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How much should I (as a GM) metagame about my players?


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This doesn't happen often, but it happens to me often enough that I might want some clarification.

Note: I'm not asking out of maliciousness, but more out of fairness and offering a better/more challenging experience for my players.

Sometimes enemy tactics don't work on players. Sometimes that happens only once, sometimes it happens all the time. Should I take that into consideration when I'm running the game? I don't have any specific examples, but say the enemy's tactic is to cast Cause Fear on the frontliner, and that person happens to be the Paladin, who is immune to that. Enemies might not know he's a Paladin, it might just be a beefy Cleric, for instance. Or a better example: a player has a Rogue with Press to the Wall. I've had my enemies repeatedly step against a wall or other object so it can't be flanked, and the player remarking, "you know that doesn't help, right?" Yeah, I know that, but the character doesn't. And for the rest of the adventure, pretty much all of the opponents did the same, because they had no way of knowing the player had that feat.

I'm not frustrated by either of those instances. In the first case, it's just a poor matchup that happened only once, and the second case it's just bad luck on my part. But in the second example I'm knowingly creating an advantage for my player, and repeating that advantage throughout the scenario. I'm torn between challenging the players and negating specific class features they've chosen. I'm either making the scenario less challenging or metagaming to my advantage. Again, I don't intend to kill the characters, but I do wish to give my players the thrill of defeating a challenging opponent without making sub-optimal choices for that opponent. I know I can deviate from tactics if they're voided or don't make sense anymore, but this doesn't fall in that category.

Shadow Lodge ****

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Keep doing what you're doing, unless it says the boss scries on the party or something.

Liberty's Edge Contributor

I think it's fair, in a campaign, for long-running enemies to begin sizing up their opponents and gathering intelligence about them. If they are facing incidental foes who've had no reason to keep track of this particular group of adventurers, they won't know the party's capabilities and will make mistakes. How quickly they adapt to the PCs' abilities will depend on their intelligence and wisdom (to put it in terms of ability scores). If they're observant and quick-witted, they'll soon figure out that their tactics aren't working and adjust. If not, they'll keep beating their heads against that wall (so to speak).

But as soon as the main villain knows that the PCs are out to get them and that they aren't easily squashed, they're going to put resources toward finding out how to challenge the PCs. They'll gather intelligence from people they've encountered. They will probably learn the basic information about classes and relative power. And they may learn about some of their specific abilities, especially if the PCs have demonstrated their abilities in front of a large audience.

But even so, the PCs should have an opportunity to surprise their enemies. Taking a feat or making some other class choice is no fun if the player never gets to have the character use it. But if the player starts to rely on it as a crutch, a proper villain will use that against them.

Sovereign Court *** Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

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A pretty common one: PC has a polearm and combat reflexes. Melee-style enemies win initiative. Should they advance on the PC trying to get past his reach while he's still flat-footed? I've earned sooo many AoOs that way.

My answer would be yes: the NPCs don't know that (or at least the first one that gets attacked) so they can't act on that information.

***

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Yeah, figured as much. NPCs usually don't have knowledge of PC abilities. Even if it makes the encounters a cakewalk, I have to stick to the script (unless I get permission from the players, I guess)..

I agree with Paris that in an AP where enemies might be able to converse with each other that it's realistic enemies will have knowledge about the players, but in PFS, that's rarely the case.

Liberty's Edge Contributor

Lau Bannenberg wrote:

A pretty common one: PC has a polearm and combat reflexes. Melee-style enemies win initiative. Should they advance on the PC trying to get past his reach while he's still flat-footed? I've earned sooo many AoOs that way.

My answer would be yes: the NPCs don't know that (or at least the first one that gets attacked) so they can't act on that information.

Good point, and one that I forgot to mention.

Even for mooks working for the "Big Bad" not everyone will know what the main villain and their lieutenants will. Unless the PCs have made their intentions clear and the villain knows where to expect them, it's unlikely that all the enemies in a place will have received the "intel brief" about what all the characters can do.

And having attended many operational and intel briefings, I also know that not everyone there pays attention. There's always going to be some percentage that doesn't hear the dire warnings about not chargin in and attacking the one with the really long weapon.


The first thing you need to do is figure out what information the bad guys have. Have any of them escaped or surrendered? Do the bad guys have noncombatants watching the fights? Do they get information from other people watching? Do they have access to divination magic? Associates with invisible/inconspicuous familiars? Speak with Dead on defeated foes?

A recurring mastermind will eventually have a decent idea of the heroes' abilities. At least as of a level or two ago. Of course this means that new foes won't have this information. Mercenaries may or may not have it. Other underlings may not have read the full briefing.

You also have the fact that smart foes who see the trick used may catch on to this. there's usually a check for this. It can be perception, Int, Wis, or spellcraf, depending on what it is. For combat feats, I'll often use a CMB check to represent a person's skill at arms.

On a metagame level, you shouldn't make a player's choices invalid. If no opponent ever stands next to a wall, then the player might as well have not invested in Press to the Wall. It's frustrating to get something you worked for and have it never work.

