I would submit that people today need to work more than our grandparents for a perceived level of prosperity is because we expect to have a lot of things they did not. I think back to what my Grandfather didn't buy when he was my age.
He had no internet service to buy. He had no computer. He had a black and white TV with two channels, and his car was atrociously bad by modern standards. He had no cell phone service to buy, although he did have a land line. His house was tiny and had terrible insulation. He heated it with coal. He didn't have air conditioning. He could not afford plane tickets or foreign travel. When his brother got sick and went to the hospital with abdominal pain, he didn't need to buy an MRI scan (since those didn't exist). But since the doctors didn't know what was wrong with him, he died during exploratory surgery.
Honestly, I don't find the basket of goods the CPI uses overly comparable across large time periods. It is supposed to be representative of what people spend their money on, but what we have now is just better. It is not really that surprising that it is often more expensive.
I wouldn't trade a poverty line lifestyle from today for a middle class lifestyle from the 1940's or 1950's, and I definitely wouldn't trade the lifestyle I have now for a millionaire's from the same time. Everything is just a lot, lot better now than it was then. And that is a good thing.
Yup. However, that is further aided by the fact that you have to figure out how to read the register's value at all, which will be extremely nontrivial if it isn't exposed in any way. You have to figure out how to dissect a chip without breaking it and get some sort of detection device on the individual transistors or whatever makes up the register storage. That is a lot harder than stripping the enclosure off a hard drive and running the raw disk platter through a machine with a custom read head that tries to recover all the erased data.
From what I've read, I don't think the "erase the phone" functionality actually erases anything in memory at all, at least on newer iphones. All of the data on the phone is encrypted with a key that is a combination of a key stored in the secure enclave coprocessor, i.e. a piece of hardware on the motherboard, and the user's PIN. You enter the PIN, the secure enclave combines it with the key it has and creates the actual encryption key to use to decrypt the phone's data for use. Without this process, pulling the raw data from the phone's memory is useless, since you would have to be able to break 256 bit aes encryption to get anything from it, which is currently probably impossible.
You enter the PIN wrong 10 times, the secure enclave deletes its key. Now all the data is still there, but no one can get the password to it even with the PIN, rendering it unrecoverable, and you never had to overwrite anything.
I haven't independently verified this, but this was the explanation I read online somewhere, and it made sense to me from a design perspective. Why try and make sure you completely overwrite the entire phone's data in such a way that it is not recoverable when you can just clear a 256 bit register and get the same effect?
I don't think a claim by Apple they couldn't break in would defy basic credibility, but you're right that it would be an extremely bad idea for them to lie to the FBI about it regardless of the plausibility of the lie. Since they've essentially come out and said they could potentially do it, it appears their lawyers agree with that.
I also agree that is is highly doubtful that they've already made a custom image to try and break into phones. They get no benefit from having that created, it costs them money to pay people to write it, and it would damage their business substantially if it leaked. Expecting that software to already exist is to expect Apple to work against their own financial interests, which is not very likely. They're willing to fight a court order to avoid having to make this, it is very unlikely they just decided to create it because they felt like it.
The one good thing about all of this is that the FBI request is actually for a customized version of the software that only works on the specific phone in question, and the FBI is ok with the code never leaving Apple's computers. That means that, while Apple would have the ability to break into anyone's iPhone in the future by modifying the software they're being asked to create, the FBI would have to make a request each time rather than just being handed a skeleton key. It still creates a risk in that if the code ever leaked, it could be used by malicious hackers, but that seems a good bit better to me than just handing over a custom version of IOS to the government to backdoor anyone's phone they want.
Orfamay Quest wrote:
Yes, that line or something like it almost certainly exists. And if that line of code is in a source file for software, changing that would be helpful for the police's case. If that line of code is in a Verilog source file to compare an internal register counter on a sealed chip on the motherboard to the value 9, commenting it out does exactly nothing to help get into an iphone that has already been manufactured. That is how it could be technically possible for Apple to be unable to break into a user's phone.
Of course, if they did this, then they can't actually change the logic in any way for any phone they've already manufactured, so if it turned out they had a critical flaw somewhere in their encryption system, they couldn't do anything about it without physically recalling all affected phones and making new ones. I am guessing they decided to keep the check in software for that reason, but it is not impossible for them to have decided to do otherwise.
My understanding of this is not complete, but from what I have read, while they could probably clone the memory contents (although some of what I read suggests that may actually also be non-trivial), they would have to break actual 256 bit aes encryption on an essentially random key, not just guess the user's password, which is effectively impossible. In order to break the encryption by brute forcing passwords, they need information that is stored in hardware that is usually combined with the user's passcode to generate the actual key used to encrypt the data, which means either manually cracking it open and trying to read the die with an electron microscope (without breaking it and with no documention on which transistors out of millions or billions do what), attempting to find a flaw in Apple's security implementation so they can insert their own patch, or forcing Apple to write a patched firmware upgrade to get the hardware to give up its data somehow. The government cannot trivially tell the hardware to give up its data because that chip has been built to only accept code written by apple and signed with their encryption key, which the government does not have.
