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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Maps, Pawns, Rulebook Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber. * Starfinder Society GM. 386 posts. No reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 11 Organized Play characters.


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Michael Sayre wrote:

The former (it is a fey after all). It likes to find planets that are technologically advanced enough to detect it coming so they can get really worked up about it, but without advanced enough space travel tech to do anything about it. Like, Earth would be a primo target for a gwahled.

For a light snack it can also swallow a starship whole and feast on the terror of the trapped crew.

Yeah, this was one of the more odd-ball but awesome entries in the book, for sure. I hope you won't be too upset to hear that I immediately decided that if I run one, it will hurtle towards the target planet shouting "Show me what you got!"


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Claxon wrote:
DM_Blake wrote:


Maybe we glossed past that stuff because we had Pathfinder experience and didn't catch the difference there.

That was my groups problem.

We got so used to PF rules from years of playing, that taking a swift action to hover didn't raise any alarms in our heads. So you can't swift action while flying, most of the classes don't have swift action abilities. Doesn't come up too much, just watch for certain other abilities.

Until you learn that full actions require the use of your swift.

That was really the big change that we needed to learn and pay attention to.

This is an exact example of what I'm talking about - the reason your group didn't catch on probably had a lot more to do with the fact that it just didn't feel "wrong" or "overpowered" or "unreasonable" to play it the way you were playing. Because (and this is really really important for everyone to understand) we generally will go from our real life experiences to what we imagine in the game world, and then expect the rules to support that. Where we will stop and really examine the rules is when the game rules seem to spit out an unreasonable outcome, or when they fail to conform to our expectations of what should reasonably be possible.

In other words, when you incorrectly let any flying player make a 90 degree turn in one single round, or let the mechanic's repair-bot flavored hover drone actually do an engineering check while hovering, or when you didn't require the Barathu envoy to stop floating so it could concentrate on talking (IE use Get 'em and Demoralize actions in the same round, or something), you weren't playing WRONG, because those are all entirely reasonable things to do. It makes no sense that a Barathu should be unable to literally float and talk.

Here's a simple test of this hypothesis about how people would form expectations about the game world. Take any number of random people. Show them a picture of the Iconic hover drone. Then just ask "Would this be more effective at shooting if it was flying, or if it were landed?". I think we know where that is going to end up. In fact, I would be willing to bet that in many cases people's response would be "Can that even actually land at all?".

Here's another test: Imagine a situation where you wanted to send a hover drone through a narrow vent. It's not super-cramped - it's small enough that a small creature would have to squeeze and a medium creature probably just wouldn't fit, but it's not so small that the hover drone would really be restricted in its movement.
It's also not a very long vent (say 10 feet, so a squeezing small creature would plausibly pass through in a single round), but it has two 90 degree turns in it. How long does it take for the hover drone to actually make that trip? The answer is a minimum of three rounds, because it would have to enter the vent, get to the 90 degree turn, stop, wait a round, on the next round travel to the next 90 degree turn, stop, wait a round, and then finally it could leave. If you haven't been playing drone movement like that, then you are on my side, because you recognize that the rules as written simply don't work and don't make sense.

Those who are saying that it is unreasonable to expect otherwise are quite literally inverting how humans understand and process information. Especially for new players, they are not going to say "okay, let me read all the rules and understand what the internal physics of this game are, then imagine the world out from there and ignore my intuitions about what should/shouldn't be possible". Nobody actually thinks that way. Instead, we look at a hover drone, and think "I bet that flies like a helicopter, or a quad-copter drone. Thus, I bet it doesn't have any trouble hovering and being a stable gun platform. Indeed, that's what attack helicopters are FOR, and I can see in the art that it has a gun on the bottom so it seems clear it's going to primarily be an aerial combat platform"

Finally, with regards to the idea that it's unfair to be able to shoot without being vulnerable to melee (AKA the "flying is OP" argument), aside from the point made above about how melee isn't actually the assumption in Starfinder, it's also important to note that denying full attacks doesn't actually fix that problem. The outcome of the fight doesn't change, at all. You still have a shooter who is out of reach and able to shoot with impunity, so the outcome is a foregone conclusion. All you've done is at best make it take longer, which honestly sounds like the antithesis of fun.

Even in a case where it's really important to finish the fight ASAP, the odds that the hover drone (which, remember only has a strength of 6, so is limited to longarms at best) would have been the thing the hypothetical melee only encounter would have focused on are very, very low. Essentially, the balance complaint is that it's not fair to have a flier avoid melee attacks that likely weren't going to be directed at it anyway. I'm not buying it.

The nail in the coffin though is the assertion that you should just spring for the Mk 2 Force soles. That just makes the absurdity clear - far from being a more "limited" form of flight (which is what I think some people mistakenly think), they are objectively better on every axis than the Barathu's native fly speed of 30, for example. So, it cannot be that the issue is that being able to full attack or make engineering checks or use both a standard action attack and a move action class ability or make a 90 degree turn in one round while also being in the air is OP.

Now, you can say "Well, but it's a level thing. That's an 8th level item, so you can't really plausibly get it until around 6th level at the earliest...". Sure - when does a drone get the ability to really plausibly use the full attack action in an efficient way? 7TH, when they get the Expert AI ability so can make a full attack without direct control.

And, of course, the poor Barathu is left out in the cold. Imagine the player who, after struggling through 6 or 7 levels of putting up with cumbersome fly limitations and awkward, absurdly restrictive action economy nonsense, suddenly finds that everyone else in the party can suddenly just jog around in the air much more easily than he can, despite the fact that the GM insisted that it would break the game balance if aerial movement was that easy. Oh, and the Barathu can't take advantage of it, because the Barathu has a speed of 0, so unless/until the player pays off the DISADVANTAGE of being a natural born flyer by buying a high level speed suspension augmentation, Force Soles don't really do anything. Cool cool cool.

I mean, I cannot believe I feel like I have to explain this, but everyone understands why this is absurd, right? Like, try to imagine what using Force Soles would be like - imagine walking down through the air at that 45 degree angle. That would be like trying to walk down a steep set of invisible stairs with no handrails - yet somehow that's a more effective, more natural, easier and safer way to move through the air than a creature that is neutrally buoyant and evolved in an environment where land didn't even exist could ever do.


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Is anybody actually playing flying this way, though, in practice? It seems like it adds a huge hassle and frankly "looks" dumb in terms of the in game world (you're going to tell a new player they have to land Quig's drone even though it's obvious from the art that it can't actually do that?).

