Ashiel's page

RPG Superstar 8 Season Star Voter. 12,412 posts (12,415 including aliases). No reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 1 alias.

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So I haven't actually made a thread in a long time so I thought I'd share a fun thing my friends Aratrok, Raital, Shinta, and I were discussing on Skype.

I'd like to draw your attention to four things.
1. Shambling mounts are Intelligent.
2. They live in marshes.
3. Shocker lizards can be trained with Handle Animal.
4. Shocker lizards live in marshes.

Let that sink in for a bit.

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I was talking with a friend of mine recently about how there seems to be this mindset that can be found on the Paizo boards. A mindset I would describe as confused at best, the mindset that suggests that things like game balance and such doesn't matter because this game is all cooperative and so if someone is better or worse at a thing it doesn't matter because it's not PvP.

The thing is, it's all PvP. Pathfinder, the d20 system in general, is saturated in PvP. PCs and NPCs follow the same core rules for progressing their statistics, classed NPCs draw from the same abilities as PCs, NPCs can take the same feats as the PCs, and for the most part everyone plays by the same rules.

There is no aggro system, there is a human mind pulling the strings of 100% of all enemies and creatures you encounter. Sometimes that mind will pull its punches or make poor choices intentionally or unintentionally as the case may demand, but you can't just throw your meatshield out and let them use Taunt and Sunder Armor over and over and expect everything to stay glued to him like it was a sovereign glue pool party.

The obviousness of this manifests in two very simple ways.

1: Classes aren't created equal and they should be. While many would decry that Fighters don't need to be balanced with Rangers, Paladins, and Barbarians because it's a coop game, they still get the same treasure and XP values as those classes which means that if I use a CR 8 barbarian the party may struggle against them, but if use a CR 8 fighter it's a free XP pinata.

2: Groups of characters need ways of reacting to problems that aren't reliant upon their foes making poor decisions. "Tank and spank" doesn't work in Pathfinder. A heavily armored meatbag cannot just shout a few obscenities at an enemy and make them ignore the mages giving him 6th degree burns in the back ranks. This means that the warrior must have a way of being a presence that at the very least hinders their enemies for ignoring them.

It (Pathfinder) is very similar to PvP in World of Warcraft. In PvP, aggro doesn't exist in any form except how much you can legitimately scare someone into fighting you instead of another guy. Tanks in WoW have to make use of things like stuns, interrupts, snares, or abilities that protect their allies from harm because no one in their right mind is going to sit there and fight the hulk while they've got an HP battery behind them or wait for their buddies to murder them.

I gotta go to work now, but I wanted to open this discussion. I propose that 100% of combat in Pathfinder is PvP, always has been, always will be. Balance matters and what you are capable of bringing to your team matters because actually being able to do stuff is the only way you're going to contribute to your group's success outside of just trying to push your damage numbers (and damage is far from the end-all tactic).

I further propose that "this game is not pvp" is a myth.

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Your brain affects the shape of your head. This is determined by your hit dice. As you gain levels, your brain and head change shape.

Thanks Whaizo!

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I've been getting some PMs a lot lately with different questions and commentary, and a few people suggested to me that I make a thread to answer questions about anything (like my take on Pathfinder stuff, advice, favorite ice cream, whatever).

So taking their suggestions, here is that thread. Enjoy. J<(^-^)>|=

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I wanted to share something I noticed with my usual Pathfinder group. Succubi, who are immortal soul-beings that use sex as a weapon, aren't immune to disease. Let that sink in for a moment. More likely than not, most succubi die of incurable sexually transmitted diseases.

In fact, most outsiders probably do, especially evil ones who are generally good at spreading diseases but crap at curing them (there's a few evil outsiders that can use things like wishes to mimic a remove disease or heal spell, but they are few and often quite limited).

This means a succubus who is old and powerful is likewise probably long since completely insane due to things like syphilis destroying her mind and body. In fact, if they're not antipaladins, it's likely that most succubi who are actually good at being succubi and contacting other people's bodies are probably walking cesspools of things that you definitely do not want.

On the plus side they're immune to poison. Or it would be a plus side. I'm pretty sure lots of succubi likely regret this, since it means they can't just kill themselves after they've been turned into a walking colony of STDs and their fingers are falling off from leprosy. (>_<)

Or maybe that's how they cure themselves. Go a seducin', then go and drink 20 gallons of bleach and start over?

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This came up in an unrelated thread recently when someone mentioned that using animate dead to form the labor for making a castle would result in a castle that was a deathtrap. Presumably because undead are kind of dumb and would thus ruin the castle.

Here's the thing though. Undead aren't really that dumb. They are, however, incapable of thinking for themselves, but they're pretty decent at carrying out instructions. They are like robots. They are like ants. They can do seemingly intelligent things when instructed to do them.

Let's look at the rules here for a moment.

PRD wrote:
Some creatures do not possess an Intelligence score. Their modifier is +0 for any Intelligence-based skills or checks.

A mindless "- Int" creature is mechanically the same as a character with 10-11 Int when it comes to performing skills and/or checks. They are literally just as good at doing Intelligence-based things as any average human being is.

Meanwhile, let's look at Craft and Profession.

PRD-Craft wrote:
Check: You can practice your trade and make a decent living, earning half your check result in gold pieces per week of dedicated work. You know how to use the tools of your trade, how to perform the craft's daily tasks, how to supervise untrained helpers, and how to handle common problems. (Untrained laborers and assistants earn an average of 1 silver piece per day.)
PRD-Profession wrote:
Check: You can earn half your Profession check result in gold pieces per week of dedicated work. You know how to use the tools of your trade, how to perform the profession's daily tasks, how to supervise helpers, and how to handle common problems. You can also answer questions about your Profession. Basic questions are DC 10, while more complex questions are DC 15 or higher.

Now an undead minion, such as our mascot Boney McSkelebone here, is literally only as good - or bad - as your average Joe at doing stuff. If you tell him to dig a hole, he will dig a hole. If you tell him to cut a board 20 inches long, he'll cut a board 20 inches long. He's not great and he's not bad at anything. You can have undead crew your ship, dig your ditches, flip your burgers, and clean your house.

Ever see those events where normal people go and help people that actually know what they are doing build a house for someone to live in really fast? That's basically what's happening here.

If you've got a guy with a sufficiently high Craft or Profession check to do something himself, these guys can do the legwork. You want to build a house with undead labor? Well you don't tell a bunch of undead "go build me a house" and then sit around drinking kool-aid and getting a tan. You make a Craft (Architecture) check to figure out the hard bits and then instruct your workers to do the rest. Again, remembering, that a mindless undead is still just as capable as a normal person.

"Okay you boneheads, here is the plan. I want you to cut boards to these measurements. While he's doing that, I want you two to begin moving those blocks into these positions. I want you to go get water and fill that container over there. The rest of you I want to make bricks out of mud and straw with those brick-templates over there,"

What Does That Mean?
It means that if you want to have a badass pirate ship crewed by the dead with their necromantic captain at the wheel, you can do that.

It means that if you want to build a pyramid, or castle, or cool mage tower on the backs of undead servitors, you can do that.

It means that if you want a maid like Bonehilda from the Sims to take care of your house without burning it down or flooding it, you can do that.

And the best part...literally everything said here about mindless undead also applies to golems. Because we all know that if we couldn't have Alfred, we'd totally take an Iron Golem instead.

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I'm a big fan of magic items. Everyone who knows my posting history knows that I've a great love for the magic item creation rules, a great love for examining how magic and magic items can affect the world in various great ways.

Magic can create energy from nothing. Making a generator that generates infinite power in Pathfinder is not difficult. It doesn't require high level magic. It's actually pretty rudimentary. By 5th level, magicians of various sorts (arcane / divine / psionic) can begin shaping the world in new and wondrous ways. I actually enjoy these ideas, as they let us break away from worlds entirely of medieval-esque norms and expand our horizons to fill the world with everything from tribal bands of barbarians (not the class) and shamans to powerful empires built on magic and technology.

However, there's a few magic items that are a bit...worrisome. Magic items that by their very existence can throw things very far out of whack, and may even by their very purpose inadvertently destroy the world.

Many of us know of the decanter of endless water that, unlike create water makes no mention of the water leaving existence after it has poured in. If taken purely for its mechanics, one of these could be tossed into the ocean on geyser mode and destroy the world (it might take some time).

I personally have this standing house rule that if a magic item would destroy the world through creating something the created materials vanish after a period of time. In fact, any magic item I make always has a duration on "produce" generated from it.

Today a friend of mine showed me an interesting and cool item that can "break" a world very easily. The Robe of Infinite Twine.

We determined that if you have something to draw off the rope (such as an undead creature, a machine, a construct, or some other automated process) you can produce almost 2500 gp worth of hemp rope every 24 hours, or around half that if you're pawning it at 1/2 price. Given that the robe itself is only 1,000 gp, it pays for itself in the first day. Any world with such an item needs no actual hemp to create hemp ropes, instead you would soon have factories where people simply pull 10 ft. of rope every 6 seconds, or 100 ft. per minute. That's some serious productivity!

Off the top of my head, spells like wall of stone/iron have similar possibilities (these are absolutely awesome for building forts and such on the fly and on the cheap).

What other fun world-altering things can everyone add to this thread? :D

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My blog, Alvena Publishing has new post up discussing designing encounters for your games. It's the first in a series of posts about encounter design.

Special shout out to the Paizo posters Umbriere, Icyshadow, and Magnuskn for requesting the series.

Happy gaming. (^_^)

Let's say you were given the option to retrain feats from your GM. Hypothetically, let's say at each even level you were given the option to swap a feat you have currently for a new one that you qualify for. Now let's pretend there is no limit to what feats you can replace the old feat with as long as you currently meet the new requirements. How do you believe this would enhance or diminish gameplay?

As an example, let's say at 1st level you take a feat that has no prerequisite (like Skill Focus {Basketweaving}), then at 6th level you now qualify for Vital Strike (BAB +6), so you swap your basket weaving for Vital Strike. Obviously you'd probably have better feats but you get the idea.

Now contrast this with being able to do the same except with feats that you qualified for when you took the initial feat. But can you think of a way that this wouldn't get convoluted, having to keep track of what you qualified for way back when?

As an example, let's say that you took a feat back at 1st level, and it required Strength 15, and now at 12th level you decide that feat sucked an you don't like it, so you want to retrain it. So you have to pick another feat that you could have qualified for at 1st. Say maybe two-weapon fighting, except you needed to be able to qualify for it way back when. You've since distributed some stat increases and you totally qualify, but did you way back? Do you need to reverse engineer your PC if you're playing with a pregen? Can you think of a way this wouldn't end up at least somewhat convoluted?

And finally, what if you had a hybrid of the two? Maybe your GM is nice and believes that since certain statistics can be raised or lowered over the course of a character's journey they should be able to retrain stuff within reason (maybe he or she likes the idea that you might retrain feats as you no longer qualify for them, such as with aging adjustments in favor of new things you qualify for), but restricts only based on the following statistics: BAB, skill ranks, base saving throws, and class level requirements.

As an example of this method, you could retrain for feats you didn't qualify for at 1st level (say you rolled poorly and didn't have the needed 15 Dex for Two Weapon Fighting but now you're 8th level and by gum you totally qualify for it now!), but you can't take things that are specifically barred from acquisition based on hit dice (you couldn't take Weapon Specialization with a feat that you got before 4th level because it requires 4 levels of fighter, nor could you take Vital Strike because it required more BAB than you could have possessed at that level, etc).

So assuming that your GM was offering one of these options, which would you prefer and why? This came up recently in a conversation with some tabletop friends of mine, and I wanted to get some other ideas and opinions. Personally, I kind of dig the 3rd option the most, though I can understand the desire for simplicity in #1, and the desire for fairness in #2.

So what do you guys and gals think? Which would you prefer, and why?

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... For NPCs! (0~0)

Below is a quick listing of NPCs who can actually get some amusing action out of the Vital Strike feat tree (VS, IVS, GVS), along with a mention of their BAB (do they qualify?), hit die, and so forth. Most of these are bestiary creatures, some of which are also perfectly capable of having class levels.

Dinosaurs are some of the best critters to have Vital Strike on. Most are quite large, have singular powerful attacks, and lots of base attack bonus and nothing important to spend feats on.

  • Brachiosaurus This big critter has a single 4d6 natural attack and qualifies for Improved Vital Strike (4d6->12d6 or 14->42 damage).
  • Stegosaurus This CR 7 critter has a single powerful 4d6 natural attack as well and qualifies for Vital Strike (4d6->8d6 or 14->28 damage).
  • Tyrannosaurus The king of the dinosaurs also has a 4d6 single bite and qualifies for Improved Vital Strike (4d6->12d6 or 14->42 damage)

There's a lot of animals that get mileage out of the vital strike line of feats. Since Vital Strike just means hitting hard with a single good blow and isn't much of a technical feat it is easy to put on animals and other big dumb critters as well.

  • Dire Crocodile This gargantuan croc has two natural attacks but either are decent options for Vital Strike. Its bite goes from 3d6 to 6d6 (+10.5 damage plus Grab) and its tail slap rises from 4d8 to 8d8 (+18 damage).
  • Dolphin, Orca Orcas are on the low-end of big animals, but they qualify for Vital Strike which can take their 2d6 bite to a 4d6 bite (+7 damage) which isn't terrible for them since they can't full-attack.
  • Advanced Wooly Rhinoceros It has a single 2d8 natural attack, and a +6 BAB. The only thing keeping this beefy beast from vital strike is it needs 1 more hit die. An advanced (+1 hit die) Rhino can plow foes with Vital Strike (+9 damage).
  • The Megalodon (Dire Shark) This beast is a nightmare made real and Vital Strikes were made for it. It has an incredible 4d10 bite attack without Improved Natural Attack and not only qualifies for Improved Vital Strike but has the hit dice to take it! 4d10 becomes 12d10 (+44 damage). As best as I can tell, Improved Natural Attack (which increases your natural attack damage as if you increased a size category) would deal 6d10 damage, bringing our aquatic hunter to a final tally of 18d10 (+77 damage). Fear the king of the ocean.

Most dragons get little to no mileage out of Vital Strike because they rely more heavily on full-attack routines instead of singular powerful strikes. There's a few that stand out however.

  • Dragon Turtle This creature has a 3d6 bite and two claw attacks, but it qualifies for both Improved Natural Attack, Vital Strike, and Improved Vital Strike, which can easily bring it to a 12d6+8 bite routine. It already has Power Attack as well. Furious Focus would make for a natural evolutionary point (as its feats Awesome Blow and Improved Bull Rush are kind of dumb).
  • Half-Dragon The half dragon gets a mention because it's a template and thus can be applied to any of the creatures already on this list (generally giving them more power to their bite and often giving them wings, like Redbull).

Magical Beasts
Magical beasts are fairly common. Like dragons and animals, most of them rely on making many natural attacks to ensure their success. A few of them stand out among the crowd however, and are cute possibilities for the Vital Strike chain.

  • Advanced Ankhegs Normal ankhegs have a very nice 2d6 bite attack but don't qualify for the feat. However, if you want to make some sort of big brood mother for an ankheg game, a few more hit dice and a size increase will get you where you want to go. A 7HD ankheg can grab Vital Strike to get 4d6 bite damage. Since their HD increased by about 133% the ankheg likely becomes Huge giving it a 2d8 bite damage (about +9 to damage). Improved Natural Attack brings it from 2d8 to 4d6 and thus an ankheg with an 8d6 (36 damage) bite
  • Bulette Bulettes ("land sharks") get a special mention because they can qualify for both Improved Natural Attack and Vital Strike, going from 2d8 to 8d6 bite damage in short order. Given the seemingly hit and run nature of the burrowing predator, they are good candidates.
  • Behir Behirs really only get a mention because their feat selection is horrible and they only have one natural attack at 2d6 despite their size. They qualify for Vital Strike so they might as well use it over the nonsense that is Great Cleave (2d6+9 becomes 4d6+9 or +7 damage).
  • Gorgon Not the fabled snake haired women, but the D&D bull with petrifying breath. These large bulls have a 2d8 gore, qualify for Improved Natural Attack and Vital Strike. Vital strike adds +9 damage alone, but mixed with Improved Natural Attack and we have another 8d6 wonder on our hands (28 damage, whee). Turn 'em to stone and smash 'em to bits!
  • Purple Worm Vital Strike was just made for this guy. Coming with a 4d8 base bite damage and only two natural attacks (the sting being the weakest of the two) and qualifying for all three Vital Strikes right out of the gate (he really only needs 1 more HD to actually take Greater Vital Strike) and Improved Natural Attack. A purple worm with Improved Natural Attack, Vital Strike, and Improved Vital Strike hits with an 18d8 bite attack (81 average damage). If it's a 17+ HD purple worm then it can take Greater Vital Strike and hit for a whopping 24d8 (108 damage).
  • Remorhaz These creatures have a single lone 3d6 bite attack and a +9 base attack bonus. Vital Strike should be theirs (adds +10.5 damage).

There's not a whole lot of undead that benefit from vital strike feats, but there's a few that are absolutely unholy with it and deserve some special mentions.

  • Greater Shadow These mobile attackers have a natural attack that deals strength damage, and they not only qualify for Vital Strike they can take the feat! 1d8 strength damage per round becomes 2d8 strength damage per round. Scary! O.o
  • Dread Wraith The dread wraith is a 16 hit dice undead that has a touch attack for 2d6 negative energy plus 1d8 Con drain. These mighty wraiths can qualify for Improved Vital strike, turning their touch into a 6d6 damage attack which is much better for the hit and run incorporeal undead (+14 damage).
  • Skeletons or Zombies There's no way in core to make zombies with Intelligence scores (so they can take feats) but there are a few outside of core (in 3.x, or homebrew) and the effect is pretty much identical to skeletons. Skeletons in Pathfinder can have Skeletal Champions which get feats, and anything on this list that is good for vital strike is also good for a skeletal champion version of that creature.

Humanoids/Monstrous Humanoids
A category full of things that wield weapons, many of these guys get way more mileage out of Vital Strike than PCs can.

  • Minotaur Minotaur are large sized and the sample one already qualifies for Vital Strike but lacks the feats to take it. It fights with a 3d6 greataxe. One level of the warrior NPC class and now it can pickup Vital Strike for 6d6 greataxe swings (+10.5 damage). This is actually not bad for the minotaur who wants to spec power attack and furious focus.
  • Giants Cloud giants are big. A cloud giant deals 4d6 damage with a morning star, 6d6 damage with a greatsword. A potion of enlarge person increases the damage yet again (presumably to 8d6), and Vital Strike and Improved Vital Strike bring the damage of the attack to 24d6 (84 damage per hit). This might be ideal for the giant who doesn't want to deal with Iterative attack penalties (main attack is at +22 but subsequent attacks are much lower). It also puts less emphasis on the giant having magic items to deal respectable damage. It also lets their rock throw deal 6d6 instead of 2d6 damage.

    The same general rules apply to all giants, though some to a lesser extent. Some giants (such as ogres) need a few levels before they can really appreciate Vital Strike in its entirety due to qualifying for it, but since they are naturally larger than PCs, their base weapon damage on 2 handers is universally higher as well, allowing them to get far more bang for their buck.

The outsiders who get the most out of vital strike tend to be Elementals, because they are large, often mobile, and possess few attacks. The attacks they do possess tend to be quite potent in base damage but lack enough of them to make an impact.

  • Air Elementals Air Elementals have low damage but high mobility, and their reach isn't bad. Elder Air Elementals are probably the most likely to get benefits from the feat line, when combined with Improved Natural Attack. Elder elementals with Improved Natural Attack, Vital Strike, and Improved Vital Strike can deal 12d6 damage slams. An extra hit die on elders can bring it to 16d6 damage slams with Greater Vital Strike.
  • Earth Elemental Earth elementals tend to be nothing more than big beefy slobberknockers. Elders have only 2 slam attacks at 2d10 each. Improved Natural Attack and the Vital Strike line of feats can alleviate this weakness and make them deal enough damage to matter for their challenge rating.
  • Other Elementals Pretty much the same deal here as with Air and Earth for Fire and Water elementals.

Recommended feats for most all of these creatures include Power Attack, Furious Focus, Improved Natural Attack, and as many Vital Strike feats as you can throw on them.

Why Would You Do This?
The biggest reason you would do this is probably for faster gameplay, with the novelty of using the vital strike feats to put a little more fear and danger into enemies who are often jokes for their challenge ratings due to lack of attacks. Most of the creatures on these lists have one really big attack but in such a low quantity that it doesn't matter, and function more or less in the opposite way from PCs (their base damage is super high but their bonus damage is fairly low, whereas PCs get bonus damage that is super high but base damage that is low).

Now when I say faster gameplay, I mean that you can have the enemy vital strike on most rounds with confidence that they are going to do reasonable or event great damage, but you can quickly dispense with rolling lots of full-attacks each round. One attack, each round, then move on. It's very helpful when dealing with multiple NPCs as well (in a higher level game, it's entirely possible to have encounters with multiple vital striking NPCs, as their highest attack roll attack is the only that matters).

There's a lot more out there than this list which is by no way complete. What are some of your favorite NPCs that use Vital Strike or some of the lesser known or appreciated feats to devastating effect?

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A while back I posted this thread discussing the merger of the monk and psychic warrior for the purposes of creating a singular monk class that was less crippled, could fill more archtypal roles, and could be built in a variety of ways while also being a functional party member and having just the right blend of mysticism and martial combat.

Recently, I took it a step further and revised the monk and instead of doing a simple patch job (and the patch job worked pretty well as my group had been using it for a long time), I introduced it to my online gaming community in a singular whole form, and modified it into something new, yet familiar. I wanted to share it here for others.

