat-effective and can 'carry' the entire party that can't match that firepower, for example...

The Society should have theoretically given them the resources to complete the mission, if such an argument would hold water.

At no point was there mention of 'rp characters' until Sin brought it up.

It does nothing to promote a better play experience, and could potentially drive players away from the campaign.

Shadow Lodge **** Venture-Captain, Texas—Dallas & Ft. Worth aka Azothath

IMO & experience the current tiering system works fine.

Players with characters that are out of tier or at the high or low end should consider changing characters to work towards a common level or tier. If the table agrees to a party composition then they have accepted the responsibility of that action knowingly, understanding and accepting the impacts of that decision.

Sovereign Court ***** Venture-Captain, Canada—Manitoba aka Kess, Humble Servant of Abadar

This is why we really push the sub-tier component when scheduling games, to try and avoid this.

I know it doesn't work well in areas where there is a smaller player base, but that's how we combat it here. All our game schedules are done by sub-tier (it was hours upon hours of making custom scenarios on Warhorn to include sub-tiers for every scenario, but worth it inthe end).

The same general issues can be said when you get a high sub-tier player playing in the low sub-tier.

On a personal note, and as Sin stated above, players don't have to 'win' every scenario. Sometimes a 'loss' is more memorable and fun.

Off Topic:

On a humourous (and memorable) note, our latest convention, we had a table of Mists of Mwangi (Core) wipe in the first encounter. Done in 10 minutes. Nobody could save vs. the ghoul and it ended up eating them all.

Sovereign Court ***

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber, Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Roleplaying Game Subscriber; Pathfinder Deluxe Comics Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber

I'm currently concerned about my 6 character (+1 animal) party that is just one level below full high tier. The adjustment for this scenario mostly removes combatants which throws the action economy advantage even more in favor of the PCs. I think they'll overpower encounters with shear numbers and not enjoy the experience.

The Exchange ***** Venture-Lieutenant, Texas—Dallas & Ft. Worth aka Belafon

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Stephen Ross wrote:
Players with characters that are out of tier or at the high or low end should consider changing characters to work towards a common level or tier. If the table agrees to a party composition then they have accepted the responsibility of that action knowingly, understanding and accepting the impacts of that decision
Dave Baker wrote:

This is why we really push the sub-tier component when scheduling games, to try and avoid this.

I know it doesn't work well in areas where there is a smaller player base, but that's how we combat it here. All our game schedules are done by sub-tier (it was hours upon hours of making custom scenarios on Warhorn to include sub-tiers for every scenario, but worth it inthe end).

The same general issues can be said when you get a high sub-tier player playing in the low sub-tier.

These suggestions are great when you are talking about large player bases where everyone has a multitude of characters to choose from.

But that certainly isn't the case everywhere. There's plenty of times when only 5 or 6 people show up to a game day and a player says "I don't *have* a character in that subtier."

high-tier character in a low-tier game:
The difference (other than the reduced rewards for the higher-level character) is that in such a case the player of the high-level character has the option of "taking it easy" and making sure the players of the lower-level characters get a chance to fully participate. Not saying they are going to do that, just that it's an option.

But for low-tier characters in a high-tier game there's no such option. You can hide in the back if it's just you at the low end but the situation Wei Ji is describing is when there are only one or two high-tier characters that have pulled 3-4 low-tier into playing up with no choice.

Liberty's Edge

In addition to Kevin's comments and the thought that 'Well, folks can just play an 'in-tier' character if it's such an issue, it becomes highly problematic in areas with a low player base OR if a given scenario is being offered, possibly for the only time it is being offered, and the choice is 'play a low-tier character and PRAY you don't get dragged high' or 'don't play this scenario EVER'.

Also, people keep trying to push this to 'party wins all the time'.

That's not my thought or my point on this.

It's

A. Party having an enjoyable time playing at a challenging scenario

VS

B. Nearly guaranteed TPK due to being forced to play out of their 'weight class'.

** Venture-Agent, California—San Francisco Bay Area North & East

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I agree with Kevin; this can be tricky if a number of players only have one character in-tier. I know pre-gens are an option, but people do strongly prefer to play their own characters, particularly since this issue arises frequently.

I think that the new tier system in Starfinder Society will work a lot better in this regard, though that doesn't help PFS.