On the other hand, if a character gets too reliant on a trick it can make the game feel stale. Sometimes you need to shake things up and have characters fight in suboptimal settings. I usually save this for important fights.

Liberty's Edge Contributor

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Quentin Coldwater wrote:

Yeah, figured as much. NPCs usually don't have knowledge of PC abilities. Even if it makes the encounters a cakewalk, I have to stick to the script (unless I get permission from the players, I guess)..

I agree with Paris that in an AP where enemies might be able to converse with each other that it's realistic enemies will have knowledge about the players, but in PFS, that's rarely the case.

Oh, yeah. If we're talking PFS, then it's going to be tough for the bad guys. As ridiculously chaotic as the Society's personnel assignment system is, even if the enemy knows they're facing off against the Decemvirate's minions, they won't have a clue what to expect. ;)


Lau Bannenberg wrote:

A pretty common one: PC has a polearm and combat reflexes. Melee-style enemies win initiative. Should they advance on the PC trying to get past his reach while he's still flat-footed? I've earned sooo many AoOs that way.

My answer would be yes: the NPCs don't know that (or at least the first one that gets attacked) so they can't act on that information.

They do know that Combat Reflexes exists and that things with reach benefit greatly from that feat. So I do not see intelligent enemies accounting for the possibility as being metagaming or a bad thing.

*

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Also, a reasonably smart enemy could probably see a reach weapon in someone's hands and that's fair game to alter tactics. The three questions to ask:
1. What does the enemy have an in-game reason to know?
2. What can the enemy see?
3. How smart is the enemy? This will affect what they do, especially with #2.

And then there's one out-of-game thing to think about: How does the player feel? You want to make sure they can sometimes do the things they invested resources in, but most players also don't want things to be too easy.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber
thorin001 wrote:
Lau Bannenberg wrote:

A pretty common one: PC has a polearm and combat reflexes. Melee-style enemies win initiative. Should they advance on the PC trying to get past his reach while he's still flat-footed? I've earned sooo many AoOs that way.

My answer would be yes: the NPCs don't know that (or at least the first one that gets attacked) so they can't act on that information.

They do know that Combat Reflexes exists and that things with reach benefit greatly from that feat. So I do not see intelligent enemies accounting for the possibility as being metagaming or a bad thing.

That feels very metagaming to me. PCs and NPCs do not know feats exist, players do, GMs do, but in the world of Golarion feats are not a concept to them. They know that getting next to someone with a longspear is difficult without them swinging on them, but the concept of "flat-footed" is a game mechanic. If they act first in combat, they have no reason to not think they have caught their opponent off guard and try to strike. After the first one gets hit, the others would probably become more cautious about approaching the spear wielder and might not move in a manner that provokes, but I see no reason for them to assume he has Combat Reflexes without seeing it happen. It is not like every pole-arm user has it.

Dark Archive

Veteran fighting types know the dangers of approaching inside the reach of a polearm wielder. They don't know the rules of AoOs per say, but I think they should be familiar with the concept of "getting inside this person's reach could get me hurt".
It would also depend on the personality of the foes. Reckless ones charge right into polearm wielder. Cautious ones maybe not.

Scarab Sages

Quentin Coldwater wrote:

This doesn't happen often, but it happens to me often enough that I might want some clarification.

Note: I'm not asking out of maliciousness, but more out of fairness and offering a better/more challenging experience for my players.

Sometimes enemy tactics don't work on players. Sometimes that happens only once, sometimes it happens all the time. Should I take that into consideration when I'm running the game? I don't have any specific examples, but say the enemy's tactic is to cast Cause Fear on the frontliner, and that person happens to be the Paladin, who is immune to that. Enemies might not know he's a Paladin, it might just be a beefy Cleric, for instance. Or a better example: a player has a Rogue with Press to the Wall. I've had my enemies repeatedly step against a wall or other object so it can't be flanked, and the player remarking, "you know that doesn't help, right?" Yeah, I know that, but the character doesn't. And for the rest of the adventure, pretty much all of the opponents did the same, because they had no way of knowing the player had that feat.

I'm not frustrated by either of those instances. In the first case, it's just a poor matchup that happened only once, and the second case it's just bad luck on my part. But in the second example I'm knowingly creating an advantage for my player, and repeating that advantage throughout the scenario. I'm torn between challenging the players and negating specific class features they've chosen. I'm either making the scenario less challenging or metagaming to my advantage. Again, I don't intend to kill the characters, but I do wish to give my players the thrill of defeating a challenging opponent without making sub-optimal choices for that opponent. I know I can deviate from tactics if they're voided or don't make sense anymore, but this doesn't fall in that category.

Are you having fun without metagaming as the GM? Are the players having fun without you metagaming as the GM? If both are yes, then no need to change anything at all.

I do think that some degree of adapting tactics is reasonable if the PCs overly rely on a specifc attack, spell, or feat, to defeat most enemies. I'd have the PCs develop a reputation. I'd then have my NPCs roll knowledge (local) checks when they encounter the PCs or Diplomacy to gather information, if they learn of the PCs in advance. Not every NPC will be eligible or successful in making such checks, but player character reputation is an entirely reasonable excuse to have NPCs adapt their tactics for the party. Not a 1st level thing, but something to implement after the PCs accomplish something important.