Also note that Apple doesn't need to make that hardware be able to accept updates at all, in which case Apple couldn't get in either (there was some speculation that I read that was how it was set up, but more recent developments cast doubt on that), but if they did that then they can't ever change how it works, which would mean if they release an iphone model with a bug in that security they can't fix it, which would have its own dangers for security.
I would not put it past the government to be able to do an invasive analysis of the hardware through electron microscopy or similar techniques to attack the phone's security on a fundamental level, but it is the sort of attack that is very expensive and very hard to try and pull off. It is likely much cheaper and safer to try and force Apple to cooperate through the courts than to attempt to bypass this themselves.
The Druid's animal companion in our campaign has been trained to aid other my Trip fighter. Because greater trip causes an AOO, the animal moving up to a tough enemy and aid othering my trip attempt helps seal the deal and ensure the enemy goes down. Ideally, we're set up where the rogue is in position with a held action to attack once the trip attempt finishes, so the successful trip triggers an AOO from me, from the animal, from the druid himself, from the rogue, then the rogue stabs them again at +4 from prone, then when they stand up the rogue and I get to stab them again...and they're not going anywhere unless they want to eat another AOO from the rogue and myself. The aid other is like a 10% increased chance of triggering 6 additional attacks, most of which are much stronger than the bite it is replacing, plus messing up the enemy's action economy for their turn. That is a stronger effect than trying for a bite attack, especially if the enemy has any DR.
I think this would be an important point to address. I bet there are a lot of interesting ways you could address this, too. Just thinking about some possibilities, as they might apply to Way of the Wicked as an example (since I am currently running it).
You could have the story written in such a way that there is a good reason for raise dead to be available, even in the event of a TPK, such that death means more a failure to attain a particular goal and less a total loss.
Way of the Wicked:
WotW is actually written this way, even though it chose not to do this by default. The players start out acting as agents of a high level cleric, who is strongly invested in their success. It would not have been a big stretch to have him raise a failed team, although the default assumption is that the player's patron isn't that invested in them.
You could have the players create two sets of characters at the start of the campaign; one to play, one to act as a related team of NPCs that does other missions in the background related to the plot, but is able to cut over and take over the main storyline if the primary PCs die.
Way of the Wicked:
This could easily be done in Way of the Wicked by writing one of the other 9 knots into this role; similar to the 7th knot, where the PCs are aware of the NPC team's actions, but to act as a backup group instead of a rival group. By mentioning them throughout the story and by having the PCs design them, it would keep them tied more closely to the plot and make it smoother to introduce a new team in the event of a TPK.
There are probably other good ways to design for this, I think it has the possibility to be very interesting.
I read this thread in two pieces with a large gap of time between them, so I apologize if this suggestion has already be addressed in the early half.
The premise of the thread is that one of the experimental AP themes should be that the AP goes to level 20. I think this is subtly off; the experimental aspect shouldn't be that the AP goes to 20, it should be that the AP is significantly harder than a typical AP.
Like most of the experimental AP themes, this will alienate a portion of the audience (people who don't want an extremely difficult gaming experience) while being the best thing ever for another slice (some people really like hard games; I am one of these people. See the success of the Dark Souls series as an example). If you design all the encounters at APL + 1 through APL + 5, a natural consequence of the increased difficulty will be that PCs level up much faster per page of adventure than is typical, which should help get them to level 20 without inflating the number of pages.
If I was going to try and make this work, I would probably recommend the use of 25 point buy, to give a stronger than baseline starting point for the PCs, and include some valid story specific reason for raise dead/resurrection to be available early on, as you are more likely than usual to kill PCs. I am sure there are other tricks that could be done to try and design for that experience, but they require different choices in campaign design, hence why it would be the experimental theme.
While it is true that any campaign can be adjusted up or down in difficulty, it becomes much harder with a full AP, especially if you stick to using XP (and correspondingly get to higher levels). The greater XP and loot from added enemies means your encounters have to increasingly diverge from what is printed the further you get into the AP, because the players are both several level higher than expected and need the challenge increased even more from there. That makes it very helpful to have the whole AP designed to be hard from the start.
Now, the downside is that if you go with "really hard" as your experimental AP theme, it is probably less new player friendly than most of the other experimental APs. How much more or less so than something like Iron Gods, I can't really say, because it is differentiating on a mechanical vs. thematic preference. I do think there is a market for a really hard AP though, and while it probably isn't the core audience, that is kind of the point of doing the experimental AP lines.