I get the most worried when the APL has to round up to the in-between number, and then you play up, like when 5 players average to 4.6 in a 3-7 (e.g 4,4,4,5,6). I like Ferious Thune's suggestion for this. While hard scenarios that risk death can be a lot of fun, I don't think it's fun to feel like you never had a chance from the beginning.

The marginal party is tricky either way, since it's also not fun to destroy the scenario.

Edit: Or exactly what Wei Ji just said!

****

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Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Society Roleplaying Guild Subscriber

Here's an example situation that I can see coming up in most any region: a season 4 5-9 scenario is planned as the only table at a public venue. There are 4 player sign-ups: 6, 6, 7, 8 = APL 6.75, rounds to 7, which would go low tier no adjustment. These are the only characters in-tier for these players. A prospective new player comes to the table. Your options are to either (A) turn away the new player, (B) put the new player on a level 7 pregen (the only level within the adventure tier) and go high tier with the 4 player adjustment, or (C) pick a different scenario and run cold, using pregens for everybody or other characters, if available. The "fringe case" clause doesn't apply because you would have 1 character in the high subtier.

(A) sucks. Nobody likes turning away new players and it's something that I think everybody rightfully attempts to avoid doing. (B) provides an extremely dangerous game with at least one player not understanding all of the mechanics of their character and the game and has a decent chance of driving the new player away from the game. (C) penalizes the GM, who effectively wasted hours to prepare something that isn't being run and suddenly has to adapt to running a different scenario or pass the GM torch to someone who had intended to play.

**

Stephen Ross wrote:
Wei Ji the Learner wrote:
Stephen Ross wrote:

Remember that sometimes "failing" an encounter and just taking a gold loss is an option. It's not a pretty option but it's there.

I think the option to social skill your way to victory for an encounter is the way to go for the less martial groups. Thankfully that's being written in scenarios now but the old ones still suffer from dungeon crawl syndrome.

...some of the new ones STILL suffer from this.

EDIT: It's a pretty sad thing when the party is holding itself together with baling wire, gum, and duct tape and going "Okay, two more encounters... one more encounter... okay, we can walk away now with our experience, too bad about the prestige, though."

Expecting to get full gold and full prestige every time... hmmm... expect occasional disappointment.

Currently I'd estimate most players get full gold and prestige at least 80% of the time. There are some 'snapper' scenarios that will likely kill one PC if they are not very careful or prudent or just darn lucky. So statistically I'd say the games are generally designed for full success.

So if a party is having trouble... do the sensible thing. 1) recover as best you can. 2) be more prudent. 3) review party tactics & strategy and try to come up with a better plan. 4) Take a rest if you can do so, ask your GM about impacts and he may say something or not. Better to lose a bit of gold or prestige and come out whole.

The problem with your logic is that the scenarios aren't even close to being designed for success and that usually once you find out your in trouble your screwed. There is one scenario I played recently where I could have very well TPK'd the entire party in one round if I decided to throw the adjustment curve up.

Dark Archive ****

The amount of times in a 5-9 that the threat level significently jumps with the 4 playrr adjustment is few and far between. Most PFS combats are at best cr8 - maaaybe cr 11.
If you play using a 5 or 6 in 7-9 you have pretty much given the okay that yoir ready to play with the big boys, and should have everything required to bring yourself back to life.

We dont need to continue to push encounter levels lower and lower. The issue of losing new players isnt on the current rules. Its on the dicks that force them to play high.

If you want to actively discourage new players from leaving male sure they play in their appropriate apl, and dont force them up, force your current old timers down. Problem solved.

Otherwise everyone onboard the pain train chooo chooo

Liberty's Edge

Sin of Asmodeus wrote:

The amount of times in a 5-9 that the threat level significently jumps with the 4 playrr adjustment is few and far between. Most PFS combats are at best cr8 - maaaybe cr 11.

If you play using a 5 or 6 in 7-9 you have pretty much given the okay that yoir ready to play with the big boys, and should have everything required to bring yourself back to life.

We dont need to continue to push encounter levels lower and lower. The issue of losing new players isnt on the current rules. Its on the dicks that force them to play high.

If you want to actively discourage new players from leaving male sure they play in their appropriate apl, and dont force them up, force your current old timers down. Problem solved.

Otherwise everyone onboard the pain train chooo chooo

IF the bulk of the table is in the 8-9 tier, I would agree with you.