You could also experiement with adjusting the CR of encounters which you suspect will be sub-optimal, and then adding templates or extra creatures to make up the difference. This one is tough, and can really backfire in TPK if you get it wrong (and if the goal is to make them challenging, pulling your punches is the last thing you want). You could consider adding a failsafe for drawn out combats (like a potential NPC ally that is on the fence about helping the party, but will join them if the situation becomes dire).

Sovereign Court *** Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

Murdock, you realize this is the PFS forum? Your solutions make sense in a home game, but you can't just add or remove templates in PFS. And a GM deciding (with or without dice rolls) that people have heard of the PCs' tactics also doesn't really fit the PFS idea of following written tactics.

Sovereign Court *** Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

Quentin Coldwater wrote:

Yeah, figured as much. NPCs usually don't have knowledge of PC abilities. Even if it makes the encounters a cakewalk, I have to stick to the script (unless I get permission from the players, I guess)..

I agree with Paris that in an AP where enemies might be able to converse with each other that it's realistic enemies will have knowledge about the players, but in PFS, that's rarely the case.

You're trapped between two evils, really.

On the one hand few things annoy players like metagaming enemies. The GM whose monsters never fall for illusions, always position themselves to avoid the tactics of PCs they've never heard about before etc. You don't want to be that GM.

On the other hand, in PFS enemies tend to have no idea of what they're up against. Far too often you run into enemies who starts they have no hope of winning; they're already outnumbered and out-equipped against the PCs, visibly so. Their tactics tend to be more centered on "how to make my remaining seconds of life more annoying/drag on" than "how to get out of this alive, maybe even win".

*

RSX Raver wrote:
thorin001 wrote:
Lau Bannenberg wrote:

A pretty common one: PC has a polearm and combat reflexes. Melee-style enemies win initiative. Should they advance on the PC trying to get past his reach while he's still flat-footed? I've earned sooo many AoOs that way.

My answer would be yes: the NPCs don't know that (or at least the first one that gets attacked) so they can't act on that information.

They do know that Combat Reflexes exists and that things with reach benefit greatly from that feat. So I do not see intelligent enemies accounting for the possibility as being metagaming or a bad thing.
That feels very metagaming to me. PCs and NPCs do not know feats exist, players do, GMs do, but in the world of Golarion feats are not a concept to them. They know that getting next to someone with a longspear is difficult without them swinging on them, but the concept of "flat-footed" is a game mechanic. If they act first in combat, they have no reason to not think they have caught their opponent off guard and try to strike. After the first one gets hit, the others would probably become more cautious about approaching the spear wielder and might not move in a manner that provokes, but I see no reason for them to assume he has Combat Reflexes without seeing it happen. It is not like every pole-arm user has it.

A feat is an out-of-game construct, yes, but it does represent something that exists in-world. The thinking would be something like: some people can do _blank_.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber
GM Redelia wrote:
RSX Raver wrote:
thorin001 wrote:
Lau Bannenberg wrote:

A pretty common one: PC has a polearm and combat reflexes. Melee-style enemies win initiative. Should they advance on the PC trying to get past his reach while he's still flat-footed? I've earned sooo many AoOs that way.

My answer would be yes: the NPCs don't know that (or at least the first one that gets attacked) so they can't act on that information.

They do know that Combat Reflexes exists and that things with reach benefit greatly from that feat. So I do not see intelligent enemies accounting for the possibility as being metagaming or a bad thing.
That feels very metagaming to me. PCs and NPCs do not know feats exist, players do, GMs do, but in the world of Golarion feats are not a concept to them. They know that getting next to someone with a longspear is difficult without them swinging on them, but the concept of "flat-footed" is a game mechanic. If they act first in combat, they have no reason to not think they have caught their opponent off guard and try to strike. After the first one gets hit, the others would probably become more cautious about approaching the spear wielder and might not move in a manner that provokes, but I see no reason for them to assume he has Combat Reflexes without seeing it happen. It is not like every pole-arm user has it.
A feat is an out-of-game construct, yes, but it does represent something that exists in-world. The thinking would be something like: some people can do _blank_.

Sure, but without any information about the combat capabilities of their opponent, the NPCs would have no reason to believe that every pole-arm user is capable of doing X (in this example attacking with an AoO even while flat-footed). Especially in PFS where regularly the enemies have no idea who you are outside of possibly knowing you are Pathfinders. The guy with the spear is equally as likely to have Dancing Spear Style as he is Combat Reflexes for all the NPC knows.


Pathfinder Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

A little bit of metagaming isn't a bad thing, but use it sparingly and use it both for and against the party. If a PC has a reach weapon and combat reflexes, particularly intelligent opponents may be simulated as being ready for it or suspecting it by using your metagame knowledge as a DM. But it's also a good idea to give players a chance to use the tricks they've selected for their PCs from time to time, perhaps even setting up a chance where it would work even though you have reasonable justification for avoiding it.