I find this interesting, because I personally feel like I end up making a lot of decisions in combat that keeps it from getting boring. It might be a build difference, or a playstyle difference, or differences in what we like to do. I thought I would mention my current fighter and the decisions he usually ends up making that are keeping things interesting for me.
Cecil is a human fighter running through rise of the runelords anniversary edition, 15 point buy, core material only except for traits (mostly by choice so far, it might not stay that way). He is focused on a reach trip build using a Guisarme with combat reflexes.
Generally speaking, in a round of combat, I think about:
--Do I use combat expertise or not? CE has the same issue of reducing battlefield control as power attack, which runs counter to increased survivability from the AC boost. Answer is usually no, but not always. Most common case where it is yes is when fighting a large group of weak enemies, or when I need to get out of a tight spot.
--Do I fight defensively or not? Much less common, but something that needs to be kept in mind when you're standing up from getting knocked prone yourself, or in serious trouble and have to provoke AOOs to get out of a bad position.
--Trip or not? You need to keep your number of AOOs in mind. I get one on an enemy being tripped, and on standing. I can get 3 AOOs off one enemy if they try and move through the threatened area then stand up post trip, but I am limited to my dex mod + 1 AOOs/round. I will sometimes need to skip tripping things or the AOOs from the trip/stand so I don't get saturated.
Some things can't be tripped, but sometimes I have to make a call on whether I can succeed or not as well; can I trip that Triceratops?
--Environmental effects. Is someone in a prime position for bull rushing? Is there something in the environment that smashing really hard will cause a bigger shift in the battle than just killing someone, like cutting a bridge support when enemies are on it? Two handing fighters do enough damage to modify the battlefield in some instances by attacking it directly. Can I get to or create a spot where I can effectively attack, but my opponents cannot?
--Positioning. I threaten a large part of the battlefield, but have a zone where I can't attack. Where I place myself each turn matters for impeding opponents movement without being impeded myself. I want to trap enemies such that ideally they have no good options. Gets more tricky, but also more powerful, when enlarged.
Can I physically block the opposition from getting through to weaker party members? Am I providing soft cover for my enemies against ranged combatants on my side? Am I positioned to provide my side with soft cover against enemy ranged attacks? Can I establish flanking? To accomplish my desired positioning goals, can I use acrobatics to get somewhere in an unconventional way?
--Style swapping. I have three main styles of combat (not in the feat sense...); the primary one is reach based tripping. The secondary one is tower shield sword & board with combat expertise + fight defensively (w/ 3 ranks acro). The third is using a longbow. Swapping over to sword & board and fighting like a turtle ups AC by 10, but significantly impedes my ability to damage things. That makes it useful for situations where I got focused and are nearing death, and my opponents either have to futilely scrabble at my high AC or spread damage to the whole party, both of which are not very good tactically speaking. The longbow option is useful whenever I have to use it because I am fighting flyers in unfavorable terrain, or when I can set up the fight such that my opponents cannot reach me but I can shoot them.
Additionally, do I use magical items, set up tactical scenarios with my party (rogue + druid companion flank a single powerful enemy, druid companion aid others trip attempt, rogue attacks with held action after trip succeeds, everyone gets an AOO on trip and another when the enemy stands. Or party wizard invisibles me to provide a one-shot attempt at high success at getting a combat maneuver off against a high-dex BBEG that otherwise has too high of a CMD to hit reasonably. Or tons of other possible combinations and synergies.), and of course, who or what am I attacking?
With all this decision making, the number of times I just go "I do a full power attack" as my action for the round is not that high, and I find combat quite interesting. I don't know if this is helpful at all, but I found the character had more thinking involved than some of the more straightforward melee approaches.
Another possibility that it sounds like you might like would be a duelist. There was someone who had a very interesting looking high int/dex Aldori Swordlord/Duelist over in the pathfinder society boards, but I can't remember their name...in any case, it looked like it had a lot of mobility, a huge AC if desired, pretty decent damage, a very high initiative modifier, a high number of skills because of the int focus, and some fun extras like parry/riposte.
The only build I've personally considered it for without needing it as a prereq would be a sword and board fighter. Due to the highly non-linear protective nature of AC, there are situations where being able to add 2-3 points of AC can drop the expected value of the damage you take by 50-75%. As a fighter with a shield, your AC is already quite high, and the higher your AC, the more each additional point does for you, so it can be pretty good there. The 13 int requirement kind of makes it probably not worth it even there though, at least on point buy.
I've personally found it useful on my Guisarme trip fighter, but not useful enough that I would have spent a feat if I didn't need it as a prereq (subject to a possibly incorrect rules interpretation; more on that later). I use it to transition to "Turtle Mode" when low on HP. I start out the fight two handing with a Guisarme, which tends to draw a lot of attention because of the large amounts of damage that can put out (essentially drawing aggro and tanking by a combination of being too lethal to ignore and controlling large areas of the battlefield with AOOs, reach and trip). If I get focused down and drop to low HP, I will sometimes swap to a tower shield and turn on Combat Expertise + Fight Defensively. It is a little awkward from an action economy point of view; generally there is a turn of taking a total defense action in there to bridge from two handing->tower shield+CE/fight defensively.