NOT when it's some outlier and the rest of the party is lower than the tier and it's some mechanical math construct that PUSHES the party there.

It's not pushing the encounter level lower to play at the other subtier.

And the attempted 'fix' to discourage a table won't work if characters are committed to a given story arc or scenario series with a limited player base.

Why the aversion to someone playing a higher character in a lower subtier?

** Venture-Agent aka Chess Pwn

in the 3-7 and the 5-9 if you're on the low end you can swap for a higher leveled pregen. That's an option to all players and still lets them get credit on their character and not risk death.

Silver Crusade ***

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber, Campaign Setting, Companion, Maps, Modules, Pawns, Roleplaying Game, Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Maps, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

When we run a 5-9 here, we usually get one table. If you've only got one character and it's out of subtier, well, good luck!

At rknop's table we had a decision to make. Would our friend, who drove all the way to hang out with us, be able to play with us with the only character she had in tier? That would bring the table up to the high subtier. She wasn't interested in playing a pregen, we tried. So the other option was to tell her she couldn't play.

We decided we wanted her to play, and things got bad. Yeah, it happens. But there's more to it than "man up or stop complaining". (To have fun paraphrasing!) It crops up most often with more casual players whose characters are lower on the power curve and who probably won't have many options to play with. The table gets pulled into high subtier and the high subtier character is used to hiding in the back and letting other characters do the heavy lifting, but they don't necessarily realize that. And at that point either option can result in us scaring away the very people we're trying to attract to grow the playerbase.

I don't know if it needs to be fixed, necessarily. Some fixes are worse than the problems. But it's a problem that exists.

** Venture-Agent aka Chess Pwn

It sounds like the "problem" being presented is that "Players have a right to play their character and have the scenario be 'easy', always."

Which isn't the case. If you run a 5-9 then the players show up. If the table is high the players have the right to leave or play. If they choose to stay they have the right to play a pregen higher leveled than their character to be safer or play their low leveled character.

So if a random High person showed up, turning their legal character away isn't the right choice, the choice is up the players which legal character they bring.

So fixes to the problem of a low leveled party being TPK'd in high tier are already existing.

The Exchange ***** Venture-Lieutenant, Texas—Dallas & Ft. Worth aka Belafon

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Sin of Asmodeus wrote:
The amount of times in a 5-9 that the threat level significently jumps with the 4 playrr adjustment is few and far between. Most PFS combats are at best cr8 - maaaybe cr 11.

That's a hypothesis, let's test it!

I picked a random season and looked for the highest CR encounters in each subtier 8-9 of the 5-9 scenario. In an effort not to spoil things I am not identifying the season and randomized the scenario order.

1. CR12
2. CR 11
3. Two CR11 encounters and one CR 12
4. One CR 10, one CR 11, and one variable (but probably at least CR 12).

Quote:
If you play using a 5 or 6 in 7-9 you have pretty much given the okay that yoir ready to play with the big boys, and should have everything required to bring yourself back to life.

And if you don't have a level 7-9 character? When playing up is your only option?

Quote:

We dont need to continue to push encounter levels lower and lower. The issue of losing new players isnt on the current rules. Its on the dicks that force them to play high.

If you want to actively discourage new players from leaving male sure they play in their appropriate apl, and dont force them up, force your current old timers down. Problem solved.

Otherwise everyone onboard the pain train chooo chooo

I just... the lack of empathy is approaching Alain levels.

Let us look at a perfectly reasonable group of characters that happen to show up to a game day:

1. 6th level wizard
2. 8th level bard
3. 6th level alchemist
4. 7th level rogue
5. 6th level druid

So your solution is "sorry, bard player, you have to play a different character?"

I personally would change characters. But I've got 15 characters and can almost certainly find one in the right subtier. Now. When I first started there were at least three distinct time periods where I couldn't have. Because out of the two or three active characters they were all at level 3 and below or 8 and above.

** Venture-Agent, California—San Francisco Bay Area North & East

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Thomas Hutchins wrote:

It sounds like the "problem" being presented is that "Players have a right to play their character and have the scenario be 'easy', always."

I don't feel like you are accurately paraphrasing the problem as many of us see it. There is a difference between "easy" and "not overwhelming." I really don't think anyone wants to see every scenario be a cakewalk; we just don't want to see our players have poor experiences when low-tier characters have to play up when they're not ready, especially when those characters belong to new players.