Sovereign Court *** Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

Yeah I guess the polearm wasn't such a good example. Animals and other critters too dumb to really understand tools wouldn't see it coming, and inexperienced warriors. And some adventures are filled with a series of encounters with moronic cultists, none of which survive to warn the guys in the next encounter.

Press Against The Wall is a very good example though: that's a character with a rare ability to change standard combat rules. It's not okay for enemies to expect that.

Same goes for its prerequisite, Step Up; if as a GM you become aware that a PC has that feat, you have to battle the urge to have NPCs who don't know about it not use 5ft steps anymore.

So yeah, a PC with such an ability has a trick he can pull every encounter, and that can start to feel like a bit of a grind. But it's not a trick that comes cheaply, so the PC lost power somewhere else. I think you should relax about it - treat it as yet another way to enable Sneak Attack, for which there are really many ways. Don't think of it as a very exceptional thing that a PC needs to be very clever to pull off; it's a routine-ish move for the PC that he uses the way the barbarian uses Power Attack.

I mean, in a way, most NPCs are surprised by Power Attack too. If they knew in advance how fast they were going to die, they would have never gone after the PCs...

****

Quentin Coldwater wrote:

This doesn't happen often, but it happens to me often enough that I might want some clarification.

Note: I'm not asking out of maliciousness, but more out of fairness and offering a better/more challenging experience for my players.

Sometimes enemy tactics don't work on players. Sometimes that happens only once, sometimes it happens all the time. Should I take that into consideration when I'm running the game? I don't have any specific examples, but say the enemy's tactic is to cast Cause Fear on the frontliner, and that person happens to be the Paladin, who is immune to that. Enemies might not know he's a Paladin, it might just be a beefy Cleric, for instance. Or a better example: a player has a Rogue with Press to the Wall. I've had my enemies repeatedly step against a wall or other object so it can't be flanked, and the player remarking, "you know that doesn't help, right?" Yeah, I know that, but the character doesn't. And for the rest of the adventure, pretty much all of the opponents did the same, because they had no way of knowing the player had that feat.

I'm not frustrated by either of those instances. In the first case, it's just a poor matchup that happened only once, and the second case it's just bad luck on my part. But in the second example I'm knowingly creating an advantage for my player, and repeating that advantage throughout the scenario. I'm torn between challenging the players and negating specific class features they've chosen. I'm either making the scenario less challenging or metagaming to my advantage. Again, I don't intend to kill the characters, but I do wish to give my players the thrill of defeating a challenging opponent without making sub-optimal choices for that opponent. I know I can deviate from tactics if they're voided or don't make sense anymore, but this doesn't fall in that category.

Certain scenarions mention the boss scrying on a previous fight. If that is the case then clearly the boss will know about anything the PCs used in that fight. As one example of this, an old scenario I prepared recently calls out a symbol of scrying placed in a certain room.

Liberty's Edge

There is at least one adventure path I've played in

Spoiler:
Rise of the Runelords
where some of the magic items have a 'direct feed' to the ultimate Big Bad... if the boss is interested enough to be scrying on said items.

In fact, our GM attempted to use our own tactics against us no less than three times using information gleaned through this method -- it failed, however, because we were a Chaotic bunch of folks who would made 'random' look 'planned'.

It'd bite us in the butt sometimes, but our lack of predictability made for some memorable 'chain' encounters...

After a certain point, the Big Bad basically just went to 'Be ready for just about anything, this is what you're facing' as their 'mission brief', because to detail *every single thing* the party had done to that point would take longer to brief the minions than it'd take the party to mow through them...

Silver Crusade *

As somebody trained in spear-fighting (when I did historical battle re-enactments regularly) I can tell you that what you absolutely must do when facing polearm users is get inside their reach. Once you are inside their reach you can hit them, and then the polearm can become a liability for them. To get inside their reach you deflect the business end of the polearm with your weapon, your shield, or you can even grab the haft of the weapon with a free hand.

Combat Reflexes represents the ability of a (usually more dextrous than usual) warrior to maintain high alertness and maintain his reach advantage if he's using a polearm.

So a trained warrior wants to get inside the spear-fighter's reach as quickly as possible. If he sees the spear-fighter is actually fully mobile, and that he hasn't got the advantage of surprise that he thought he had, he may re-evaluate his options. But a sword or axe wielder against a spear still has to get inside the spear's reach to cause damage.

Scarab Sages

Lau Bannenberg wrote:
Murdock, you realize this is the PFS forum? Your solutions make sense in a home game, but you can't just add or remove templates in PFS. And a GM deciding (with or without dice rolls) that people have heard of the PCs' tactics also doesn't really fit the PFS idea of following written tactics.

I did not. Thank you.


Quentin Coldwater wrote:

This doesn't happen often, but it happens to me often enough that I might want some clarification.

Note: I'm not asking out of maliciousness, but more out of fairness and offering a better/more challenging experience for my players.