That leaves enemies in an awkward spot tactically; generally, you don't want to spread damage across a party, you want to focus down enemies one at a time. But you also don't want to attack the guy fighting super defensively with a tower shield and an AC through the roof you barely have a chance of hitting. Once in that mode, I can still take my normal attacks and AOOs that have a small chance of hitting, I can still physically get in the way in narrow corridors, and I can still act as a flanking buddy for my teammates. Enemies can try and finish me, of course, but my AC is 10 points higher, which can push a lot of things into needing close to a 20 to hit, so I count them swinging at me at that point as a win. Enemies also still have to watch out for the drop Tower Shield -> two hand power attack with longsword line that can punch out a final unexpected damage spike if appropriate.
While looking up some stuff while writing this up, I realized that I may have gotten the rules on deploying a tower shield wrong; I've been playing it as a move action to go from empty hands to using a tower shield, but reading the rules more closely, it looks like maybe it should be two actions. I'm not sure if it equips like a weapon, where you draw it (or in this case strap it on) for use with a move action from some place where it is accessible, or like an item in your pack, where you first have to dig it out with an AOO provoking move action and only then equip it with another move action. On a closer second reading, I am leaning towards the second case being correct, but am not 100% sure. If that is the case, this strategy is probably not worth it. The usage is already situational, but by the time you want to transition, you are in almost always in enough trouble that provoking an AOO and spending a whole round at only +6 AC from total defense is unlikely to afford a safe enough transition to be worth giving up a last round of two handed power attacking.
I'll have to get a ruling from my DM and see how she wants to handle it.
I'm taking this on my current fighter so I can make magic weapons for the group. The buff that I would most like for it would be where it applies to any number of skills at once, instead of just one. Then I could take both Armorsmithing and Weaponsmithing and be able to get the whole benefit of Craft Magic Arms and Armor, instead of just getting half of it.
Lava isn't nearly as deadly as you're making it out to be (ok, its pretty deadly, but it doesn't instantly kill you by touching it). You can Walk right up to a lava flow and stick a normal hammer in it with no ill effects.. There are videos of people stepping on lava with normal boots, very briefly. Apparently, if you've got the right equipment you can actually walk on lava for a short time.
If you get dumped into the middle of a lava lake, then yes, you're going to explode (a video shows a person sized blob of organic garbage exploding due to water vaporization about 3 seconds after impact, and you'll die before that point), but its not quite as lethal as touch=immediate demise.
I just came across this recently, and it looks like it would be incredibly fun! Hopefully I am not too late.
Here is the fluff for Davis; crunch will follow later today when I have time to work all the numbers and check all the rules, but I think will be an Unchained Rogue(Spy)/Slayer(Cleaner)/Expert:
Phase 1 Questionnaire::
1. Experience with the rules.
2. Experience with PbP
3. Expectations for playing and what you want out of the experience.
4. Philosophy as a PbP player.
5. Why are you applying to this game.
6. Define what you think good role-playing is in PbP.
7. What is your experience with this adventure path?
Phase 2 The Ten-Minute Background::
Step 1: 5 Background/Concept Elements
Physical Description: Davis is a short, wiry 22 year old human man with short black hair and deep blue eyes. He is clean shaven, as it is significantly easier to apply fake facial hair when constructing a disguise than to hide an existing beard. He is 5’5” tall and 145 lbs, with smooth, white skin and fine dexterous fingers that have clearly never known hard labor.
Concept: Davis is, at heart, a con man. Although he isn’t above killing and will be able to be at least moderately effective in combat, his true strength is in deception and being extremely good at lying.
Early Life: Davis grew up in one of the Mitran orphanages in the capital of Talingarde. He never knew his parents, and while Brother Saul and the rest of the clergy took good care of him and tried to instill a strong ethical framework, it did not take well. Davis was a voracious learner and did well in his schooling, but tended to shirk chores when possible and had a tendency to acquire items that did not belong to him. Davis greatly resented that others were born into a much better station than he, and spent many long hours pondering how to gain the great wealth he so richly deserved.
Popular with the other orphans and quick witted, Davis realized early in life that power and wealth were matters of perception and the influence one could wield over others. Nobility had power and wealth because society at large agreed they did; the fastest way to great wealth would be to persuade the world that he should have it.
