There are a few good random encounter tables for wildlife, interesting plants, odd landmarks, etc.
On any day of travel that has no encounters, or even if they do, roll a few of these and narrate.
The players may decide to hunt, forage or investigate and you can adjust their progress accordingly.
For example, my players often found mysteriously appearing or disappearing tracks (crossover to Fey realms), mushroom rings (some edible), or foundations of old ruins with nothing particular to explore.
Just like the miscellaneous dungeon dressing tables, dress up your wilderness. Maybe make notes of what you roll.
The players might decide to stash heavy loot somewhere and come back for it later. The <roll> black boulder by the <roll> hollow tree where the river turns east will be easy to remember.
Also, this is a great campaign for side quests, so any module or scene you've been wanting to try can fit somewhere. Those "empty" hexes are perfect.
A final thought. If you roll no encounters, try rolling twice. The party sees those two encounters dealing with each other. They can get involved or not. Like trolls catching pixies, or thylacines and wolves circling each other. It brings the world to life.
If you're looking for out of combat activity:
I've played with a combat engineer who was playing a wizard focused on the alchemy skill. He would harvest any strange plant or animal part we came across and invent tools like shocker lizard gloves to allow him to handle electrified items safely.
This same group negotiated a band of raiding hobgoblins into a legitimate trading post, with the party as investors.
Many of my players have established business and guilds.
They were all either optimized for combat or very capable at it. I think it's the players who add the dimensions to the characters rather than the stats.
I think one dimensional characters are usually the result of wargamer mindset rather than roleplayer mindset.
Does anyone know of a site or resource to work out what percentage of a population needs to cover services?
This might be what you're looking for: Link
or more directly: Link
In short, divide your population by the number listed for the profession. That's the number of people in that profession or the percent chance that one person is. Everyone else is a farmer.
It's easy to put that data into an excel sheet so you can just type in the population and copy the data out.
It does need modified for fantasy professions.
Roll 3d6 straight down like in the old days and see what you qualify for. You can reroll for your actual stats but the bounded creativity may give you some ideas.
Alternative, play a commoner. As you see a need you can start retraining class levels as "latent potential". You'll develop a unique playstyle in your group and the dm may even waive some off the cost and time if it's an amnesia thing or you're a mind wipe victim.
Yes, commoners are weak, but every time I've seen one played, the creativity more than made it up.
In 3.5, doubling the enemy added 2 to CR.
By similar logic, halving the party increases all challenges by 2.
An easy compensation is to subtract 2 from all enemy rolls and DCs. Remember to lower the xp as well.
Gestalt adds a lot of options and a little extra power. That should make up for the difference in action economy.
You could run the encounters as written, but that means the two characters will advance twice as quickly, making later encounters in the campaign trivial.
Everything MrCharisma said and this,
Your gm isn't running pathfinder. If you don't want to appoint a new gm or do a second game then consider his game an ongoing playtest. If you don't expect consistency it will be less jarring when a rule change comes in.
Any time the rules change its fair to request a respec or a new character.
Perhaps he would be open to alternating between two games every other session, one with his rules and one by the books. This would allow sharper contrast to see the impact of his rules.
Who knows, attendance may send him another message.
Rules mastery is one of several desirable skills, but if the player's other skills are high enough it can be worth putting up with.
I once had a player who didn't know where anything was on his character sheet. He didn't read the books.
He would ask advice and listen to suggestions. He was engaged in the story, creative in his approaches and had interesting character goals.
He was a great player. One of the most fun I've ever had at my table.
I had another player who would scowl at anyone who referenced a book during play and scold them on breaks for not knowing their character and wasting table time.
He made the other players uncomfortable and I repeatedly had to talk to him on the side.
I was glad when he was gone.
If they have a good attitude and they help the story and table mood, keep them as long as you can. Rules can change and they can be looked up, but a good player can be hard to find.
I went back through the editions of DnD. Here's what I found...
Dimension door has changed little, though it used to be possible to get stuck in the astral plane, rather than just taking damage. No help there.
The Cape of the Mountebank came in with 3.0 and hasn't been changed since. Still vague.
In 2007 WotC had both a class and a prestige class of Mountebank. Each had a modified dimension door ability.