Sometimes enemy tactics don't work on players. Sometimes that happens only once, sometimes it happens all the time. Should I take that into consideration when I'm running the game? I don't have any specific examples, but say the enemy's tactic is to cast Cause Fear on the frontliner, and that person happens to be the Paladin, who is immune to that. Enemies might not know he's a Paladin, it might just be a beefy Cleric, for instance. Or a better example: a player has a Rogue with Press to the Wall. I've had my enemies repeatedly step against a wall or other object so it can't be flanked, and the player remarking, "you know that doesn't help, right?" Yeah, I know that, but the character doesn't. And for the rest of the adventure, pretty much all of the opponents did the same, because they had no way of knowing the player had that feat.

I'm not frustrated by either of those instances. In the first case, it's just a poor matchup that happened only once, and the second case it's just bad luck on my part. But in the second example I'm knowingly creating an advantage for my player, and repeating that advantage throughout the scenario. I'm torn between challenging the players and negating specific class features they've chosen. I'm either making the scenario less challenging or metagaming to my advantage. Again, I don't intend to kill the characters, but I do wish to give my players the thrill of defeating a challenging opponent without making sub-optimal choices for that opponent. I know I can deviate from tactics if they're voided or don't make sense anymore, but this doesn't fall in that category.

When I DM I try not to remeber what the pcs can do. I ask myself, what would the monsters/npcs know about the pcs? I play with a guy that when he DMs finds it hard to separate DM knowledge and NPC knowledge. As soon as the villains exceed a certain level of Power, Intelligence or Experience (or the PIE level as I call it) they all become paranoid, super tactical geniuses and dangerously genre savvy. He thinks he is playing the villains smart, but he is really playing them Meta. It was frustrating and not fun.

In Kingmaker I ran a PC with the Step-up-and-strike feat line. When I got Step-up-and-strike the number of 5' steps around my character dropped to almost 0. Even with monsters that had no business knowing about my character or what my character could do.

Just because a creature is smart doesn't mean he/she can't make mistakes. He/she has a personality or skills(or lack thereof) or goals that could lead to certain (not smart) actions. The temptation to play them too smart leads to metagaming. The line between Smart villain and Metagamed villain is very thin.

threads with similar ideas
http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2slt5?Killing-a-smart-dragon
http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2se6e?Does-your-GM-ignore-your-immunities#7
http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2t6o7?A-caster-as-a-BBEG-too-tough-Cleric-Examp le#7

***** RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka Sir_Wulf

A skilled opponent could be allowed a Perception or Sense Motive check to discern his foe's intent. As examples, he might notice the foe's alert expression or wary stance (Combat Reflexes), his superior balance (Nimble Moves), or his ability to stay tight on a retreating foe (Step Up).

Sovereign Court *** Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

1 person marked this as a favorite.
James MacKenzie wrote:
A skilled opponent could be allowed a Perception or Sense Motive check to discern his foe's intent. As examples, he might notice the foe's alert expression or wary stance (Combat Reflexes), his superior balance (Nimble Moves), or his ability to stay tight on a retreating foe (Step Up).

And would that be active (move action) or passive perception? Is this something players can do too?


This is a challenge for everyone involved. It happens quite often that the players knowledge exceeds the PC's knowledge. I had it happen 2 times in a row this week, first with a giant patch of Brown Mold where ingame no-one made knowledge checks to know to clear it with cold damage, even though the players had seen it a dozen times combined, and just yesterday where my Ape animal companion kept pounding on a Shambling Mound with his Shocking Amulet of Mighty Fists (Added 12x 1d4 con to it by the end). And in that same session, we also had the case of the wrong player succeeding the knowledge checks (who couldn't communicate), which is very hard to ignore as a player when deciding tactics.

For a GM, I would generally take into account the knowledge level of the npc.
If you have a couple of martials levels, you probably know what weapons do, what kind of specialized fighters are out there. You know about trip builds and grapplers. If you are a goblin, you don't.
If someone has a level 10+ class ability or 5 feat deep chain, chances are you've never encountered it before.
Then you look if they're smart enough to learn. A mercenary team probably knows how to communicate and learn, drugged up cultists probably not.

There's also the factor of denying the players their moment in the spotlight. If you spend 3 feats on a featchain to counter a tactic and gain an advantage, and that disappears after the first combat of the next session, you're enjoyment at the table is going to be lessened.

This doesn't apply much to PFS (where a GM makes very few decisions about difficulty), but in general I feel that while most encounters should be challenging in some way, I favor an ebb and flow in the challenge anyway. If players get to the first 2 encounters easily that feels fun, if the third encounter then drops some bombs it stands out more.
So if a player is able to dominate an encounter, it's not really a problem to me. If they dominate entire sessions, there's a problem.

***** RPG Superstar 2008 Top 16 aka Sir_Wulf

James MacKenzie wrote:
A skilled opponent could be allowed a Perception or Sense Motive check to discern his foe's intent. As examples, he might notice the foe's alert expression or wary stance (Combat Reflexes), his superior balance (Nimble Moves), or his ability to stay tight on a retreating foe (Step Up).
Lau Bannenberg wrote:
And would that be active (move action) or passive perception? Is this something players can do too?