The Heroes of Alvena Monk
A Summary of Changes vs Pathfinder Monk

  • BAB and Flurry:In this version of the monk, the class is a 3/4 BAB in its entirety. There are no strange mechanics at work here that give you a pseudo-BAB in certain situations. The monk returns with its original flurry which was not some mangled version of two-weapon fighting (and thus can also use two-weapon fighting alongside flurry if desired). The monk's flurry can now be used with any weapon the monk is proficient with.
  • Monk Training: Monks no longer progress their unarmed strike damage die (it got goofy when dealing with exceptionally large monks, and only added an average of +1 damage per increase anyway), though they do begin dealing more damage as usual (1d4 small, 1d6 medium, 1d8 large). Instead, monks now receive a bonus to hit and damage rolls with all unarmed strikes and monk weapons (such as sais, quarterstaffs, nunchaku, etc) ranging from +0 to +5.
  • Monk Secrets: Monks now gain secrets (divided into student secrets for those from 1st-9th, and master's secrets from 11th+). Most of the monk's traditional abilities are available as monk secrets, and using this format it is easy to add in new archtypes and/or expanded options as selectable secrets. This also gives more diversity to the type of monk that you wish to create (and solves the issue of all monks being the same), similar to selecting rage powers. By default, the monk has several new options including the option to gain a psionic bonus feat, to treat all melee weapons a monk is traditionally proficient with (such as club, spears, short sword, etc) as monk weapons for the purposes of their Monk Training feature, and so forth.
  • Psionic Powers: Monks now gain power points and powers known based on their level. Their powers are based on their Wisdom, which means more Wisdom equates to more energy to use. This fills the role that the Ki pool tried (and failed) to fill, and does so beautifully. Monks are able to select from a variety of useful powers for martial characters, and with the aid of the Expanded Knowledge feat can learn some low level psion powers (for those monks who wish to throw balls of ki, or even form spirit creatures out of their ki).
  • Catfall vs Slowfall: Slow fall has traditionally been seen as lame and useless in most cases. It is too. It is a more limited version of a 1st level spell that is continuous on a cheap ring. Catfall is the psionic equivalent of slow-fall and reduces falling damage by a certain distance and ensures you always land on your feet. Unlike slow-fall, a monk does not have next to a wall for this ability to function; so a monk who falls off a flying carpet can land more safely as well.
  • Transcendence: The monk has had its perfect self feature removed and replaced with transcendence. The perfect self feature made the monk immune to a lot of positive buffs such as enlarge person in addition to any immunities it got, and made the monk more vulnerable to a lot of anti-outsider type attacks. In essence, it was often more of a punishment than a beneficial capstone; and theoretically the only reason it turned you into an outsider was because of your spiritual perfection. Transcendence fills a similar role. You become immortal as far as aging is concerned, remove any aging penalties, and gain the ability to travel the planes and even make your body immune to harm in 1 round bursts.
  • Other Minor Things: Monk movement speed boosts were replaced with the option to gain Speed of Thought as a class feature, with a scaling bonus to speed. Unlike the original speed bonus, this option grants an Insight bonus, meaning that it finally stacks with enhancement bonuses (so now the barbarians don't laugh at you for being slow when someone casts haste). Quiverin Palm can also now be selected multiple times, granting up to (at best) 5 uses per day at 19th level if you wish to go that route.

If there are any questions or concerns, please let me know.

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I wanted to discuss something with the community. I just got done ranting a bit about this phenomena on my blog: Here's the Page. You can read the full thing there, but I'm going to copy/paste a few snippets from the blog to get the discussion flowing...

Ashiel's Blog wrote:
There's a disturbing (at least to me) trend with what seems like a lot of gamers today. It seems that there is this idea that monsters, regardless of resources and Intelligence, do not have or use equipment. They act as though those treasure ratings on their creature entries that read stuff like "NPC gear", "Incidental", "Standard", "Double", and "Triple" are just there to let the GM know how many gold pieces the monster is supposed to magically turn into when slain, or are supposed to be magic items that the NPCs are simply carrying on them but aren't allowed to use.

I have several problems with this sort of argument or thinking. The first problem is simply from a verisimilitude point. In many cases you have these creatures who are living, breathing, and most of all thinking individuals, who in many cases have weapon and/or armor proficiencies by virtue of their creature type (Outsiders are proficiency with all simple and martial weapons, for example), who apparently simply refuse to use equipment and magic items available to them. Even when these creatures supposedly loaded with treasures. Many of those treasures which can or probably will include magic items that they themselves can wear and use.

Here's an example. The default Ogre Mage is CR 8 with "Double" standard treasure. That means that he has 6,700 gp worth of goods on him at any given time. The default entry simply gives him enough equipment to function right out of the gate. He has a mundane greatsword, a bow, and a chain shirt. That's barely over 1,000 gp worth of equipment. Leaving him roughly 5,700 gp worth of treasures to have on hand. Now as is the norm, the treasure is generally divided up in goods that seems reasonable for this terrible super intelligent ogre-demon thing to have on hand. Now beyond just being boring, carrying all that as coin would impractical. That's about 114 lbs. of gold coins. That would get irritating I think. A more reasonable spread might look like this...

Treasure: Double [chain shirt, greatsword, composite (+7) longbow, +1 amulet of natural armor (2,000 gp), +1 ring of protection (2,000 gp), +1 cloak of resistance (1,000 gp), oil of magic weapon x3 (150 gp), bag of 25 quartz gems (0.5 lbs., 250 gp), assorted jewelry such as rings, piercings, and armlets (250 gp), 500 silver pieces (10 lb., 50 gp)]
Naturally, the above treasure value is not contradicting the Bestiary at all. In fact, few creatures have a full set of equipment and treasure set out for them. Of course, that's because the bestiary entries are only the most basic of basic. The GM is expected to tweak them a bit so that they fit properly in the game. Not every orc in the world is going to be wielding a falchion. Not every gnoll is going to be using an axe and a shield. Not every marilith is going to be using 6 mundane longswords. You are expected to round out their equipment as would be sensible.

Now let's imagine that you encounter a Marilith. A mighty six-armed tauric-like woman with the upper half of a human, and the lower half of a giant serpent. She leads whole demon armies as a general. She is one of the most powerful types of creatures in the whole universe. An entire city may tremble should one of these incredibly powerful and tactically brilliant demons turn her gaze upon them and find them undesirable. Now imagine that you are to fight this creature...

She charges headfirst into combat naked save for 6 mundane swords made of common iron. After being dispatched, she suddenly has 64,000 gold pieces worth of loot on her. But she was naked just a moment ago, save for her piddly mundane swords. Where the hell did 64,000 gold pieces worth of treasure come from? She wasn't wearing anything. I mean, if you want to argue that they only get what's specifically listed in the bestiary verbatim (and ignore that they are supposed to possess other treasures besides the 6 swords due to their treasure value), then they have no clothing with pockets. They have no satchel to carry their goods in. Even if you assumed that it was just in jewelry and assorted piercings, that would mean this woman is wearing about 1,280 pounds of gold on her body (roughly equivalent to wearing medium to heavy armor in terms of her carrying capacity, despite both her size and demonic strength). Which leads us to wonder...

WTF is her treasure? Suddenly, the moment of truth dawns on you, and your stomach churns for a moment. It's time for a full-body cavity search. Clearly, this crazy demoness had decided that instead of wielding her +X magic items, assorted gemstones, magical baubles, scrolls, wands, staffs, and potions, she must have ingested them, and/or her various orifices double as storage compartments. Imagine the look on the heroes' faces as they pull a magic staff out of her snake-like rectum, or that +2 flaming greatsword out of her ear.

Then one must wonder, why the hell did she have all this cool stuff shoved so far up her posterior that she could have used against the heroes of the world in their climactic encounter, instead of 6 mundane swords that are no better than the common drivel that your typical orc prances around with. What a very strange fetish that...

So let's discuss this topic, hm? (^-^)

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Before I go further, I'd like to note that this is partially a system criticism and partially a guide to gaming the system and partially still a guide for GMs to get a better understanding of the system where these mechanics are concerned.

Warning: The things written here may shock, anger, be seen as badwrongfun, or disturb some readers. Viewer discretion is advised.

Alignment has been in D&D pretty much forever, in one form or another. As of the release of the d20 system and 3E D&D, alignment was more firmly rooted as a game mechanic than ever before. Now there were alignment subtypes, spell descriptors, and lots of class abilities that emphasized alignment more heavily than ever before. Suddenly, alignment was as mechanical as your Strength score or your hit dice. Naturally there are pros and cons to this approach, but one thing is certain: it is firmly rooted in the "Game" portion of the RPG and as such is subject to all the other gamist considerations.

While I haven't been particularly fond of it, I've noticed that there is definitely a lot of mechanical considerations for alignment. As with any case where mechanics are involved, there is always a point where advantages are lost or gained. Alignment is no different. Certain alignments are just better than others in the standard game, and those who are interested in the success of their characters over the course of the game can find just as much value in alignment as they could in any feat, prestige class, or racial option.

Neutral Wins
Neutral is the powergaming alignment of choice. It is the most broad alignment that fits almost all characters as readily as any other alignment. Neutral is also the roleplayer's alignment, because few GMs have great misconceptions about Neutrality. People can act like people while enjoying the Neutral alignment, and can happily have lawful, chaotic, good, and evil tendencies periodically as desired while remaining Neutral. If you're not an absolute bastard, or a nun, you're probably welcome in the Neutral camp.

And what a camp it is. Neutral is by far the best alignment in terms of gaming the system. It has the most freedom and most resistances to attacks. There are only two classes in the game that you cannot enter as an at least partially neutral class: Paladin and Antipaladin. Every other class allows at least some form of Neutrality (even Monks may be Lawful neutral); while everything else from Barbarian to Wizard can be Neutral without issue or fail.

So why is Neutral the "best" alignment in terms of gaming? The reasons are manifold, as I describe here:

Resistances: The biggest reason is their blanket resistances to alignment based attacks. It is far better to have tiny vulnerabilities to multiple types of attacks than major vulnerabilities to a few. Neutral characters are outright immune to weapons with powers such as anarchic, axiomatic, holy, or unholy.

Neutral characters enjoy greatly reduced harm from alignment-based spells and effects. For example: It is far better to enjoy auto-1/2 damage vs alignment spells like unholy blight with a save to quarter the damage plus the outright immunity to the kicker effects like Blindness.

So if you're fighting an erinyes and she drops unholy blight, good creatures take 6d8 (27) damage and save vs sickened. You on the other hand take about 13.5 damage automatically, are immune to the sickened, and get a save to take only 6.75 damage. You get the same benefit no matter if your foe is casting holy smite, chaos hammer, or order's wrath.

You cannot be picked up with detect spells that target alignment, nor can you be affected by various smites such as smite good or smite evil which are common among creatures with planar templates like celestial and fiendish. The makes it easier to go unnoticed, and again gives you a great resistance against a variety of attack forms.

The only spells that really take advantage of Neutrality are spells like Blasphemy because they target any of "not this alignment", but allow saves and are often somewhat "meh" unless the caster level greatly exceeds your level (by 5+, which means you should probably be running the other way anyway). Incidentally, there are only 4 of these spells, and they make perfect candidates for stuff like spell immunity. Incidentally, since those spells target all except their alignment, you're already about 66% likely to be affected by these spells anyway, going 100% in exchange for near immunity to everything else is a sexy deal.

Invulnerability vs multiple terrible things vs slight vulnerability vs 4 spells that you are statistically likely to be vulnerable to anyway? Yes please.

Offense: Due to nerfs to spells like protection from evil, Neutral characters get to bypass wards they didn't get to before. A neutral spellcaster can charm, domination, compel, or otherwise mind screw people no matter what protection-from spells are active. Someone can have protection from chaos/law/good/evil active all at once and you still get to hit them with effects. Furthermore, you get to enjoy the fact none of those spells make it difficult to harm people (no +2 deflection or +2 resistance vs your attacks).

Likewise, magic circle against x spells cannot do anything vs neutral characters and summons. As it turns out, Neutral characters have the option to summon monsters of any alignment (so a neutral wizard or neutral cleric can summon everything from Astral Deva to Ice Devils). But it gets better. They also get to choose whether you summon celestial or fiendish creatures, and the celestial or fiendish creatures always match your alignment.

What does that mean? Well you can be fighting an evil wizard, summon a Neutral-aligned celestial bison who can smite evil and run right through that magic circle against evil like it was its job. Or if you wanted an enemy that can easily tank an evil creature, you can summon a Neutral-aligned fiendish creature that gets to enjoy DR that can't be pierced by fiends.

Likewise, you may wield any alignment specific weapon you desire without worry. You can wield Anarchic, Axiomatic, Holy, and Unholy weapons without issue. In fact, you could theoretically wield one that is all of those at once (a weapon only neutral aligned characters can wield without negative levels).

As a neutral character, you have access to a wider variety of spells and deities. Clerics can be within one step of their deity's alignment, which means that Neutral clerics have the most deity options, neutral clerics can cast the most spells (literally every cleric spell as they do not have issues with spells based on alignment descriptor), and may choose to channel energy as they desire. If you want to be a cleric who spontaneously channels positive energy and also has tons of undead meat shields, then Neutral works. If you want to spontaneously cast negative energy and also drop holy smites around on demons, then Neutral works.

Neutral is the alignment of the powergamer. It is the alignment with the least drawbacks and greatest benefits. It is the alignment that supports the most character concepts in comparison to any other. It is more or less the "best alignment".


To be continued...

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I love the nature of adventuring. Adventuring has traditionally been a very dangerous if lucrative profession. Adventurers die, and die, and die some more. Some are lucky enough to only have to die once. What separates the adventurers that make it from the ones who were just another party that never returned? Well, I think creativity and preparation make the largest difference. I didn't think much about this sort of thing, until Peter Stewart said the following in another thread.

Peter Stewart wrote:

Honestly some of your tactics here have given me a great deal to think of for future characters. I'd be interested in a general thread on purchases you think are viable or needed at various levels, along with various tricks. A heightened continual flame hadn't even occurred to me, for instance.

My party could use some more asymmetrical means of combating such problems, as right now our tendency is to bully through them using brute force (usually taking tons of damage and expending tons of resources in the process). We're coming up on a long period though were we'll be able to resupply and reequip. :)

So since Peter asked, here's the beginning of a short advice column concerning D&D/Pathfinder and preparing for adventure. I'm cool with people asking questions or advice or tips on specific things; and I'll also answer questions concerning D&D 3.x as well (though I may have to reference the 3.0 SRD for particularly old school stuff, to make sure I'm not blurring too much).

As a simple disclaimer, I want to let everyone know that the advice below will assume that the standard rules are in play. It doesn't assume house rules or changes to the system. Just the goods, plain and simple. If your GM has any quirks concerning item availability, changes any spells, or otherwise alters something, YMMV.

Enough babbling, on with the tips!

Introduction: Adventuring is a hard life. Few take up its call. Those who make it, go down as legends, and retire wealthy and with many amazing stories. Those who do not, inevitably forge their own stories as the ones who just survived, or never came back, or was the one that didn't make it. Yes, adventuring is a hard life. A life that takes you by surprise. The key to surviving isn't just about whose muscles are largest or who knows the most spells. Preparation, and clever thinking, can lead you to greater degrees of success. Shall you brave the dangers and come out on top, or be another tavern tale of the ones who never came back?

The first installment covers some general adventuring equipment.

Motel 6: There are a lot of monsters and enemies who like to spam darkness spells (and deeper darkness). Creatures like tieflings, drow, shadow demons, darklings, and dark folk are notorious for this. Many people complain that this is unfair; especially since most of these creatures either care nothing about the lighting condition's drawbacks, or can see through them fine (such as in the case of darklings and dark folk). So what is an adventurer to do?

Light spells (that is, the light subtype) such as light, continual flame, and daylight pierce magical darkness spells that are a lower level than themselves. A good adventuring tool is to have an item or two that has had a heightened continual flame spell cast on it to at least 4th level. That costs 330 gp including the material component, to have it purchased by NPC spellcasting. Suddenly, the legions of darklings and dark folk are nothing to you, as your continual torch (be it a torch, amulet, or even your belt buckle) shimmers and provides light that is unquenchable by spells such as darkness or deeper darkness unless they are also heightened. Since spell-like abilities are the level of the spell they are mimicing, that means a 4th level continual flame is never overpowered by a creature's SLAs.

I'm most fond of having continual flame cast on the inside of a locket, so you can conceal or reveal the light easily enough, and carry it without having hands free.

We'll leave the light on for you!

First Aid: There's a lot of terrible things that will hurt you in your adventuring career. Poisons, disease, incorporeal touch attacks. A lot of this stuff can leave you weathered, or even dead. So how do you deal with these things? How do you prepare for them away from the comfort of civilization?

Buy potions of delay poison and lesser restoration for 50 gp each. Yes, you heard me, 50 gp. Both are 1st level spells at 1st caster level, thanks to Paladins and Rangers. That sets the price of these items at 50 gp. The magic item creation rules clearly state that the value of magic items are based on the lowest possible caster levels, regardless of who makes 'em; so even if a cleric makes either, they're still only worth 50 gp.

Both potions are useful for helping a party keep up and going. Delay poison makes you immune to poison for 1 hour and ends poisons, but won't cure any of the ability damage taken beforehand. Lesser restoration removes ability penalties, heals 1d4 ability damage, and removes fatigue. Good potions all around to have on hand during an adventure.

+1 Swords? We don't need no stinkin' +1 Swords: Magic weapons are expensive, but sometimes you just need one. DR/Magic is pretty common, incorporeal creatures are a pain, that wizard is getting you down with protection from arrows; but you don't feel like shelling out 2,000 gp for what amounts to +1 damage over a masterwork blade?

Well magic weapon oils are 50 gp, and they last 1 minute at caster level 1. The oil can be applied to a melee weapon, ranged weapon, or poured right into a 50-stack ammunition sack. This is one of the main methods for 1st-3rd level PCs to even be able to combat incorporeal creatures like Shadows with any hope. Works for monk unarmed strikes as well. Since you can decide which weapon to apply it to, it's less of a gamble; as if you need it on your melee weapon, you use it on your melee; if you need it on your bow, you use it on your bow; and so forth.

Lay off the Juice Son: Okay, so steriods aren't a to be abused, but oils were made for it. You can apply an oil to a willing target during your turn. Having several party members slather down the party's melee with cheap potion effects can turn a fight really fast. Have one PC slather him or her with an oil of enlarge person, then the rest of the PCs apply oils like protection from evil or shield (I recently checked, yes you can make potions of shield, as personal range spells still declare you as a target), and expeditious retreat (see commentary about shield, above), true strike (see above, yadda-yadda), and remove fear.

Suddenly, you have a juggernaut of destruction, at the cost of 50 gp per potion. Best yet, the person you apply the oil provides you with soft cover if you come in directly behind them in relation to the enemy, which means enemies cannot make AoOs against you for applying the oil. Notice I mentioned using enlarge person first? Well there's a reason for that. Your ally expands, providing cover to the other PCs who jump in to apply oils.

For a 200 gp investment, you can hit your main tank with up to 4 solid buffs all in one round, many of which normally are only available to mages. Screw aid another. 50 gp can get your party's fighter a +20 to his next grapple check, which can end a fight instantly (hint: the penalty to bind up an enemy during a grapple is -10).

Right to Freedom of Alignment: Ok, let's face it. Sometimes your alignment bites you on the butt. It's great being a good guy and all, except when you're trying to infiltrate that evil cult that has the "No Paladins" sign hanging out side. So what's the poor poorly aligned fellow to do? Drink a potion. 50 gp nets you 24 hours of undetectable alignment. Thanks bards!

Alchemy? Alchem-you!: Alchemical goodies can often be overlooked, but they can be pretty useful, especially at low levels; but some are useful even at higher levels. Turn some vicious villains into trivial trials with a clever splash of chemical supremacy!

Alchemical weapons such as alchemist fire or acid flasks are beautiful when used by the whole party. They ignore damage reduction and target touch AC. They're ranged weapons, so they benefit from feats like Point Blank Shot, and Rapid Shot. They can be dual-wielded as well. By having your party focus-fire on a single tough cookie, you can bring them down to size in short order. For example, let's say you're facing down an enemy NPC in banded mail and carrying a tower shield. His AC is easily 22-23 at 1st level. Excellent time for a BBQ wrapped in tinfoil! Have everyone toss an alchemist fire. A 4 person party can easily land 4d6 damage on round 1, and another 4d6 on round 2 (from the burning). Sucks to be that guy!

Tanglefoot bags are amazingly good. Chuck a few of these at people or creatures you just don't like. It's an auto-entangle, which is already a petty nice debuff, but also threatens to glue them to the ground, prevent them from flying, and forces tough concentration checks to cast spells. Worst case scenario, the critter is still slowed by 1/2 its speed.

Probably the most overlooked alchemical item is the humble smoke stick. Cheap, and surprisingly effective. Unless wind conditions are much against you, dropping one of these lets you use Stealth as if you were a Ninja Turtle collecting bells, gain total concealment vs ranged attacks, and ruins sneak attacks. Yes, ruins sneak attacks. You can't sneak attack a target with concealment. You can drop a single smoke stick at your feet and even if you're surrounded by 20th level rogues, blind, and in the dark, you're immune to their sneak damage. Excellent against dirty roguish sorts, and even prevents an assassin's Death Attack. Brutally efficient.

Holy water. The anti-shadow. At 25 gp a pop, this stuff is kind of like acid of alchemist fire for undead and evil outsiders. Incidentally, it specifically affects incorporeal creatures as well. It deals 2d4 damage as a ranged touch attack that doesn't provoke attacks (see item description) if you shake the water at the enemy. 2d4 averages 5 damage, which means a 1st level party can tear a shadow apart by just running up and splashing it with holy water. Statistically, 4 holy waters will outright kill a shadow (and less should force the shadow to flee for its unlife), and frankly, 100 gp for a dead CR 3 enemy seems entirely reasonable to me! The fact it also deals splash damage, and is party friendly is double the fun. Alchemists even get to add their Intelligence modifier to the damage, allowing them to take apart some truly nasty critters in short order.

Aw, Nets: Nets are arguably one of the strongest weapons in the core handbook. They deal no damage, but are a non-magical ranged touch attack (meaning even the -4 non-proficiency penalty isn't so bad usually) which inflicts the Entangled condition on the target, and all that implies. To escape it, you must spend a full-round action to even attempt to be free (either via a hard Strength check or a DC 20 escape artist), which means that either an enemy has to deal with it, or waste actions to be free. Hitting the same enemy with multiple nets in the same round almost ensures the condition will remain for the entire encounter; because no one wants to spend round after round trying to de-net themselves.

Who you gonna call?: A good investment for anyone who really hates incorporeal creatures is a +1 ghost touch net. Valued at 8,000 gp, it's not a terribly expensive tool if the entire party chips in to get it. Why is this tool so great? Well it has full effect on incorporeal creatures, who auto-fail on Strength checks to move away from you (allowing you to control how far they move away from you), and since it counts as both corporeal and incorporeal, you can prevent them from moving through objects while ensnared in your net. Entangled is also a sucky (if rare) condition for incorporeal creatures, as they rely heavily on Dexterity for both offense and defense (-2 to attacks and -4 Dex means -4 to incorporeal touch attacks and -2 AC) and most thrive on improved mobility which is outright denied in this case.