You are correct that players can choose to play pre-gens. However, many (most?) players strongly prefer playing their own PCs to playing pre-gens. If this issue came up once in a blue moon, the pre-gen solution would work pretty well, but it's far from ideal when this issue comes up frequently. At smaller game days, it is definitely frequent. Players who consistently have to play a pre-gen or play up with their low-tier character probably aren't having a good experience and will likely stop showing up, exacerbating small lodge problems.

** Venture-Agent aka Chess Pwn

Kevin Willis wrote:
Quote:
If you play using a 5 or 6 in 7-9 you have pretty much given the okay that your ready to play with the big boys, and should have everything required to bring yourself back to life.
And if you don't have a level 7-9 character? When playing up is your only option?

But it's not your only option. Everyone has access to solidly made lv7 pregens for the scenario. Crowe the bloodrager does better than a lot of "damage character" I've seen fill the melee role. Shardra is an awesome caster. The inquisitor is a bane archer, the hunter has solid archery. Lots of pregens are actually really solid characters.

Kevin Willis wrote:
So your solution is "sorry, bard player, you have to play a different character?"

No the solution is for the lower levels players to leave if they want, play a pregen, or be okay playing up.

The Exchange ***** Venture-Lieutenant, Texas—Dallas & Ft. Worth aka Belafon

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Thomas Hutchins wrote:
It sounds like the "problem" being presented is that "Players have a right to play their character and have the scenario be 'easy', always."

Absolutely not. The problem being presented is (to use 5-9 as a basis)

"due to the way APL rounding rules work it is quite possible to have an APL 6.6 table be forced to fight multiple encounters of CR11 or higher."

I believe everyone defining the issue as such acknowledges that this is in many ways a function of the way the tiers are split. Secondarily it's a function of the way the rounding for APL calculations works. But barring a rewrite of every scenario, is there a way to make the challenge more level-appropriate by allowing players to choose a more reasonable challenge?

Quote:

Which isn't the case. If you run a 5-9 then the players show up. If the table is high the players have the right to leave or play. If they choose to stay they have the right to play a pregen higher leveled than their character to be safer or play their low leveled character.

So if a random High person showed up, turning their legal character away isn't the right choice, the choice is up the players which legal character they bring.

So fixes to the problem of a low leveled party being TPK'd in high tier are already existing.

Thomas, I don't know what area you are in but I've played in the large metro areas of the South and Southeast. Which s-p-r-a-w-l across many miles. It isn't uncommon for someone to drive an hour to get to a game. So choosing to go home is a really terrible option. As for pregens - either you don't mind playing one or you really want to play your characters. Most people are in the second group.

Here's my first draft at an improved subtier selection rule. It's got too many clauses right now so it needs refining.

Quote:
In the case of a 5 or 6 player table where the APL (before rounding) is in the lower subtier, and no more than one of the characters has reached the higher subtier level, the players may choose to play in either subtier

** Venture-Agent aka Chess Pwn

Kate Baker wrote:
Thomas Hutchins wrote:

It sounds like the "problem" being presented is that "Players have a right to play their character and have the scenario be 'easy', always."

I don't feel like you are accurately paraphrasing the problem as many of us see it. There is a difference between "easy" and "not overwhelming." I really don't think anyone wants to see every scenario be a cakewalk; we just don't want to see our players have poor experiences when low-tier characters have to play up when they're not ready, especially when those characters belong to new players.

You are correct that players can choose to play pre-gens. However, many (most?) players strongly prefer playing their own PCs to playing pre-gens. If this issue came up once in a blue moon, the pre-gen solution would work pretty well, but it's far from ideal when this issue comes up frequently. At smaller game days, it is definitely frequent. Players who consistently have to play a pre-gen or play up with their low-tier character probably aren't having a good experience and will likely stop showing up, exacerbating small lodge problems.

sorry, it seems like my intent wasn't conveyed easy being in quotes was to show that it's just the idea of being able to handle sufficiently well. It was kind of meant to be left up to the reader how much easier they were wanting things to be. Not a jab to say people wanted a cakewalk.

If you have lots of new players you shouldn't be running a scenario that their characters are on the low end for. If a low level person comes to a game then they can choose one of the 3 options. Play low, play pregen, not play that day.