And make no mistake, it is a major hassle. The people saying "just land" are glossing over that this (at a minimum) means you have to spend some sort of movement to land, and then some sort of movement to take off again if you want to go back to flying. In practice, the action economy ends up being something like requiring a humanoid to move into position and then go prone before ever full attacking (note that I'm not saying that a landed Barathu is literally prone in terms of things like bonuses/penalties to attacking, though I could absolutely see some GM's arguing that it should be that way).

It's an even bigger problem for spellcasters who want to cast a spell that takes a full action (or a full round) to cast, like the good version of Magic Missile, or any Summon Monster spell. See, a melee character could, in theory, just say "meh, I'll do my full attack and risk the acrobatics check as a reaction to avoid falling damage", but a caster can't do that, since taking a reaction while casting is explicitly one of the things that will cause a spell to fail. If you have the wrong kind of GM, they may even try to catch-22 you by arguing that the falling damage should also interrupt the spell (which is untrue - it's only damage from an attack that targeted your AC or was caused by a failed saving throw that interrupts a spell). In any case, it's a fairly onerous limitation to impose, and it sets up a sort of slapstick looking situation where your hapless flying caster is basically faceplanting after casting the spell.

I can't see how any of that makes the game better. It just slows down play at the table and/or makes a character look foolish, all so that... what, exactly? What is the upside? That it makes flight worse than it was in Pathfinder? Why is that a good thing? Why do we want to punish new players who naively assume that their hover drone should have no problems hovering and shooting?


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Interesting spoiler for the Dead Suns Adventure Path in the Eox chapter:

Spoiler:

Pg 93, the note about "See Starfinder Adventure Path #6" confirms Corpsefolk for that book, so yet more options for undead player races, probably.


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Irontruth wrote:

There are merits for it, and against it. Those merits measure differently in different areas, and there is a lot of room to debate that. We could think of it like this: is the rules text or the GM the final arbiter?

If the text: objective
If the GM: subjective

Which is better in a given situation is preference, but whether something is one or the other is factual.

Right, but what I'm saying is that from my perspective it is always functionally the case that the GM is the final arbiter because the decision by the GM to make the rules the final arbiter was ultimately a subjective one.

"I choose to go outside of the pure rules to make this game run as best I can" and "I choose to stick purely to the rules text here to make this game run as best I can" strike me as equivalently subjective choices, and it seems to me that you are saying they are not equivalently subjective, correct? That's the point on which I have been arguing that I would like us to agree to disagree on.

In any case, since this is the advice forums, do you have any good examples of more "light-touch" interventions you use when you see an adventure is going off the rails, particularly ones that you think people like me who are maybe more open to subjective intervention than you are might overlook?


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Shinigami02 wrote:
MrTsFloatinghead wrote:
I understand that you think that roleplay bonuses are uniquely biased. But all systems are inherently vulnerable to bias - I don't see any reason why offering a bonus is any more or less prone to bias than, say, choosing which character gets attacked, what does and doesn't count as cover, etc.

I could be wrong but I believe the bias Irontruth was referring to was stuff along the lines of "I'm attracted to this person so their speech sounds better and I'm more likely to give them a bonus" or "I had an argument with this person earlier, so their argument comes across as less persuasive and I'm less likely to give them a bonus" and the like. And this can even be completely subconscious bias (as they stated when they referenced people being "completely blind to their own biases".) So given there are at least somewhat concrete rules for what constitutes half or full cover to fall back on, I would argue that part at least is a different kind of bias.

As for tactics in general... I know it's not true of all groups, but in my group at least if a newer player forgets some combat mechanic, or is struggling with positioning, other players will give them advice (even if it's as simple as "Hey, don't forget my Inspire gives you a +whatever to attack and damage" or "If you move like this you won't get hit") but that's a lot harder to do for social skills.

I don't disagree that those are biases, but those still aren't unique to RP (and I should be clear, RP does not mean "speaking in character" - it is everything a character is, and everything a player does to make that character more 'real' and the game more immersive). If a GM is going to be biased because of being attracted to someone, that same bias creeps in with things like whose character gets attacked, which players get a reminder about a potential AoO before they commit to moving, or maybe even an offer to rewind to undo a poor tactical move, or even if the GM doesn't do any of those things because the GM's best friend is at the table and is a strictly RAW player. I simply do not agree that rewarding RP has any more inherent risk of bias than any of the other parts of the GM job, and I think the reason why people feel differently is because they are not seeing the biases inherent in the system because they are comfortable with them (and also I just made my will save to not go full Monty Python there). Again, this is not an attack - at heart, maybe "bias" (on BOTH sides) is not really the right word. It seems to me that it's more a matter of preference.


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J4RH34D wrote:

MrTsFloatinghead

I have always viewed combat as much more of a group effort.
I find it happens much more regularly in combat that my group of players will say to each other "Hey, if you move there, I can move there, and then we get a flanking bonus." The nature of the round by round combat basically ensures that everyone gets a turn to effect the outcome.

I can honestly say that I have never had anyone in any of my games, ever say, during someone elses RP "Hey, remember this guy is having an affair, weave that in to your speach." It just isn't something that really happens.

So the main difference for me is that the codified benefits in combat, are often applied by sharing the spotlight, and saying to someone "Hey, if you move here you get a bonus to stab the guy." is much less likely to make someone uncomfortable than trying to get them to create a narrative or descriptive improv.
Opposite to combat bonuses, RP bonuses to me come across as a very singular thing, with very little way to make it into a group thing, and almost promote attempting to hog the spotlight, at least to me.

____________________________________

I have no problem with bonuses, but I give bonuses for much more than just good RP. If you take the time to read up how to actually swing a sword and can show me that in combat, maybe I give you a +1, or if you are too shy for that but you spend some time researching and find some really cool fighting montages, and when your monk flies into battle you pull out a clip and go "I punch the guy like this" you would get the same bonus. So long as you put effort in each time.

I will do that for everything. If you make a rousing speech you get a bonus, or if you just sit down and think properly about how your character would act, and even if it is written down and handed to me on a piece of paper, you would get a bonus.
If you are an artist playing an artsy character and you actually do an impressive sketch to represent your character doing it, bonus. If you are not an artist and you...

Thank you for the response, I sincerely appreciate it, and I think you have raised a really good point by bringing up the idea of the spotlight. I think, though, that there is a disconnect here, because everything you listed after the break is what I am saying is good to do. All of that is equally "RP", and all of that (including the examples above the break of a party working together in combat) would, in my mind, be worthy of some minor bonus (maybe a circumstance bonus, maybe bonus xp for something like character art or a well developed backstory, etc).