From dragon compendium volume 1:
From Complete Scoundrel:
From these examples, it seems that the developers act under the assumption that the mountebank (class, prestige class and presumably Cape) transports only himself.
Broadcast the danger. Let the players know in advance, and give signs of danger within the story as well. Have them find mangled corpses or witness powerful monsters destroying someone or something else.
Always give them an opportunity to run, even if it costs them something. A low tunnel they can crawl or squeeze through that a troll can't, for example.
Include npc's and let them suffer as an example to the heroes.
Attack things besides their hit points. Oozes and rust monsters are fairly weak, but can destroy precious gear.
Consider traps that require sacrificing equipment, and don't be afraid to take a limb, but leave them alive. Bonus points for letting them watch as the monster eats it.
3.5 DMG 2 had rates. If memory serves...
Npc classes get the book rate for non combat duty. Guards and the like don't actually see regular combat.
For heroic class npcs...
Daily rate is level squared if the npc is lower level than the highest level pc. x10 if the npc is equal or higher.
In both cases they also get an equal share of treasure.
Example, the party are all 6th level.
The 5th level npc rogue gets 25gp per day and a share of loot.
The 6th level npc fighter gets 250gp per day and a share of loot.
This discourages bringing in a ringer, but doesn't prohibit it.
Short answer, yes.
Way back in the day there was a monk module where any character could learn a selection of monk abilities from "mad monkey" in preparation for the final conflict.
Dragon magazine put out tons of feats that could be purchased for xp.
A few modules hosted on the wizards site grant bonus feats.
Mythic tiers are basically powerful bonus feats.
It might even be fair to let players use downtime retraining rules to purchase extra feats. This would address feat tax, the "too much wealth" problem (not really a problem, but that's a different discussion) and fill the space between adventures while encouraging players to develop contacts.
As above, the theme is truly important in horror. It also helps if there's a sense of betrayal and despair. For intrigue, a villain might not be entirely wrong.
Perhaps when they find the villain it's revealed that all their adventures were planned to keep them busy. Now, at the final conflict, they learn that the plan to (achieve X) was completed half an hour ago and is irreversible.
3.5 had this ghost story... the ghost was trying to kill a pregnant woman and attacking any who stood against him. The whole town huddled in the church for protection. The ghost was the women's dead husband, trying to kill the devil possessing his unborn child before it grew to full power and slaughtered / dominated everyone.
There's no perfect ending in a story like that. That's horror.
A ground forge and a flat rock suffice for simple work.
Smithing quality coal is 3.3 gold for 500 lbs.
10 lbs of dry oak is only a copper. When I say negligible here, I'm referring to the cost.
A proper forge is nice, and it's fair to restrict masterwork without one, but basic smithing is pretty cheap. It really is the skill more than the tools.
Cooking for yourself and owning your home are definitely ways to cut costs. The prices for tavern food can be marked up 8x the actual cost and still be within normal ranges.
Similarly, buying some items in bulk and storing it till needed can also cut costs.
If one were to go with bread and water, the food cost would drop dramatically.
The inn and tavern figures are based more upon a layman just setting out for themselves. Apprentices don't actually own much, if anything. Once established, a craftsman can find ways to cut costs.
I saw a discussion related to this some time back.
In summary, those energy types were added after the most common monsters were written, so resistance to those energies is rare. Thus, they are "unbalanced." That's why they weren't included on the magus list in the first place.
I personally don't like arbitrary balance decisions, but that's the thinking.
With that said, if anyone knows of options, I'm interested too.
The animals are typically adults, so it might be more appropriate to think of them as foreigners with only a rudimentary grasp of language and culture.
As animals they're beyond genius, but the common tongue is new and complex to them.
They would still have adult animal drives and understanding.
The Varnhold Vanishing represents this well. If speak with animals is used, the cat at the weavers says "My feeders left me in the red sun time when they heard the new bird song."
Fully correct and cogent, but colored by cat perspective.
I say gut it, redesign it and see how it works.
Pathfinder has a lot of holes in the system, many of them inherited. As to non combat roles, I think RPGs have become way too combat focused lately. Let's break some molds.