Let us look at a perfectly reasonable group of characters that happen to show up to a game day:

1. 6th level wizard
2. 8th level bard
3. 6th level alchemist
4. 7th level rogue
5. 6th level druid

if you schedule a 3-7 then everyone is on the high end of things and then the bard either plays different or pregen.

If you have a super small lodge and want to play up and know that people wont always have a character in range then set the environment that playing pregens is normal and fine. Schedule an all lv7 pregen game to show what high tier is like and that pregens are good characters. If the expectation is that you'll need to probably play a pregen every so often is there from the beginning it'll be normal. And if they are consistently out of range then again, you're picking the wrong games to be playing.

** Venture-Agent aka Chess Pwn

Kevin Willis wrote:
Thomas Hutchins wrote:
It sounds like the "problem" being presented is that "Players have a right to play their character and have the scenario be 'easy', always."

Absolutely not. The problem being presented is (to use 5-9 as a basis)

"due to the way APL rounding rules work it is quite possible to have an APL 6.6 table be forced to fight multiple encounters of CR11 or higher."

I believe everyone defining the issue as such acknowledges that this is in many ways a function of the way the tiers are split. Secondarily it's a function of the way the rounding for APL calculations works. But barring a rewrite of every scenario, is there a way to make the challenge more level-appropriate by allowing players to choose a more reasonable challenge?

Quote:

Which isn't the case. If you run a 5-9 then the players show up. If the table is high the players have the right to leave or play. If they choose to stay they have the right to play a pregen higher leveled than their character to be safer or play their low leveled character.

So if a random High person showed up, turning their legal character away isn't the right choice, the choice is up the players which legal character they bring.

So fixes to the problem of a low leveled party being TPK'd in high tier are already existing.

Thomas, I don't know what area you are in but I've played in the large metro areas of the South and Southeast. Which s-p-r-a-w-l across many miles. It isn't uncommon for someone to drive an hour to get to a game. So choosing to go home is a really terrible option. As for pregens - either you don't mind playing one or you really want to play your characters. Most people are in the second group.

If the games are posted beforehand what level range and people sign up then they should be ready for what happens. If the table is high it's high. If playing a pregen or playing low is worse then leaving then people will leave. If they stay they decide to play low or pregen, whichever they prefer.

Where I started we'd run 1 table a week, games were just in order of release, I ended up playing a good handful of lv7 and lv4 pregens since it was no game or a pregen for me starting out. Then when I got a character in range it was still an option. I've played a lv7 pregen in a 6-7 of a 3-7 when I had a lv6 because the pregen seemed like the better character for me to play (totally turned out like I thought).

The Exchange ***** Venture-Lieutenant, Texas—Dallas & Ft. Worth aka Belafon

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Thomas Hutchins wrote:

Let us look at a perfectly reasonable group of characters that happen to show up to a game day:

1. 6th level wizard
2. 8th level bard
3. 6th level alchemist
4. 7th level rogue
5. 6th level druid

if you schedule a 3-7 then everyone is on the high end of things and then the bard either plays different or pregen.

I think a lot is getting lost when we talk about "who is showing up for a game day."

My area (and others that I know of) have a large but irregular pool of players. When I schedule a game day I have NO IDEA who is going to show up for it. So I don't schedule for certain people or characters, I schedule scenarios weeks in advance and players and GMs sign up. I think this is pretty common.

So if - in your example - I scheduled a 3-7 scenario the bard player would never sign up in the first place.

If, on the other hand, I schedule 3-14: Wonders in the Weave Part I (Tier 5-9) I'll get a mix of long-time players who missed that one years ago and newer players who started after it was released. Some of the newer players will have level 5 or 6 characters. Some will have level 8 or 9. A few will have both, but not all.

Liberty's Edge

Thomas Hutchins wrote:
If you have a super small lodge and want to play up and know that people wont always have a character in range then set the environment that playing pregens is normal and fine. Schedule an all lv7 pregen game to show what high tier is like and that pregens are good characters. If the expectation is that you'll need to probably play a pregen every so often is there from the beginning it'll be normal. And if they are consistently out of range then again, you're picking the wrong games to be playing.

This works for GameDays, game shops, and consistent local convention crowds. It fails miserably when your play-tables are a local convention with more variation in attendance than Mr. Gump's box of chocolates has variety.

EDIT: There's also the issue of 'stacking pregen credits', since one cannot use the pregen credit until they reach the level of the pregen played... which means they could indefinitely be stacking credits for a character that they can't get past the L6 'hump'...