I'll try the 9 Iron: Golf-bagging is often a complaint by some of the casual gamers. Personally, I love golf-bagging. I like having that extra weapon on hand for a particular occasion. Ever look at the Pathfinder iconics? Loaded with seemingly random assortments of weapons, with obvious spares and backups. Golf bagging has lots of advantages.

Grab a cold iron, silver (or mithral), and maybe adamantine weapon. Carrying them allows you to bypass the DR of virtually anything. Definitely have an assortment of silver and cold iron arrows (they're cheap and easy enough to store/carry). It's cheaper to carry lots of +2 weapons of different materials than it is to carry one or two +3 weapons, and it makes you less of a target vs sundering or shattering (because who bothers with that when you've got a backup weapon in easy reach?).

You can go a very long way with just different material weapons and a greater magic weapon spell to keep your hit and damage top notch. It's also easier to rely on special materials for all the low CR enemies who require things like silver or cold iron to hit (such as imps, quasits, lycanthropes, or fey).

It's not magic, it's brains: There's a lot of very mundane methods for dealing with magical effects that suck. One of my favorites is the bag of chalk. A piece of chalk is 1 copper piece. A hundred pieces of chalk is thus 1 gold piece. Crush the chalk up into chalk powder and store it in cloth bags with a tie. Now you have the perfect weapon against invisible people. Have you ever seen the clingy puffy mess that chalk dust makes just when you're dealing with basic chalk erasers in school? Now imagine grinding up 100 pieces of standard issue chalk and scattering it through the air. You'd create a nice 10 ft. cloud of super clinging dust. Better than flour for spotting invisible creatures! Anti-invisible grenades, for 1 gp. Eat that Will o' Whisp.

Clay jugs are pretty heavy when filled, but are pretty useful. Their obvious use is for carrying large quantities of water or similar liquids (ideally packed on burden beasts such as mules, horses, or oxen), but can often be adapted for adventuring purposes. They can just as easily carry coins and the like, or you could place food in them, fill them with black powder to make a bomb (if your campaign has such fare), create weapons or traps with them (fill them with spiders, scorpions, snakes, or whatever), or even keep potted plants in them (carrying around your own plants makes the entangle spell useful in the most amusing places). At only 2 copper pieces, you can figure out what to do with them later. Flasks are 3 coppers with similar uses.

Keeping a few vipers in a state of sedation (via nonlethal damage, sleep spells, or other means) can be a good method of extracting lots of injury poison for the budding assassin, alchemist, or other poison using character. Just milk their glands for poison daily. Finding and keeping vipers isn't usually very difficult for adventurers. In fact, the clay pots can be useful storage devices in this case. If someone has a viper familiar, you could just ask nicely for venom.

His name is Babe: Paul Bunyan had the right idea. Oxen rock as animal cohorts. They're cheap at 15 gp and share statistics with aurochs. They are large quadruped beasts of burden with impressive strength, which means they can carry some truly astounding loads. They are also beefy and dangerous in combat. They have gore attacks for 1d8+9 damage and can even trample. Training them for war is not a bad idea for someone with Handle Animal. Have the party ride around on these strong beasts with high Constitution, and just dare something to try and harass your mounts while you rest. For a good 1-4 levels, the oxen will be more dangerous than your PCs. You can train 3 of them at a time, and cover them in leather or studded leather barding on the cheap.

Oxen cost 15 gp, have a 40 ft. movement speed, +9 Perception, low-light vision, scent, +7 gore at (1d8+9), trample (2d6+9, DC 17), and the following carrying capacity: 600 lb. light, 1,200 lb. medium, 1,800 lb. heavy, 9,000 lb. push/drag. Horses are so last season.


I'm going to pause here for a moment. I'm not even finished with equipment, but I need a bit of a break. ^-^"

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12 years I have played this game, and this is the first time I've ever started a monk thread. Good lord, the world is ending. What am I thinking, I am left to wonder. What horrors have I unleashed, knowing good and well horrors likely abound. Well, my sick curiosity must be sated. It is of course FOR SCIENCE!!

Introduction: It's not doubt that monks are loved. There are many fans of them. There are also lots of problems with them (as seen by countless threads, including one where Paizo is on trial for murdering Flurry of Blows in a heat of passion, and another where people question if Monks should actually be good at anything). Monk fans rejoice with excessive glee each time that the devs throw them a few tablescraps to fill an extra page in a book, so they can come back and errata/nerf said tablescraps into cardboard. For a moment, someone got what looked like a cookie, just long enough to get excited that they may taste a sweet tasty treat before having it snatched away with their innocence.

But what if we could rebuild the monk? We have the technology. We could make him smarter, faster, stronger. We could make him everything that monks should have been. We can do science to it and we shall turn our cardboard cookie into a real cookie!

The Million Dollar Mystic: I propose a very simple thing that has worked for my group in the past, and I want to see if it works for yours as well. This isn't homebrew, this is glorious, wonderful, mad science! Forget all you know about the Pathfinder monk. All of it. Now walk into my lab, and let us look at what we're working with.

This is the monk. That is, it's the old one. Pre-Paizo. Look at it in all its helplessness. So frail, but so vivid. Like a butterfly in a hurricane. Paizo tried to grow it into something bigger, but I propose, my friends, that simple evolution is not the answer. I propose that cross-breeding is the key to creating a thriving species of Monk!

Let us look at the monk's flaws for a moment.

  • The Monk's Role The monk is the only class next to the Rogue who has a d8 HD and a poor base attack bonus that lacks spell-casting or psionic powers. Despite this, the monk is supposed to be some sort of mystic martial artist who attains superhuman capabilities through rigorous discipline and spiritual focus. However, it is basically given statistics that resemble that of a druid, except it doesn't get the cool animal companion or full-casting ability and the accompanied wrath of nature or its equivalent. It's like a bard without spellcasting. It is incomplete.
  • Multi Ability Dependency The monk requires virtually every ability score in large amounts to survive. It is primarily a melee warrior that has little to no ranged capability, so it needs Strength in droves. It cannot wear armor and must pump Dexterity and Wisdom. It has fewer hit points than a martial class, and thus cannot go light on Constitution. It has less skills than a Ranger on a non-casting class, and needs Intelligence to qualify for feats for combat maneuvers. Little is left. It lacks synergy.
  • Ability Disparity Monk capabilities lack synergy. They become faster in speed, but must remain still to attack with flurry of blows. They have lots of cute abilities, but few if any really work in sync with one another, and most are very specific (such as slow-fall). Their biggest problem is they must rely on buffs from other classes to even stand up next to their peers.
  • Style Problems Monks of course are supposed to be mystic martial artist warriors. They have supernatural powers, but all monks are more or less alike. All of their abilities come packaged in their core chassis, and there is little that sets them apart from their peers as monks. Archtypes may help with some of this, but I feel it's too little. There's not enough variety, not enough customization. So little balance within.

So what does it need? It needs mystical powers. Something innate, and not very flashy unless you want it to be. Like an inner reserve of energy that lets them do magical things. Paizo tried to do this, with the Ki Pool, but it was a failed breed. It ended up being a gimpy pup whose inbreeding was obvious in the way its tongue hung out of its swollen and ill-shaped mouth. We need to widen the gene pool for the monk. Let us look to the possibilities. For this, I have looked into a nearby source of power. Psionics. A power gained through inner focus. The perfect creature to splice with the monk to create a better life form.

I Seek Volunteers: I cannot do it alone dear colleagues. SCIENCE demands a battery of tests. I want to see what the scientific community can gleam from this grafting of mind and flesh. So let me get down to the details.

I ask that you take the monk I have linked here, the original 3.5 monk in all its horrendous shame, and without changing anything (that includes using new PF flurry of blows), give him the psionic progressions (Power Points, Powers Known, Power Levels) of the Psychic Warrior. In addition, allow him to choose Powers from the Psychic Warrior Power List.

Then build him. Break him down, and rebuild him again. Play to your hearts content. Theorycraft, roll him in one-shots, break him if you can, and share your results. Show us what you can dream of with him. So me what you are capable of doing with him. Share him with us. Offer thoughts and ideas.


To Show I'm Willing: I'm going to put out a few simple builds and explain why these two things function so well together. Here are the basic of why I suggest this theory be put to the test by the community.

  • Synergy Psychic warriors and their powers rely on Wisdom. Monks rely on Wisdom. By allowing the Monk to base more of his capabilities off of Wisdom, we create a Paladin-effect where your MAD is reduced because so much is based off a single stat that has effects that boost your other capabilities indirectly.
  • Theme Psionics are very self-involved. Characters use their own energy to create effects within and without their bodies. The system is perfect for representing various mystical energies such as Chi, Ki, Qi, Prana, or Ghost/Spirit energy. It fits almost perfectly with the themes of monks, who acquire their supernatural abilities from a Mental statistic (Wisdom) and intense focus and training.
  • Balance The monk has long struggled due to being built like a spellcaster but not having the capabilities of a spellcaster (even a physically emphasized spellcaster). This essentially completes the monk to be the class it was always built to be. One who makes up combat inefficiency with spiritual focus to preform deeds normal warriors cannot.

    Without further ado, I give you the first prototypes of this hybridization; along with commentary and design ideals.

    Koji the Ki Warrior CR 5
    N Humanoid (human, psionic) Monk 5
    Init +1; Senses Perception +12
    AC 24, touch 17, flat-footed 22 (+6 armor, +3 wisdom, +1 dexterity, +1 dodge, +1 monk, +1 deflection, +1 natural)
    Hp 39 (5d8+13)
    Fort +6, Ref +6, Will +9
    Defensive Abilities monk AC bonus, evasion, still mind
    Speed 40 ft (30 ft.)
    Melee unarmed +8 (1d8+6)
    Melee Full Attack unarmed flurry +7/+7 (1d8+6)
    Monk Powers Known (ML 5th)
    2nd (3PP) - Hustle, Painful Strike
    1st (1PP) - Inertial Armor, Catfall, Metaphysical Weapon
    PP: 18 (8 remaining)
    Str 16, Dex 13, Con 12, Int 10, Wis 18 (16), Cha 7
    Base Atk +3, CMB +6, CMD 17
    Feats Psionic Body, Up the Walls, Stunning Fist (DC 16), Deflect Arrows, Psionic Fist, Psionic Dodge
    Skills - irrelevant at the moment -
    Equipment (10,500 gp) headband of wisdom +2, amulet of natural armor +1, ring of protection +1, cloak of resistance +1, tattoo of expansion (5), 1,250 gp worth of other goods

    Overview: Koji is a martial artist from the far east, who practices a strange form of martial art. He is traveling across the world to learn the wonders of the world. He has several tattoos of meditational mantras inscribed across his arms, which can be activated to increase his size (basically like potions of enlarge person).

  • When adventuring, Koji spends 5 of his 18 Power Points to manifest an augmented inertial armor to get a +6 armor bonus for 5 hours, raising his AC to 24 (included in statblock).
  • When adventuring, Koji spends 5 of his 18 Power Points to manifest an augmented metaphysical weapon on his unarmed strike, making his unarmed strikes hit as +2 weapons (included in statblock).
  • Catfall allows him to avoid being tripped (if you would fall, you land on your feet regardless of distance) as an immediate action and avoid up to 50 ft of falling damage (1 PP).
  • Painful Strike can be activated for 3 power points granting an additional +1d6 nonlethal damage on unarmed strikes for 5 rounds.
  • Hustle can be manifested as a swift action for 3 power points. It allows Koji to take an extra move action. He traditionally uses this to move into melee range and full-attack.
  • While psionically focused (you can gain psionic focus by spending a full-round action to do so, then you're focused until you expend it, see below) Koji's unarmed strikes deal +1 damage, and he can move across vertical surfaces with Up the Walls (Wall Running, basically).
  • Koji can expend his psionic focus for any of the following benefits: Deal +2d6 damage with an unarmed strike or gain +4 dodge to AC as an immediate action for 1 round. Afterwards Koji loses the ability to use Up the Walls, and loses his +1 unarmed damage bonus and +1 dodge bonus to AC until he spends a full-round action to refocus.

    Koji is quick, mobile, deals decent damage for a 5th level character, has a solid AC, good saves, various mystical abilities that fit with his theme, and is both active and magical without being overly flashy. He is also great as an aesthetic warrior, as most of his buffs and/or static modifiers come from his spiritual focus, and not his magic items.

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    It's late, I'm up, and honestly my mood has me playfully musing about really twisted and mean things that BBEGs can legally do within the rules, which would be seen as absolutely horrible and probably mean spirited and probably get you some dirty looks.

    "Perfect!" I think to myself. That's just what I love. I'm a very nasty sort of GM who has a love/love relationship with players that's disguised as a hate/hate relationship, you understand. I'd describe myself as Lawful Good when working with the players. I want them to succeed, I help them with the rules, point out tricks they might not have known of, happily give advice for fine tuning characters, and rarely ban anything or try to rain on their parade.

    However, the moment it comes time for building encounters and such, it's like getting slapped with a atonement (lawful evil) spell as I'm setting down to write some notes. The name of the game for what I'm going to put the PCs through is frighteningly similar to Satan's trials against Job: "If it's legal" is the name of the game. As long as it's within the confines of the rules, prepare to suffer and suffer mercilessly...

    Of course, that's also because it seems to make it all the nicer when you succeed. I mean, nobody talks about that time when you wandered through the cave and slaughtered a bunch of goblins 'cause they were trying to melee you with their little short-swords, as you casually approached the hordes of loot in the back...

    They talk about that one game where they narrowly managed to hold on by the skin of their teeth, when the cleric had fallen into that flaming pit trap and was trying to climb out while on fire, and the goblins where chucking nets on the fighter to keep him entangled, and peppering the party with feces covered arrows inside small tunnels that forced them to suffer squeezing penalties, and yet - somehow - managed to overcome and push to, where they found the treasure composed of so many copper pieces, stolen ale, and livestock.

    So what's the point? Well I'm feelin' a little diabolical, so this is the thread to really let out the nastiest, darkest, most depraved and cruel encounter ideas possible, without fear of being called a mean GM. Nay, this is the thread where being called a dirty rotten GM is a compliment. When Pit Fiends look up to you to get ideas, you know you're in the right thread!

    I'll start if off with some really nasty ones.

    Now you Don't
    This dirty trick basically involves afflicting the party with blindness via magic resetting traps. It's simple, and it's mean. The trap is a resetting proximity or location trap that affects multiple targets (say anyone within the room) with the blindness spell (DC 13 to negate) each round. The CR is 5 (1,600 XP) and requires a DC 27 Perception/Disable Device check to disable.

    The idea is that anyone who's in the area has to make a Fortitude save each round or be afflicted by blindness/deafness or be permanently blind. Ideally, the party should encounter trouble while inside the room. Naturally, enemies with blind-sight, constructs, undead, or anything immune to blindness will work (creatures with SR 24+ are immune as well) would be ideal in such a trapped dungeon. Each round that the party has to spend slugging through the enemies (who may be blocking the exit to the room) they have to make a new saving throw. No matter their level, there's always a 5% chance they biff it and end up permanently blind until someone can restore their sight via a spell.

    The thing that makes this particularly nasty is the fact that unless the party is packing a lot of remove blindness and similar, it can be devastating trying to trudge your way through a dungeon while blind. Even getting back out of the dungeon would be a horrible test of endurance. Weenie monsters are now frightening threats.

    Blindness Trap (CR 5) = 1,600 XP
    2 Bloody Efreeti Skeletons (CR 6) = 4,800 XP
    Total Encounter = CR 9 (6,400 XP)

    The efreeti skeletons have fast healing 5, DR 5/bludgeoning, 65-85 HP each (if animated in a desecrate spell), immunity to cold and fire, large size (granting reach), and should probably be able to hold the party reasonably long enough for people to begin failing some saving throws.

    The earliest the PCs might encounter this mean encounter is about 6th level (APL+3) as an "epic" encounter. At 6th level, good base Fortitude saves are +5 and poor ones are +2. Assuming a +1 cloak of resistance and a +2 Con, that's a 25% chance to be blinded each round for a good Fortitude, and a 40% chance for a bad one. By 9th level, base Fortitude saves are up to +6 (good) and +3 (bad). Even with a +2 resistance and +3 Con, that still means a 10% chance per round to be blinded for a warrior, and a 25% chance per round to be blinded for someone with a bad fortitude.

    You could also toss hordes of low CR skeletons at them, just to stall. For bonus points, adding a CR 3 trap that spams inflict light wounds on everything in the area is like giving everything they're fighting fast healing, while whittling down the party a few HP every round as well.

    13 people marked this as a favorite.

    This came up in another thread I was in, and I just wanted to get this out of my system and see what others thought on the matter, and just so we're on the same page, I direct you to Calibrating your Expectations.

    The subject of this thread is the Gamemastery NPC Gallery that has been referenced on the boards once or thrice. I seriously thought that nobody actually took these NPCs as serious examples of people in the default game, as they really don't fit in any campaign settings I've ever seen, including Golarion, as far as power goes; but it seems some do. They believe these are the examples of normal men & women throughout your typical game.

    But why? Most of these NPCs are verisimilitude breaking in the extreme, or don't follow the rules (such as having special attacks not found elsewhere). The 3.x/PF system was designed for emulating a combination of modest fantasy (levels 1-5 or so), right up to gods engaging in fisticuffs.

    For example...

    On the NPC gallery table, we can see the lowest CR dude is in fact a trained footsoldier; warrior 1; CR 1/3. That is, a trained military soldier ready for battle. This guy is pretty much to be expected. He follows the expectancy of your average soldier's power.

    A squire; aristocrat 1; CR 1/3 is also fair. It's a nice example of using a class that implies one thing to represent another (aristocrat vs squire). So far so good.

    Village idiot; commoner 1; CR 1/3 is fair but should be CR 1/4 because he lacks equipment (see Gamemastering, Core Rulebook). His statblock is incorrect because his sling deals 1d3+1 damage but should be 1d3, and I can't figure out where the -1 penalty to hit is from. But ok, it's modestly fair.

    But compare to...

    Everything else.

    Your typical bandit is warrior 2; CR 1/2. So your average highwayman is actually more skill in combat than a trained soldier. Ok, a little odd, but let's continue...

    Barmaid is commoner 2; CR 1/2. Oh damn, here it goes. Your average barmaid is now tougher than your average soldier. She sports a higher CR than a bloodthirsty orc (who are typically CR 1/3 warriors), and even has a few special attacks not seen, such as using drinks to dazzle foes. Her base attack is equal to a 1st level Fighter, and she sports more HP than your average warrior. WTF? Did she take an arrow to the knee?

    Beggar is commoner 1/rogue1; CR 1. Ok, this is getting stupid. Your average beggar is now stronger than most 1st level NPCs and hobgoblin fighters. Seriously? Why the hell is he begging when he is a 1st level PC, complete with 13 Hp, sneak attack, etc. This guy is a a bruiser! Your average armed 1st level hero doesn't want to meet this guy alone in the dark alleyway. Why do we need adventurers when even the homeless people begging for coin are hardened killers and make orcs look like wussies? Maybe they're not actually begging for coin, but politely letting you pay them to not kill you.

    Caravan Guard is fighter 2; CR 1. While I can't help but wonder why this guy isn't using the Warrior NPC class, rather than Fighter, I have to say the consistency is bad. The caravan guard is pretty good at making 1st level adventurers look like noobs, but it's just amusing that the description for them is "hardened veterans", but they're about as dangerous as your typical beggar. In fact, a couple of beggars could pretty easily kill this guy with their +8 Stealth, 1d6+1+1d6 clubs, flanking, etc. Maybe most carvans should include a healthy mixture of level 2 fighters, waitresses, and homeless bums.

    Doomsayers are just raving preachers, but they're also 3rd level adepts; CR 1. Maybe they're raving about the right gods afterall, since despite being pretty mundane, are still stronger than your average orc, and are as combat trained as soldiers.

    Drunkards are commoner 1/warrior 2; CR 1. Wow, it just keeps getting better and better. If the beggars weren't enough, your average drunk is sporting 23 hit points and a +2 base attack, meaning that a single drunkard can wipe the floor with a few trained soldiers before he is taken down. God help the wife at home he's beating to death, since most 1st level commoners have 3 Hp and a +0 BAB. Also, it even notes that these guys exist in almost every town. "As ubiquitous as the barkeeps and serving wenches who serve them, drunkards may be found in almost every tavern in every town." I ask again: Why do we have adventurers when the average townsfolk person makes you look like a pansy?

    Guards are warrior 3; CR 1. Somehow, they are actually less durable than your typical drunkard, and apparently show that the average police force is better than several trained military soldiers. I suppose in Pathfinder, the more mundane you are, the more badass too. It pretty much notes all they do is break up brawls and occasionally defend the town walls from external threats. These guys are better than soldiers AND the hardened mercenaries.

    Prostitutes are expert 1/rogue 1; CR 1. Man, ok, next to the beggars are the prostitutes. Your average prostitute is stronger than a 1st level rogue. In fact, they probably don't have pimps, because a couple of prostitutes would just kill anyone who dared to exercise the pimp-hand. They have skill focus Profession (Courtesan) but they're naturally better at both singing and dancing, and apparently impressive acrobats, thieves, diplomats, and more. There's no place to hide in Korvosa because all the homeless beggars and prostitutes are hardened killers who lurk in the night to relieve you of your coin from the shadows...

    Shopkeeps are expert 3; CR 1. Oh boy, oh man, this is bad. Apparently being your average shopekeeper means you have to be a trained warrior (BAB +2), have twice the Hp of a soldier, and rock skills like a proper skill monkey. Once again, the average shopekeeper is as strong as a 2nd level PC character. The more mundane we get, the more badass they become. Heaven help you if you encounter a Traveling Merchant, as those guys are CR 5 and level 7!

    Barkeeps are expert 4/warrior 1; CR 4. I guess you should come to taverns to find people to rescue your daughter, but man adventurers aren't who to ask. Just grab the tavern staff. A barkeeper, a pair of town drunks, and a couple of waitresses would be happy to go beat the ever loving crap out of some gnolls to rescue your daughter and bring back a few hundred gold pieces worth of treasure. Then little Sally "Bloodsport" Mains can buy that new +1 mithral serving tray she's been wanting for so long.

    It seriously just gets worse from here on out.

    So my question is, "wtf guys"? Why couldn't we have been given some NPC statistics that we might actually use in game, or give new GMs are good idea as to what the power scale is. You have every Tom, Dick, and Mary in a town capable of olympic level feats of ability. Stats like these make games like Rise of the Runelords laughable, since you could have just let the commoners spank the crap out of the goblins while the PCs sit back and eat popcorn, laughing at the shrill deathcries of goblins being fried over Sally's mithral fryingpan.