I'd recommend keeping it simple by sticking to the core book. Once your generic classes are roughed out you'll probably find a lot of overlap.
Relative size and density of creatures aside, the question is whether a character gets pinned or crushed under a falling object.
Common sense is the first consideration. I once dropped a 5' thick slab of ceiling into a room full of monsters with only two doors out. A few near the doors could have survived but the rest are dead, or at least out of the fight.
I would say that if they have an unobstructed path and enough movement(single move) to cover the distance then the reflex roll represents getting clear. The half damage is from getting tagged.
If they don't have enough move, check the damage to the falling object. If it breaks, or takes half damage, then it likely broke over the obstructing character which means they might be inside an arch or crack in the resulting rubble.
If reason or circumstances say the character remains under the boulder, and if it's flat enough or large enough that it's unlikely to roll off then the character is pinned. If they still have hit points left they start suffocating. Each round, all interested characters can try to move the weight.
That's how I'd handle it.
One thing that shouldn't be overlooked is that level based RPGs are usually a treadmill, especially if you observe balanced encounters and wealth by level.
Players rarely make any real progress relative to the encounters they face.
Levels 1-3 are dangerous. Surviving past them is one of the first real victories a character has. It's one that doesn't get immediately taken away by the treadmill.
Also, In the older days of the hobby there was the concept of "name level." Essentially, before this level (sometimes as late as level 9) it wasn't even worth naming a character because their survival wasn't likely. Achieving this deserved respect, in character and out.
There's no wrong way to have fun. Food for thought.
I have something like this in a home brew game of D6 Fantasy. My "High Elves" are literal magic junkies with dilated pupils, voracious munchies and shortened lifespans. Partially based on blood elves from world of warcraft.
For pathfinder I'd give them something like Spellfilching from Cartmanbecks spellthief class as a racial feat. It's spellcraft 15+level to steal a spell.
I'd make them fatigued any time they don't have some kind of spell effect active on them, and apply starvation rules for any full day they don't have a spell active.
Racial feats to improve it might include increasing the range of the ability or leaving the victim addled, like modify memory.
I did something like that in a P6 game. It was a variant multi class system where the players could level up as many core classes as they liked, independently, up to level 6. Rather than stacking abilities we gestalted them.
It worked wonderfully. We had the advantages of P6 (faster gameplay, less lookup, etc) while still having other paths to advancement.
To answer the OP question: most of my games start at level one with exceptions for new players joining the group after we've played awhile.
In my most in depth campaign ever the players were required to take 6 levels of commoner before heroic classes were available, after which they could retrain. Most of the players kept some of their commoner aspects because they were part of the character by that point.
Stats were also 3d6 straight down and roll first level hp. This avoided cookie cutter characters and pushed everyone to step up their game.
Lower is better, I say.
What I've found useful for solo players is to provide them with two NPC / DMPC sidekicks with different talents, attitudes and goals. Maybe they don't even like each other. The contrast between them makes it easier to role-play them. Because they frequently disagree it falls to the solo player to make the decisions. Make sure each of them is wrong from time to time, so they don't just represent DM knowledge. Give each one areas of expertise.
Even if my solo player is gestalt, I usually just make the followers single class. It keeps things simple and makes the hero extra special.
You can also keep a simple tally for each character's affinity / opinion of the PC and adjust their attitudes as you go, maybe having one make trouble or desert if they're ignored often enough.
If you've ever played Knights of the Old Republic (The single player star wars video game, not the online one) it's like the followers there.
Contrasting / arguing NPCs is an easy way to keep the role play up in a solo game.
Since he's a bard, Enchantments and Illusions would be great. Have him enchant people into doing terrible things to each other that would also disrupt their own lives, but nothing illegal and nothing that can be conclusively pinned on him.
For example, he charms someone and asks them to pick up a package from one person to deliver it to another. Easy enough except that the package is addictive and dangerous drugs for another part in his grand scheme.
Using charms and illusions he gets the spouses of his rivals to cheat, not realizing that they've done so. This sows discord in their personal lives.
All the while, people funnel information to him from various sources which he uses to keep himself personally beyond reproach (like the worst kind of lawyer) while constantly building his power base and collecting favors.