What I am adamantly opposed to is a position that seems to be saying "it is not okay to give out the bonus for the rousing speech, because some people aren't comfortable with giving a rousing speech, and/or giving that specific bonus out is somehow equal to punishing people who choose not to give the rousing speech, for whatever reason". To me, we are actually on the exact same side, and what I'm opposing is an argument that is logically equivalent to saying "It's unfair that J4RH34D gave one player a bonus for making a nice drawing, because some people might not be able to draw well, and might be uncomfortable being asked to do a drawing to earn that bonus". I guess what I'm a little unclear on is if the people I'm debating are actually opposed to ALL the bonuses you listed, or if it is just the speech one specifically that they find objectionable, but I don't think it really matters in terms of why I find their objections to be problematic.

Getting back to the spotlight issue, I guess my experience is very different (which is fine), but I absolutely would expect to say something like "You should totally remember to mention that we know about his affair in your intimidate check" at the table. Also, it sounds like maybe one good option to address this is encouraging the use of the "Assist" action. For example, maybe Greg the Gregarious (who is playing a low charisma barbarian, but is nonetheless personally quite socially adept) might (in character or out of character) mention that Frank the Face (who is playing the smooth talking swashbuckler, but is not personally as comfortable with social situations as Greg) should bring up the affair. I would argue that a GREAT way to handle that would be to effectively say that Greg succeeded at an "assist" action for Frank's check. Now Greg feels rewarded for his social skills, but Frank isn't being pushed out of the spotlight - it's still his roll, and his character's chance to shine, but now with a little extra juice from Greg.

Of course, I do agree that some players might feel like they were being encouraged to seize the spotlight with flashy speeches and the like, but that strikes me as more a problem with the players, not the game (as it were). One solution that jumps to mind is that all of these bonuses are at the GM's discretion by design - if someone is abusing them, I don't really understand why it wouldn't be okay for the GM to simply say "I think your epic speech RP bonus store is a bit low on stock today, sorry...". Ultimately, though, if a player is going to be a problem, I don't think cutting off one kind of RP bonus is likely to solve the problem, just shift it to another way of trying to dominate the spotlight. In the end, I think the only real solution is to simply talk out the issue with that player.


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Irontruth wrote:
Do you give a +2 bonus for something? Or do you give it regardless of what the player does?

This is a nonsense question. Giving the bonus "regardless of what the player does" is still logically "giving the bonus for something". Lest you think this is mere pedantry - this is literally another example of the logical flaw I am trying to explain to you. A can be B without B being A. A player can earn a roleplaying bonus by giving a performance. That does not mean that the roleplaying bonus is a "performance bonus".

I am certain the questions you are trying to ask is this:

"Do you give the bonus for specific actions, such as delivering the speech in character?"

To which the answer is clearly yes.

"Are there things that would not, in your estimation, deserve this kind of bonus?"

To which the answer is clearly yes.

The fact that you stopped asking questions there proves you don't understand the importance of the next question:

"Is everything that is not explicitly in the first category automatically in the second category?"

To which the answer is clearly no.

Or the next question:

"Is a circumstance bonus in social situations the only way in which roleplaying is rewarded at the table?"

To which the answer is again clearly no.

Pretty much all of your objections and arguments are neatly undercut by those second two questions and the answers. I'm mercifully not going to explain why again, that's all above. It's just telling that you are still not even acknowledging that by only focusing on those first two questions you are missing the core of what is actually in contention here.

Let me respond with some questions of my own:

"Is giving a roleplaying bonus to a player who delivers a great speech that is appropriate to the setting and characters and adds to the story the same as giving an 'acting' bonus to a player because he was good at talking in a funny voice? If so, why? How does the underlying intent of the bonus and the context of the situation not clearly distinguish one from the other?"

"Is giving a player the extra damage from power attack fundamentally any different than giving a player a bonus on a skill check because he described using the setting or situation in a clever way? If so, why? What is the root motivation for giving power attack bonuses, and how is that distinct from the root motivation for rewarding clever use of the narrative?"

"Is giving someone a bonus in a social setting for good use of social roleplaying skills unfair to people who are not as good at those skills? If so, why? Is it similarly unfair to give a smart tactical player combat bonuses for their clever use of their combat rollplaying skills? If not, why not?"

Irontruth wrote:
Is that something subjective, or objective?

Yes.


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thejeff wrote:


No one is complaining about what you're saying they are. No one is against your position - or at least not using the arguments you're tearing apart here.
The analogy for what people are saying isn't "My GM's giving out combat bonuses for positioning and using feats", but "My GM's giving out combat bonuses cool or convincing descriptions descriptions of what they do in combat."
I know that's not what you're arguing for, but it is what the people you're arguing against are saying is happening. nosig talked right after the bit you quoted about "smoozing the GM" and about method acting and character voices.

Actually, I am arguing for giving out bonuses for good descriptions. That is absolutely what I am arguing for, 100%. That is also what other people are arguing for as well. That is also what you are arguing against, yes? What I am saying is that the underlying reason for giving out bonuses for good descriptions, or for speaking in character, or anything else is not because they are "smoozing the GM", but because they add to the quality of the game for all the players at the table, and because rewarding bonuses for good play in social settings is exactly the logical equivalent of rewarding the mechanical bonuses built into the tactical combat rules of the game, which also serve to encourage movement, position, and tactics in a way that strengthens the narrative of the game.

What I am saying is when a GM says "that was a great speech, roll your diplomacy with a +2 bonus", your objection of "That's unfairly rewarding player skills in a way that doesn't happen anywhere else in the game" is objecting to something the GM isn't doing, and makes a claim that isn't true. The GM isn't rewarding external player skills at all - the GM is rewarding a form of good roleplaying because it adds to the narrative for the table. This bonus isn't exclusive to compelling speeches for diplomacy checks and the like, but rather is possible in a number of situations - indeed, these types of bonuses are already automatically baked into the explicit rules for combat.

Now, is it POSSIBLE that some players are encountering GMs who behave poorly and only reward one type of roleplaying but not any others? Sure. But what I'm seeing in this thread is people saying "Sure, I would reward someone who gave a good speech in character with a bonus on the roll", and then I see the people objecting to that kind of rewarding of "external player skill" and not listening to or understanding the explanation that "external skills" aren't what is being rewarded, but rather "adding to the narrative" - and given that, I suspect that on balance what is more likely is that this is what is happening at most people's tables, too. It's not that someone is "smoozing the GM" for a bonus, no matter how much it might look that way to you. It's that those players are improving the game by adding to the narrative, and being rewarded for it.

thejeff wrote:


Hell, PossibleCabbage was suggesting bonuses for making the GM laugh.
Seems to me you're projecting what you think should be happening in game
onto people's complaints and assuming they're overreacting to that. You're suggesting that someone complaining about their GM giving bonuses for florid descriptions of swordplay should learn positioning and how to use their feats. It's not helpful.