EDIT2: Also, no one has answered my question on why there is an aversion to one or two higher level characters playing in a lower subtier. If there was, I may have missed it in walls of text...

** Venture-Agent aka Chess Pwn

Kevin Willis wrote:
Thomas Hutchins wrote:

Let us look at a perfectly reasonable group of characters that happen to show up to a game day:

1. 6th level wizard
2. 8th level bard
3. 6th level alchemist
4. 7th level rogue
5. 6th level druid

if you schedule a 3-7 then everyone is on the high end of things and then the bard either plays different or pregen.

I think a lot is getting lost when we talk about "who is showing up for a game day."

My area (and others that I know of) have a large but irregular pool of players. When I schedule a game day I have NO IDEA who is going to show up for it. So I don't schedule for certain people or characters, I schedule scenarios weeks in advance and players and GMs sign up. I think this is pretty common.

So if - in your example - I scheduled a 3-7 scenario the bard player would never sign up in the first place.

If, on the other hand, I schedule 3-14: Wonders in the Weave Part I (Tier 5-9) I'll get a mix of long-time players who missed that one years ago and newer players who started after it was released. Some of the newer players will have level 5 or 6 characters. Some will have level 8 or 9. A few will have both, but not all.

So here it sounds like you don't have a tiny pool, since you yourself say large pool. The example you go against was addressed to a small pool problem.

For your issue, the players should know the potential. a 5-9 could go to 8-9. If things are posted far in advanced then people should be posting their characters letting people know tier in advanced. If they sign up but don't list character then they should be ready for anything.

With your hypothetical party it should be doable to play high tier with 4-player adjustment. the alchemist and wizard maybe go against touch AC. The wizard and/or the bard should have haste. The druid has a bet that can help frontline. The druid is either a controller or a melee guy himself. That means that the bards buffs (which is possible for it to be a +4 or +5 to attack and damage rolls) get nice use to a lot of people and the rogue can sneak attack a lot. Skill wise they would seem to be covered well. fighting 1 CR 11 or 12 monster puts the players in a huge action advantage. And fighting many smaller things shouldn't be as threatening, each should be easier to hit and kill.

so unless most of the players make bad characters, or repeatedly make bad tactical choices, I don't see it being overwhelming or unlikely for them to succeed.

****

Wei Ji the Learner wrote:
Also, no one has answered my question on why there is an aversion to one or two higher level characters playing in a lower subtier.

What if those one or two higher level characters playing down are highly optimized/min-maxed damage dealers (and maybe they both have animal companions, eidolons, or something similar?) who totally dominate the scenario. Is that more fun for the other four players than if they'd played the higher tier to which the math assigned them?

** Venture-Agent aka Chess Pwn

Wei Ji the Learner wrote:
Thomas Hutchins wrote:
If you have a super small lodge and want to play up and know that people wont always have a character in range then set the environment that playing pregens is normal and fine. Schedule an all lv7 pregen game to show what high tier is like and that pregens are good characters. If the expectation is that you'll need to probably play a pregen every so often is there from the beginning it'll be normal. And if they are consistently out of range then again, you're picking the wrong games to be playing.

This works for GameDays, game shops, and consistent local convention crowds. It fails miserably when your play-tables are a local convention with more variation in attendance than Mr. Gump's box of chocolates has variety.

EDIT: There's also the issue of 'stacking pregen credits', since one cannot use the pregen credit until they reach the level of the pregen played... which means they could indefinitely be stacking credits for a character that they can't get past the L6 'hump'...

EDIT2: Also, no one has answered my question on why there is an aversion to one or two higher level characters playing in a lower subtier. If there was, I may have missed it in walls of text...

The aversion is having a party too strong for the scenario making it a cakewalk. It's possible to have a lv9 playing with lv5s in low tier or lv5 playing with lv1s in low tier. The party on a whole is viewed as being right for their tier. So a party that gets into high tier with only 1 guy in high tier is on a whole supposed to be good enough and win with the action advantage(large parties have an APL of +1 while PFS doesn't factor that in. So a large party at 6.6 is really a 7.6 party).

If your situation is conventions then it sounds like the players should have had options on which scenario to sign up for. A guy with only a lv5 signing up for a 5-9 with no idea what anyone else might bring should be prepared to be in high tier, and to know if he's going to play his low level or a pregen.