EDIT: I just recalled a star wars novel where a geneticist information broker would breed genetically modified flowers with the DNA altered to store information in binary code. He would send specially bred flowers to politicians, crime bosses etc. which had their personal information stored on it just to amuse himself. How's that for creepy sense of humor?
A pricey option, but one with flair, is to enchant the book as an intelligent item. The book, as a creature, gets an action it can use to force an ego check to be used. The arcanist can voluntarily fail the check to take the book out on its action rather than his.
Cheesy, but no worse than other action economy exploits.
Coquelicot Dragon wrote:
Thanks! I appreciate your flexible mind-set.
It looks like conjuration(Teleport) with fog, pits, etc for stealth may be a strong option for true solo even without summoning.
Coquelicot Dragon wrote:
If you aren't going to blast, then why wouldn't you try to use the other resources at your disposal?
I'm not suggesting we completely remove options. Even when I play a blaster I use other tricks. Rather, I'm looking for a non blasting build that doesn't rely on effectively not soloing. One of the advantages of solo is faster combat. I know it's a challenging question.
Coquelicot Dragon wrote:
I'd load up on the borerline-OP level 1 spells: Sleep and Color Spray. And then cut everyone's throats.
Absolutely! Even when I blast, I try to keep at least one of these ready.
I love playing blaster mages, and I disagree with the common sentiment that they're sub-optimal. But I often play solo when I play a wizard and I don't have anyone there to kill my controlled mobs for me. I have to do it myself. This may skew my perspective.
So how would you go about building a solo wizard that isn't a blaster? What tactics would you use?
Please, no comments to the effect "don't" or "play X instead".
Another thought I had:
Rather than skill xp characters could still get a limited number of attempts to advance a skill after using it or spending time in training.
To advance this way, they make an opposed ability roll (Wis for Profession, for example) against the skill they're trying to advance. (Profession:Baker for example). They must meet or exceed the skill roll to advance.
This maintains the increasing difficulty of advancing higher level skills and cuts down on the moving parts to keep track of.
Don't pack it in just yet. I've been thinking in similar lines lately but I just saw this thread.
Here's a few thoughts:
To track each skill, just keep a tally in the margin, every 10 marks advances a skill. Now we just need to find a different way to advance.
Mechwarrior 2e had an interesting method. Every roll was 2d6, on a 2 or 12 you advance a skill. 1 and 20 on a d20 are almost twice as common, so we can make it a 50% chance to gain 1 skill xp on a 1 or 20. After all, you don't always learn on the first try.
To keep commonly used skills from drastically outpacing the others, limit the number of possible advances per (day/week/month) to the number of skill points a character would gain while leveling up, and allow some of that limit to be spent on practice. After an appropriate amount of practice time, the character can get a roll for that 2.5% chance of advancement.
Finally, when leveling up, you still get your usual allotment of skill points, but they can't be used to exceed the normal skill cap. Yes, this guarantees more skills and makes higher skill limits possible, but it won't break the game.
I think you're on to something here. I hope some of these ideas help.
A 5% chance isn't so bad, especially if your GM allows custom items.
Cursed items can be useful too.
If your DM's motive is to introduce uncertainty or plot elements, he might consider the dynamic item creation rules from Unchained. Very interesting perks and drawbacks can be added, sometimes at a discount.
It was interesting to note that in psionics the power point cost of a power equals the caster level. You can then spend a few extra points to "augment" the effect. Pretty similar concept, really.
I did have one issue at my table when the power specified "see the target" rather than line of sight or line of effect. The Psion teleported the aquatic boss monster into the room they were scrying it from and the beat the fish out of water to death.
Awesome moment though. :)
One of the things that's been bothering me about d20 systems for a while now is that the system itself basically says "No".
I've been playing various editions for 32 years now, and things that used to be a reasonable extrapolation when there was no rule have become outlawed because a new feat makes it possible, but says you can't do it without the feat.
RAW... PFS Legal... As a GM I'd add a penalty or roll twice and take the lower, but if the context makes sense I'd let it ride.
Example, a 2nd level fighter is surrounded and wants to make a whirlwind attack. Why not? Roll at -5 and you provoke attacks from all enemies who can reach you.