And what PossibleCabbage was suggesting is one way in which good roleplay could be rewarded - note that in that example, it was tied into the narrative of the game. The mistake was not PossibleCabbage's for suggesting it, it is YOURS, for assuming that the only way to get that bonus would be to be a really funny person in real life, and that furthermore those skills don't really map to the game in any way. In the moment PossibleCabbage was suggesting, those real life skills DO map to the narrative, and nothing in what was said there implies that there is only one way to get to the bonus.

Finally, your last line is a complete distortion of what I am saying. My point was that someone who says "It's not fair that my GM gives other players a bonus on damage for saying 'I swing wildly, with all my might!', but I'm not good at those kinds of tactics..." is making the same misunderstanding as you are. The reason the player who "swings wildly" is being rewarded is because they made a roleplaying choice to fight in a specific way (by taking the power attack feat and using it in combat), and the reason that power attack feat gives this mechanical bonus is because it helps add to the narrative of the game. Further, skill in combat can be learned, which is why we don't accept "I'm just not good at combat" as a reason to deny other players the bonuses of their feats and tactics. The same is true of people who say "I'm just not good at talking" - you could learn to be better at it, and in any case one person's lack of skill in an area is not a reason to not recognize someone else who IS skilled in that area.


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Irontruth wrote:

People absolutely are suggesting giving bonuses to rolls like Diplomacy based on how wells the words come out of the players mouth. So, please stop suggesting that people aren't suggesting this.

ARE YOU KIDDING ME WITH THIS?!?!

Yes, I agree that players who give a compelling speech can (and should) get a bonus (provided that the speech matches up well with the situation and the character they are playing).

What I am saying is that giving out that bonus is not (as it keeps being misinterpreted) "giving out an unfair bonus due to inherent acting ability", no matter how much it might feel that way to some people - it is a bonus for "Good Roleplaying", because giving a great performance in character is unquestionably ONE form of good roleplaying, but it is manifestly not the ONLY one. Getting a flank bonus in combat for good positioning is a roleplaying bonus. Realizing the idol is magic and might be cursed because you thought to cast "detect magic" is a roleplaying bonus. Getting a +2 bonus for giving a great in character performance is a roleplaying bonus. Getting a bonus for describing the performance without actually giving it is the same +2 roleplaying bonus.

This means that the charge that giving out a bonus for a compelling speech is unfair is invalid because it assumes exclusivity where there is none. Nobody (even in the posts linked, which I had, in fact, already read and understood fully) is saying that the ONLY way to get a roleplaying bonus is to give a compelling speech. They are saying that it is A way to do it, and you and other people are mistakenly assuming that means it is THE way to do it.

The reason arguments like "So, why can't I get a bonus on strength checks for deadlifting IRL?" fail is because they assume that what is being rewarded is real life player skill, when actually what is being rewarded is the way in which the player used that real-life skill to enrich the narrative of the game - and again, it is NOT the only way to do it. Lifting a heavy weight in real life might be impressive, but it does not engage with the narrative of the table at all, so isn't roleplaying. However, what if instead of just lifting something in real life and saying "gimmie bonus for real life skill", the player found a way to work those real life skills into the narrative? What if, for example, the player was playing a character who was a circus strongman before he became an adventurer, and the player sees a chance to use that character background as well as player skill to do something like "Mac twists his mustache and offers to put on a show to wow the barbarian tribe. Using his experiences from being a strongman, he knows some tricks for lifting, such as *real-life skills explained*..." - that would be absolutely worthy of a roleplay bonus - not because the player knows how to lift, but because those skills were engaged with the game.


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nosig wrote:


so, can my PC have a bonus on the:

- "To Hit" and "Damage" rolls if I (the player) can actually demonstrate a fencing routine?

No, because this is not what is being suggested, nor is it a reasonable extrapolation of the position.

nosig wrote:


- day job rolls as a Cook, if I bring cookies I baked to the game (something I have done several times for my character with profession cook - along with recipes to hand out to the other players.)

No, for the same reason as before.

nosig wrote:


- Disable Device roll for actually having lock picks, and demonstrating how they work at the game table??

Ditto.

nosig wrote:


- Knowledge rolls for being able to quote from the Bestiary entry about the monster we just encountered?

Also not what is being suggested, so no.

nosig wrote:


as long as I do the above "In Character" - with a "Character Voice"? And do it BEFORE the skill check roll?

And finally, still no! This is not a valid analogy or extrapolation from what is being suggested.

I'm not saying you have to say things in character. I'm not saying that the skill in question is a funny voice or great dramatic acting. I'm saying that NARRATIVE/SOCIAL SKILLS (the Venn diagram of which MAY overlap acting/performance skills, but do not have to) are exactly as relevant in game as being skilled at manipulating the tactical combat of the game.

Let's try this analogy: Imagine for a moment that you were playing a game with no map and no minis - let's say the DM forgot the maps at home, but you still wanted to play. Now suppose that one character, during a combat, says "That orc is only a few feet ahead of me, right? Then I will use acrobatics to tumble past the orc and circle behind him, giving me and Fighter guy a flank bonus" - You would, I assume, give the player a flanking bonus, right? Even though there's no map to count out the squares, you would probably acknowledge that this action is, in fact, a valid action, and give the flanking bonus, because above and beyond it being a mechanical reward, it helps create a sense of movement and position in a battle that is otherwise happening in the theater of the mind, right?

What I am saying is that the act of physically moving a mini on a mat to a flanking position is not in any meaningful way different from the narrative, descriptive act of simply saying "I flip over the Orc's wild swing and tuck in behind him, forcing him to split his attention between me and the Fighter", and that means that it is also not meaningfully different from saying "I tell the guard that we are here for the festival those merchants from before were talking about, and that we were hired on as security", and that if you are willing to give the mechanical flank bonus for one form of good roleplay, you should probably be willing to award mechanical bonuses for the other, because they both improve play at the table, and they both should be encouraged.

Note that this also addresses the issue of "only social skills get these bonuses" - indeed, it inverts it. The situation is NOT that it is unfair to ONLY reward social skills, it's that it is unfair only rewarding one kind of good role play (the battle map kind), and not rewarding the other. It's noting that no combat, ever, is really as simple as just "I roll my attack" (or at least it shouldn't be - there are choices like flanking, positioning to block charges, using power attack or not, full defense or not, etc), so if you are okay with rewarding superior player skill in those skills (by allowing players to have the mechanical bonuses they earned), there doesn't seem to be a difference in allowing players who are skilled at taking narrative control of social scenes to also gain an advantage.