If you hit a lv6 hump then there aren't enough 3-7 tables being offered or that you're playing. This is even more resolved by having an evergreen for this. All lv6 characters can play it, that means they just need 2 other 3-7s to be sure that they are strong enough to play. If all that's offered are 1-5 and 5-9 and 7-11 and so a guy at lv6 is stuck being a lv6 in a 5-9 ALWAYS, then the issue would seem to be the scheduling.

** Venture-Agent, California—San Francisco Bay Area North & East

Thomas Hutchins wrote:


sorry, it seems like my intent wasn't conveyed easy being in quotes was to show that it's just the idea of being able to handle sufficiently well. It was kind of meant to be left up to the reader how much easier they were wanting things to be. Not a jab to say people wanted a cakewalk.

Thanks, Thomas, I appreciate your clarification.

Liberty's Edge *****

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Terminalmancer wrote:

When we run a 5-9 here, we usually get one table. If you've only got one character and it's out of subtier, well, good luck!

At rknop's table we had a decision to make. Would our friend, who drove all the way to hang out with us, be able to play with us with the only character she had in tier? That would bring the table up to the high subtier. She wasn't interested in playing a pregen, we tried. So the other option was to tell her she couldn't play.

We decided we wanted her to play, and things got bad. Yeah, it happens.

Also, as GM, if I had wanted to push it, mostly by choosing hardcore tactics that were still consistent with the encounter, I could have had a TPK. As an admitted softie GM, I tried to find tactics that still did justice to the monsters, but that gave the PCs a fighting chance. Even then, they only reason they survived was a very creative idea by one player, which took a couple of rounds to implement, but which saved everybody's bacon.

This wasn't a case of a bunch of weak players and characters all feeling entitled to a low-challenge scenario. This really was a case of the scenario being too hard for the set of characters that ended up being in the high subtier.

Liberty's Edge *****

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Wei Ji the Learner wrote:
EDIT2: Also, no one has answered my question on why there is an aversion to one or two higher level characters playing in a lower subtier. If there was, I may have missed it in walls of text...

There is a downside. They can potentially trivialize the scenario, and also steal all the other players' chance to shine.

I played a 5th level Monk in a 1-5, where everybody else was level 1 or 2, so we were at the low subtier. I tried to hold back a little bit-- I emphasized grappling and holding enemies still to help the others hit them, rather than doing maximum damage. And, happily, I failed a save against a fear effect and fled to another dimension before being sent back to the scenario by an annoyed Aram Zey. That gave the lower-level characters a combat they more or less had to handle without the 5th level Monk.

I had fun, and I don't think I dominated the scenario. But it can happen.

Some people will probably grouse about the out-of-subtier gold when they play low subtier with a high-subtier-levelled characters. I'm less worried about that than about the scenario experience being undermined.

Liberty's Edge

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My experience has been somewhat limited on higher character on the low sub-tier, but I do *not* recall any scenario where the 'higher character ROFLSTOMPED'.

In fact, in one situation the GM wanted our 3+1 to play 'up' because we had a L5 at the table (my bard), and two L2 characters in a 1-5. Even with it being an earlier season scenario, it was a very *good* thing we decided to play 'down' and it was still... very challenging.

And that was with a character that was reasonably combat effective in the bard, just not a 'MOAR DEEPS NAO' character.

No doubt in my mind we would have had a TPK in the first encounter if we'd played 'up'.

I'm NOT asking for 'EZ Mode'.

Far from it.

I'm asking for a party who doesn't think they are capable of playing 'HARD MODE EXTREME' to play 'Normal Mode'.

Edit: GM E-E, I suspect if they were that *good* they'd be confident about playing 'up', which would be a situation that is not applying in the examples I've given and I've had play experience with.

Scarab Sages ***

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This really shouldn't be a question of whether or not players should switch characters, play a pregen, whatever. Nor should it be a question of whether or not the event organizer is scheduling the correct scenarios for their player pool. Why? Because no matter how much we manipulate those things, APL 6.6 tables that end up having to play up will happen.

The only thing that should matter is whether or not the system for calculating tiers is resulting in an appropriate challenge level for group that fall between tiers. The current system has been in place (more or less as is) since what, season 6? So there's a few years of anecdotal evidence for how it's worked out.