Remember, the rules are only a guide. The GM makes the game.
There's some great ideas, here. Thanks!
You've definitely helped kickstart the wheels in my head.
Quixote, I appreciate your perspective as well. We're on the second to last leg of a long campaign arc, so maintaining continuity is desirable as well.
For me, the one character's sacrifice justifies trying to throw the sole survivor a bone.
This is one of those situations where my subconscious was telling me the solution to a problem that my conscious hadn't recognized.
Like I mentioned in my last post, the thing that was really bugging me was the quadratic expansion of power.
I'm actually okay with the power level of mages. Gaining the power too quickly and without having to make a trade off is what irritated my internal logic.
The points system above basically turns at will blasting into encounter blasting. Casting a spell at the highest possible caster level takes more energy than using the minimum caster level for that spell. No reason to put 5d4 of energy into burning hands if I'm just using it to start a campfire, right?
It's funny to look at it now and realize that I've basically recreated the psionics system, which people said was overpowered, as a way of reducing a wizard's power.
How the craft skill makes sense – some simple economics:
First we need to make a few assumptions and definitions. The cost (C) of an item is equal to the value of the raw materials (M) plus the time(T) required to turn those materials into a finished good. (C=M+T)
The cost of time has a minimum value of what someone needs to survive. Example: the cost of food and lodging. Any lesser value would be an unsustainable loss and make the production of an item unprofitable. The craftsman would actually be losing money. Therefore, a market price less than this amount is an unlikely exception to the rule above.
Market value equals the cost to produce an item plus a reasonable profit. This creates a flexible range of market value with a minimum of cost (C) and a variable maximum which depends on the availability of substitutes and similar items at a lower price. Let’s assume an average markup of 50%. This is called the equilibrium point (EP).
For similar items, the market value will be similar. Skill ranges will vary, but the cost (C) is set by a minimally skilled craftsman’s average results (unless a guild fixes the price, but that’s another exception to the basic economics). A more skilled craftsman can produce finished goods faster, which earns him additional leisure time, or he can produce a superior item which earns him a premium on his product, or he can produce more items within that time, which floods the market and reduces the market value. This is not generally in the skilled craftsman’s interest.
The skilled craftsman can afford to sell items below market value because he has a lower cost of production, but a minimally skilled individual or do-it-yourselfer can produce the item for their own use so this still creates a floor on the market value equal to the cost of materials and cost of time.
So an item with a cost of 10 gold pieces to produce will have an average market value of 15 gold pieces. If the buyer and seller choose to haggle the seller will not go below 10 gold pieces because he would take a loss. The buyer is unlikely to go above 20 gold pieces because he can probably find the item cheaper elsewhere.
This is a simplified overview of economics.
Pathfinder’s original crafting rules have four flaws.
First, they are complex.
Second, they don’t differentiate between cost and market value. If an item is rare, and therefore valuable, the rules say it takes longer to produce even if it’s a simple item.
Third, progress on complex items is faster than on simple items because the minimum DC is multiplied by the skill roll. Masterwork simple items (DC 20) are produced twice as fast as regular simple items (DC 10). The higher cost offsets this, but it’s still a logical inconsistency. The option to add 10 to the DC to work faster helps with this inconsistency, but the result is still exponential results from linear difficulty.
Fourth is the assumption that the raw materials will cost 1/3 market price. To illustrate this flaw compare a detailed wooden sculpture to a simple gold rod. Both could have a market value of 50 gold pieces. The value of the rod is in its raw material while the value of the sculpture is in the time and skill used to develop it. The 1/3 rule is nonsense.
Pathfinder unchained released a simplified crafting rule set. These reduce the math involved and suggest a ¼ raw materials cost but they still include the second and third flaws above.
Use the rules from Pathfinder Unchained, with the following changes:
The raw material costs equal the actual value of the materials used. E.g. The cost of raw materials for 1 pound gold rod equals 50 gold pieces, the value of 1 pound of gold. The value of our 1 pound wooden sculpture equals a value of 1 pound of wood. The core rules list 20 pounds of firewood for one copper peace. This puts the raw materials cost for our sculpture at 1/20h of a copper piece, essentially free.