People who are saying that rewarding good roleplay only happens for social skills are in essence confusing the fact that there is already a robust mechanical system in the combat rules to reward good tactical roleplay - but that doesn't imply that we cannot or should not mechanically reward good roleplay in social settings, nor that those skills are fundamentally different at the level of crafting the collaborative narrative of the game (which is the fundamental purpose of the game).

What is frustrating to me is what seems like people limiting of the scope of what counts as "roleplaying skill" and what counts as "rewarding good roleplaying", such that they don't see that the kind of roleplaying they are already "good" at is already rewarded in basically every game, automatically and without comment or complaint, but as soon as someone else wants to get any kind of recognition it suddenly becomes "unfair" or "elitist" or "exclusionary".

Like, okay, another example - say a player came to the forums saying "Man, I'm really frustrated with my GM! He/She keeps giving out these crazy bonuses like letting people gain extra damage in exchange for accuracy because they said they were swinging extra hard, or like bonuses to hit because they positioned their mini in some weird exact configuration, or like making it harder for enemies to hit just because they say something like "I defend myself" or whatever, and it means that they always hit, always do more damage, and always avoid getting hit back. I think it's really unfair that like the little weedy magic user with a sword is doing more in combat than my badass barbarian, just because I don't butter up the GM by using all these fancy feats and skills. I'm just not good at the math and like the tactics and stuff, and I don't think it's fair that I don't get to be as badass as my character is just because my inherent, unchangeable skill with system mastery is so much lower than the other players that I can't even compete. Like, if it's going to be like this, why should I even bother?"

The correct approach to this player would not be to say "You're right, your GM should not be giving people the benefit of power attack or flanking or defensive fighting, because it's not fair to you that you don't know how to use those things!". The correct response would be to (as gently as possible) try to explain that part of the social contract of playing the game means at least attempting to engage with multiple parts of the game (even the parts you might not be naturally good at), that you can learn to improve on the parts you aren't naturally good at, that if you ask for help, a good group of players will make suggestions and help you along, and that the game is probably more rewarding if you make an effort in all parts of it - but that if you really don't want to do that, it's okay to play that way, it's just that it's not unfair for you to not get the mechanical advantages of things like feats and combat options if you choose not to develop the skills to use them.

That door swings both ways - If it's okay to expect players to be willing to develop basic competence with the combat systems and mechanical crunch of the rules (even if those players are not naturally gifted at that kind of analysis), then it has to also be okay to expect players to ALSO be willing to develop some basic roleplaying skills, to the level of at least attempting to help forge the narrative of the game, because those skills are both branches off the fundamental core of "roleplaying", and both deserving of reward. If players don't want to develop skills in one area, that's still okay, but it's not unfair to reward the players who do develop their skills.

Finally (last example, I promise) - when people say "Good roleplaying should just be its own reward", imagine someone saying "Good rolling is it's own reward" to you after you just rolled a crit, and using it as a justification for not giving you the extra damage. Or how about removing the nuances of combat from the game, because not everyone is good at it: "Well, let's just make this entire combat a single die roll - DC 20 to kill this dragon - you have a BAB of +10, plus your strength, plus magic items, plus weapon focus, plus... Okay - roll a D20, on a 4+ you kill the dragon..." No one piece of the game stands alone, or deserves to be held out as "the real game". I think the "reward" is when you put all the pieces together and get an interplay between collaborative story-telling, interpersonal interactions, rules interactions and dice rolling. Every part is equally important to the whole.


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thejeff wrote:
If you don't think people aren't going beyond a simple +2 circumstance bonus, you're playing in a different world than I am. Maybe no one in this thread is advocating it, but people have reported it. In fact, born_of_fire claims to be describing a player and events in a game they're in.

I wasn't talking about what people are doing in their own games, I'm talking about what is being advocated for in this thread. The fact that there are "bad" games happening all over the world, all the time, is not news to me, nor is it relevant to a discussion here of what good play ought to look like.

I think at best it's accurate to say that some people are AFRAID of the things that you are describing, or feel they are bad, and are conflating "rewarding good roleplay" with all those bad practices because either they genuinely can't tell the difference or they are falling victim to a slippery slope fallacy. In any case, it is factually inaccurate to say that "rewarding good RP necessarily equals 'remove dice from the table and unfairly only allow smooth-talking players to have any success at the table in any situation', and any position that is predicated on the rejection of the latter proposition (dice don't matter) is not in any way a warrant against the former practice (rewarding good RP).

Again, this should not be a difficult or controversial idea, and the fact that it somehow is makes me certain that at least one side in this debate is massively misunderstanding what is actually being discussed.

thejeff wrote:

As for the acrobatics example: Player skill goes into investing in acrobatics and in choosing when to use acrobatics. Those are skills in the mechanics of the game.

Player skill also goes into investing in diplomacy and in choosing when to use diplomacy. Those are skills in the mechanics of the game.

Speaking in character when using diplomacy may use player skill, but it's not player skill at the game, it's external skill. Much like bringing the player's actual skill at acrobatics into play.

Also factually inaccurate - being able to narrate things well is not necessarily the same as "being a smooth talker", though it is similar (you yourself made this point earlier, I believe). Since roleplaying is at it's heart a game of crafting a narrative, player skills which add to that narrative cannot be considered 'external' skills, anymore than the experience to know how and when to use acrobatics to avoid an AoO is. Put another way, your counter argument asserts that the appropriate "player skill" to apply to acrobatics would be the player doing a hand-stand, but that analogy supposes that "narrating a social scene" and "performing that scene as an actor" are synonymous, but they are not. While the latter is an example of the former, not every example of the former is the latter (if all A are B, it does not follow that all B are A, in other words). What I am explaining is that the "external" player skill of 'can describe actions well' is the skill that is actually being rewarded here, not "is a smooth talker", that this skill can be developed and should be encouraged at the table, and that it is no more "external" to the game of collaborative storytelling that is roleplaying than is the skill of knowing how to mechanically build a character and interact with the combat rules.


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born_of_fire wrote:
Not really, no. People are talking about players like one I have in my group who is a very gregarious fellow. He could likely sell ice to penguins but never invests in the diplomacy skill. When it comes time to move around the battle field without provoking AoO’s, this fellow says “I roll acrobatics” and the number on the die determines his success. When it comes time to get a deal from a local merchant, this fellow spends 5 minutes IC chatting up the merchant, asking after his family, discussing local events, getting the merchant to talk about himself and generally flattering him before rolling the diplomacy. His success is influenced, if not outright determined by the quality of the conversation rather than result of the diplomacy check. He knows all the right things to say and do to secure a deal and comes off as the smooth-talking diplomat he is IRL instead of the tongue-tied nitwit the investment into his character dictates the character is.