The Crime: Davis was generally well liked by the other orphans, but he grew particularly close to a fellow orphan named Jennifer, who he fell in love with as a teenager. She had equally big dreams and a similar disregard for rules and the welfare of strangers; with her help and encouragement, Davis hatched an audacious plan to gain the life he felt they both deserved. Stealing a noble’s wealth would be reported and investigated as a crime, but stealing a noble’s entire life--that would provide instant access to the mechanisms of wealth creation, while leaving no aggrieved party alive to pursue an investigation from the law.
Davis prepared for several years, honing his skills and learning all he could about the local nobility while working as a clerk in a book store. Eventually, he and Jenny found their ideal target, a minor noble named Lord Arden Larkhaven who had recently lost his wife and bore a satisfactorily close resemblance to Davis. Jenny was able to obtain a position as a chambermaid in Arden’s manor, and over the next several months helped Davis prepare to assume Arden’s identity.
When the time came, Davis disguised himself as Arden. Jenny let Davis into the home through a window late at night, and Davis crept to Arden’s bedchambers and killed him with a dagger through the eye. Davis hid the body in the bedroom closet, then summoned a bathing tub from the serving staff. The body was cut apart in the tub, then smuggled out piece by piece by Jenny in the chamber pot over the next several days.
Davis was able to play his part to near perfection, assuming Arden’s life without raising comment from the serving staff. Davis used the fact Arden had recently been grieving the traumatic loss of his wife as a cover for any slight personality changes he seemed to show to Arden's friends and colleagues. After a few months, he “fell in love with his chambermaid” and took Jenny as his mistress; for almost half a year, he and Jenny lived the high life of a nobleman.
There were small slipups in the cover from time to time, however, and eventually a former friend of Arden’s, the knight Sir Bryan Sandalwood, grew suspicious and confronted Davis forcefully. Taking Arden’s gold and jewelry, Davis and Jenny fled, but were hunted down. Jenny was slain by arrow fire and her body lost in the forest during the arrest, but Davis was taken alive. The prosecution failed to convict him of murder due to the lack of a body, but was easily able to convict him for fraud. Davis was sent to Branderscar prison to await shipment to a life of hard labor in the salt mines.
Step 2: List at least two goals for your character, one they know about, one I have for them:
My goal for Davis is for him to become the premiere assassin and spy working for Asmodeus. I want him to go from being an excellent con man, liar and thief to someone who can lie successfully to solars and assassinate impossible to reach targets.
Step 3: List two secrets about your character, one he knows, one he does not:
The biggest secret that Davis is still keeping is just how important Jenny was to him. She was never the focus in the public eye; some particularly well connected gossipmongers knew he took her as a mistress while masquerading as Arden, but didn’t know about their previous connection or how important she was to him. Davis will try and keep it that way, and won’t share her existence or her importance unless he absolutely has to, since he views it as a way others could manipulate him.
He is also keeping secret just what happened to Arden, but it isn’t too much of a stretch for people to assume Davis killed him somehow. Davis will continue to protest his innocence as long as there is any chance failing to do so could get him scheduled for execution rather than hard labor, however.
The biggest secret Davis doesn’t know about is his parent’s identities, which I would prefer to be kept as a surprise for the DM to use as he sees fit rather than spelling out something explicitly. Davis doesn’t really care that much; he figures they’re either dead or didn’t care enough about him to raise him, and either way he owes them nothing.
Step 4: Describe 3 people that are tied to the character:
Brother Saul: Brother Saul was the priest of Mitra at the orphanage where Davis grew up who was most involved in taking care of Davis. An balding and slightly overweight man in his 50’s, Saul tends to stay in his orphanage. His greatest loves are reading, cooking and caring for the children under his protection.
Davis tended to view him as kind of a naive and trusting fool, which is more or less accurate; Saul heard about Davis’ arrest, but doesn’t want to believe that the children he helped raise could be capable of doing such things. Davis should have no trouble spinning a tale of being wrongfully implicated if he encounters Brother Saul again and needs his help.
Jennifer “Jenny”: The love of his life. A vivacious and outgoing, if somewhat plain looking woman a year younger than Davis. Jenny had black hair and brown eyes and was an inch taller than Davis, which she used to gently tease him about all the time. They grew up together, and fell in love as teenagers. Neither chose to take a family name growing up since neither had a family; they were planning on choosing a surname together once they married. She was the instigator that helped push Davis from dreaming of power to actually seizing it. Davis would do anything for her--the problem is that she is currently dead. Davis will try to bring her back, but it will be difficult with no body, no resources and no divine caster who would willingly resurrect a criminal slain fleeing arrest.
Sir Bryan Sandalwood: Sir Bryan is a knight of Alerion of some reknown, and was a close friend of Arden Larkhaven. He eventually picked up on minor discrepancies, changes in behavior and lack of previous shared knowledge while Davis was playing the part of Arden, and instigated the confrontation that unmasked Davis’ fraud. Sir Bryan is furious that his friend was murdered and the body is nowhere to be found; he is convinced (rightly so) that Davis killed him and was able to weasel his way out of a murder conviction at trial. Sir Bryan takes solace that Davis is not a sturdy fellow and is unlikely to survive long in the salt mines, but if Davis escapes, Sir Bryan will be out to avenge his former friend.