Set the cost of an item equal to 2/3 of its market value. The item is complete when the progress equals the cost. This value assumes the actual cost of time and materials to be a bit less than the market’s profit margin.
Let’s see how this works out. A craftsman with basic tools (no bonus), 1 rank in craft as a class skill (+1 and +3), and a +1 intelligence modifier can take 10 and get a 15 (2gp of progress / day). This means he can produce a basic longsword. He could roll and work faster, but he might make a mistake and mess it up, so he’ll just take 10.
The market value on a longsword is 15gp, so the cost is 10gp. Raw materials per core book are 4 pounds of iron or steel, and maybe a negligible amount of wood or leather for the grip. There’s lots of ways to make a sword so let’s not get bogged down in details of this or that sword.
The core rules don’t list steel on the trade goods list but a little research suggests it’s about 3 times the cost of iron. With iron at 1sp per pound, that’s 1gp and 2 sp for 4 pounds of steel. This means he has to make 8 gp and 8 sp worth of progress on craft checks. By taking 10 he’ll spend 5 days working on this sword. It could have gone faster, but he’s minimally skilled, after all.
Let’s look at his buddy, who was born and raised in a smithing family. He’ll start with the same build, but he inherited masterwork tools (+2) and has skill focus in craft (weapons) (+3). He can take 10 and get 20, making a similar sword in two and a half days. He can make a second sword in the same amount of time.
Now I come along looking to buy a sword. I see three swords, all of similar quality. I don’t care which one I buy, but I only need one. No matter who I buy from, the market has more swords than I need. I buy my sword and leave and these two craftsmen are left with 2 swords between them. The higher skilled smith could have spent their time better by making other items or doing something else to improve quality of life. Maybe he networks, maybe he advertises. Meanwhile, there are likely to be many more low skilled craftsmen than high skilled craftsman, so the balance of weapons shifts back toward the inefficient craftsmen. This is another reason why the minimally skilled craftsman sets the prices.
This leaves only one problem. The above example suggests that the living expenses for the minimally competent craftsman are 2 gold pieces per day. The core book says a common inn and good meals comes to 1 gold piece per day, so the cost of time for 5 days is only 5 gp, making the total cost of a longsword 5gp for labor, and 1.2 gp for the steel. So we either have a problem with the cost of the sword, or the cost of upkeep.
The real problem is that Pathfinder and 3.5 operate under the “Hero Economy” instead of a real, functioning economy. That is, things heroes don’t worry about, like food, land value and the cost of raising livestock, are minimized while things that give them combat advantages, like ranged weapons are maximized. In what logical world is a longbow made of wood and cord more expensive than a sword which was dug from the ground, melted out of the rock, then hammered into shape?
Grain Into Gold (http://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/13113/Grain-Into-Gold?it=1) is an excellent supplement for revising your game’s economy. As the author says, “an economy really starts with the cost of food and builds up from there…” This supplement lists many common prices in the back of the book and I’ve added many items for my own game. I adjusted the prices to a gold piece standard in my own games and added all the core items to my personal list. Still, I don’t want to take any credit away from the original author or risk copyright infringement, so let me just use a few of the prices I’ve come up with.
More realistic prices I’ve calculated, adjusting for inflation (See footnotes):
Now our barely competent smith spends 1.2 gp for steel. He works at a rate of 2 gp per day for 11 days, incurring food costs of 33gp. His total cost of production is 34.2 gp, which is just barely met by the market value of the weapon he crafted. He has a profit of 9 sp and 6 cp.
Our skilled smith works twice as quickly, incurring living costs of 16.5 gp in addition to the 1.2gp worth of steel. His total cost is 17.7 gp and, as above, he has options with his extra time. He can afford to sell the weapon more cheaply at risk of devaluing the items, or he can instead upgrade his quality of life with his comparative savings, etc.
Even if you don't adjust prices for a sensible economy, crafting can be fixed by using the actual material cost and charging a daily upkeep fee appropriate to your market. Crafting isn't heroic, but it is modestly profitable. That's why NPCs do it.
-My research has shown that, at least at some points, the historical exchange of gold silver and copper were 10-1, so the existing coinage system works fine.