    Couldn't we have gotten something that was more usable? I mean you would have saved a ton of page space if every fool in town wasn't an action hero. I mean these NPCs have notes for using them for other things by swapping their skills around. What would be wrong with something like...

    Average Person, Commoner 1; CR 1/4 (no gear). This is the average person, and the average person fills most roles in society. Butchers, bakers, candlestick makers, you can just replace one of their 3 skills with a Profession or Craft depending on what they do. 3 Hp, +0 BAB, etc.

    Thug, Warrior 1; CR 1/3. Thugs are average warriors. They run the gamut for military recruits, hired goons, and town guards. Their stats can also be used for caravan guards, bandits, and pirates (if you replace Ride with Profession Sailor).

    Hedge Wizard, Adept 3; CR 1. Most villages might have a hedge-wizard. They provide much of the healing and basic magical services available in small towns, and most learn to craft some sort of magic items. Most of them are capable of fending for themselves when not trading their services for coin or allying themselves with a local authority. Most have Craft Wondrous Items and a familiar of your choice. For an alchemist, give them Brew Potions instead. For a spiritual adviser or healer, replace Knowledge (Arcana) with Knowledge (Religion).

    Knight, Warrior 3; CR 1. Knights are generally elite soldiers who often engage enemies from hoseback. The stats for knights can also be used for any warrior that is noticeably stronger than typical thugs, and can be used for veteran soldiers, hired bodyguards, or elite thugs.

    Then use the rest of the space for the stuff most newbies would have difficulty with, like designing BBEGs, spellcasters, and so forth. Why is so much space wasted on useless NPCs, rather than something that is actually usable? Why not give us some examples of extraordinary individuals and some examples of how they might fit into a campaign, rather than painting every priest you run across as being strong enough to raise the dead and screw up large numbers of soldiers by themselves?

    I can't the only one who has a bad taste from these NPCs?

    31 people marked this as a favorite.

    During another conversation there was some disagreement over the idea of "custom" magic items. As far as I can tell, the magic item creation rules are part of the standard game. They have very clear-cut rules that are in effect to define and limit what they can do and how they can do it. They exist to quickly, easily, and fairly, allow the design of new magic items without having to make the already enormous rulebook twelve times larger by trying to create every instance of magic item possible.

    So as far as I'm concerned, if it's legal by the magic item creation rules, then it's a core magic item that doesn't exist yet. So what does this mean? It means there's a lot of really cool and most importantly interesting magic items that aren't printed but are part of the core rules by proxy. So, I wanted to discuss some of these possibilities, and create a little archive of Core Rules Legal magic items that have been created using these methods, and explain how the item was formulated so as to give some easy to use examples to those new to the 3E/PF RPG.


    Cloak of Disappearance
    Aura faint illusion; CL 3rd
    Slot shoulders; Price 4,800 gp; Weight 1 lb.
    This cloak appears to be woven from spidersilk, and has an almost translucent appearance when viewed against the light. By pretending that your foes cannot see you (a free action) the cloak actually causes you to turn invisible for up to 30 rounds per day. These rounds needn't be consecutive. Anything that breaks invisibility also ends the invisibility granted by this cloak.
    Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, invisibility; Cost 2,400 gp

    Item Breakdown:
    This magic item uses the same formula that boots of speed use. It's caster level (3) * spell level (2) * 4000 gp (2000 * 2 for 1 minute / level spell duration). The price was then divided by 5 to determine the price per charge. Finally, the duration of the single charge was split into rounds. The magic item is ideal for rogues who want to get their sneak on, or for skirmishers who like vanishing and then re-appearing. On a personal note, my brother's ranger in our tabletop game uses this cloak.

    Ring of Elemental Warding
    Aura faint abjuration; CL 1st
    Slot ring; Price 3,000 gp plus 4,500 gp for each additional gem; Weight -
    This simple ring is attuned to a particular element and studded with a gem associated with that element: acid (jade), cold (sapphire), electricity (topaz), fire (Jacinthe), or sonic (quartz). The ring grants the wearer energy resistance 10 against the appropriate energy type. Some varieties of these rings protect against more than one energy type, with each additional protection adding an additional stone to the ring. Rings of Elemental Warding containing all five gems are often prized by travelers of the planes.
    Requirements Forge Ring, resist energy; Cost 1,500 gp plus 2,250 gp for each additional gem

    Item Breakdown:
    This is a caster level 1 ring of resist energy. The item creation rules say that items are to be priced using the lowest caster level and spell level a spell is available at to determine the price regardless of who makes it. The item was priced as continuous with a 10 min/level duration (1 * 1 * 2000 * 1.5). Each additional stud on the ring is like buying an additional ring with a 50% markup due to adding additional abilities to the same magic item.

    Belt of Ogre's Size
    Aura faint transmutation; CL 1st
    Slot waist; Price 800 gp; Weight 1 lb.
    This study leather belt is studded with wolf bones and bear teeth. When worn, the wearer may unleash a mighty battle-cry (a free action) to double in size as if by the enlarge person spell. He can remain enlarged for up to 10 rounds per day. Rounds spent enlarged needn't be consecutive.
    Requirements Craft Wondrous Item, enlarge person; Cost 400 gp

    Item Breakdown:
    Like with the boots of speed, the belt of ogre size follows the same basic mechanics of the boots of speed. It was priced at (1*1*2000*2) gp for level, caster level, use activation/continuous, and duration modifier. Finally it was divided by 5 for charges per day (1 charge) and the duration split.

    Shield of the Dragon's Breath
    Aura faint evocation; CL 5th
    Slot none; Price 2,970 gp; Weight 15 lb.
    This finely crafted +1 steel shield is engraved with a beautiful and detailed image of a mighty red dragon's head. When a special command phrase such as "by fire be purged" or "inferno's cry" the head of the dragon appears to spring to life and unleash a burst of flames. The shield may expel up to 5d4 points of fire damage in a 15 foot cone each day, with a Reflex save (DC 11) for half damage. This fire damage may be split as desired (such as a single burst of 5d4 damage or five small bursts of 1d4 damage each). Activating this ability is a standard action.
    Requirements Craft Magic Arms & Armor, burning hands; Cost 1,570 gp

    Item Breakdown:
    This magic item uses the command word activation (though it can also be a command thought, as there is no mechanical difference) to unleash a caster level 5 burning hands spell effect, which has been divided by 5 for 1 use per day. In a method similar to splitting the duration, we have actually split the damage, allowing the wielder to divide the d4s as desired. The pricing was (1 * 5 * 1800 divided by 5) + the cost of a +1 steel shield.

    This should get everyone started. Before you know it, you'll be on your way to making lots of interesting magic items that are 100% legal by the core rulebook!

    Notice: Before anyone brings it up, no you cannot make a sword of continuous true strike. True strike cannot be made continuous because of its unique duration type. Instead, the best you can do is make it at-will, or make a quickened true strike sword which is far more expensive and more limited. The most advanced true strike weapon you could craft would actually cost about 90,000 gp on top of whatever the weapon normally costs, which would allow you to cast true-strike as a swift-action once per round.

    I will probably post more items in this thread as time permits. Feel free to use it as a resource for your own ends, or to make requests, offer thoughts, and/or help people design their own magic items. Community project and all that. ^-^

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    WARNING: The following post (and possibly thread) contains a level of shenanigans that some people may find broken, dirty, and downright awesome. If this level of game foolery offends you, please find another thread.

    Recently I was rolling up a character for the Curse of the Crimson Throne adventure path. A friend of mine is GMing, and said I could use anything on the Pathfinder SRD to create my character. Since I like playing undead characters, and I wanted to make an undead cleric, I requested if I could use the Damned template from Heroes of Alvena's races page. He said I would have to begin play as a human, but I could become undead later by having the correct spells cast and what-not, with the appropriate gold piece investment.

    At which point another friend of ours who is playing in the same game and I got to brainstorming, and we came up with a few things. Basically, my character is now an 8 HD undead mummy, pretty much right out of the gate. Those interested in her backstory can find it further below.

    Beginning as a Mummy

  • Trait: Rich Parents (+900 gp starting wealth)
  • Trait: Agent of Dusk (double starting wealth, 10% discount on items)
  • Create Undead spell of the appropriate level: 900 gp
  • Material Component Cost: 400 gp (discounted to 360 due to Agent of Dusk)
  • Slightly above average starting wealth (180 gp is enough).

    So my character is now a mummy. Possibly the best tank-undead possible at 1st level. Her equipment consists of a club, a sling, rocks, and her starting outfit so she isn't naked. :P

    Other possibilities include Ghouls and Ghasts which both make pretty good choices for almost any character class due to their broad stat modifiers to most ability scores, making them good spellcasters, while their natural attacks + paralysis lend them nicely to martial characters as well.

    Backstory (CotCT Spoilers):
    Morgana "Dreadscar" grew up as a nameless orphan in the streets of Korvosa, and like many other children, was inducted into Gaedren Lamm's service by force, along with her younger brother Daniel. While life was hard, and vicious, she managed to take care of her brother well enough that they survived for some time. The hope of freedom never left them.

    However, that hope would be crushed one night. In a drunken rage, Gaedren stabbed Daniel to death because he lost his stolen goods due to the holes in his clothes. Morgana attempted to stop him from hurting her brother, but was slashed across the face with the rusty knife, and then kicked off the pier into the dark waters below. Miraculously, the girl washed to shore without being devoured by sawtooth sharks, devilfish, or reefclaw, or ol' Gobblegut who are often found nearby. Cold, wet, and in shock, she wandered the streets in a daze before passing out in a small dark alleyway where she would have probably died.

    As fortune would have it, a member of a secret cult located in the back of the alleyway was passing through and noticed her. Realizing she was hurt badly, soaked to the bone, and half-starved, he scooped her up and brought her to the basement temple beneath an old pub called the Rusty Nail. There, he and his fellow dark clerics breathed life back into her with their healing magics, and bandaged her wounds. The cut on her face was too deep and had not been tended to soon enough to fade away; leaving a terrible slashing scar diagonally across her face; which she would later use as her surname.

    With no where else to go, the young street orphan was indoctrinated into this mysterious cult of necromancers. They called themselves the Night Saviors, and they mostly dwelt within the basements, sewers, and other deep areas beneath the slums of Korvosa. Disguised as beggars and street rats, they secretly tended to the needs of some of the dregs of society. Studying and healing various diseases and maladies, and dissecting the remains of those found dead with no one to claim them. She was tasked with keeping up their main temple beneath the Rusty Nail. Day in and day out she would clean the alter, replace candles, dust the alcoves and scrub the floors. Each night, the memory of her brother haunted her, and she attempted to find solace in the teachings of the underground church. She could not, however, let go her need for vengeance.

    During her training, her mentor Vanlen Silvermoon – who found her in the alleyway - attempted to teach her that her anger and rage were like a powerful fire. Such dark emotions could be used to fuel the greatest of changes in the world, or could be let loose to consume you from the inside out. Under his tutelage, her need for vengeance slowly gave way to the desire for justice and retribution. So she continued her duties until she was to come of age.

    When she finally reached adulthood, the temple she had now spent the last few years in celebrated her rite of passage. They feasted, and promised her a boon from their sect. A single birthday gift from the dark church. Having thought long and hard about her desires, and long being haunted by the memory of her lost brother and the cruelty of their captor, she made a startling request. She begged the circle of priests to kill her, and return her to life with the power to seek justice for her brothers murder. To hold a terrible sway over evil men like Gaedren Lamm and those who would share his ways. The council of priests convened for a time to discuss her wish. It was so very different than they had expected...

    After seven days of deliberation, and careful discussion with her mentor, they agreed to grant her request. And so, upon the very alter that she had cleaned a thousand times, she transcended mortal life and was reborn. There she was ritually killed with a dagger engraved with the names of angels, and as her life began to slip away, the inside of her body was ignited with black fire to burn away the impurities of a mortal body, and preserved through enchantment. They anointed her dead heart with sacred oils, and filled her body with flowers, incense, and small prayers written on holy papers. It would be from these that her new organs would grow, strengthening her body unlike her mortal shell. Finally, she was wrapped in bandages made from the very tattered clothes she was found in, purified and blessed, as a symbol of her journey and her future. Then, the priests combined their power to call forth an awakening of her, and her soul back to her new body.

    When she awoke, she awoke with a scream. Even on the edge of death the nightmares haunted her, but as her eyes opened it was like seeing the world for the first time again. Over the next few days, she learned to cope with her new existence, and planned her actions. Along with the blessed wrappings, she clothed herself in second hand tattered robes and clothing. At first glance, she would have looked like a homeless person, wrapped in rags. This was to her comfort, as this was the life she had always known.

    Some days after her rebirth, she collected up a few pieces of junk, fashioned a simple sling, and collected a bag of rocks and stones that washed up with the waves of the bay, where she had washed up years before. Then it was only a matter of time to decide when to strike. On the eve of her brother's birthday, she found a strange card wrapped within her rags...

    Character Portrait

  • 7 people marked this as FAQ candidate. 1 person marked this as a favorite.

    Andy Ferguson was arguing recently that Acrobatics can be used to jump over obstacles during a Charge action. His post arguing why is here. He might even be entirely correct, but the reason for his argument is actually because using Acrobatics is a non-action, and is used as part of another action, or as an unspecified reaction (common sense might suggest as part of a move action or when falling, but common sense is uncommon and rules are rules).

    My initial and secondary responses.

    By Andy's argument, we can use Jump to evade attacks. Since it is no action, and is applied during an unspecific action or reaction, if someone decides to charge me, I'll just make a jump check and leap 20 ft away as a nonspecific reaction. Hell, I'll just make a jump check every time I take an action, and every time someone else takes an action. I speak (free action) so I jump 20-30 feet. I take a 5ft. step and jump another 20-30 feet. I will attack with my bow, and jump another 20-30 feet. My friend the mage speaks, so I'll jump 20-30 feet. He begins casting a spell, so I'll jump 20-30 ft, and then he moves 30 ft, so I'll jump 20-30 ft. When our enemy begins their turn, they will draw a weapon, and I will jump 20-30 ft...

    EDIT: Acrobatics is better than evasion! You can use it while flat-footed, and if a mage decides to fireball or otherwise AoE you, you can just make a jump check in reaction to move 20-30ft away, out of the AoE before it lands. Screw Evasion!

    EDIT 2: I am now sold that monks are the greatest class because of their movement. I always thought people meant because their natural speed was so great, but now I see it's because they can jump hundreds of feet without ever even taking a move action. Just speak a few times and you can land on your enemy and full attack.

    "Tumataki senryu tolasha shoryuapah!" --> Leap 300 ft and preform a hurricane kick on the enemy's face.

    EDIT 3: Hell, it's even better than that, because then after you pound face with your full-attack, you make a jump check to leap away as part of your full-attack, or maybe the last attack of your full attack, or maybe because you shout "Bonzai!" at the end of your full-attack, and then bam, you leap away. You just leaped across the map, hurricane kicked some fool in the face, then leaped back. Wait 'till your enemy's turn, then stuffs going to get bouncy!

    The most wonderful thing about Tiggers!

    Andy Ferguson wrote:

    Ashiel wrote:
    By Andy's argument, we can use Jump to evade attacks. Since it is no action, and is applied during an unspecific action or reaction, if someone decides to charge me, I'll just make a jump check and leap 20 ft away as a nonspecific reaction. Hell, I'll just make a jump check every time I take an action, and every time someone else takes an action. I speak (free action) so I jump 20-30 feet. I take a 5ft. step and jump another 20-30 feet. I will attack with my bow, and jump another 20-30 feet. My friend the mage speaks, so I'll jump 20-30 feet. He begins casting a spell, so I'll jump 20-30 ft, and then he moves 30 ft, so I'll jump 20-30 ft. When our enemy begins their turn, they will draw a weapon, and I will jump 20-30 ft...
    My argument is that you can jump as part of a charge.

    Yep. But the reason you're saying you can jump as part of a charge is because it is a skill that you can use to jump as part of any other action, and you quoted that it can apparently be used as a nonspecific reaction. Since it doesn't specify what sort of action you can jump as a part of, being able to jump as part of a charge is just as valid as being able to jump during speaking, or jump during an attack, or jump during someone else's movement, turn, speaking, scratching their butt, whatever.

    So I actually think that by RAW you can totally jump during a charge, and also by RAW you can totally jump at anytime. However, unlike woodland stride, the area you're jumping over is still treated as rough terrain for you, so the charge rules probably negate it anyway; but who cares. I don't ever want to charge again. Just take tons of ranks in Acrobatics and be a Tigger! Their bouncy pouncy pouncy bouncy, fun-fun-fun-fun-fun!

    I had never noticed this before. Suddenly, monks are amazing, because all that sweet, sweet jumping ability means they are assuredly the fastest and most amazing class at 1st level, and can full-attack with impunity. Except that if they try to full-attack someone, they can just jump away from the monk, of course the monk can react to their jumping away by jumping as part of their jump, but of course they could just jump again, so maybe monks aren't all that great.

    Either way, this beats the commoner rail-gun by a mile. :P

    1 person marked this as FAQ candidate. 1 person marked this as a favorite.

    Hey Paizonians! Pathfinder is a big game, and there are bound to be little mistakes that aren't caught during the final product, so let's see how many we can find and how to correct them without needing to create new rules or special exceptions to the existing rules.

    As both an example and a kickstart to the the thread, I'll start off.

    Ogre Statblock: The standard ogre statblock has the ogre's attacks incorrectly calculated. Greatclubs are martial weapons and ogres do not have proficiency with martial weapons, and the ogre doesn't have any class levels (including NPC classes like warrior) to grant them martial weapon proficiency. Thus the ogre should actually have a +3 to hit and 2d8+7 to damage, or he should be wielding a large club at +7 for 1d8+7.

    Alternatively the ogre could also be wielding a large shortspear or longspear at +7 for 2d6+7. In the latter, the ogre actually has a 20ft reach, and in the former the Ogre can throw it as a hunting tool (of course ogres can throw normal clubs as well because they have a 10ft range increment).

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    Warning This Post Is Probably Going to Drive Some People Crazy
    If the title somehow offends your sensibilities, it is probably less than a good idea to actually pursue this thread in any length for fear of exploding heads. This thread was posted because of a humorous bit in the rules, and such levels of system twisting may require an increase in heart medication for those uninitiated to system humors.

    You have been warned.


    So I was browsing through the rules today, as part of conversing with some Paizo messageboarders while planning some stuff for my own games, and came across a few interesting tidbits which I found humorous (and in some ways quite cool).

    It's possible to have a Chaotic Evil Paladin, according to the rules. If this boggles your mind or amuses you, read on.

    PRD - Paladin wrote:
    Ex-Paladins: A paladin who ceases to be lawful good, who willfully commits an evil act, or who violates the code of conduct loses all paladin spells and class features (including the service of the paladin's mount, but not weapon, armor, and shield proficiencies). She may not progress any further in levels as a paladin. She regains her abilities and advancement potential if she atones for her violations (see the atonement spell description in Spell Lists), as appropriate.
    PRD - Atonement wrote:

    This spell removes the burden of misdeeds from the subject. The creature seeking atonement must be truly repentant and desirous of setting right its misdeeds. If the atoning creature committed the evil act unwittingly or under some form of compulsion, atonement operates normally at no cost to you. However, in the case of a creature atoning for deliberate misdeeds, you must intercede with your deity (requiring you to expend 2,500 gp in rare incense and offerings). Atonement may be cast for one of several purposes, depending on the version selected.

    Reverse Magical Alignment Change: If a creature has had its alignment magically changed, atonement returns its alignment to its original status at no additional cost.

    Restore Class: A paladin, or other class, who has lost her class features due to violating the alignment restrictions of her class may have her class features restored by this spell.

    Restore Cleric or Druid Spell Powers: A cleric or druid who has lost the ability to cast spells by incurring the anger of her deity may regain that ability by seeking atonement from another cleric of the same deity or another druid. If the transgression was intentional, the casting cleric must expend 2,500 gp in rare incense and offerings for her god's intercession.

    Redemption or Temptation: You may cast this spell upon a creature of an opposing alignment in order to offer it a chance to change its alignment to match yours. The prospective subject must be present for the entire casting process. Upon completion of the spell, the subject freely chooses whether it retains its original alignment or acquiesces to your offer and changes to your alignment. No duress, compulsion, or magical influence can force the subject to take advantage of the opportunity offered if it is unwilling to abandon its old alignment. This use of the spell does not work on outsiders or any creature incapable of changing its alignment naturally.

    Though the spell description refers to evil acts, atonement can be used on any creature that has performed acts against its alignment, regardless of the actual alignment in question.

    Note: Normally, changing alignment is up to the player. This use of atonement offers a method for a character to change his or her alignment drastically, suddenly, and definitively.

    If our Paladin was to become Chaotic Evil, the Paladin has obviously committed an evil act and lost the ability to use his class features and advance in levels of Paladin. However, you can cast Atonement and choose to restore all his class abilities permanently (instantaneous duration) by choosing the Restore Class option. This also allows her to continue advancing as a Paladin, by the Paladin's class description. Now most would probably also go ahead and get their alignment shifted back to Lawful Good while they're at it.

    Unless you're an aasimar. See as an outsider, aasimars cannot have their alignment changed suddenly by atonement, but they can have their class features and ability to advance in level restored.

    So it looks like by the rules you can actually have a Paladin who falls off the morality train, regain his class features, be Chaotic Evil, and still function to fight evil and its ilk with smite evil and all those cool things. He'll just happen to show up as super-holy (Aura of Good) while also showing up super evil (he's an Evil Outsider (Native).

    Carry on my wayward sons. :P

    So I've been perusing my copy of the Advanced Players Guide (and the PRD), and after hearing about the spell bestow grace, I went and looked it up; and frankly I'm astonished.

    Bestow grace effectively allows you to give any good aligned creature a pseudo-divine grace for the duration of the spell. I'm highly disturbed by this, as it's essentially the Paladin's Divine Grace as a spell.

    Now, it has been my understanding that Paizo is theoretically not keen on making spells or magical items that copy class features, because those are the features of that class. So if you want Divine Grace, take Paladin levels. If you want Weapon Specialization, be a Fighter; etc.

    Now the problem I'm seeing here is that whomever wrote this spell doesn't seem to have taken a very deep look into the mechanics surrounding it. While only available to the Paladin as a spell, it's entirely legal for wands and other magical items. Without essentially the GM saying "No I won't let you do this", the spell has effectively given classes the ability to gain Divine Grace for a certain amount of time. From a balance perspective, it's also questionable even for the Paladin; because as written, a Paladin with divine grace can be affected by this spell to gain an Insight bonus equal to her Charisma bonus to all saving throws; effectively adding her Charisma to her saves twice.