Step 5: Describe three memories, mannerisms or quirks your character has:
Davis vividly recalls successfully lying to Brother Saul at an early age about who stole a cherry pie from the kitchen. Davis was able to successfully frame a child from a local street gang who had been hanging around the orphanage; it was the occasion where he first really realized the power of lies to get people to do what he wanted them to do.
Davis doesn’t eat meat unless it is necessary to play a role, and has a soft spot for animals. He won’t hesitate to kill one if he needs to or if he gets attacked by one, but will try and avoid it if practical, even more so than with people. He views them as suffering from an even lowlier birth than he, and commiserates with their status as effective slaves.
Davis loathes poetry. He finds it generally pretentious and boring, and he had to learn a significant amount about it against his will, as Arden Larkhaven was an ardent (and poor) amateur poet and patron of several professional ones. He does, however, enjoy fictional novels, especially mysteries and romances.
Phase 3 Questionnaire::
1.How does your characer interact with the others within a group?
Davis tends to get along well with people. He is exceedingly pragmatic and fairly diplomatic and charming, and will tend to try and get everyone working together so he can help guide their collective potential. Groups are stronger than individuals, and Davis is well aware of the benefits of teamwork. That doesn’t mean he wouldn’t sacrifice a teammate without blinking an eye if it really became necessary (at least, unless he became close personal friends with one, which Davis is emotionally capable of doing), but that is rarely the case in practice.
2. What is your character’s role in a group?
Davis is a spy, a liar, a thief and a scout. He can act as a group face in many situations; he almost certainly can lie better than anyone else, and has a suite of social skills to back it up. In combat, he won’t be able to put out the kind of damage specialized melee combatants can produce, but he will be able to assassinate key individuals from the shadows reasonably well. Being an int-focused skill based character (mechanically speaking, he’s going to be pumping int for high DC death attacks/assassinations) gives him a -lot- of skill points to push around, so should be able to do a little bit of everything when it comes to skill checks. Davis should be a good scout and will attempt when possible to disguise himself as an enemy and use his social skills to lead them into suboptimal tactical arrangements.
3. How is your character not as they seem?
Depending on how well they know Davis and in what context, either his sincere love for his former girlfriend Jenny (if they’re routinely exposed to him acting as a ruthless killer) or the fact he is a ruthless killer (if he has been playing a part around the person) would likely come as a surprise. Although he doesn’t really currently have any living friends, the charm and easygoing demeanor is not entirely a fascade; he could come to care for a companion deeply if they go through the right circumstances together.
4. What are your character’s goals?
5. How easily does your character love? Have they been in love?
6. Is your character racist at all, either now or in their past?
7. What lies does your character believe about themselves and the world around them?
8. How is your character about material possessions?
9. What does your character perceive their major problems to be?
10. What does he perceive the solutions to those problems to be?
11. What are your character’s religious beliefs?
12. What does your character fear?
13. How much of a temper does your character have? What sort of things set him off?
He tends to get angry when physically attacked, rather than verbally assaulted. He tends to feel at home with verbal sparring, and doesn’t easily take offense at insults, but really does not like being struck.
I mean, the fighter doesn't necessarily die the re. For example, say we are level 6 and facing 6 minotaurs plus some sort of aoe trap. One fighter might do a reach trip on any minotaur that tries to charge the caster using combat reflexes to take aoos flat footed, preventing the caster from going down in the first place. Some other spec of fighter might just take his 30 armor class and calmly start chopping them up while they miss repeatedly.
So, I thought I would post more specific recent examples from our Rise of the Runelords game. Yes, I am aware that this scenario plays strongly to my fighter's strengths, and also that a random anecdote doesn't refute the argument, but I thought it might be nice to have at least one specific example of a fighter being useful. Lengthy Spoilers for Skinsaw murders (hope I spoiler tag this right, posting from my phone):
Our party consists of a rogue, a melee combat focused druid, and a divination arcanist. I am a trip reach build with a guisarme. We were doing the portion of the adventure with misgivings and facing the skinsaw man. We are level 5, 15 point buy, mostly core except the arcanist.
The adventuring day started by heading south of sandpoint to investigate the old foxglove manor. En route, we discover the farms are being attacked, so we investigate.
The farm fight involves a bunch of encounters with small groups of ghouls. I am playing a reach trip fighter, and can trip a ghoul on a 2 and one shot them with aoos on a 4 with power attack. Most of the encounters just involve me blocking the opponent from getting in range of anyone else, they try and walk through the threatened range and immediately die.