-Compared to historical values, the Core Rulebook price of bread and other staples is inflated by about 10 times. Gold piece standard is fine here or you can rule that this is the real effect of adventurers dumping wealth on communities.
Calling fellow GMs.
My group got in over their heads and I'm a bit stymied to avoid a TPK.
At the top of a shaft they were badly outnumbered, and the party leader was blinded by a cleric. Another of the party, seeing that they were going to lose, grabbed the leader and jumped down the shaft with him.
I had her roll dexterity, and she managed to cushion the blind fighter/wizard's fall. She died and he lived, the rest of the party wiped at the top of the shaft.
Alone and blind at the bottom of the shaft, he hears approaching undead. He animates his fallen comrade as a skeleton to defend him....
And we're out of time this week!
Any thoughts on how I can prevent this last character from dying without breaking immersion?
I thought about the replies received so far and I began to get the feeling I hadn't clearly described my problem with casters (which I still love). As I continued to think about it and process data on a spreadsheet I realized that what's bothering me is the quadratic nature of wizards.
I don't mind the disparity between martial and melee so much, simply rolling for stats tells us that not all characters are balanced against each other. Rather, I find that the quadratic expansion of power creates a very narrow window of the endorphin rush that comes of gaining that power. The excitement of the "ding" or "bwoosh", whatever.
Right around 5th or 6th level, any full caster comes into their real power regardless of build, for divines maybe level 7 with the acquisition of raise dead. Past this point you still refine and improve, but a corner has been turned and progression becomes faster and faster.
Here is the real quadratic problem: (spell level)*(caster level)=power.
See, I like being able to cast a 5d4+12 burning hands at level 1, but I feel unsatisfied that it's no harder than casting a 1d4 burning hands. When I intensify the spell with magical lineage that power grows, but still doesn't get any harder. Logically, it should. Literature and films are full of spell casters pushing extra hard and feeling drained.
Whenever I tinker with the rules, I try to use the existing data, just in a different way than intended. This allows everyone to still use their own books and maintains fidelity to the game system. The math behind core spell progression is actually pretty elegant, though a bit wobbly at the first and last 3 levels.
wiz level...sp/day (core)...points(my system)...(with max hp)...cost to cast all core spells
Formatting a table here is tricky, so I'll leave it there. This data doesn't account for any ability score modifiers, but that's easy enough to add in.
You can see that the total power a wizard has in a day at level 20 is 900 (CL x Sp level) divided among 36 spells. By accounting for caster level and using points (including hit points) a wizard can still throw those big blasts, but will need a rest between them. At level 20 the spell points account for 60% of his total casting power, so even getting healed only brings him back up to 40% between battles. This is also why I feel like vitality points are a better representation for this than hit points.
A wizard can still bring a gun to a knife fight, but if he goes full auto he'll have to reload sooner.
I hope that clarifies what I'm shooting for.
Two thoughts here:
You could consider a wound point / vitality point system instead of hit points. Cure spells do full healing on vitality points, but only the level of the healing spell on wound points (Cure light heals 1 WP, Cure moderate heals 2, etc.) And its one or the other per casting, not both VP and WP.
You could borrow the condition track from star wars saga edition and the characters move down 1 level per quarter of their max hit points. Apply this condition as a modifier on the healing roll and/or require a higher level healing spell for each step on the condition track. For example, 3 steps down on the track is a -5 penalty and requires Cure serious or better.
Just some thoughts I'm considering for my next pathfinder game.
Converting the existing spells per day into a spell pool was really an after thought on this, and done to account for casters getting lower HD, skill points, etc. I was much inspired by the starwars d20 vitality point cost for force powers when I thought of this.
@Mark Hoover 330
Fair point on unoptimized casters. It's been a long time since I played with someone who didn't optimize.
The problem with the Dark Sun approach (awesome setting) is that evil casters, or even good ones, will do what they must without regard for surroundings. In my current campaign, arcane magic is outlawed, and the players are still arcane casters.
Spheres of power is on my eventual reading list. I've heard good things.
The first problem, it's a partial fix. Rather than cutting loose with a full blast at the start a mage has to consider how much power to put in. Even then he might need a rest afterward. The essence of role playing is difficult choices after all.