No, nobody is saying this at all, and I confess I don't understand how this is even a contentious issue. Let's be crystal clear:

Objectively player skill went into the decision to use acrobatics as a skill in that situation. The tactical skills that went into the decision to invest in that ability as well as the choice for when and how to use it are all player skills that are being rewarded in the game, and nobody thinks that it is unfair to do so.

The fact that in your example the talkative person didn't choose to add narrative flair to the acrobatics check doesn't mean that he couldn't have done so, nor does it mean it wouldn't have added to the game if he did, nor does it mean the dice wouldn't have mattered if he did. Indeed, in any game I am playing in, I would explicitly encourage him to describe his actions, and if he demurred (and I was the game master), I would offer some up of my own - because "I roll acrobatics" is not letting me or anyone else at the table get a real sense of the narrative. This has nothing to do with "punishing bad RP", and everything to do with improving the gameplay at the table.

Also, nobody is saying that ONLY the talking matters when it comes to social checks - that is an absolute strawman. In your example of the character with no ranks in diplomacy but a talkative character, dice are still being rolled. Character skills are still being used - at best, the strong roleplay amounts to a +2 circumstance bonus to the check, essentially the same as good positioning for flanking adds to attack rolls.

Furthermore, everyone would agree that the player who is playing this way (being way more suave or intelligent than his character) is not playing the role well, and thus perhaps the +2 bonus isn't warranted in that case - the GM might say something like "In your head, you have the argument well laid out, and it's very persuasive, but when you actually put it into words, it gets a bit garbled - I'll let you make the roll, but your character isn't really the type to be able to explain those concepts fluently.

This doesn't mean that players with low social skill characters are excluded from roleplay bonuses, either - maybe instead of giving an eloquent speech or complex argument, Greg the Gregarious instead RPs out giving a simple, earnest plea, more in line with the naive, unsophisticated character he's playing. Maybe THAT justifies a +2 circumstance bonus on the diplomacy check?

Further (and I can't believe this needs to be said), it should be clear that "not giving a bonus" when someone doesn't RP beyond "I roll acrobatics" is not a punishment. If you personally don't want to go beyond that, that's fine - but narrative descriptions that flow along with the game add much to the experience, and there is no reason they shouldn't be rewarded.

born_of_fire wrote:
Compare this to someone like me who is not so gregarious. When it comes time to move around the battle field without provoking AoO’s, I say “I roll acrobatics” and the number on the die determines my success. When it comes time to get a deal from the local merchant, I have invested in the diplomacy skill. I say that I want to chat up the merchant, ask after his family, discuss local events, get the merchant to talk about himself and generally flatter him without actually acting out the conversation before rolling the die and the DM decides the success based on my (lack of) conversation with the merchant rather than what I rolled. I know all the right things to say and do to secure a deal but come off as the tongue-tied nitwit I am IRL instead of the smooth-talking diplomat the investment into my character dictates the character is.

Okay, there's also a lot to unpack here.

First, the part you're really not going to want to hear, but needs to be said again, I fear - at some level, being "gregarious" in the sense of being able to tell a good story is a necessary and expected part of being a role player. When you argue that it's unfair to reward those skills because you fear you don't have them, that's exactly the same as saying "Compare this to someone like me who is not so tactically minded. When it comes time to move around the battlefield, I don't remember that I might provoke AoOs as I move within the monster's reach, so my character takes a hit that I could have avoided if I had taken a 5 foot step instead. It's not fair to penalize my character (a battle hardened veteran who would know to approach a long-limbed foe in a guarded way) simply because as a player I'm not as tactical." The only reason it seems different to you is because you perceive yourself as having one set of skills and lacking the other.

Second, you need to be introduced to the power of the word "yet", I think. When you say that you are not gregarious, you are acting like that is a fundamental fact of your nature, somehow beyond your control to change. That's a lie. Instead of saying "I'm not good at RPing conversations", say "I'm not good at RPing conversations YET." Acknowledge that it is a skill you could invest real life energy in, just like you would expect a player to invest in learning the combat rules and developing tactical skill over time. If you don't WANT to develop those skills, that's fine too - it's not wrongbadfun to only enjoy the parts of the game that you enjoy - but that doesn't mean that people who do more to make the table better shouldn't be rewarded for those efforts. If you feel bad about other people sometimes getting a minor bonus for a cool bit of RP, that's not a reason for those people to not be rewarded, that's a reason for you to think about upping your game.

Finally, because I feel like it's a particularly pernicious assumption that needs to be quashed, it bears repeating that nobody is demanding professional voice acting work or else no soup for you. Something like Mathmuse's example "diplomacy" check (more on that below) is a fine example of what would count as good roleplay - it's much more engaging that simply saying "I roll diplomacy". Indeed, I would argue that it is very nearly against the rules to simply say "I roll diplomacy" or "I roll my bluff" because the rules implicitly (or even explicitly, in the case of bluff) hinge on how plausible what you're saying is, and how well it aligns with the biases of the NPC in question. Without any type of narrative hook to latch on to, how am I, as a DM, supposed to create a reasonable response from the NPC? Should it be like this: "Your roll failed. Either roll initiative or walk away" or like this: "His eyes narrow a bit as he considers what you say, and he says 'Nobody told me about a band of well-armed performers for the party tonight. If you and your party will hand over your weapons and come with us, I'm sure we can get to the bottom of this'..."?

born_of_fire wrote:
Success of the acrobatics checks was determined by the result of the rolls, unaffected by the number of cartwheels we describe, our technical understanding of tumbling and gymnastics, the momentary distraction we created by saying “Hey look!” before we starting our movement or anything else—just the roll. This is not true in the case of the diplomacy check.

Also again, nobody is saying that the result of your check was entirely decided by how well you rp the conversation. No matter how much it might feel to you like that's what happens, it is not, so you need to stop responding to that fear as if it were a legitimate part of this discussion. What people are suggesting is that when dice are being rolled, those dice should be juiced a little bit to reward and encourage players who invest more in the narrative because they are making the game better for everyone at the table. It is NOT an argument that such skills should be 'auto-success', or that players who don't invest in RP skills should auto-fail. Point blank if you are interpreting this as removing dice from the equation for social skills, you are interpreting it incorrectly.

born_of_fire wrote:
I’m fairly confident Mathmuse understands where to apply diplomacy versus bluff and that this determination has little to with the overarching topic.