    This concerns me from a design perspective. Yes, I can house-rule bestow grace to be more like bestow power, but I'm concerned as to the slippery slope that this kind of thing leads to. Divine Grace is a very powerful class feature. Arguably one of the best abilities that a Paladin gets. Now it has been sold off to sorcerers, summoners, and bards to gain a quick and relatively cheap way to skyrocket their saving throws; and that's just as a wand. Not counting x/day suits of armor or continuous armor effects (akin to resist energy armors).

    I'm wondering, was this an oversight? Did Paizo perhaps not consider that someone would ever make magic items using Paladin spells? Is this something that Paizo plans to continue doing?

    After speaking with Sean K. Reynolds on the Paizo boards about class balance, and hearing him speak first hand about how it's not fair that his Cleric cannot cast spells and compete with the warrior classes, I have become progressively concerned as to the directions Paizo may be heading with some of its mechanics; and I wonder if this sort of thing is going to become a trend; or avoided in the future.

    It would be nice to get some official feedback on this sort of thing from James, Jason, or both; but I'm interested in what everyone else has to say on the matter; seeing as this is a general gameplay question that can affect everyone playing the game.


    So I've been reading threads like this one and this one and that one, as well as a lot of other threads around, and I feel compelled to ask a question...

    Am I the only GM who doesn't want to screw over their players?
    This probably sounds like an amazingly silly question, but I'm legitimately wondering. I see these posts so very often. Threads and advice centered around picking on your players, punishing them for something you think they shouldn't do, or how to make some player regret that he or she did something other than what you wanted them to do.

    Stuff like:
    1) How do I make my players regret...
    1.A) Dumping Strength?
    1.B) Dumping Dexterity?
    1.C) Dumping Constitution?
    1.D) Dumping Intelligence?
    1.E) Dumping Wisdom?
    1.F) Dumping Charisma?
    1.G) Dumping Anything?
    2) How can I "legitimately" give my players less XP/Treasure/stuff that they have earned?
    3) 1,001 ways to make a Player regret playing a Paladin.
    4) 1,001 ways to make sure a spellcaster can't protect their spellbook/components/magic items.
    5) 1,001 ways to make sure warriors can't have nice things.

    And the big one: "How to I force people to roleplay the way I want them to?"

    I'm really becoming disturbed. I mean on an actual real level. I see posts that are literally asking how to mess with their players for seemingly random stuff. Asking how to spite them, punish them, or make them regret playing their characters. I see people lining up with piles and piles of really bad advice, telling them to do stuff like making extra rules to punish them twice, or telling them they can't do something arbitrarily ("you've been hit with Feeblemind, your intelligence is 1, you can't sneak attack because you're too stupid to use strategies, even though animals and even vermin act more tactically than I'm telling you you can" - "Your Dexterity has been damaged to a 3, so I'm not letting you make a Reflex save, because you wouldn't be able to evade it anyway").

    Or, oh, I like this one. "You're not roleplaying right". Gotta love that junk. Everyone seems to have their own idea of what roleplaying is, and dagnamit you will be punished for it if the GM has anything to say about it; 'cause that's the way this game is played!

    Is it just that people are really vocal about this stuff? Or am I just the minority? Is it odd that I tend to follow stuff by the book, give house-rules upfront, make house rules to benefit the players instead of screw with them? Is it odd that I help players make mechanically decent PCs ("Well, are you sold on throwing daggers, or would darts fluffed as throwing knives work, 'cause darts are lighter, cheaper, and throw farther...")? Am I the only one who is happy when the party foils my diabolical encounters (and some of them would make Asmodaeus proud)?

    Am I the only GM who's more interested in seeing how a player is going to bring his or her character to life, rather than telling them how to play their character based on numbers on their paper?

    C'mon, I'm just wondering?
    Am I alone, or are there others?

    1 person marked this as a favorite.
    Ashiel wrote:

    Off the top of my head, probably the complete lack of pretty much anything outside of tactical miniature combat in the core rulebooks. I say this as someone who happily purchased all three of the books, and played with them for a while, before shelving them and returning to 3.x and then Pathfinder, because I wanted to play an RPG.

    I'm not claiming that 4E makes people incapable of roleplaying, but I do not think it's a game that really facilitates roleplaying or the kind of interesting adventures, scenarios, and fantasies I want from an roleplaying game. As for a tactical miniatures game, it's a lot of fun. My group and I had a ton of fun stomping through a few dungeons and what not, but quickly became disenchanted with it as it continually fell short of things we wanted; and many of those things were way too basic for a roleplaying game. I mean, having to be a ranger to fight with two weapons? I'll admit that is like WoW, 'cept WoW gives dual wielding to 3 classes instead of 1; but I see the similarity there.

    DigitalMage wrote:

    But to address your views on 4e - I strongly disagree. Whilst I myself have been frustrated in some of the powers' focus on use in combat (notably short durations e.g. Sleep spell) there is plenty in the core books to help players and GMs create stories that involve not only combat but exploration, social scheming and investigation.

    Indeed I have even quoted the 4e DMG in a discussion about Call of Cthulhu versus Trail of Cthulhu (basically saying that CoC could do with having some of the advice that the 4e DMG had in it).

    I would be particularly interested to know what stuff you think PF has that makes it a roleplaying game that you feel 4e lacks - but this is likely not the place for such a debate. If you do want to pursue this please feel free to create a new thread.

    I personally enjoyed reading the 4e DMG much more than the 3.5 DMG - I just remember the 3.5 DMG going into escruitating detail about the types of terrain and its mechanical effects, but the thing I remember most about the 4e DMG is the great advice on conveying information to your players and its concise explanation of the different types of campaigns.

    Obviously my memories of both books are skewed to what had most impact on me, but hopefully it can show that different people can get different things out of the same books. I feel it does a good basic job as a GM guide, and the DMG2 for 4e contains even more great stuff including collaborative campaign creation (not surprising as one of its authors is Robin D Laws).

    As for the door thing though - yep I can 100% agree with you on there now that I have looked it up. Some Resistance rating for certain materials may have been better than a HP multiplier - good point :)

    So this thread is in response to DigitalMage asking me to make a thread and discuss it with him, so if you want to start an edition war, get lost. That's not what this is about.


    So Digital, here's a brief list that we can discuss about the reasons I switched back to 3E based systems, after trying to switch to 4E and then feeling like I wasn't playing an RPG (or at least not the RPG).

    1) Too much like a tactical miniatures game. There were very specific mechanics that had no justification or explanation, such as rangers being the only people who can dual wield (holding two weapons doesn't count), all harmful effects just inflicting various amounts of HP damage, and stuff like that.

    2) It's not internally consistent in the least, which continuously was breaking verisimilitude for my group and I. Stuff like fluctuating DCs/Damage based on level (chandeliers falling on you at 3rd level and chandeliers falling on you at 8th level mean different things, swinging from a rope at 1st level is easier DC-wise than doing so at 5th level, etc).

    3) It lacks interesting monsters. Creatures were severely dumbed down. There's not really much difference between a level 1 kobold skirmisher and a level 1 orc skirmisher, for example. In my 3E-based games, dealing with goblins is a vastly different experience than dealing with Orcs, or wild dogs for example, even though they're all the same level of encounter.

    4) WotC said most monsters only matter as far as they are in combat, and they're only in combat a few rounds, so they need few abilities. Monsters now have fewer abilities but combats are longer thanks to inflated Hp. This led to a lot of repeated actions over and over again.

    5) Can't replicate the kind of fantasy I want from my D&D games. I want enchanters, necromancers, evocation (as in the binding of outsiders, not blasty D&D evocation), powerful curses, evil creatures lurking in the shadows who can drain your life away. Not "it deals 3 damage and grants combat advantage to its allies".

    There are pretty much no enchantment effects in 4E, nor necromancy, nor illusions; at least not in the core rulebooks. When WotC released illusion magic on a web enhancement, it turned out to just be a different kind of attack spell.

    There are just too many fantasy staples that are either completely missing, or are not allowed to the PCs. Undead are abound through the monster manual, and there's plenty of times where they say they're created with "dark magic rituals", but these rituals do not exist. A player cannot slay the wizard that controls the undead ('cause I say they control 'em, as the GM) and grab his spells and learn his secrets (no secrets to learn).

    I could try and add all this stuff back in, but I don't wanna patch it just so it's playable.

    6) Not enough character options. No, I'm not talking about the 3E-legacy of splatbooks (hell, I don't even like most of the 3.5 splatbooks that flooded the market; half the completes are filled with unbalanced, fairly useless, uninspired, or pointless junk, for example; the races books are pretty useless if you don't want goliaths in your world, etc). I'm talking about the core options.

    In 3E based systems, I can make a lot of different characters, and I can make them viable. Even if that's a front-liner rogue who wears mithril chainmail and fights with a longspear, or a dual-wielding paladin of *insert your favorite deity here*. Pathfinder is pretty much perfect for me in this regard, as it has no multiclass restrictions and offers a great cross-classing option for skills; so if I want a Paladin/Ranger who is an expert tracker, alchemist, and criminal investigator, well I can so totally do that.

    4E has no multiclassing. Sorry, but I don't consider spending a feat to get an at-will ability of another class 1/day a multiclassing system. Just doesn't exist as far as I'm concerned. Dual-classing in 1-2E was better and I hated dual classing.

    To make matters worse, there's pretty much only 2 ways to build a character in core 4E. Take Paladins for example. There are really only two kinds of Paladins. Strength paladins and Charisma paladins. It took pretty much no time at all for my group to grow bored with the cookie-cutter options that the core book provides.

    7) Lack of skills and/or out of combat abilities. Maybe my group is just the minority, but y'know, my group is all over skills (even crafting stuff; though we did house rule crafting to be x10 faster), but 4E really has nothing outside of purely adventuring skills; which made it feel very empty, and in play we found ourselves missing a lot of things; including preform and the like.

    Rituals take way too long and cost too much. Skill challenges don't work as written. Most class features are measured in rounds or only have combat utility. Combined with the lack of skills, it makes for a lot missing outside of combat. It all falls down to improvisation at this point ("Hey, I found out our enemy Korlen will be at the Duke's ball this weekend. I say we sneak in as entertainers and spy on him." - "But can we pull it off?" - "I dunno...GM, can I play the Lute?" - "Err, sure that's fine." - "Can I play it really well?" - "Hmmm, I dunno, how well are we talking?" - "Like, I want to play so well that Korlen wants to hire me as his personal musician, then I can spy on his activities from the inside!" - "Err, I'm not sure you're that good." - "Can I try?" - "Yeah...but we don't have anything to go off of. Anyone got any ideas?" - "Err, how about a charisma attack vs his will defense?" - "Ok, just dumb. Maybe a charisma check?" - "But why is it that everyone with a good charisma is also a great musician?" - "I dunno. Ok, yeah, that's a bad idea. Anyone got anything?" - "Not really...").

    8) As I noted to DigitalMage a while earlier in another thread, in 3E based systems, you can practically tell a story through the mechanics (most things are internally consistent, you can see how hot someting is, how hard something is, you can see how something relates to realistic levels vs high levels, etc). If I have a question, or I'm uncertain, I can probably examine the system and see what fits best.

    3E/PF can emulate real life scenarios as easily as it can fantasy ones. This Essay pretty much sums up a bit of the internal consistency I mean. Lava is Lava, no matter what level you're playing at. A chandalier crashing down on you at 1st level isn't less damaging than a chandalier crashing down on you at 6th level (if you're curious as to what I mean, see pg.42 of the 4E DMG).

    4E doesn't even have any sort of system similar to object hardness. In the time it takes you to cast a knock ritual, you could have just punched the damn door down with your hand, since 100 rounds later, you're dealing like 250 average damage for it (with a d4), and it didn't cost you a copper piece; so it's obvious they really didn't put much thought into environments, exploration, or anything like that.

    It felt like my group and I were just improvising on a game of chess. I tried using the mechanics in similar ways that I would with other RPGs I've ran/played (D&D, shadowrun, deadlands, L5R, etc), but it felt more like D&D Chainmail (what the D&D minis game used to be called) with us trying to roleplay between one encounter to the next.

    Too much was missing. The stuff that was there either directly contradicted the roleplaying factor, or didn't support it at all. Characters were mechanically shallow but with too much work (I've got no skills but a plethora of random abilities to keep track of, many of which are only modestly different from one another, and Jamie can't keep his dailies and encounters strait; dear god why can't I just have +3d6 sneak attack, a longspear, and call it a day?). Magic items are all about combat. You're only allowed to use magic items x/day, even if it's a different magic item.

    In short, it didn't/doesn't feel like an RPG to me. Felt like a tabletop miniatures game, as I said. Felt more like playing something like Warhammer with plot in between. Warhammer doesn't have stuff for out-of-combat stuff, and but we could totally roleplay that (and have before), but I wouldn't call Warhammer an RPG (though there is a warhammer RPG).


    Ok, that's pretty much all I feel like for right now. It's very late (or early), so I'm going to take a break. I hope this is enough to begin discussion, DigitalMage. I'll see you later to talk more.

    Take care.

    2 people marked this as a favorite.

    Notice: The following is a combination of mechanical analysis and personal opinions about the mechanics and the directions Paizo Publishing may or may not be heading in. In many cases I will probably sound sarcastic in some of my examples while drawing attention to the mechanical issues surrounding the class. If you're one of the designers, I apologize if it offends you, but I am trying to help. Perhaps enjoy what bits of humor I try to portray, and consider the reasons behind it. This is partially an opinion post as well as a mechanical post.

    Introduction: So we're now playtesting the Gunslinger and by proxy the possibility for new firearm rules in Pathfinder. While some have specified that we are not playtesting firearms, I feel that's perhaps an unintentional lie. When dealing with a class of weaponry so ingrained into the very being of a class, you cannot help but to also playtest and report on the effects of those weapons; because those very weapons will have a significant impact on how the class plays in many facets of the game (within the world, within combat, and within the classes). Because of this, this post will touch on the presented firearms rules frequently and will be considering them as part of the playtest ('cause unless Paizo wants us to actually playtest the class with bows, crossbows, and throwing darts, it's going to have to be).

    The Gunslinger: The Ultimate Combat playtest document describes the gunslinger as a fighter variant in the Role section of the class description; and I too will be comparing them primarily to Fighters, Rangers, Bards, and Rogues for my evaluation.

    Mechanical Breakdown: Looking over the gunslinger, we can see the 'slinger has stats comparable to martial characters (almost mimicing the Fighter completely, barring the swapped Fortitude and Reflex). For mechanical abilities we get an interesting "Grit" mechanic which is similar to a monk's Ki-Pool in its "I got points to spend" system, which is a mixed bag as far as both interest and effectiveness goes. I'll discuss some of these abilities at length.

    Grit: I like the grit system. Much like the monk's ki-pool, or perhaps the rage points from the playtest barbarian, I like having spendable resources that you can regain through rest and/or other methods. Grit seems like a pretty cool mechanic, as it has the the potential to regain quickly under the right circumstances, while also being a very limited resource. At 1st level, it seems unlikely that the gunslinger would be able to support a very high wisdom modifier under the standard ability array due to needing a decent dexterity, at least average strength (while bullets & powder doses are not given a weight (yet), pistols are 4lbs each, muskets 9lbs, light armor is around 20 lbs, etc), and will need a good constitution given the range at which he seems to be designed to fight at.

    My biggest issue with Grit is determining how it's regained.

    1) The first method is confirming critical hits. Guns have a very poor critical chance (but very high damage multiplier) and thus relying on critical hits for refueling your grit is pointless, as you will likely have less than a 1/20 chance of actually recovering grit in this manner (counting the confirmation roll); with improved critical being marginally better.

    2) The second method is reducing enemies to 0 hp or less in combat, which is decent and would make the gunslinger seem really nice when you're fighting multiple worthless enemies (such as a swarm of 3 hp kobolds), since theoretically you'd be getting grit back really fast; but this grit recovery method slows down rapidly versus anything with decent hit points, or anything you're fighting past 3rd level. As-is, the gunslinger is definitely not a damage dealer, and enemy hit points scale far faster than their damage potential at any given level; so we have a mechanic for regaining grit that will get progressively less useful and/or worse as you gain levels. That's a very bad thing. As you gain levels you should become noticeably better than you were before, but instead you will become progressively worse when fighting enemies your level.

    This is similar to my beef with the World of Warcraft decision to make all spells require a % of your "base mana" to cast; and their diminishing returns mechanics for armor and critical chance; which work in that game, but I'd really rather not see it here - especially since even keeping at the cutting edge of equipment (what it's intended to encourage in WoW) won't even work for this.

    3) The third, and probably my least favorite, is the very vague mechanic that basically says be a daredevil and take unneeded risks. Sorry, it may just be me, but I really dislike mechanics that encourage PCs to be reckless. Reckless and brave are two very, very different things. As written, the current mechanic is far too reliant on GM fiat to decide whether something was a daring act, and it encourages the gunslinger to take risks where other alternatives may be present. Every gamer knows someone who would think this means gunslingers should really try to jump a chasm when there's already a bridge there.

    Basically, it's subject to problems because the mechanic will vary wildly in its usefulness from GM to GM, and also encourages the gunslinger to take unneeded risks, which is bad for both himself and the party that he's supposedly a part of.

    This is also another mechanic that gets worse as you level. D&D/Pathfinder characters routinely break the laws of physics and mundane heroism by 5th level; and they get far and far more powerful and skilled as they grow. Again, this means that daring acts become harder to preform as you become more skilled. If you were leave your skills really poor, so as to have a 50% or worse chance of succeeding, you could perhaps qualify for a daring act; but actually becoming better at something will make it progressively more difficult to recover Grit; requiring more and more extreme acts to recover Grit. This can also lead to situations where two gunslingers preforming the exact same act of heroism will and won't get rewarded for it; because if the gunslinger A has a +5 modifier, and Gunslinger B has a +3 modifier, then Gunslinger B could qualify for a point while Gunslinger A doesn't. Too bad Gunslinger A took Skill Focus (Acrobatics) to dive through enemies, guns blazing; it would be better if he stumbled through combat like a moron! That's more daring, right?

    Possible Solution: While it may seem less boring, allowing a gunslinger to regain grit by expending an action, or preforming some particular action could keep a flair and style without leaving the gunslinger's grit regeneration up to chance and GM-Fiat.

    Some ideas include awarding a point of grit each time the gunslinger preforms a successful Intimidate check in combat (to inflict the shaken condition); which would encourage them to keep their skills up. It could also be written so as to function with Dazzling Display to recover large quantities of Grit (since the most grit you will probably able to hold at once is 10; assuming you're wisdom-focused and invested in +5 inherent and +5-6 enhancements).

    You could also give a selection of deeds that don't cost grit, but instead generate them. Minor abilities that you use when you're not using your grit, that also recharge your grit. Similar to preforming a combo. Say a standard action shot that deals weapon damage + 1/2 level * 1d6 damage and awards 1 grit if the attack hits (best case scenario, this would deal about 1d8+27+10d6 or an average of 66.5 damage, which is low damage per round for that level, but you'd get grit and could move). By giving a few standard-action actions that you use when not burning grit, and awarding grit for them; you could create a way to encourage using different abilities and using your grit points for more powerful options (such as save vs stunning, etc).

    This path could potentially mean that while the gunslinger wouldn't be a strait damage dealer (such as archery based fighters), the gunslinger would be more of a skirmisher and/or trick-fighter, surprising foes with mobility and crazy stunts when she decides to use her grit.

    Deeds: Much to my disappointment, most of the deeds that a gunslinger has seem very underwhelming; especially for abilities that require you to spend a resource to use. More annoyingly, a lot of them seem to just be trying to keep guns from being so mechanically horrible. In 3.5, this was akin to the problem with the Soul-Knife; as it could be described as "Her class ability is having a sub-par weapon".

    Leap For Cover: I cannot help but think this would be a cool ability if you didn't have to spend Grit on it. As is, you're wasting a resource for something that will probably hurt you. Ok, so you throw yourself prone for a +4 AC vs ranged attacks in reaction to a ranged attack. Good job. However, the range of your favorite weapon is only around 20-60ft (assuming base, distance, and distance + Far Shot). In the vast majority of encounters, this is going to hurt you more than it helps. You gained a +4 vs the guy that shot at you, but now you've pretty much said "please, whack me a lot" to anyone even close to melee range; since being prone makes it difficult to move, and you have horrible reload times, and you provoke attacks for shooting, and you provoke attacks for standing.

    Likewise, unless you're fighting another gunslinger, the odds of them just shooting at you from a distance greater than your range is pretty good (heck, a sling shooter will beat you on this) and you now making it require more actions to close the distance with you; giving them more time to shoot at you.

    Maybe if this ability allowed you to actually move in reaction, such as gaining the AC bonus (or concealment vs ranged attacks for 1 round) as you were dodge-rolling out of the away would be cool. Doubly so if it allowed you to do so without provoking attacks; or allowing you to avoid the first shot if you were within your base speed to something that provides cover (such as a human with an overturned table within 30ft, or ducking behind the bar as an immediate action) would be much cooler and much more useful.

    As is, this ability is questionable tactically, and it also seems like waste of your interesting Grit resource.

    Deadeye: Now we're getting into my #1 beef with this class. Deadeye is the first of the gunslinger's (many) abilities that, instead of being something unique and awesome, instead revolves around just making a bad weapon average. Deadeye requires you to spend grit to gain the one benefit that guns provide at a reasonable distance.

    Basically, you can spend 1 grit point per 20ft for a pistol, or 40ft for a musket, to make a single shot as a touch attack. Basically, this could be pretty useful against enemies whose AC is so high that you can't hit them; but in most cases it seems like this would be a waste. It could have some uses with Deadly Aim, and perhaps for trying to avoid enemies with reach weapons, but to me it mostly seems like you're trying to make up for the very bad and overpriced weapons you've decided to try and use.

    This is actually one of the more colorful abilities that they receive; but given their abysmal rate of fire, poor damage output, and poor range; it seems more like something to just sink Grit into when you've hit your current cap and think you can generate more.

    Quick-Clear: Even worse than the last one, this ability basically revolves around spending your limited grit to attempt to overcome a huge drawback on an already poor weapon. On any other class, this would read more like this:

    "Perfect Notching (Ex): Spend 1 Awesome Point to load an arrow into your bow and not shoot yourself in the eye with it, or accidentally snap your bow in half for using it for its intended purpose."