I've always 'winged' such calls, but something consistent with other, similar rules might work as follows:

A passive Sense Motive or Perception check allows any character to estimate which foe in a group of enemies is the most skilled with their weapon (best plus to attack) and/or strongest defensively (Best AC). The check's DC equals 10 + the number of foes reviewed.

Characters can more closely assess one opponent per round as a passive check: If they overcome DC 10+Opponent's BAB+Wis Bonus, they gain one piece of information about their foe. One more detail is gained for each 5 points by which they beat the check. (An opponent who was trying to conceal his true abilities could substitute a Bluff skill check.)

Shadow Lodge **** Venture-Lieutenant, Florida—Jacksonville aka Kyrie Ebonblade,

PFS wise? I'm not sure.now if the NPC in question has dealt with the PC(s) in the past I don't see why not. And there are a few that have, through intermediaries, in the scenarios (Tancred Desmire, The Spider and Grand Master Torch for instance)

In other scenarios, the NPC might have an eagle eye vantage point or set things in motion and watched how things played out in prior encounters..

But largely play fair with your players..metagaming their abilities doesn't make for a fun adventure

Scarab Sages

@Vanlandil Ancalime: I agree, that does sound like metagaming. But at the same time, isn't whole point of Step up to prevent opponent's from fleeing with 5' steps? If they aren't using them to flee, isn't that feat chain doing it's job? Reminds me of having an umbrella without rain.

Sovereign Court *** Venture-Lieutenant, Netherlands—Leiden aka Ascalaphus

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Murdock Mudeater wrote:
@Vanlandil Ancalime: I agree, that does sound like metagaming. But at the same time, isn't whole point of Step up to prevent opponent's from fleeing with 5' steps? If they aren't using them to flee, isn't that feat chain doing it's job? Reminds me of having an umbrella without rain.

Just taking Step Up, yeah, that's just to prevent escape.

But if you spent two more feats to get Step Up And Strike, then you're clearly hoping that people will try to 5ft step so you get to hit them. If the GM just never 5ft steps anymore, two out of those three feats become worthless.

Silver Crusade ***

RSX Raver wrote:
It is not like every pole-arm user has it.

Wait. What? There are pole arm users without Combat Reflexes? I don't think I've ever seen one - PC or NPC. Even at level 1.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber
Fromper wrote:
RSX Raver wrote:
It is not like every pole-arm user has it.

Wait. What? There are pole arm users without Combat Reflexes? I don't think I've ever seen one - PC or NPC. Even at level 1.

#8-16:
Zhang the bodyguard has a Guisarme and no Combat Reflexes.

I am sure I can find more, but that was literally the first one I looked at where I remembered a reach polearm user.

Scarab Sages *****

Fromper wrote:
RSX Raver wrote:
It is not like every pole-arm user has it.

Wait. What? There are pole arm users without Combat Reflexes? I don't think I've ever seen one - PC or NPC. Even at level 1.

*Raises Hand*

Silver Crusade ***

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

Hjalmar the Dwarven Cleric of Desna doesn't have it... not sure he ever has the feats free for it even. He had other priorities!


Lau Bannenberg wrote:
Murdock Mudeater wrote:
@Vanlandil Ancalime: I agree, that does sound like metagaming. But at the same time, isn't whole point of Step up to prevent opponent's from fleeing with 5' steps? If they aren't using them to flee, isn't that feat chain doing it's job? Reminds me of having an umbrella without rain.

Just taking Step Up, yeah, that's just to prevent escape.

But if you spent two more feats to get Step Up And Strike, then you're clearly hoping that people will try to 5ft step so you get to hit them. If the GM just never 5ft steps anymore, two out of those three feats become worthless.

yes.

Sovereign Court *****

Fromper wrote:
RSX Raver wrote:
It is not like every pole-arm user has it.

Wait. What? There are pole arm users without Combat Reflexes? I don't think I've ever seen one - PC or NPC. Even at level 1.

"I am not nimble enough to take advantage of it."

Silver Crusade ***

Ok, so there's always a few exceptions. But my point is that pole arms and Combat Reflexes are like peanut butter and jelly - you won't see the first without the second more than 20% of the time.

So any NPC of int > 8 would probably assume that the pole arm wielder is ready to hit them as they approach, even if they're trying to get inside the pole arm reach fast enough to catch them unaware.

Liberty's Edge *

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion Subscriber
Fromper wrote:

Ok, so there's always a few exceptions. But my point is that pole arms and Combat Reflexes are like peanut butter and jelly - you won't see the first without the second more than 20% of the time.

So any NPC of int > 8 would probably assume that the pole arm wielder is ready to hit them as they approach, even if they're trying to get inside the pole arm reach fast enough to catch them unaware.

Wait, you have jelly with your peanut butter??? That's disgusting!!!!

:P

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber
Fromper wrote:

Ok, so there's always a few exceptions. But my point is that pole arms and Combat Reflexes are like peanut butter and jelly - you won't see the first without the second more than 20% of the time.

So any NPC of int > 8 would probably assume that the pole arm wielder is ready to hit them as they approach, even if they're trying to get inside the pole arm reach fast enough to catch them unaware.