Rather than rehashing the same discussions around whether or not it's appropriate to insist a player play a pregen or how best to schedule games to avoid a bad tier alignment, let's actually try to see if there's a way to alter the current system so that there are fewer bad tier alignments. The tier information Kevin provided is a good start to that.

So in his limited sample size, an APL 7 group would end up fighting an APL+5 encounter fairly often.

Kevin, do those CRs account for the 4-player adjustment?

Dark Archive **

There is a huge role for the GM in these edge situations, recognize if the scenario seems unusually dangerous. Is the mix of characters going to do OK? Be an advocate for everyone having a good time which could mean asking a player to play a pregen to go up or down if needed. Having them soft pedal and not dominate is also a possibility. I have been at lots of close tables and generally seen it work out pretty well. Though every once in awhile, the character who is supposed to be ROFLSTOMPING the scenario **Mickey** fails his confusion save and rolls to attack nearest ally. That was an entertaining turn for the rest of us 5th and 6th level characters vs. the 9th level caster.

Liberty's Edge

Davor Firetusk wrote:
There is a huge role for the GM in these edge situations, recognize if the scenario seems unusually dangerous. Is the mix of characters going to do OK? Be an advocate for everyone having a good time which could mean asking a player to play a pregen to go up or down if needed. Having them soft pedal and not dominate is also a possibility. I have been at lots of close tables and generally seen it work out pretty well. Though every once in awhile, the character who is supposed to be ROFLSTOMPING the scenario **Mickey** fails his confusion save and rolls to attack nearest ally. That was an entertaining turn for the rest of us 5th and 6th level characters vs. the 9th level caster.

Italicized the pertinent point.

A lot of folks are assuming that the higher tier character is going to walk all over the lower sub-tier, when my play experience has been the exact opposite in about three quarters of given scenarios, and 'even' in the other quarter.

The Exchange ***** Venture-Lieutenant, Texas—Dallas & Ft. Worth aka Belafon

Ferius Thune wrote:
Kevin, do those CRs account for the 4-player adjustment?

I believe so. Scenarios don't give an outright CR for 4-player adjustments so I had to extrapolate exactly what "having the sickened condition" would do to the CR of a full caster. Usually it's just -1, though occasionally I pegged it as "no change" when it was something like "replace the CR 4 mooks with CR 1 mooks but don't make any changes to the CR 11 bad guy."

Dark Archive *

just a bit of anecdotal evidence, my experience with playing up has often been screwy just based on writing. When adventures are written assuming the entire party is X, when in reality only two players are, it can lead to no fun. My specific story is often the encounter starts with an AoE spell. Oh the lv 3 cleric gets hit with a flatfooted Cl 10 fireball. Better yet that is how combat starts and then before half the party moves another AoE spell goes off, dropping 3 of the 6, leaving the in tier pc's to fight a cr11, next thing you know it's a tpk.

Silver Crusade ***** Venture-Agent, Canada—Ontario—Toronto aka pauljathome

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The change that I'd like to see is both quite simple and I believe would solve most of the problems.

The biggest problem occurs when one "rounds twice", ESPECIALLY with 5 players.

Its easier to explain using an example. So, lets take a 3-7 scenario.

The group ends up with an average level of 4.6 or 4.6666. This rounds to 5.

They then have more than 4 players so the 5 averages to 6 (with 4 player adjustment, admittedly).

It just seems totally wrong to me that when the tiers are 3-4 and 6-7 that 4.6 ends up counting as 6.

I think the solution is to determine the tiers based on the actual average, NOT the rounded average. 4.6 is in tier 3-4.

Liberty's Edge

Paul Jackson wrote:

The change that I'd like to see is both quite simple and I believe would solve most of the problems.

The biggest problem occurs when one "rounds twice", ESPECIALLY with 5 players.

Its easier to explain using an example. So, lets take a 3-7 scenario.

The group ends up with an average level of 4.6 or 4.6666. This rounds to 5.

They then have more than 4 players so the 5 averages to 6 (with 4 player adjustment, admittedly).

It just seems totally wrong to me that when the tiers are 3-4 and 6-7 that 4.6 ends up counting as 6.

I think the solution is to determine the tiers based on the actual average, NOT the rounded average. 4.6 is in tier 3-4.

So much like when there are fractions of gold or bonuses, round *down* to the nearest whole number?

In this case, 4.67 to 4?

That might work, though it might require some mental retraining?

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