    Sorry, why not actually give the gunslinger abilities instead of giving them horrible weapons, then giving them ways to pretend they're real weapons? Why not make an ability that actually does something? If we had revolvers (like the standard 5 shot revolver in the Golarion campaign setting book), you could have quick-load cylinders (pre-loaded rounds that you slid into the gun as a move action) that you could load a swift action. That way you'd "quick-clear" the chambers and then reload the gun in the same motion.

    At least that would seem kind of cool. Salvaging this ability seems a lost cause though, because really this misfire nonsense needs to be dropped from the weapons entirely; instead of wasting class abilities trying to pretend it doesn't exist.

    Pistol Whip: Oh my gross, this ability is so bad. Ok, so I have simple and martial proficiency and thus could be completely comfortable wearing some spiked gauntlets while wielding my guns, but you want me to spend grit AND a standard action to whack something with my gun? For real? I'm trading 1 resource point for a 0 gp club or a greatclub (if a two-handed firearm) which I can only hit with one per round?

    Exactly why am I a gunslinger again? O.o

    Gunslinger Initiative: While I would have liked to see it named something like sixth sense, that's purely semantic and has nothing to do with the class. This ability is pretty nice. A +2 bonus to initiative is a good thing, and it doesn't require us to burn our Grit to take advantage of it (hallelujah!).

    My only problem with this ability is that the quick draw things seem amazingly redundant. It basically says you can begin the initiative with guns drawn if the guns weren't concealed, and you have the Quick-Draw feat. I'm wondering "Why?". The moment your turn comes around, if you have the Quickdraw feat and nonconcealed guns you can draw as many as you can hold as a free action. Seems amazingly redundant. Likewise, drawing them prior to your turn doesn't seem to do much except make them juicy targets for disarming and sundering by those who go before you do.

    This COULD have been a useful feature for a warrior-class that has Combat Reflexes, since it could mean you could be ready to make AoOs before you took your first turn to draw your weapon, but as is it doesn't seem to make any sense mechanically and seems to serve no real purpose. Otherwise seems fine; though perhaps making it equal to 2 + Grit would make it nicer.

    Covering Shot: This is kind of a cool ability. Immediate action to entangle a foe that you just missed; but you can't choose to miss. This seems kind of odd to me, since it's impossible to intentionally provide cover fire, which doesn't make any sense in my head. When I think of cover-fire, I think of people firing shots just to keep something pinned down, not trying to shoot them and then failing and making them have trouble moving.

    Besides the odd mechanics, I suppose this isn't terrible. Seems like it's a bit underpowered. You have to expend grit, an immediate action, and you have to miss (deal no damage), and thus the worse you are at shooting the better this ability could conceivably be. You can't do it when you'd want to, which severely cuts down the usefulness of this ability.

    I guess this might seem like a nice option if you miss an opponent, as something of a consolation, but it just rubs me the wrong way. It doesn't seem terribly useful, and again it seems to encourage not being good; since as your base attack rises (at the fastest rate in the game) you will be able to provide "cover fire" less and less often; and that just seems bogus.

    Not to sound like a revolver fan, but really I'd prefer seeing a weapon that you could rapid-fire or "fan" to provide an Area of Effect debuff that required a Reflex save (DC 10 + 1/2 'slinger level + dexterity modifier) or become Entangled; or perhaps forcing those in the area to act as though they were in rough terrain for 1 round; regardless of their actual terrain.

    In either case it seems it would be better for emulating the "You go on, I'll cover you" feel this seems to be going for, while also making more sense mechanically; I think.

    Targeting: I have to say that almost all called shot systems are bad-news. This is the exception. I actually like the basis of this system, as it is mild and doesn't seem abusive (and doesn't involve blowing off limbs and/or killing things outright).

    I do think that some of the effects are a bit too good. A combat maneuver check would probably be in order; since as-is, the ability to force people to drop their weapons and shields for hitting them with no way to resist it is hugely overpowered. You will definitely piss off the guy who invested in Improved Disarm.

    I'm also inclined to think that the increased threat range should probably be for the "head shot", instead of the torso (even my 12 yo brother thought that made no sense). Sure, one can argue that you have all your important organs bound up nicely in your torso; but as my 12 yo brother said, "well a headshot shuts down all those organs". Likewise, people associated firearms + "headshot" with "Holy crap, ouch, damage!", not "I shall wander confused for 1 round". Really the 1 round confusion feels really random, and seems to be implying brain damage in a nonsensical way.

    Like with the disarming, the instantly knocking prone thing also seems like it should require a combat maneuver check. As it is, it will instantly knock everything from a pixie to a great gold wyrm to the ground with a single shot, no sweat or way to resist it. This can be excessively abusive if you have multiple gunslingers to "stun-lock" a single enemy.

    Otherwise, I think as far as called shots go, this is at least not terrible.

    Bleeding Wound: I support this ability. This one is pretty cool, and useful. I'm not sure that it should cause strength or dexterity bleed (if it will, I think Deadly Stroke should be revised, because it's much harder to actually preform and should allow for the same), but this is a cool ability. No complaints here, honestly.

    Utility Shots: These come way too late, and most of them are just bad. Seriously, you don't get access to these until 11th level; so while other characters are doing things meaningful, you're just starting to learn how to do things that you realistically should have been doing around level 1-4 (since many of these "utility shots" are entirely mundane).

    Blast Lock: What the heck man? This ability is horrible. Did you seriously have to wait 'till 11th level to try shooting a lock off of a door? Gross. Worst yet, if you fail at shooting off the lock, the party's rogue is going to be annoyed because you just increased the DC to open it by 10, and apparently made the door sturdier too! Wow, good job Sure-shot! Meanwhile, we could have just let the fighter cut the damn thing off with his adamantine dagger, or let the 11th level wizard sneeze out a knock spell.

    Shoot Unattended Object: Ok, we've struggled to 11th level to be able to shoot a can 15ft away from us without breaking it. Woopti-do! While your party's fighter is doing something useful like destroying wyverns in a single round or carving a tunnel through a granite mountain with an adamantine longsword, and your wizard friend is teleporting and turning people into granite to be carved through by your fighter's adamantine longsword, you're doing more tricks that really belong in the 1st-4th level range. "Hey, I can kind of do this non-magic mage-hand thing; except I can push the item away from us; so I can't do anything cool like grab keys or bring something to me, and it's a very short range, and if I roll a 1 I break my gun and also break the tiny object. Don't I have such a cool legendary ability?"

    Stop Bleeding: Oh my dangit, the gross abilities just don't stop coming. Why is this an 11th level ability? A standard action, 11 gp worth of ammo, the need to reload you gun, and all to end a condition that could have been stopped with a DC 15 heal check or casting cure light wounds on someone? Really? REALLY!? *sighs*

    Let's not even get into the poor wording of the ability...actually, no, let's do just that. As written, it seems that you shoot the target, except you don't shoot the target, and you press the barrel against their wound, but you don't. Is this a touch-range effect? Why does it say the bullet doesn't damage the target; are you actually shooting them? What's going on here?

    Startling Shot: This ability isn't terrible. Again it seems to reward people missing in combat, which seems odd; but just looking at its effect I guess it's alright if you have a rogue in your party; but this punishing people for having a good armor class and/or evasive abilities seems backwards. Really, I think it should be on a successful hit; 'cause why would being "not-hit" be any more startling or upsetting to your combat routine than actually being shot? Not buying it.

    Expert Loading: Yay, the abilities get worse and worse. We now have your 15th level ability that says "I still have a sucky weapon, and I'm still tryng to pretend I don't". Instead of actually getting a real ability, you're getting an ability that lets you spend your limited resources to stop your multi-million dollar weapon from blowing itself up every 1/20 times you shoot it. Hurray. *barf*

    Stunning Shot: What an amazing near-capstone. You can spend a resource on something you normally would gain a resource on to inflict the stunned condition on a foe that isn't immune to critical hits and all that. That seems amazingly similar to Stunning Fist and Stunning Critical except both less reliable and less impressive.

    Deadly Shot: Perhaps the only ability of the gunslinger that's actually worth something that I can tell is Deadly Shot. I'm a bit annoyed that the design team decided to remove most save or die effects from the game, such as slay living, finger of death, and wail of the banshee for all intents and purposes (when those effects were fine) and then offer something like this. Ok, so each time I get a critical hit, I can spend a grit point and force a saving throw with a likely DC of around 30 or kill the target outright; wow, super-awesome-sauce.

    And it's a death effect no less; so strangely deathward provides a +4 save bonus against it and it also prevents resurrection. That's odd; exactly why does shooting someone with a mundane bullet prevent raise dead from working on them?

    I really hope you plan to bring back stuff like finger of death and wail of the banshee as save or die effects when this gets published, because that's twisted guys. Those spells, which target the most buff-able saving throw in the game (fortitude), and which are easily countered by mid-levels, deal less damage than a fighter's full-attack routine in a single round, and they're subject to spell resistance and the like, were supposedly nerfed because SoDs are too powerful and/or nasty; but we're giving the Gunslinger a DC 30 nonmagical save or die death effect on every critical hit she lands?

    Compare to the bard's capstone death song?

    Gun Training: More abilities that just try to make guns suck a little less than they do. This post is getting really long, and you may be able to tell I'm getting progressively less interested in these repeating themes of "my weapon doesn't suck, honest! Really, I can be cool!" abilities.

    True Grit: This would be interesting if there was something worth using grit on besides Deadly Shot. Uninteresting and mechanically "meh".

    I think we need to go back to the drawing board guys.

    Next Post
    My next post will be a breakdown of the Gunslinger vs core classes, and an in-depth look at the firearm mechanics, pricing, and how they affect the gunslinger.

    EDIT: I wanted to apologize if the post sounds a bit mean spirited or overly sarcastic. I was going through each ability and writing it up and describing it during my review, and I was becoming progressively less enchanted by the class and more and more critical of it. Since I know the designers do read these boards, I apologize if I came off as harsh. It wasn't my intention; so sorry if I was knocking your mechanics too fiercely.

    I'm writing up a group of NPCs, and one of the NPCs is a druid. Now, the druid is CR 1/2, nothing difficult. However, as part of their class features, they of course get an animal companion off the selected list.

    In 3E, summoned monsters, familiars, and animal companions were considered part of a character's class features, and thus were not considered individual creatures for the purposes of determining experience awarded. I've found no guidelines within the Pathfinder rules to suggest how Pathfinder handles this sort of thing.

    Should I evaluate the CR of the animal companion, or just treat it as part of the druid NPC?

    I realize there are benefits and drawbacks to both methods, and reasons for going with either option, but I wanted to see if I could get some official word on it before I finish writing my adventure stuff.

    What's everyone else's take on this?

    I posted all this in the above post but it doesn't show up. I figure it was too big, so it's re-posted here.

    Campaign Overview
    Our campaign begins on the borderlands between Omas Kingdom, and the Rai'clan principalities, in a town known as Cinderland, on the edges of the great forest connecting the Principalities to the Omas Kingdom. Our heroes have found themselves within Cinderland as a result of their personal travels and their own unique destinies. Some may know each other from recent meetings.
    You and another player may merge your backgrounds as you each desire if you'd like to create a deeper reason to adventure together.

    Common Knowledge
    Omas Kingdom: The Kingdom of Omas is a massive country that is governed by a noble cast, royal family, and a loosely knit order of powerful Templar know as the Knights of Omas. The Kingdom itself consists of a dotting of small communities across the realm, with the massive Omas City at the heart of the country.

    Characters from Omas begin with the knowledge that Omas City, and thus the kingdom that rose from it, was built on the sight of the great Paladin Omas's death, where he was killed by the death-throes of a great fiend during the Demon Wars.

    Rai'clan: The Rai'clan principalities are a congregation of mountain states ruled by dwarven royalty known as Mountain Princes. Their mountains and hill-land homes merge with a vast forest known as the sea of timbers, for the forest stretches for countless miles across the entire continent and throughout the borders of the nations.

    The Great Forest/Sea of Timbers: The forest is the largest source of lumber for most people, with several druid orders preventing deforestation with use of their powerful magics; which prevent the forest from ever dwindling - for as fast as it can be cut back it grows up again.

    Adventurers/Explorers: The world of Alvena has been destroyed a few times due to calamities, but most people only remember or have accurate documents up to the Demon Wars which occurred roughly one thousand years ago, but the effects still linger in the modern day. Magic and other secrets once common to the old world have been lost to time and war. Because of this, there are countless treasures scattered across the dark places of the world. "Adventurer" is a respected but dangerous profession in Alvena, and few are bold enough to attempt it before long. Most would be seen as explorers or archaeologists by the common people, and "adventurer" is just a slang term for such people.

    Scene Introduction
    It's raining today...just like it's rained for the past five or seven days. I've lost count at this point. I remember sometime last week the sun was out, but it's been a while. Just the constant hum and shimmering sound of the rain popping off the slated rooftops of the village and pattering across the surface of shin-deep puddles along the pathways. It's like this every year, like clockwork the rains come; called by the voice of the mysterious keepers of the great forest no doubt.

    Normally, I like the rain, but it makes burying people all the more difficult, and we've had so many to bury. It seems that a clan of hobgoblins within the great forest have saw fit to toy with our little village of Cinderland. I guess I should be thankful for the rain though, 'cause without it our town would probably already be burned to the cinders by the goblin warbands. The irony of a name.

    I guess I'll sit on this here front porch of this old tavern, and I'll watch them put Jackson, Baker, and Jael in the ground today too; if the boxes don't float. I can still see them digging out there on the hill despite the rain. One my wonder why one such as I would care, but I've known these people since we arrived here a year ago to study the local herbs, and I've come to like them a lot. But there's nothing we can do against those hobgoblins. Best the master and I go ahead and skip town soon, before we end up in a pine box. Mmmm, but I think I'll go see if the cook has some creme out for me inside the tavern...huh? What are they looking at?

    As each of your trudge up the stairway from the muddy road in search of the warm and inviting smell of butter basted honey rolls, you cannot help but notice a small fuzzy black cat laying on the railing of inn's porch, flicking its tail and staring into the distance through the rain. As you made your way up, the cat looks at each of you and then hops off the railing and into a nearby window. The sign above the door of the inn says "Owl's Nest".

    Feel free to post your descriptions and introductions. The inn is fairly empty with no more than five or six people around the tables, and one woman with black hair, a deep red cloak, and strange indigo markings on her cheeks and around her eyes in the shape of a tribal tattoo. An old man is tending the bar on this very rainy day.

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    Introduction: After some conversation on another thread, I realized a lot of people have some misconceptions about what it means to optimize a character.

    More concerning is that a number of players seem to think that you're supposed to "play the numbers" instead of "play the character" if you're to be a good roleplayer. I openly declare that I do not adhere to this concept, and I don't advise it to anyone else, because it is at its core exceptionally meta-gamey ("Dude, why would the princess talk to you, you have like an 8 charisma") and likewise offers very few options for how you play or tell a story about your characters ("So how do I have to act if I have a 11 Charisma?"). To me, this is the antithesis of roleplaying, more-so than "I kick in the door, roll to attack" because it's metagaming that tries to call itself role-playing.

    Instead, I adhere to the idea that the system is designed to fit your roleplaying, not so your roleplaying must fit the system. With 3.x right up to Pathfinder, our game has slowly been evolving to a more robust and rich system which can give us an almost unlimited variety of options and ways to describe our characters in vivid detail through the games mechanics. Where a character who grew up living off the land can do so, while still being capable in the action portions of the game. This is a wonderful, wonderful thing for roleplayers. With Pathfinder, the options are even more broad thanks to the revised skill system, allowing us to make richer - more detailed - characters without handicapping them in other areas.

    Practical Optimization
    The goal of practical optimization is to make sure that your character is solid in game terms, functions well in-game, and is built for survival and success. If you want to make a summoner and thus take Augment Summoning then you have optimized a portion of your character to better be represented in game terms. In this case, we wanted him to be a great summoner and we took a mechanical option to do that.

    Some mistake optimization for the idea that you must optimize only your combat statistics, as though combat was the only portion of the game. Likewise, some seem to think that to optimize for combat, often just for damage out put. This is often a bad idea, since "glass cannons" tend to die or be rendered obsolete quickly. Likewise, it might be alright to optimize just your combat statistics if that's what you desire and can rely on your friends for other activities, but it can leave you with little to do during much of the game (and you could be using your skills to aid the other players as well).

    Optimization implies that we want to get what we can from the mechanics in the most efficient way possible. Mechanics aren't roleplaying, they're just one of the tools we use to enjoy the game and describe our characters and stories in the game world. So, optimization doesn't always mean "I need an 18" but it does mean being efficient.

    Why Optimize?
    D&D and Pathfinder games by their very theme are supposed to be dangerous adventures full of challenges. Adventuring is a dangerous job and those who lack the grit and will to do it often end up as the story of the adventurers who never returned. Likewise, D&D is a team game, and ultimately we don't want to be a drag on our team; we want to help, not hinder. If you're a resource sink, constantly getting dropped/dominated/invalidated, or have to rely on your friends to do the job you were meaning to do, then it usually doesn't feel very nice for the would-be hero and his companions.

    By optimizing a character's mechanics, you can improve the likelihood of them lasting through the campaign, and be more useful to your teammates. Good optimizers can often take odd character concepts (such bard who fights with a greatsword) and make it work without hindering you in the game-play portion. In short, optimizers make the system work for their idea of how they want to roleplay.

    An Example of Practical Optimization
    For our example of practical optimization, we're going to use Mr. Sigfried. Sigfried has made an appearance in two threads now, and has gotten some very positive feedback. Sigfried is a fighter who's going to be a dashing handsome sort of hero who can woo the fair maiden, talk his way out of trouble, and tell when someone's pulling his leg. Sigfried also has to protect his other three friends (the wizard, the rogue, and the cleric) so he's gotta be a tough hombre who can hold his own in a fight and not keel over in a stiff wind.

    The hypothetical GM has issued our party 15 point buy to generate the bare-bones of our characters. Now, we know that for Sigfried to have success, he doesn't need to be a one-trick pony. A character that's amazing 10% of the time, but poor 90% of the time, is not built for success. No, he's built for success in his chosen environment.

    We purchase with our points a 14 Strength, 14 Dexterity, 14 Constitution, a 12 Intelligence, a 12 Wisdom, and a 7 charisma. Since Sigfried is human, we toss the +2 into Intelligence, 'cause we want to have some skill points to flesh out Sigfried, and it comes with the added bonus of allowing us to pickup a few combat feats like Combat Expertise or Improved Disarm (if desired).

    Sigfried is a good 15 pb fighter.

    • His 14 strength can eventually reach 30 (+5 from levels, +6 from items, +5 inherent) which will keep his offensive options strong and it's high enough to squeeze an extra +1 damage when wielding a 2 handed weapon, and high enough to carry a solid amount of equipment.
    • His 14 dexterity will keep his ranged offensive options open, and will provide a nice +2 bonus on his reflex saves. Finally, it'll add an extra +2 armor class for Sigfried and allow him to wear a lighter armor, allowing him to carry more equipment with his strength, and finally it's a fairly decent initiative modifier.
    • His 14 constitution grants him an extra 2 hit points per level, and it further buffs his already naturally good fortitude saves. He'll need this on the front-lines.
    • His 14 intelligence broadens his feat opportunities, and gives him more skill points to round out his persona with. The extra skill points can be used to make him a great athlete, learn new languages, and all kinds of things.
    • His 12 wisdom provides a much desired +1 bonus to his Will saves which are hurting as a fighter. It also gives him a mild bonus to several useful skills, including Perception, Sense Motive, and Survival.
    • His 7 charisma is his primary weakness. Charisma doesn't do much for Sigfried. The only thing it does for him is provide a small bonus to a few social skills, and perhaps a bit of extra padding against certain poisons and spells. Sigfried's charisma is a bit low because we just don't need it as much as we need the other scores and we're working on a budget (we don't start out amazing at everything).

    Since Sigfried is our character, we decided he's spent a lot of time in combat training but all that didn't give him much time to socialize, and so he doesn't know how to relate well to others, and can be a bit blunt. By 2nd level, he'll have kicked those bad habits.

    So let's see Sigfried from level 1-5. He's been optimized and a little equipment included (very basic stuff), and he's been using his extra skill points to represent what he's learning as he explores the world.

    1st Level Human Fighter (15 pb)
    Init +2, Senses Perception +2
    AC 18, touch 12, flat-footed 16 (+6 armor, +2 dex)
    Hp 12 (1d10+2)
    Fort +4, Ref +2, Will +3
    Speed 20ft
    Melee Longspear +3 (1d8+3, reach) or Bladed Gauntlet +3 (1d4+2)
    Ranged Sling +3 (1d4+2)
    Str 14, Dex 14, Con 14, Int 14, Wis 12, Cha 7
    BAB +1, CMB +3, CMD 15
    Feats - Iron Will, Power Attack, Cleave
    Skills (6pts) - Climb +6, Handle Animal +2, Knowledge (Dungeoneering) +6, Ride +6, Survival +5, Swim +6; Modifiers -4 check penalty
    Overview: Our fighter (let's call him Sigfried) here at 1st level is a strong and capable fighter who's got a lot going for him as fighter. He's got good saves, he has a balanced combat routine, benefits from a high strength score, gets a solid AC on a budget, has 15 gp left to spend on additional adventuring equipment (possibly including a wooden shield). He's spent most of his time learning how to fight (he is a fighter after-all).

    2nd Level Human Fighter (15 pb)
    Init +2, Senses Perception +2
    AC 18, touch 12, flat-footed 16 (+6 armor, +2 dex)
    Hp 19 (2d10+4)
    Fort +5, Ref +2, Will +3; Bravery +1
    Speed 20ft
    Melee Glaive +4 (1d10+3, reach) or Bladed Gauntlet +4 (1d4+2)
    Ranged Sling +4 (1d4+2)
    Str 14, Dex 14, Con 14, Int 14, Wis 12, Cha 7
    BAB +2, CMB +3, CMD 16
    Feats - Iron Will, Power Attack, Cleave, Point Blank Shot
    Skills (6pts) - Climb +6, Handle Animal +3, Knowledge (Dungeoneering) +6, Ride +6, Survival +5, Swim +6, Diplomacy +0, Bluff +0, Sense Motive +2; Modifiers -3 armor check penalty
    Overview: At 2nd level, Sigfried has already reached an above average ability to tell when people are lying, and likewise is no worse at social interaction than the average person. He has upgraded his chainmail to masterwork chainmail to reduce his check penalties, and also upgraded his longspear to a glaive for an average of a +1 damage increase.