It's not 2 spells per day, it's 2 spells till you rest or get healed. This encourages reliance on healing and discretion in spell use. At 4th level there's also the hit points to draw on (9-24 points not counting con mod) That can be a lot of magic missiles (up to 31 at cl 1 or 10 at cl 3). high powered spells burn points faster.
At high level, the higher caster level actually makes most spells cost more, but then I've seen a 15th level wizard who mostly used magic missile and animate rope do wonderful things under the standard rules.
Yeah, figuring points is annoying. I wanted to preserve the sorceror's edge in extra points. At least you only do it once per level. A sticky note in the margin of your book means you can do it just once.
I ran an E6 kingmaker game in my last campaign. It was amazing! Full support there.
I know this isn't for everyone and many won't like it. What holes still need patched? What unintended consequences might I have missed?
Some thoughts on controlling a primary caster's power:
I love playing wizards and I love the power they bring to the table, but it can hit a point where an encounter amounts to nothing more than "I win initiative, I check off this spell, they're all dead even on a save. What's the loot?"
I design nice blasters.
I feel like magic should be an incredibly powerful tool, but not one that you can use all day without resting. For that matter, the 8 hour rest / spells per day seems arbitrary too. That's another idea I'll add at the end.
I was thinking of having spells draw on a pool of points based on their spells per day, after which they could draw on a caster's hit points. Hit points cannot be used if the caster has enough spell points to cast the spell.
(This would thematically work better on a Wound point / Vitality point system, but that's another discussion.)
This limits the spells available at any time, but allows rest and healing to restore spells during a fight or between fights.
Spells cost (spell level + caster level) points to cast.
A spell caster gets a pool of spell points equal to (spells per day x spell level) For example, a 4th level wizard has (4x0)+(3x1)+(2x2) = 7 spell points. Calculate the bonus spells from the casting stat the same way.
This can be used for 7 Burning Hands (cl 1), or 2 Scorching Rays (cl 3) and one Detect Magic, or 1 Burning Hands (cl 5) and Disrupt Undead, or whatever combination the caster chooses.
After these points are depleted, Hit points (or vitality points) can be spent in the same way.
A tweak is needed: Prepared casters get a slight boost here. They can prepare a number of spells equal to the usual spells per day limit, but the spells are not expended on use (similar to the Arcanist). Spontaneous casters can already cast any spell they know.
Changing prepared spells and restoring the spell point pool still happen once per day.
Effects and consequences:
All casters are more versatile, but spontaneous casters still get more points per day.
Spellcasters may choose to cast at a lower caster level to save power against weaker enemies (fewer damage dice, shorter durations).
Spells with a damage cap can be cast for maximum effect without wasting points.
Caster level bonuses are now a resource with a cost. (Sure, I can cast a 9D fireball at level 5, but do I want to? It makes me tired!)
Healing in combat can now be a desirable strategy to empower the casters.
Casters have more reason to avoid melee, and melee have more motivation to protect them.
Mages who blow through their whole arsenal aren't necessarily out for the rest of the day. They can heal up to get some spells back, though not full power as if they rested.
Healers can renew their own spells, but since this is usually divine, why not? God likes 'em.
That covers the basics. I haven't playtested this yet, but what do you think?
ADDENDUM: Just spitballing on this one, but 1/day powers and 3+(stat mod) / day powers. What if they cost a percentage of hit points (or vitality) points as well? Then you would want to rest or heal before using it again, but it's not necessarily once per day.
The important thing there is that it can't be used to exceed the level of the highest level character in the party. That limits abuse.
One significant disadvantage is if the GM gives specific xp rewards to individual characters, the others can use downtime to claim it as well.
I use downtime extensively in my campaigns. Earning XP takes away the sting of missing a session, character death, party splitting, or anything else that creates experience differences.
On the other hand, characters who use their downtime for other purposes get advantages the XP earners don't, such as maximized HP, crafting time, and earned capital.
In my experience, the trick is to make economics functional and valuable in your game so that there is a meaningful choice in how downtime is spent. They either live the high life and have nice things, or spend time working and training. It adds a layer of realism.