Ghouls ambush the party, but there was sufficient space between me and cover that the ones that came after me die trying to approach. The rest of the party gets to do things, but the arcanist gets paralyzed and needs saving, which I do. I take no damage, rogue and arcanist get hurt a little.
We face 3 ghouls and a ghast hiding in ambush in a farmhouse. I lead, explicitly check under a table 10 feet away and find a ghoul waiting to ambush if I walked to the table. Win init, one shot the ghoul, 5 ft step back out the door. Ghoul runs to attack, aoo kills it. Second ghoul does the same. Ghast decides trying to run up to me is a bad idea (good choice, it would have been tripped and surrounded, then destroyed), but there isn't another way out. It moves back to try and break a window and escape out the back. Druid hits it with a sling for 6, I follow it in and hit it for 23.
We go to the haunted house. I get haunted, drag the arcanist out towards a group of carrion storms. I charge one and one shot it.
I get haunted again and try and kill the nearest female, our rogue. The dm let's me know that I would attack myself if there were no women, so the rogues gender ends up saving my life. She gets lucky and is able to hide from me until the curse wears off.
We face another group of 4 ghouls, I kill 1, one gets through my threatened area due to cover from the passage geometry but misses then dies on my next turn. the other two flank the group through a side passage and get killed by the rogue and druid. We face another group of 4 but in much less favorable terrain for them. All 4 die to 3 aoos + readied attack.
We get to the boss fight, 4 ghasts and the skinsaw man, we have the revnant fighting him. Ghasts get tripped and killed on aoo standing by me and druids pet. The arcanist gives me a prot evil (which is critical, since it stops me from getting hit with a compulsion from the haunt in the room) and then summons earth elementals. The space we fight in is constrained so the rogue and druid sit out the first few rounds, but there ends up being a break in the combat for talking where everyone gets in the room and the earth elementals run out of time. Fight resumes, I roll a bunch of 4s and fail to do much of anything, but pick off one of the ghasts with an aoo trip and help from the druids pet while the rogue and druid finish the last ghast. The rogue is getting focused by the boss, gets saved by an invisibility from the arcanist. I take a hit from the boss, the arcanist finishes him with magic missiles while the druid and I block for him.
we continue exploring and encounter the giant undead direbat. It screeches, I pass the fort save. It has no other ranged attacks so closes to melee, I attack it for 18, druid tries to close to combat and gets knocked down to 6 hp and paralyzed. I critical hit it for 63, fight over.
That's where we are now. My takeaways from this:
1) Reach is really good
Well, speaking from related experience I had it happen once, in a 3.0 game. We had an all martial party, and were playing out a campaign against an army of orcs and giants at around 13th level. The barbarian died and was replaced by a druid, and the game was basically done, as he could shapeshift into forms the enemies couldn't find and wreak mass destruction with aoe spells. The game disbanded shortly thereafter.
I think that was partially due to facing a challenge that could be solved easily by magic but was challenging to do by martials, coupled with the caster being dropped into the game. The challenge needed to be something different if there was a caster in the group, something that could adequately challenge everyone.
As for pathfinder specifically, I just reached level 6 in my first pathfinder game as a core fighter, which isn't high enough to run into this problem yet. If anything, the fighter feels overly strong at this point, although being relatively weak at outside of combat scenarios gives other people a chance to shine too.
I believe the general tactical approach for a monster without relevant special abilities should be to make sure to move every turn and kill everyone else first. Moving every turn means he has to take a move action before attacking, which blocks full attacks and prevents him from stealthing post-attack because you can't 5 ft. step after you've moved in a round. If he moves then attacks, he is exposed and can then be grappled or full attacked back.
There are a whole bunch of specific counters that have already been mentioned; glitterdust works, walls can work if the area is brightly lit to prevent shadow jumping, filling a confined space with a cloudkill spell, repulsion, confusion or other AOE will-save based effects, on-attack trigger auras like Holy Aura/Cloak of Chaos/Fire Shield/Special Monster abilities. AoE damage spells can work, but will be mitigated in effectiveness due to the high reflex save + evasion. In some tactical situations readied actions to strike on destealth can be appropriate, such as a boss caster with several minions surrounding them ordering the minions to ready actions to strike anyone who gets in range.
Its still strong, but it kind of should be. Having cases where a character can shine is a good thing. There are counters though, it isn't unbeatable.
Is spring attack in there somewhere? I'm just wondering because unless I am missing something, moving then attacking doesn't give you a 5 ft step in order to stealth again, so you end up exposed unless you started a turn adjacent to the enemy. I think spring attack would let you move up, attack, move away and stealth as part of the move, right?
One of my favorite teams ever was my first 3.0 game, which consisted of a paladin, a ranger/rogue, an arcane archer and a barbarian. The most fun thing about it was that there were a number of challenges that didn't get trivialized by magic that would have been completely bypassed if we had a full caster, like traveling to distant destinations or environmental hazards. Individual fights were fine; martials pump out good damage, after all, its all the non-combat scenarios where they don't have the easy answers that the difference really shows up.