    3rd Level Human Fighter (15 pb)
    Init +2, Senses Perception +2
    AC 19, touch 12, flat-footed 17 (+7 armor, +2 dex)
    Hp 27 (3d10+6)
    Fort +5, Ref +3, Will +4; Bravery +1
    Speed 20 ft
    Melee Mwk Glaive +6 (1d10+3, reach) or Bladed Gauntlet +5 (1d4+2)
    Ranged Sling +5 (1d4+2)
    Str 14, Dex 14, Con 14, Int 14, Wis 12, Cha 7
    BAB +3, CMB +4, CMD 17
    Feats - Iron Will, Power Attack, Cleave, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot
    Skills (6pts) - Climb +7, Handle Animal +4, Knowledge (Dungeoneering) +6, Ride +6, Survival +5, Swim +6, Diplomacy +1, Bluff +1, Sense Motive +3, Linguistics +3; Modifiers -3 armor check penalty
    Overview: At 3rd level, Sigfried has upgraded his armor to masterwork banded mail and a masterwork glaive. He grabs a couple potions of magic weapon and enlarge person in case of emergencies. Meanwhile he learns a new language, and his social skills are the equivalent of someone with a 12 charisma.

    4th Level Human Fighter (15 pb)
    Init +2, Senses Perception +2
    AC 19, touch 12, flat-footed 17 (+7 armor, +2 dex)
    Hp 34 (4d10+8)
    Fort +6, Ref +3, Will +4; Bravery +1
    Speed 20 ft
    Melee Mwk Glaive +8 (1d10+4, reach) or Bladed Gauntlet +7 (1d4+3)
    Ranged Mwk Composite Longbow (+3) +7 (1d8+3) or +4/+4 (1d8+3)
    Str 16 (15), Dex 14, Con 14, Int 14, Wis 12, Cha 7
    BAB +4, CMB +7, CMD 19
    Feats - Iron Will, Power Attack, Cleave, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Rapid Shot
    Skills (6pts) - Climb +8, Handle Animal +5, Knowledge (Dungeoneering) +6, Ride +6, Survival +5, Swim +7, Diplomacy +2, Bluff +2, Sense Motive +4, Linguistics +3; Modifiers -3 armor check penalty
    Overview: At 4th level, Sigfried has increased his strength score at this level, and has upgraded his armor to masterwork banded mail and a masterwork glaive. He grabs a composite bow and a +1 strength magic item (1,000 gp). He takes Rapid Shot to be a competent archer as well. Meanwhile he's reached charisma 14 in terms of social skills, and he's very skilled in sensing motives. He uses his +5 handle animal skill to train oxen (purchased for 15 gp anywhere) to be his war mount and attack animals. He now has animal minions. Finally, his power attack now adds a +6 damage for a -2 penalty.

    5th Level Human Fighter (15 pb)
    Init +2, Senses Perception +2
    AC 20, touch 13, flat-footed 18 (+7 armor, +2 dex, +1 deflection)
    Hp 42 (5d10+10)
    Fort +7, Ref +4, Will +5; Bravery +1
    Speed 20 ft
    Melee +1 Glaive +10 (1d10+7, reach) or Bladed Gauntlet +8 (1d4+3)
    Ranged Mwk Composite Longbow (+3) +8 (1d8+3) or +6/+6 (1d8+3)
    Str 16 (15), Dex 14, Con 14, Int 14, Wis 12, Cha 7
    BAB +5, CMB +8, CMD 20
    Feats - Iron Will, Power Attack, Cleave, Point Blank Shot, Precise Shot, Rapid Shot, Combat Reflexes
    Skills (6pts) - Climb +10, Handle Animal +5, Knowledge (Dungeoneering) +6, Ride +6, Survival +5 Diplomacy +4, Bluff +4, Sense Motive +6, Linguistics +3, Stealth +3, Swim +9; Modifiers -3 armor check penalty
    Overview: At 5th level, Sigfried is doin' a good job as a fighter. He can deal solid damage, and his feat selection allows him to comfortably support both short range and ranged damage. Combat Reflexes allows him to use his glaive to greater effect, and weapon training gives him additional attack and damage. He carries a few oils of magic weapon (or purchased scrolls of such for his allies) to grant his other weapons enhancement bonuses in case of DR enemies. He also purchased a ring of protection and a cloak of resistance. Meanwhile, he's got a +4 bonus to social skills and a +6 bonus to Sense Motive. He also placed one rank into Stealth.

    Summary: We can see that the Fighter's diplomacy and bluff modifiers are always equal to his level -1, which effectively gives him the social graces of someone with no ranks but a +2 charisma every level. Diplomacy and most Bluff DCs don't scale much (Bluff DCs only increase if the NPC has the appropriate ranks, abilities, and are of adequately high levels). He can also take 10 and automatically sense when someone is dominated.

    We've given up no combat utility or ability, and we're dropping an extra rank into some skills now and then to round out our fighter. After we've got a decent mix of skills, we can catch up/max our favorite skills by dropping more than one rank in them per level.

    In short, our Fighter is built for combat while also retaining usefulness outside of combat. He is socially adept. This doesn't include a wide girth of equipment such as masterwork tools, minor +competence bonus items, or continual buffs or similar, since I thought it better to keep it simple. At 7th level, he will take Leadership and acquire a cohort 2 levels lower than himself (at the maximum cohort level) even with his charisma penalty (so the penalty is meaningless). By 20th level, he should easily be able to hit the cap of 25 leadership via some cheap magic items and leadership modifiers).

    We can see that Sigfried is a competent fighter while also succeeding at our goal of making him a dashing hero who can be a capable leader, a good talker, and generally a very deep and rounded character.

    *: The most important thing is Sigfried does in-game what we wanted him to do out of game. We have made the system fit Sigfried. Success!

    For my next post, I would like a volunteer. Post a character you think would be fun (stats aren't needed) and let's try to represent that character in the game mechanics.

    I noticed that the advanced player's guide classes (alchemist, cavalier, witch, etc) are on the d20pfsrd and heard that they would be added to official paizo PRD in the near future.

    That being the case, it means 3PP can use the classes as well, correct? As far as creating NPCs and such goes, anyway.

    Look, there's a lot of stuff that gets discussed and debated around here, and I'm seeing a lot of "Well the GM could" arguments floating around as a fallback when someone discusses something in the context of the game. This is a load of crap.

    When discussing something, such as class balance, unless noted otherwise (such as in a specific type of campaign with specific types of modifications and house rules) we are discussing it based on the guidelines and rules as they are presented.

    So when someone says "Well wizards might not get to use their scribe scroll feat, 'cause a lot of GMs are like that", that someone has just failed at their debate. When you have to bring GM fiat in, or expressly leave the rules and expectations of the system for your argument, you have lost. You are effectively declaring "I forfeit".

    Wanna know why? Here's why. A GM can do pretty much anything, and can take a super dump on any class, race, character, magic item, or archtype he wants to. He could make sure you never find a magic item ever, or even be able to rest (an entire campaign with a fatigued / exhausted party, that rat-basslard). He could make sure every enemy you ever face is immune to your good spells - or all almost all of your spells (gotta lurv dem golems). The GM could make sure you never have time to craft items, buy items, find items, or do anything.

    But, the fact is, there's a lot of really, realy, REALLY BAD GMs. When the crux of your argument relies on having a bad GM who robs players of their options, then your argument has already failed.

    I'm just so sick and tired of these "not all GMs play by the rules" arguments, because if they're not playing using the rules then they have no business in a comparison or rules debate.


    4 people marked this as a favorite.

    So I'm sitting on OpenRPG and writing, when a few of my players get online and start chatting. I'm running a persistent world, and one of them has had their first character get captured by a mini-BBEG in a 2nd-3rd level adventure. So he has rolled up a monk and decided he wanted to go on a short adventure with a few of the others. So we got a barbarian, a monk, and an archer of sorts.

    So I didn't have anything planned, so I let them decide what they wanted to tackle, out of a list. Wilderness, kobolds, orcs, exploration, etc. One of them, who only knew kobolds from 4E said "Kobolds! We'll hunt the kobolds!"

    Anyone here feel compelled to grin/facepalm/snicker just a little bit?

    NOTICE: Let me go ahead and note that my players and everyone in this persistent world begins with an exceptionally good bonus to their starting hit points, 'cause we don't play around. We're playing Pathfinder and you get double your starting HD before applying con, so wizards get 12 + Con, Rogues 16 + Con, Fighters 20 + Con, and Barbarians 24 + Con. Keep this in mind.

    So my buddy Felix - who was sitting out - said "Hah, you're all gonna die.", and when the leader of the little raid (the 4E guy) asked why, my buddy Felix noted that the kobolds are terrifying little guys, and said he would watch.

    So the adventure was soon underway. A coal mine which had dug into some kobold tunnels and had miners go missing. Simple and sweet. The mine owner, Mr. Sigfried Vandercleft mentioned that they hadn't dared explore the tunnels they dug into after the men went missing, but they found tracks. Offering a thousand silver pieces (100 gp) to whomever could go inside and make certain the kobolds were driven away, the party was off.

    Man they weren't getting paid enough...

    So they make it a little ways into the tunnels, and it's cramped and pitch dark. The ceiling's only 6ft high off the floor, and the walls around barely spaced enough to walk through in some places. They're entering into the kobold lair to hunt these kobolds. So they find an odd trap (which was fairly obvious) which was a bunch of thick wire cords attached to pitons in the walls creating a lattice-work of 4-5 inch wide square holes. The trap wasn't damaging in the least, but made movement in a pain in the butt (unless you were small then you had to make balance checks to navigate through the holes without falling down or getting entangled). Essentially, it would be fun if the kobolds ended up chasing them through room 1.

    So they've seen no kobolds after coming through the trap, laughing at the trap's lack of effectiveness. They come to two tunnels and take the right tunnel. One of them has a bull's eye lantern and spots four kobolds about 50ft down a narrow 5ft wide tunnel, taking cover behind an overturned barrel which was about as tall/wide as a dwarf. Each of them were wielding little crossbows. So the barbarian who's the first to see them breaks into a charge!

    Mistake #2 (The first was going into a kobold den)
    The barbarian makes it about 20 feet from the kobolds and the floor collapses out from under her. Sneaky little buggers. So not only does she take 2d6 points of falling damage, but she then has to make a reflex save to avoid this barrel (they're pushing) on its way down the pit. So then the barrel hits the bottom of the pit and bursts open, filling the pit with oil. Kobold #4 tosses a flask of oil + fire. Barbarian BBQ!

    So the hallway fills with smoke and the barbarian begins climbing out of the pit as fast as she can WHILE ON FIRE, and slips and slides a couple times due to a bit of dice troubles. So then the party's archer fires at the kobolds and misses, so they all scurry into little tunnels they have to crawl into (a halfling or gnome could fit in them too, but...), escaping the party. So they have to rescue the Barbarian who's climbing out of a 20ft pit WHILE ON FIRE, narrowly managing to douse her at 2 HP (remember that thing about the HP?).

    So they abandon going down tunnel #1, and the barbarian says she cannot go on without some rest. So the monk who took no damage decides he's going to explore the left path, while the archer looks after the barbarian in room #1. So the monk gets shot out from at one of those little holes in the walls the kobolds were moving through, and deftly dodges the bolt, and feels pretty confident, and keeps going. SWOOSH!

    So he finds pit trap #2 and takes 10 points of falling damage, and fails the acrobatics check to lessen it on the way down. So he stands up, realizes a sense of deja vu, and then dodges the barrel on the way down. Splatter! and of course, here comes the fire. VOOSH!

    So is slammed by like 6 fire damage, and he leaps to the walls and starts scrambling up. He has to clear 20ft in 1 round, and he's moving at 1/2 his speed, and that's with a -5 penalty to move faster. So he biffs his first check out of 2, and so he burns an Action Point* to try again, and manages to roll amazingly on both, but then at the top of the pit he is burned for more damage, dropping him to 0 Hp. Realizing trying to douse himself would drop him to -1, and not dousing himself was going to continue his fire damage, he runs down the hallway as fast as he can calling his friends for help and makes it to within their LoS as he succumbs to the -1 HP followed by more fire damage. He is rescued with a waterskin and dragged out to safety.

    "Maybe we should try goblins next time." he remarks.

    Final Tally: Two CR 1 pit traps. 4 CR 1/4 Kobolds. Two barrels of expendable oil in a 10ft radius (part of the kobolds' NPC gear, filed under expendables).

    The players did get a good bit of experience for causing the kobolds to flee the first encounter, and for surviving traps.

    Action Point*: My group uses Action Points. Every PC has one at 1st level, and gains an additional action point every 5 levels (5th, 10th, 15th, and 20th). By burning an action point, you get another action (standard, move, or swift) and refill every 8 hours. I've been using these pre-4E release, for those that are curious. I never liked the Eberron/UA action points 'cause they didn't really make anything more action-y. They just added a random bonus, whereas action points let you preform combos and other rule-defying tricks.

    EDIT: The party's barbarian, while at the bottom of the pit, linked us to this fine image as an example of what was going through her mind at the bottom of the pit.

    1 person marked this as a favorite.

    Having spotted more than a few discussions on low-magic campaigns and their perils, I figured I would try to tip the scales a bit. I feel that with all the excess low-magic threads that the other end of the spectrum (who isn't talking about it much 'cause they're enjoying the medium to high magic side of things instead of trying to "fix" something) isn't really getting much coverage as a play-style.

    For this reason, I decided to toss some ideas out there for everyone considering a standard to high magic campaign. Much of this can be applied to low-magic campaigns as well, with a few specific pieces being mentioned towards the bottom specifically for them.

    What is a High Magic Campaign?
    A high magic campaign has never really be truly defined (to my knowledge), but I see it as a campaign where people accept the existence of magic and the world reacts accordingly. People consult healers when they are sick or wounded, and purchase cantrip level potions of stabilize from the local adept for when little Timmy falls off the barn. Warriors consider they may fight magical creatures or wizards with magical protections, so they might carry an oil of magic weapon with them, or drink a potion of enlarge person to defeat their enemies. You can find colleges or lone wizards and pay them to help you learn spells they've researched, or swap spells with them.

    Magical items exist and they can be powerful. Most people will recognize the basic benefits of a magical blade. Sharper, swifter, and able to pierce the flesh of magical atrocities, even if they don't understand exactly how it works (similar to how a lot of people don't know how their cell-phones work, but you can still use it).

    Most magical items that are relatively cheap (such as 500 gp and under) are likely fairly common and can be purchased at a lot of places. Items like feather tokens, love potions, potions, scrolls, and so forth. They're not consumed by the majority of the populace but they are relatively affordable (see my commentary on economies at the bottom of this post).

    Warlords will consider the effects of spellcasters on the battlefields, and strategies that dominated in real-world warfare such as forming large masses of troops, turtle formations, and shield walls may be used sparingly due to the very real possibility of an enemy using a spell such as fireball or lightning bolt to tear their ranks to pieces, and instead may favor spread out formations similar to those trying to avoid damage from artillery fire. Warlords might even outfit a troop of 50 soldiers with a bag of enchanted bolts (+1 bolts) to shoot flying wizards who like to use spells like protection from arrows.

    This to me is a standard D&D campaign. Magic exists, and people know it, so people use it. That's the way the world works. When people discover something they use it, and it changes the way they look at the world. No everyone is a computer engineer in real life, but professional athletes can use a computer, and computers can help them become better athletes.

    Is Magic Special?
    Magic is always as special as you make it. The cozy potion shop on the edge of town is special, but it's special because of the flavor and delivery, not because it sells potions. If you walk into an alchemist's lab and your GM informs you of the strong scent of cinnamon, lilacs, and boiling herbs, with the thick hazy mist in the air from the brewing concoctions in the back, then you will remember it and it will be special. If he tells you about the relatively young sorceress or adept who is running the shop after her grandmother passed away, who has her hair up in a Varisian scarf, and wearing a half-burnt apron, you will remember it as special. When she says she adds cinnamon and cocoa powder to her potions to make them taste better, you will remember it as special.

    If you go to the nondescript potion shop, subtract 150 gp, and leave with two cure light wounds and a potion of enlarge person, it's not going to feel very special.

    The devil is in the details, as they say. And it's not something that you have to do every time. The group will remember that shop, and it will set the mood for the campaign. You don't have to inform them of everything each time they enter the shop, but letting them know how the shopkeeper is doing today will draw them in. If she happened to burn her hair down short on accident so instead of wearing her usual scarf she has a short pixie-cut with singed edges, she could remark "Like it? I made a miscalculation while trying to brew a potion of fireball in case those goblins came back, but I haven't worked the kinks out of it yet."

    The same is with individual magic items. Players love finding odd quirky magic items around places, such as tokens, the odd bag of tricks, or even a wand of a higher than average spell that only has one or two charges left. Sometimes, special is in the form of odd knick-knacks and baubles.

    Magic items with a brief story and a fair description mean a lot more to players than +1 sword. If the +1 sword is a shimmering blade engraved with ravens and a note saying "To my love Silhandra" on the side of it when the players find it, that sword will be special. Sometimes they may even want to know who it belonged to before they found it, which could make the +1 sword a plot hook!

    That's not to say that every magic item has to be accounted for. Some stand out from one another. There's a difference between a magic item and a "special" item. A special item is one that stands out among what the party is used to seeing. Until middle basic level 7 or heroic level 6, a Pathfinder NPC can't even afford a +1 weapon with their suggested equipment (so it's better to use masterwork weapons with oils), so running into magic gear left and right isn't that common until medium-high levels. Even then, such basic weapons aren't what stands out.

    Items with unique abilities are more likely to be seen as special. The designers of 4th edition realized this and added special abilities to magic weapons instead of simple numbers, but even those items can become boring if you treat them boringly.

    For example, I created a +1 shocking short sword called "Arclight" for a game I was running for a while. A few times per day the blade could transform into an arc of lightning and be used to make an electrical touch-attack. Mechanically it was similar to shocking grasp but you could benefit from weapon feats while wielding it (such as weapon focus). The sword was created by a blue dragon from her dead lover's fangs and gifted to an assassin to kill the dragonslayer, and somehow got lost. They were unsure if it was the original arclight or a replica, but they loved that sword.

    Mechanically it was just a +1 shocking shortsword that could deliver a CL 5 shocking grasp 3/day with a command word. Special? You decide.

    Logic and Balance Concerns
    The standard medium to high magic campaigns make several basic assumptions. The most notable has already been covered, but we'll go through them here in detail.
    1) If magic exists, and humans can wield magic, they will use magic.
    2) If magic exists, and they can use it, they will trade it.
    3) If magic exists, and they will trade it, you can buy it.
    4) If monsters exist, and you need magic to fight it, you will try to use it.

    Making sure you have a few staples is key for succeeding in a standard campaign. You'll want some access to some magic weapons, some magic armor, and probably a cloak of resistance at least. Getting a few special enhancements like energy resistance help too, and everything else is mostly gravy. Most of these things can actually be temporary thanks to potions or x/day items as well, which can allow you to get them at bargain prices early on (giving more opportunity for colorful magic items like dusts of disappearance).

    At low levels, wands with daily charges (priced as a 50 charge wand divided by {5 divided by charges per day}), or potions of spells like magic weapon, magic vestment, and similar items are cheap. Heck, a masterwork sword that casts magic weapon on itself for 1 hour with a command word shouldn't cost more than about 660 gold plus the cost of the sword.

    In a game where magic items aren't available or severely restricted (where even minor magic items are more like artifacts), you will run into horrible balance concerns as attack, damage, saving throws, armor class, and so forth simply just won't be high enough to deal with monsters of the appropriate challenge rating - because the standard game assumes the most logical reasoning when it comes to magic item availability.

    More magic weapons and armor doesn't really give as much of an advantage as fewer give a disadvantage. For example, a fighter can only swing around just so many swords before he runs out of hands, but if he lacks a +3 sword and the challenge expects him to have that +3 to hit and damage, it will be sorely missed.

    Other Considerations
    Since magic items can be upgraded for the difference in value, making upgrades available to existing items can cut down on the constant swapping of +1 to +2 and +2 to +3. That same +1 sword with the raven engravings could be enchanted to be a +2 sword, carrying on its legacy, and eventually may become a +5 holy longsword of speed.

    In such cases, treasures such as money, art objects, trade goods, and minor magic items are fine to make the vast majority of your treasure hordes out of, since they will use those to improve their current arms and armor.

    From low to high magic, items that get better with their wearer can be fun additions to the game and can help the GM set the pace a bit better without worrying about keeping track of magic items. This would be like the items in Diablo or World of Warcraft that get stronger as you level.

    A basic rule of thumb with such items is to advance their basic enhancement bonus by +1 at 4th, 8th, 12th, 16th, and 20th level, so a character who picked up this amazing weapon or armor would find it equivalent to a piece of masterwork gear from level 1-3, and up to a +5 weapon at 20th. You can then add special abilities to the weapon, or let players enhance them themselves; but it'll keep their stats firmly in line.

    Pricing such items is tricky, but I would consider the following guidelines. Such items should cost about about 50% more than an equivalent weapon or armor, and likewise shouldn't be able to support more special abilities than its current enhancement bonus (thus a +1 sword could only have a +1 enhancement added to it, while a +4 sword could be a +4 dragon-bane sword of speed). If wielded by a character who doesn't meet the level requirement for the weapon's abilities, it would revert to the weakest version usable by the current wielder.

    Such items would be worth 50% more than their normal counterparts, so a weapon would be about 3,000 gp plus the cost of the masterwork weapon (the cost of a +1 weapon with a 50% increase in price), and you would have to enhance them with special abilities as you go (with the same 50% increase in cost). For simplicity's sake, you could have such items bind to their wielder, preventing the paperwork of swapping such items (this also defeats the "PC died, party gets rich" problem some experience).

    You could give indicated increases at specific levels in the game for campaigns with exceptionally low emphasis on equipment.

    In closing...
    I hope this post is found to be helpful to someone.

    EDIT: I forgot to add the economy commentary I promised.
    D&D Economics
    While many things contradict each other in the D&D rulebooks (and occasionally in Pathfinder too), one of the most famous contradictions is the flow of D&D money. In 3.5 there was a source that said most untrained laborer NPCs make a few silver a day or 3 silver per week, and live self-sufficiently to survive, but let's take a look at this in how the in-game physics deal with this.