I respectfully disagree. That is the type of metagaming that I feel is unfair to players. I know a lot of polearm wielders that do not have Combat Reflexes, especially strength based ones or none fighter types that spend their feats on the many other things they need. Fact is that PCs make up an incredibly small portion of the population of Golarion, or even the combat capable populace, and among them many do not have Combat Reflexes. There is no reason a soldier should assume ever polearm carrying person has it without seeing evidence first.

*

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
RSX Raver wrote:
Fromper wrote:

Ok, so there's always a few exceptions. But my point is that pole arms and Combat Reflexes are like peanut butter and jelly - you won't see the first without the second more than 20% of the time.

So any NPC of int > 8 would probably assume that the pole arm wielder is ready to hit them as they approach, even if they're trying to get inside the pole arm reach fast enough to catch them unaware.

I respectfully disagree. That is the type of metagaming that I feel is unfair to players. I know a lot of polearm wielders that do not have Combat Reflexes, especially strength based ones or none fighter types that spend their feats on the many other things they need. Fact is that PCs make up an incredibly small portion of the population of Golarion, or even the combat capable populace, and among them many do not have Combat Reflexes. There is no reason a soldier should assume ever polearm carrying person has it without seeing evidence first.

Not assume they have it, but realize they might, and take that into consideration as much as their intelligence suggests they should.

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Companion Subscriber
Redelia wrote:
RSX Raver wrote:
Fromper wrote:

Ok, so there's always a few exceptions. But my point is that pole arms and Combat Reflexes are like peanut butter and jelly - you won't see the first without the second more than 20% of the time.

So any NPC of int > 8 would probably assume that the pole arm wielder is ready to hit them as they approach, even if they're trying to get inside the pole arm reach fast enough to catch them unaware.

I respectfully disagree. That is the type of metagaming that I feel is unfair to players. I know a lot of polearm wielders that do not have Combat Reflexes, especially strength based ones or none fighter types that spend their feats on the many other things they need. Fact is that PCs make up an incredibly small portion of the population of Golarion, or even the combat capable populace, and among them many do not have Combat Reflexes. There is no reason a soldier should assume ever polearm carrying person has it without seeing evidence first.
Not assume they have it, but realize they might, and take that into consideration as much as their intelligence suggests they should.

The only consideration they could take would be to act is if the person had it. That is no different then assuming everyone does. As stated earlier in the thread by someone who is trained in polearm use, the only way a person with a sword (or other non-reach weapon) can attack someone with a reach weapon, is to get inside their reach. So purposefully avoiding it would be not something a trained fighter does.

*

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
RSX Raver wrote:
Redelia wrote:


Not assume they have it, but realize they might, and take that into consideration as much as their intelligence suggests they should.
The only consideration they could take would be to act is if the person had it. That is no different then assuming everyone does.

I'm sorry, but that is _absolutely_ not true. It's like saying that a driver when they approach an intersection shouldn't realize that it's possible that cross traffic might blow through a red light. If you assume they'll stop properly, you just keep going because your light is green. If you assume they'll run the red, you stop. The proper solution is instead to realize they _might_ run the red light, and keep a careful eye out while you approach the intersection.

In Pathfinder terms, the thought process of the enemy would be, "Hmm, he might be able to do ____. If he does, that might make ____ happen. Do I want to take that risk?"

That decision would be made by weighing the badness of whatever happening with the likelihood of that happening. It's the same way we always evaluate risk in the real world.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber
Redelia wrote:
RSX Raver wrote:
Redelia wrote:


Not assume they have it, but realize they might, and take that into consideration as much as their intelligence suggests they should.
The only consideration they could take would be to act is if the person had it. That is no different then assuming everyone does.

I'm sorry, but that is _absolutely_ not true. It's like saying that a driver when they approach an intersection shouldn't realize that it's possible that cross traffic might blow through a red light. If you assume they'll stop properly, you just keep going because your light is green. If you assume they'll run the red, you stop. The proper solution is instead to realize they _might_ run the red light, and keep a careful eye out while you approach the intersection.

In Pathfinder terms, the thought process of the enemy would be, "Hmm, he might be able to do ____. If he does, that might make ____ happen. Do I want to take that risk?"

That decision would be made by weighing the badness of whatever happening with the likelihood of that happening. It's the same way we always evaluate risk in the real world.

Unfortunately, your real world example does not take into account the much more binary nature of the rules in Pathfinder. An enemy can not approach a polearm user and decide to stop if it looks like they might attack, they either move and provoke, or they do not. At the end of the day, real world comparison falls apart when placed into the confines of game mechanics, because you can not account for every possible thing.

*

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
RSX Raver wrote:
Redelia wrote:
RSX Raver wrote:
Redelia wrote:


Not assume they have it, but realize they might, and take that into consideration as much as their intelligence suggests they should.
The only consideration they could take would be to act is if the person had it. That is no different then assuming everyone does.

I'm sorry, but that is _absolutely_ not true. It's like saying that a driver when they approach an intersection shouldn't realize that it's possible that cross traffic might blow through a red light. If you assume they'll stop properly, you just keep going because your light is green. If you assume they'll run the red, you stop. The proper solution is instead to realize they _might_ run the red light, and keep a careful eye out while you approach the intersection.