One of my favorite 3.0 campaigns involved a group of all martial characters with limited magical items, with very limited spellcasting (from an arcane archer and a paladin). It stayed fun until 16th-17th level, since you actually had to worry about things like terrain and how you were going to get places since no one could teleport and flight was limited. It made it possible to have some fun adventures that involved significant overland travels in foreign lands. Teleport alone really changes the feel of a game significantly.
I like the 8-10 range best, although there are some fun adventures that can be had in the 16-20 range, you get a very different feel if casters are involved there.
I find this fascinating, since I also interpret "something I would ordinarily do", "something I wouldn't ordinarily do" and "something I would never do" as nonintersecting sets, an interpretation that seems to be held by some people and not by others.
The question I have for myself is why I feel that way, since it would generally make sense that if a set of actions is described as matching a particular adjective, than all other actions should be "not" that adjective. As such, if an action is not an action that I would ordinarily do, it must be an action I wouldn't ordinarily do.
I thought about it, and I came to the conclusion that the reason why I felt differently was that the phrase has additional connotations beyond its literal definition. If you hear someone start a sentence, "I wouldn't ordinarily do this, but...", what are they about to agree to do? They are universally about to agree to do something contrary to what they normally do, but never something extreme. It is not a phrase that is used to describe murdering your family or lighting your neighbor's house on fire, its a phrase used to describe not giving someone a speeding ticket, letting a friend copy off your homework assignment or pretending to call in sick to work because the girl you met at a party last night wants you to do something. Describing murdering your family as something that "you wouldn't ordinarily do" is like describing torturing someone to death as being "unkind". Yes, technically, its probably an accurate statement, but its not the correct phrase for what you're trying to communicate. I think the difference between the implied and the literal definition further amplifies something that was already poorly written and mechanically flawed to help propagate a myriad of different interpretations for how this should function.
Well, I intend to take master craftsman on my fighter. Its partly because my character concept revolves around being a peerless weaponsmith with a deep interest in forging powerful magical weapons. It is also because I intend to specialize in an uncommonly used weapon while playing an adventure path, and while the DM may alter the existing treasure so I get useful weapons, I would prefer to be self sufficient rather than relying on that or having to try and find weapons for sale.
That being said, I don't think its really that awful if exploited well. Even if I just end up being allowed to craft standard magical weaponry, its suboptimal but at least saves the party a decent chunk of money. If the DM doesn't block me from doing it, I'm going to craft myself an intelligent weapon with dimension door, haste, enlarge and the ability to shapeshift between a reach and non-reach weapon and use it to keep me buffed and teleport around the battlefield for full round attacks. That's going to be far more effective than my otherwise two least effective feats.
Crafting intelligent weapons is entering into territory that a lot of DMs would perhaps rule against, so I'll see how it goes. By RAW I don't think there is any reason it wouldn't work though. Also by RAW, you're not going to be able to find exactly the crazy intelligent weapon you want for sale anywhere, because each major area is only going to have a small handful of randomly generated major magical items for sale and none of them are going to be that.
I guess what I am saying is that if the DM doesn't necessarily let you just buy or commission exactly the item you want once you go over the base values for a community in the CRB, and they don't block you from making intelligent weapons, it is actually a fairly optimal feat to have at mid to high levels. That is a lot of ifs, but isn't awful if you meet those conditions. It is still better if the caster gets the feat, unless you're constrained by the amount of off time you have in the campaign and would benefit from being able to have the fighter forge weapons while the wizard makes cloaks of resistance and belts of stat boosting.
I'm going to go with it either way for RP reasons, but I'm kind of hoping my DM lets me go crazy with it, because then it will be significantly less of a wasted pair of feats.
I think the main issue is that there are at least 6 different axis you can attack someone on; AC, all three saves, touch AC, combat maneuvers. Being strong in all of them is much harder than being strong in one, and if you have a weak point something will come along and exploit it eventually. By contrast, doing lots of damage is nearly always useful in a fight regardless of the opponent.
A somewhat AC optimized fighter, just using things in the CRB is going to start out with a 23 or 24 AC at level 1 and end up in the high 30's/low 40's by level 8 or 9 and will terminate with an AC in the high 50's to low 60's at level 20. That is a pretty effective build, until you fight something that attacks will saves or uses a brilliant energy weapon, when it works much less well. Being strong on every defensive front while maintaining some semblance of offensive capability is much, much harder, so focusing on defense is usually admitting that in some fights, you're not going to get a lot of use out of the thing you optimized for. That doesn't happen when optimizing for offense.
As for counting up bonuses, don't forget combat expertise. It is essentially an extra set of AC bonuses that levels up with you. Can also add a defending weapon, which would add another set.