    Due to the way the craft and profession skills work, most people should bring in an average of about 5 gold pieces per week by taking 10 on untrained craft or profession checks. Likewise, people in rural communities should have little trouble foraging and hunting some food with survival (DC 10 + 2 per person in a fair environment), and will likely grow their own crops and craft their own food, and even build their own houses out of necessity.

    If you have a family, with one member preforming a working job, pulling in 5 gp worth of money, while the rest of the family is using craft to sew and patch clothes when possible, grow trade goods such as food and livestock, and then pay taxes out of that, it's not too bad really. The average family can afford to go to the local alchemist and purchase a vial of anti-toxin in case one of the children steps on a snake.

    Such families will generally have spending money as well, and could enjoy a night at a tavern once in a while. They're not completely destitute.

    Now those that are completely destitute might be street urchins (like the iconic elven rogue) who grows up poor and orphaned, with no one to take care of them, and some can't pay taxes or afford rent, for a variety of reasons.

    But the average person isn't so broke as to be unable to buy food, clothing, or the like, and can indeed afford a potion or oil as an insurance for a rainy day, or a community can afford to pay a druid for a plant growth spell.

    Money from profession and craft is an abstraction. A farmer might make a series of profession checks over a course of a season, totaling his weeks results over a period of time, for example. The gold piece value doesn't actually have to be gold pieces out of thin air. It could be in the form of trade goods like spices, cloth, oxen, cows, pigs, sheep, and so forth.

    Again, like with magic items, the rules are there for the game. The game is what you make of it.

    34 people marked this as FAQ candidate. Answered in the FAQ. 1 person marked this as a favorite.

    This subject got started in this thread, and to avoid derailing that thread further (and to remain more organized on the discussion, including having a comprehensive post for the FAQ questionnaire) I have made this post.

    The Subject
    In the Magic section of the Pathfinder Core Rulebook and the PRD, it explains the consequences of being injured while casting a spell, which has been reprinted here for convenience:

    PRD wrote:
    Injury: If you take damage while trying to cast a spell, you must make a concentration check with a DC equal to 10 + the damage taken + the level of the spell you're casting. If you fail the check, you lose the spell without effect. The interrupting event strikes during spellcasting if it comes between the time you started and the time you complete a spell (for a spell with a casting time of 1 full round or more) or if it comes in response to your casting the spell (such as an attack of opportunity provoked by the spell or a contingent attack, such as a readied action).

    There are two interpretations to this rule that were being debated.

    1: This interpretation says that you make concentration checks against the damage you have taken while casting the spell, and thus the DC for concentrating become progressively harder as you are hit by multiple attacks.

    2: This interpretation says each time you take damage you make an individual concentration check against a completely new save DC each time you take damage while casting a spell, regardless of how many times you are hit.

    The Evidence
    The first interpretation exists based on the following evidence. For convenience, the rule shall be quoted again, and in bold to draw attention to the way it is written.

    PRD wrote:
    Injury: If you take damage while trying to cast a spell, you must make a concentration check with a DC equal to 10 + the damage taken + the level of the spell you're casting. If you fail the check, you lose the spell without effect. The interrupting event strikes during spellcasting if it comes between the time you started and the time you complete a spell (for a spell with a casting time of 1 full round or more) or if it comes in response to your casting the spell (such as an attack of opportunity provoked by the spell or a contingent attack, such as a readied action).

    We can see here that it specifies damage as "damage while trying to cast", then specifies "damage taken", and then notes that the event continues "during the spellcasting if it comes between the time you started and the time you complete a spell".

    This would mean that the "damage" is the damage while casting the spell, and applies until the spell has been completed. As such, subsequent attacks trigger additional checks, but likewise are made at subsequently higher save DCs.

    Example: Three 1st level warriors have readied actions to shoot a rogue wizard with their shortbows if he casts a spell. The wizard begins casting summon monster III (a 3rd level spell) so the base DC is 13. Each archer takes their readied shot and scores a hit, dealing 3 damage each, and forcing three Concentration checks in a row. Since "damage" has been defined as damage taken while casting the spell, and the DC is set by "damage taken", the wizard's save DC increases by 3 for each successive attack; resulting in DC 16, 19, 22 in that order. A 5th level wizard with a +4 intelligence bonus would succeed on a roll of 7, 10, and 13.

    The result is getting struck repeatedly is worse than being struck once while casting a spell; thus ganging up on a wizard can make it difficult for him to cast spells, even if the wizard would normally risk no chance of failure from the individual damage.

    Notes: I submit that this is the correct reading of the rules for the following reason. It does not require you to add definitions not defined in the text to make it work (the text defines damage, and defines when the damage resolves), it seems the most logical (getting repeatedly hit should make it harder to cast), and makes Concentration less trivial and encourages teamwork (both to attack and defend casters).

    The second interpretation is based on the idea that making a concentration check is a singular event that is limited to the attack form (be it an attack, spell, or other) that triggered the Concentration check, and thus is irrelevant how many times you are struck, only the individual damage of the strike matters.

    The only evidence for this that was presented to me was how continuous damage effects (such as acid arrow) are treated, as described in the next paragraph. However, the rule for dealing with continuous damage is a different rule, and has different functions, and therefor is specified to work differently. Otherwise it would be declared in the first rule as only counting half continuous damage effects rather than specifying a separate rule.

    Example: Three 1st level warriors have readied actions to shoot a rogue wizard with their shortbows if he casts a spell. The wizard begins casting summon monster III (a 3rd level spell) so the base DC is 13. Each archer takes their readied shot and scores a hit, dealing 3 damage each, and forcing three Concentration checks in a row.
    Since the damages are individual, the wizard makes each check irrelevant of the previous hit, so the DC is only 16 for each of them. A 5th level wizard with a +4 intelligence modifier would succeed on a roll of 7, 7, and 7.

    Notes: I submit that this interpretation is flawed. Firstly it must ignore the definition the rule provides for damage (damage taken while casting), requires you to read the previously defined "damage taken" as "damage caused by the attack", and ignores the end condition (the end of casting). Likewise, this interpretation of the rule makes little sense as getting hit by 10 arrows while casting is no more difficult to ignore than being hit with 1 arrow. Finally, it makes only the heaviest damage attacks threaten to interrupt spells; something that was noted as a common problem in 3.5.

    So I was writing up some NPCs recently, both humanoid NPCs with NPC levels and a few monsters with npc levels, and I noticed something rather odd, and it's been bouncing around in my head for a bit.

    The "Creating NPCs" section says nonheroic NPCs have equipment values one level lower than their heroic counterparts.

    The "Gamemastering" section says npc classed characters have a CR equal to their level -2.

    The monster advancement section says monstrous NPCs with class levels have equipment equal to an NPC of their CR and that NPC classes are never considered key classes and thus every 2 levels adds +1 to their CR.

    So some weird things occur. The most obvious is a standard NPC classed character has too much treasure for the CR indicated in the gamemastering section. A full level's worth of CR too much.

    However, what gets really freaky is when you start comparing some standard humanoid NPCs to NPCs with racial hit dice. Let's look at a 20th level human warrior versus a 20th level gnoll warrior.

    The 20th level human warrior is CR 18 with gear equivalent to a CR 19 human fighter.
    The 20th level gnoll warrior (2 racial HD and 18 levels of warrior) is only about CR 10 with gear equivalent to a 10th level warrior.

    Now, running the numbers a bit, I found that the CR 10 gnoll is actually more accurate as far as the monster creation guidelines go for determining the NPC's CR. It has HP, attacks, damage, saves, and so forth similar to those of a CR 10 creature; including equipment.

    Assuming all his ability increases went into Strength, and he purchased a +1 strength item and a +1 constitution item, a cloak of resistance +1, +1 full plate armor, takes Power Attack, and wields a +1 greatsword, the gnoll has the following basic statistics.

    Gnoll Warlord (CR 10)
    Initiative: +4
    HP: 168 (2d8+4+18d10+36+20)
    AC: 21 (+10 armor, +1 natural), touch 10, flat 21
    Fort: +18 Ref: +9 Will: +9
    Speed: 20ft
    +1 Greatsword: +21/+16/+11/+6 (2d6+23, 18-20/x2) (average damage of 32 damage per hit with a 55% chance to hit AC 31)
    Feats: Power Attack, Weapon Focus, Toughness, Improved Critical, Improved Initiative, Iron Will, Lightning Reflexes, Vital Strike, Improved Vital Strike, Greater Vital Strike

    Looking at this, his HP is a little high for a CR 10 (closer to CR 11) and his attack routine is devastating, but his AC is pretty bad for his CR range and he lacks special attacks, and is kind of slow (but a few potions could fix that). Compared to the likes of the Clay Golem or Adult White Dragon, he seems solidly firm in the CR 10 physical powerhouse.

    The 20th level human warrior is pitiful for his CR with stats that mostly identical to the CR 10 gnoll warrior, except it has more gear. More gear helps a bit, but really it's not enough and also over-gearing NPCs just means when you beat the fair encounter you get an over-abundance of treasure.

    So I'm thinking of using the monster advancement rules for all my NPCs; especially since I use NPC classes far more often than class levels - and have described them as being akin to nonspecific HD in the past.

    Care to comment?

    Order#1316627, placed on December 11th 2009, has not shown up on my order history for my account. The purchase approved, and I have a pdf-print-out of the confirmation page. It also stated that I would be receiving an e-mail to the address used during the purchase detailing the order in full. I've yet to receive such an e-mail. It said it would ship within 3-6 business days, which was 7 days ago.

    I'm not intending to rush, but seeing as it hasn't appeared in my order history and I've yet to receive an e-mail, I'd like to know if there's a way to check up on the order? I know it's the holiday season and everyone is rushed.

    Thanks for any help you can provide.

    This thread is mostly in response to this thread which touches heavily on issues with alignments, positive/negative energy, many creatures including most undead, and the effects of several spells. These are some of the modifications I made to the system in my own games (pre-Pathfinder) and I think they would work very well for the Pathfinder RPG.

    I declare all of this open source and my gift to Paizo for their hard work, and their continuing to impress me on a constant basis (and soon, all of those pathfinder paths, with be mine and with a subscription to boot).

    There are many inconsistencies, contradictions, and problematic troubles with the 3.5 System Reference Document's materials; especially when it pertains to matters such as alignment effects, alignment subtypes (for spells), the effects of some spells which directly make use of these aspects of the game, and finally, the representation of positive and negative energies in the SRD.

    It would seem that the writers responsible for writing 3.5 (including the revisions from 3.0) had differing views on these subjects, and how each interacted with one-another throughout the entire system. They also seem to have made alternations to the 3.0 system which were poorly thought out (which will be discussed in my notes at the end of this post). The goals of this post are simple - 1) To remove some internal conflicts within the core system, 2) to make the system less campaign-specific, and a more fluid system usable for a wider variety of individual games.

    Now let's get started!

    --==Creature Alignment and Subtypes==--
    A mindless creature without an intelligence score always has an alignment of Neutral. Creatures and animate objects without an intelligence score cannot have a moral alignment other than Neutral regardless of their origins. Alter creatures such as Skeletons, Zombies, Lemures, and other mindless creatures' alignments to Neutral.

    If a creature is innately born of a certain alignment such as Lemures which are formed out of raw evil, and are mindless lesser devils, will have the [Evil] creature subtype, effectively making them subject to any effects which rely on alignment (such as spells like Holy Smite, Smite Evil, Holy Word, Protection from Evil and so forth).

    (-Notes-: This is a much more elegant way of dealing with mindless creatures needing alignments to allow them to be affected by certain abilities, and it also cements the idea that such creatures are wholly evil because of their nature.)

    --==Spell Alterations==--
    The following spells should be altered to fit and interact within the system more appropriately.

    Detect Evil
    As per SRD but replace Undead with "Evil Subtype".

    As per the SRD but change the spell name to Positive Energy Well. Alter the bonus on turning checks to affect the channel energy DC for positive energy channeling, and change the type of bonus to +3 competence.

    Optional: Alter the material component to be a pearl worth 25 gold pieces, instead of 25gp holy water.

    As per the SRD but change the spell name to Negative Energy Well. Alter the penalty for turn undead into a +3 competence bonus to the DC of channel negative energy.

    Optional: Alter the material component to be a jet stone worth 25 gold pieces, instead of 25gp unholy water.

    As per SRD but change the modifiers to turn and rebuke undead to instead change the DC for channel positive energy, and channel negative energy respectively, and change the type to competence.

    As per SRD but change the modifiers to turn and rebuke undead to instead change the DC for channel positive energy, and channel negative energy respectively, and change the type to competence.

    Animate Dead
    As per SRD but remove the [Evil] descriptor.
    Add the line "skeletons and zombies continue to preform their last order until completed or until their destruction".

    Optional: Add the following text at the end of animate dead.
    You may create skeletons and zombies with the [Evil] subtype, creating Vile Undead. These undead are stronger than standard skeletons and zombies, having special abilities powered by raw evil power. When uncontrolled, they attack and kill any living thing they come in contact with until control is regained or they are destroyed. If cast in this way, Animate Dead gains the [Evil] spell descriptor.

    --==Clerics and Channel Energy==--
    Give clerics (both good and evil) the option of channeling positive or negative energy (and spontaneously casting cure or inflict spells respectively), regardless of the clerics alignment. This will allow greater customization and options with the class (with offensive warrior clerics of good having access to a new weapon, and giving evil clerics a better option to fight undead or heal allies - as well as give the option for good undead to channel negative energy, and evil undead to channel positive energy to harm other undead).

    --==Optional: Sample Vile Undead==--
    When making vile undead, you really only need to add the [Evil] descriptor to the undead in question; however, some DMs may wish to make particularly nasty undead which have a number of evil resistances or powers. These are slightly more powerful than typical undead of their kind, and may not be suitable for every campaign.

    Vile undead are identical to regular undead, however each has some sort of unholy ability gained through its evil infused existence. Vile Undead is a template that can be added to any undead creature (hereafter referred to as the "base creature").

    Size and Type: Size remains the same. Add [Evil] subtype.
    Special Qualities: The base creature retains any special qualities it had before, and gains the ones listed below.

    Infernal Vigor: The base creature gains +1 hit point per hit dice.
    Violence: The base creature gains a +1 profane bonus on attack and +2 on damage rolls with any natural or manufactured weapon attacks made against good or neutral creatures.
    Abyssal Armor: The base creature gains DR 1/Good for every two hit dice of the base creature (minimum DR of 1/Good).

    CR: As base creature +1
    Level Adjustment: +1

    Sample Vile Undead
    Vile Human Warrior Skeleton
    Size and Type: Medium Undead [Evil]
    Hit Dice: 1d12+1 (7hp)
    Initiative: +5
    Speed: 30ft
    Armor Class: 15 (+1 dex, +2 natural, +2 heavy steel shield), touch 11, flat-footed 14
    Base Attack / CMB: +0/+1
    Attack: Scimitar +2 melee (1d6+3, 18-20/x2) or claw +2 (1d4+3)
    Full Attack: Scimitar +2 melee (1d6+3, 18-20/x2) or 2 claws +2 (1d4+3)
    Space/Reach: 5ft./5ft
    Special Attacks: _
    Special Qualities: Damage reduction 5/bludgeoning, damage reduction 1/good, darkvision 60 ft., immunity to cold, undead traits, violence, infernal vigor
    Saves: Fort +0, Ref +1, Will +2
    Abilities: Str 13, Dex 13, Con Ø, Int Ø, Wis 10, Cha 1
    Feats: Improved Initiative
    Environment: Temperate Plains
    Organization: Any
    Challenge Rating: 1

    OK! That's enough.

    Ok, so here we go. That's more or less the extent of the changes I would suggest, and anything I've written here may be used by anyone anywhere. I've been using these in my games and it really helps things a lot. If I wish to run a game where morality is black and white, or undead are all inherently evil, I simply use [Evil] versions of them. However, the standard is neutral, and thus open to far more options.

    Hope this is enjoyed by someone.
    More work to come, perhaps.

    Peace out, Game on.

    Ok, this is something I was explaining to a friend of mine a while back, who was looking in the 3E PHBs, and mentioning that the Fighter was obviously one of the best classes ever, if not the best because they got all kinds of bonus feats to make the perfect warrior, and really only needed strength and constitution to be effective. Obviously everyone here probably knows that's incorrect; but it does pertain to the subject of this post.

    The Issue - Feats are designed to give characters options, cool abilities, and flesh out a character concept. In some cases, the feats also function pretty much like choose-it class abilities (or in the case of the pre-pathfinder fighter, their ONLY class ability). Unfortunately many, many feats require ability scores to qualify for, and most of those ability scores are in fact quite high, and while they may seem flavorful, really only cause problems as best as I can tell.

    Case in point, Power Attack vs Combat Expertise. Ok, so the idea is with power-attack, your warrior sacrifices accuracy to deliver a particularly devastating blow, whereas Combat Expertise sacs accuracy to maintain a potent defense. One has Str 13, the other has Int 13 as a requirement. This SEEMs like a fair requirement, but it means that a fighter (or anyone else) will need to spread their ability scores around for what amounts to an option in combat - a maneuver or stance or fighting style or simply being more or less reckless - which has pros and cons to each.

    Ok, toss in the rather HIGH dex 15 requirement for Two Weapon Fighting, Dex 13 for Dodge, or even the Str 13 for Exotic Weapon (Bastard Sword, or Dwarven Waraxe), and you find that your ability scores will determine much about your characters options - not just what you'll excel at.

    Apparently my human fighter with a 15 str, 16 con, 13 dex, and 12 intelligence cannot fight with a pair of twin axes (or parry with them using two weapon defense, and god forbid improved two weapon fighting), or making use of any tactical defensive feat (or improved disarm or trip for that matter). Fortunately, while my dwarf does suck at two weapon fighting (it's the RP y'know), I can use my Power Attack, and I have my EWP-Dwarven Waraxe to keep me safe; plus I can pick up cleave and great cleave for fun.

    But oh, wait...I got hit with a poison and it dropped my strength to 12, and I lost access to the entire power attack line of feats, as well as suddenly loosing my exotic weapon proficiency - on top of suffering from a hit to my ability scores which will only make me worse at combat too.


    Pause for a bit.


    Ok, if you haven't realized by now, the point I'm trying to make is - ability score requirements are (in my opinion) bad at least 9/10 times. They limit character development and customization, can require silly-high ability scores to qualify, and you loose access to a feat you don't qualify for (yep, you take 1 int, or 1 dex, and 1 str damage from a poison, disease, spell, whatever, and you just lost half your feats - suck it up!). In addition, the requirement for the feat is a moot point 'cause the feat is generally sub-optimal if the associated ability score is very low. For example, power attack reeks of being good for very strong 2 hander characters, and having less strength would make the feat less desirable to most characters - but you COULD take it to represent say, a potent but risky strike from a fencer (who has a low strength but high dex and weapon finesse).

    Toss on the fact that most abilities suffer from a lower ability score, but don't completely go away (spells being the key exception). For example - a fighter with a strength of 1 has a huge penalty to hit and damage, but insult to injury, just lost his entire power-attack feat tree; however, a rogue with a strength of 1 has those same penalties to hit and damage, but at least if the rogue hits they keep their +5d6 sneak attack.

    A creature can have an ability with a saving throw, for example, and the associated ability is really low. This doesn't prevent the creature from using it (usually, gnomes are the exception), it just means it's going to be less effective.


    I'd much rather see ability score requirements on feats to be a VERY RARE thing, or removed completely. Or at least lowered drastically. For example, in 3E TwoWeaponFighting had a dex requirement of 15, while in d20 Modern, the same feat had a dex 13 requirement (a little more manageable) - but I would like to see them abolished all together.

    I mean, take Weapon Finesse as an example. It makes just as much sense that it should require a dex bonus to qualify for as any other feat, but instead has no requirement. Obviously the higher the dex is the better, but it's not needed. Plus it also means that if the character gets physically crippled (say -3 str, -3 dex) the character can still use the better of the two ability scores while below 10 in either.


    Please consider, and discuss. I'd like to hear others' opinions on the matter (and I hope agreements, but who doesn't, eh?) either way.


    As a die-hard 3E fan, I love the pathfinder RPG from what I've seen, and there seems to be a great amount of things being fixed from 3E (and I have to say I love the class changes like Barbarian, Fighter, the spellcasters, and rangers, and the bard; however...).

    However, one of the things that has alarmed me is the bardic music. I was really hoping with all this re-balancing that the bard music would be fixed, and brought more in line with the system. The problem comes from using a SKILL CHECK to determine the SAVE DC, such as in the bard song power fascinate.

    I've been DMing and playing since the game came out, and I've been on each side of the bard-song issue (that is, on each side of the DM screen), having it be used by players, or worse, the DMs. The stipulations essentially turn the fascinate ability into a useless feature in the heat of combat, or a broken-feature outside of heated combat (especially when combined with their Suggestion power).

    Worse yet, if I understand this correctly (been reading through the alpha release), the bard now has a save-or-die effect that uses the exact same mechanic (skill check = Save DC), which is just messed up. Imagine the DM using a 20th level bard against a party of 20th level characters; and they will all die if they are within 30ft of the bard when he/she uses the Deadly Performance ability. A bard with a +0 charisma (but obviously closer to +10 easily) would have a save DC of 25-45, and an optimized bard could net DCs that go much higher (considering we're assuming only 24 ranks worth of skill, not including things like Skill Focus, magic items, masterwork gear, or the like).

    Ok, now that I hopefully have made a good clear point, I'll stop complaining and try to offer some ideas (besides, I like mechanic-crunch).

    My first suggestion would be set the save DC as 10 + 1/2 the bard's level + bard's charisma modifier, or 10 + 1/2 HD + charisma modifier; because this is a MUCH more reasonable mechanic for both Fascinate AND Deadly Performance; as it scales well with the character, and provides a much more reasonable potential for growth as well as save DCs comparable to things you would see at those levels (notice most abilities function off the 10 + 1/2 HD + ability mechanic, and it works well). 20th level bards would have a base DC of 20, plus Cha which could push it to 30 without too much trouble, plus any other relevant modifiers (I'm pretty sure the Ability Focus feat can apply to Bardic Music).

    Now the downside that some might find to this particular feature is that it seems to rely less on the perform skill at all (since hey, it's not a skill check!), but in fact you need 20 ranks in the perform skill to access the power, which pretty much explains from a role-play and mechanical perspective that "This ability comes from super-awesome performance power", and doesn't break the game nearly as easily.

    I mean really, as printed, the Deadly Performance is like a (albeit fairly close range at 30ft) super wail of the banshee that can be used up to 20 times per day, that only affects enemies, and so on.

    Can I get some thoughts from others, or perhaps Mr. Jason Bulmahn, on this subject?