Well, it's nice that you are confident in that - I'm not certain either way, though, since on balance it seems more likely that "making contacts at the party" was a pretext for whatever goal the players were really after (since it's unlikely in my estimation -though admittedly not impossible - that the goal of the party was the professional development of the bard). The reason this matters is because it is a perfect example of good roleplay/player skill being rewarded. In the likely scenario that this was actually a highly plausible bluff that got rolled as diplomacy instead of a bluff check contested by sense motive, that's potentially a significant mechanical advantage earned by a player who used real-life social skills (in this case thinking about the plausible social dynamics of this situation) to manufacture a better approach than just "I roll bluff" or even "I roll diplomacy". Even in the case where in this specific example there really was no ulterior motive for wanting to go to the party, and it was a straight diplomacy roll down the line, as stated, with no elaboration or additional verbal decoration, that would probably be enough to earn a +2 circumstance bonus for choosing an avenue that was closely aligned with the desires and biases of the NPC.


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I'm Hiding In Your Closet wrote:

First of all, let me say that social skills have nothing to do with roleplaying talent. Trust me on that. It's a game of imagination. Perform (Act) should be an INT-based skill, if anything (and don't get me started on the whole Sorcerer casting stat thing).

Otherwise, saying that roleplaying shouldn't be a necessary ability in role-playing games is just like saying speed and agility shouldn't be necessary to play football/soccer, that coordination and the ability to jump shouldn't be necessary to play basketball, that strength shouldn't be necessary for wrestling, that a grasp of strategy shouldn't be necessary to play chess, that mathematical skill shouldn't be necessary to play various casino games, that hand-eye coordination shouldn't be necessary to play Sonic The Hedgehog, that a good vocabulary shouldn't be necessary to play Scrabble, etc etc etc.

I think this is generally correct, but is missing another important element - roleplaying is a skill, just like any other - it can be learned and developed over time. So much of the discussion about how rewarding good roleplay penalizes people who lack real life social skills I think misses the fundamental fact that even if someone isn't naturally gregarious, they can learn to be better at it in game with practice.

Furthermore, it is silly to assert that player skills don't come into play in combat - before any D20 is rolled in anger, there is a whole slew of player choices that have to be made, and there is definitely a skill in knowing which choices are better for a given character concept/build. Nobody would argue, I think, that a player who is experienced in D20 combat tactics shouldn't be allowed to benefit from that experience, yet somehow when it comes to social situations, the standards change.

Part of that, I think, is because the work behind being a good roleplayer can sometimes be invisible - I often spend as much time thinking about how my characters think and act (going so far as to mentally play out how they might interact in common social scenarios) as I do planning out things like feats and gear selection. I read a lot, and look out for cool social lines to crib from, and I'm always thinking about ways to adapt ideas from one setting to another, etc. In short, I think it's a bit frustrating to see people dismiss that work as "Oh, you're just naturally better at doing the talky-talky, so it's unfair for your player skill there to influence the game". I actually put a bunch of effort into being good at the talky-talky thank you very much, and while I'm glad I made it look so effortless, I'd still like to have my work recognized, you know?


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Necrodemus wrote:


I see your points, and while I agree (as I said, I don't care what the ruling is, I just want an official ruling other than Mark's comment) that we don't get to have an opinion about it, is a bad attitude as far as I'm concerned.
If math doesn't lie, then everything should behave as expected at the table. But the fact is, it doesn't.

Actually, it does. What you think you see happening at your table isn't actually real - I know that's a hard pill to swallow, but:

The operative is not getting trick attack automatically, even against CR 1/2 opponents. At best it's about 80% of the time (so, 1/5 attacks should not have it).

The operative is not hitting all the time, even against flatfooted CR 1/2 opponents. At best (assuming trick attack succeeded, in other words) it's 75% of the time (so 1/4 attacks should not hit).

Putting those two together, the "reliable" damage you are concerned about is happening about 60% of the time (3/4 x 4/5 = 12/20 = 60%). So, yeah - 60% of the time it works every time.

The soldier not wanting to full attack is simply wrong, especially with a ranged weapon targeting EAC. Assuming 16 dex (but no weapon focus, for some reason), The soldier does have a +0 on two attacks, it's true. However, taking two attacks needing 10's to hit EAC of a CR 1/2 enemy results in an roughly 80% chance to get at least one hit, and a 30% chance of getting two hits. Single attacking with a +4 nets you a 75% chance of getting one hit and a 0% chance of getting two hits. Either choice is likely more reliable damage than the operative, but the first is CLEARLY better. The fact that it doesn't feel this way to your players doesn't mean it's not that way, it just means that like most people they are bad at intuitive math (especially probabilistic math).

Basically your players are making poor mechanical choices that are magnifying transitory bad dice luck, and that in turn is feeding into your cognitive biases and causing you to have a feeling that is simply unsupported (and unsupportable) by facts. Now, that doesn't mean you are "wrong" to have those feelings, but it does mean that we shouldn't take your feelings into account when we discuss matters of fact.

Nyerkh wrote:

Seems like roleplaying doesn't really have all that much to do with it in the end, if I may.

We circle back to "can you really stealth-trick in melee round after round, again and again and again ?"
I'd argue that's hardly worse than bluffing all the time, or hacking to trigger distractions all fight long, or however else you choose to set up your thing.
I don't think even forcing a player to cycle through his options would be more satisfying, really. But that's a matter of taste, I suppose.

Roleplaying has everything to do with it. It cannot be an actual mechanical imbalance because no such mechanical imbalance actually exists. Thus, it is a perceptual issue only, and that falls squarely into the realm of roleplay. Here are the issues:

1) The operative does "burst" damage which tends to look way stronger than it is because people remember the 60% of the time the operative got that extra damage die way more than they remember the 40% of the time that he didn't get it (or missed entirely). Outliers stand out in our perceptions much more, and tend to distort our understanding of where the true average is as a result.

2) The mental image of a successful trick attack (even if it is not explicitly narrated out) is naturally going to be one of hyper-competence - even if the actual damage doesn't end up being very impressive, the sense of "extra success" there naturally makes the operative look cool, while the soldier who is hitting regularly but only "winging" the enemy (rolling low for damage, in other words) by default probably looks uncool - either moderately incompetent or maybe even deliberately cruel (as if maybe he was toying with his foe).

It's all about the optics here. Don't believe me? Let's do a thought experiment - imagine there was a class that was mechanically identical to the operative, but flavor-wise wasn't a competent, slick, trained secret agent, but rather was a zany intuitive inventor with all sorts of kooky gadgets to give minor skill bonuses, and a few more specialized ones for the areas the gadgeteer really focuses on. Instead of "trick attack", it's "stabilize invention", whereby the gadgeteer modifies his/her/their weapon to do extra damage, but it's a finicky devise that has to be cajoled into working, and the gadgeteer isn't a good enough engineer/inventor to make it work with more complex powerful weapons like long arms and advanced melee weapons. Further, it's so unstable and difficult to use that the gadgeteer has to spend a full round messing with it to make a single attack (though he/she/they can also move during this full action as well). If the gadgeteer fails the skill check or chooses not to attempt it, then the modification (but not the weapon it is attached to) is disabled for the turn - likely while sparking or smoking or the like.