In Pathfinder terms, the thought process of the enemy would be, "Hmm, he might be able to do ____. If he does, that might make ____ happen. Do I want to take that risk?"

That decision would be made by weighing the badness of whatever happening with the likelihood of that happening. It's the same way we always evaluate risk in the real world.

Unfortunately, your real world example does not take into account the much more binary nature of the rules in Pathfinder. An enemy can not approach a polearm user and decide to stop if it looks like they might attack, they either move and provoke, or they do not. At the end of the day, real world comparison falls apart when placed into the confines of game mechanics, because you can not account for every possible thing.

But they can sometimes move forward, and sometimes not, based on the rough probability you come up with. And this will leave a player feeling like their trick was worth the investment, without it always working.

Dark Archive

Pathfinder Companion Subscriber
Redelia wrote:
RSX Raver wrote:
Redelia wrote:
RSX Raver wrote:
Redelia wrote:


Not assume they have it, but realize they might, and take that into consideration as much as their intelligence suggests they should.
The only consideration they could take would be to act is if the person had it. That is no different then assuming everyone does.

I'm sorry, but that is _absolutely_ not true. It's like saying that a driver when they approach an intersection shouldn't realize that it's possible that cross traffic might blow through a red light. If you assume they'll stop properly, you just keep going because your light is green. If you assume they'll run the red, you stop. The proper solution is instead to realize they _might_ run the red light, and keep a careful eye out while you approach the intersection.

In Pathfinder terms, the thought process of the enemy would be, "Hmm, he might be able to do ____. If he does, that might make ____ happen. Do I want to take that risk?"

That decision would be made by weighing the badness of whatever happening with the likelihood of that happening. It's the same way we always evaluate risk in the real world.

Unfortunately, your real world example does not take into account the much more binary nature of the rules in Pathfinder. An enemy can not approach a polearm user and decide to stop if it looks like they might attack, they either move and provoke, or they do not. At the end of the day, real world comparison falls apart when placed into the confines of game mechanics, because you can not account for every possible thing.
But they can sometimes move forward, and sometimes not, based on the rough probability you come up with. And this will leave a player feeling like their trick was worth the investment, without it always working.

When I GM, I error on the side of the player more often then not. If NPC has sword he has to get into reach to attack, if he acts first then he will move into reach because the chances are he got the drop on the spear wielding PC with rippling muscles. If he eats an AoO, then it is fair to rationalize that the next one thinks twice before provoking.


Pathfinder Companion, Maps, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber

If the opponent has not seen the PC in action, his best assumption is that the opponent may have but probably doesn't have Combat Reflexes -- so he should weigh the opportunity cost of avoiding an opportunity attack that his foe probably can't make. If he can avoid the opportunity attack while still doing everything that he wants to do, that is what he should do. Otherwise, he should take his chances (and get smacked for it).

Lantern Lodge ***** Venture-Agent aka Jayson MF Kip

I play my NPCs as if they were PCs. My PCs will not typically risk finding out the hard way whether or not someone has Combat Reflexes, why should my NPCs*?

*Of course, some NPCs have tactics that say otherwise. If the tactics say they "attack mercilessly/carelessly/whatever," they will charge forward, tactics be damned.

**

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Re: Combat Reflexes
There are non-metagame options available to the NPC.
-Full Defense, wait for polearm user to come to you and step in on next turn.
-Full Defense before moving adjacent to polearm user.
-Ready action to 5' step forward and attack when polearm user approaches.
-Circle around polearm user to squishies.
-Throw a javelin (et al).
-Throw a javelin and back away.
-Claim the high ground or other tactical point.
-Drop caltrops and step back 5' in tight corridor.
-Stealth into a better position
-Sound an alarm (even pretending to can jostle your foes!)
-Bluff or Intimidate
-Wait for your tank to move in first
etc., etc.

None of these are metagaming. There is every reason, in game and out, to be wary of a polearm, even if you suspect you have the drop on somebody WHO SEES YOU. All of them are actions that a veteran NPC could know of and use (and a veteran PC should do so). Metagamey is when the Berserker Orc does a non-berzerkery tactic, but it's meta-metagamey when the Rogue Bugbear avoids being cunning due to the GM's fear of being metacunning.

My 2 c.p.
Cheers, JMK

Dark Archive

1 person marked this as a favorite.
Pathfinder Companion Subscriber
Jeff Hazuka wrote:

I play my NPCs as if they were PCs. My PCs will not typically risk finding out the hard way whether or not someone has Combat Reflexes, why should my NPCs*?

*Of course, some NPCs have tactics that say otherwise. If the tactics say they "attack mercilessly/carelessly/whatever," they will charge forward, tactics be damned.

That statement just made me think about the phrase, "if everyone is special then no one is." Why should every NPC behave with the same guile and expertise as the heroic adventurers? That feels way too much like a GM attempting to beat the players, not facilitate the telling of a story where the PCs are the heroes.

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