I propose that the soldier in Necrodemus's game likely wouldn't feel outdone by that character, even if the math was exactly the same as it is now. Instead, he'd likely be much more focused on how silly and random the class was - and lets be honest, how long do you think it would be before "sad trombone music" became a feature of the turns where the gadgeteer attempts a to stabilize invention and fails? I'm guessing it would happen the very first time. This is actually important, because it means the 40% overall failure rate of the trick attack is much more likely to stick out in players minds, and that changes the perception of the class quite a bit.

To be clear, the point here isn't "we should re-imagine the operative as some kind of vaudevillian character", but rather to demonstrate that the the perceptual issues players are having can be resolved if they take more care with how they are describing things. Did the soldier hit an enemy in cover but then get a disappointing damage roll? That's not "just a scratch", that's "as the enemy shifts behind cover, for a split second his shoulder comes into view and you punish him for it - the hit might not be fatal, but he definitely felt it!" and so on. The characters will only feel as cool as the narrative supports, and if the players and GM aren't taking the time to show how the other characters are cool, then the operative looks better by default simply by virtue of having the ability to roll for "extra success" that the other players don't get (even if mechanically that "extra success" is simply allowing the operative to roughly keep pace with the professional combatants).


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Honestly there is no balance issue here at all. Math doesn't lie - once you take into account only getting half specialization damage, the inability to combine trick attack with a full attack, and (at low levels especially) the chance that it simply won't succeed, it simply is not true that operatives average out to doing more damage than the "combat classes". To be clear, this is not something that anyone is allowed to have an opinion on, anymore than anyone is allowed to have an opinion on whether or not 4 is larger than 5. I don't care how annoyed you are that 4 doesn't have to role-play to your liking - it's still a smaller number than 5.

I get that the preceding is going to feel rude or dismissive, but the facts are the facts, and frankly if I am going to be expected to respect feelings on this issue then I think the least that can be done in return is to acknowledge that they are just that - feelings, with no real empirical basis to back them up. Even things like "actual play experience" are so likely to be tainted with confirmation bias and plain old mistaken memories (See "Mandela Effect") that it's essentially irrational to treat those accounts as reasonable evidence, especially when the numbers simply disagree. Incidentally, this deep and abiding understanding of the ephemeral nature of memory and perception has gotten me out of jury duty twice - turns out that finding eyewitness testimony generally unconvincing is a reason to be removed, who knew? In any case, if you (in the general sense, not calling out anyone specific) feel like the operative is overpowered in combat, you're not "wrong" to feel that way, but feelings aren't facts, and you need to accept that.

So, let's get to the part that people CAN have an opinion on - whether or not it's a problem for the game if players don't have to role-play out the justification for this particular class ability. Here's the thing - it's okay if in your opinion it is a problem. That's fine - house rule that and play that way. Just know that I would likely not want to play with you. Not because I'm a power gamer, but because:

1) Your position massively limits player creativity. As it stands, if I'm playing an operative, I can simply pick whatever skill bonus is highest, and then I can describe what happens in pretty much any way I want (since the description has essentially no bearing on how the mechanics play out). I know this might seem counter-intuitive at first, but if you suddenly start policing my role-play by tying my ability to use a fundamental class feature to my ability to convince you as a GM that it's legit, I'm rapidly going to default to a very small set of known acceptable options, especially since:

2) I don't want to have a 30 minute argument at the table every time I want to access a basic class feature. Nothing bogs a game down like these kinds of disputes, and frankly I strongly suspect that a lot of the perception (or likely MISperception) of the operative as being "a problem" stems more from having ultimately unnecessary debates at the table, instead of simply saying "yeah, okay, that sounds cool!" and continuing with the game - for Pete's sake, it's a freaking 1d4 damage at first level. Who cares if the description of a stealth trick attack sounds to you more like a bluff or sleight of hand check, or if you feel like knowing how to use a Vesk's blind spot should be life sciences or culture instead. Ultimately, it likely would make the game better to simply let my cool, highly trained elite operative sound like a cool, highly trained elite operative than derailing the game every time you suspect I might be having wrongbadfun. After all:

3) You likely don't hold other classes/players to the same standard, right? If you made this ruling for operative players, I would insist that standard apply to everyone else (as only seems fair). Are you going to start giving penalties to hit for the soldier because he narrated his shot as hitting a particular body part (after all, it's gotta be harder to hit a specific body part than the whole guy, right?). Are you going to make the Mechanic explain in detail what he/she/it/they are doing to make the door open? Because I have to be honest - the moment a bit of technobabble comes out of the mechanic's mouth, I'm going to shout "WINDMILLS DO NOT WORK THAT WAY!" and insist that the skill check is an auto-fail, since letting it work would break my immersion. If that seems petty, well, you're right, because:

4) Your position seems rooted entirely in being punitive. From the discourse here, it seems highly unlikely that the discussion is really about rewarding role-play or even just clever play, since if that were the case you'd think there'd be way more people talking about how they would give circumstance bonuses to the trick attack check for strong, creative uses of the skills in question. I don't see that conversation happening, though. Instead, I see a few people trying to find ways to limit, regulate, or even de facto (if not de jure) ban some options. The assumption seems to be that good role-play should be the simple price of admission for using this class feature, instead of thinking about how rewarding compelling narrative choices with circumstance bonuses might encourage more immersive and colorful descriptions of the players actions. Of course, it's possible that this perhaps intuitive sense that these kinds of limits would be functionally a nerf to the operative is probably not too far off the mark, given that:

5) The problem is really the players, not the class. As Squiggit pointed out, the issue baggageboy was raising doesn't seem likely to be resolved simply by changing the name of the skill used. This isn't too surprising, though, right? Some players simply aren't inclined to role-play this kind of stuff as heavily, whether due to confidence, comfort, or competence (or even all three!). Certainly, roleplaying is a skill, and can (and should) be encouraged to develop over time, but I question if this kind of move is likely to have that result. This is really a Scylla and Charybdis situation for a player - on the one hand, the seeming presumption against trick attack simply working as described unless it can be justified puts pressure on the player to stack the narrative deck as much as possible, and really lay the justifications on thick. On the other hand, for the other players (who have likely picked up on the GM's subtle signalling that trick attack should be much more limited), doing that likely looks like being a spotlight hog, and trying to sweet talk the GM with cool sounding concepts (what is called in the Penny Arcade Acq. Inc. games as "That Pat Rothfuss Bull****"), so is likely to end up getting met with eye rolls, which further signals to the GM that the other players are feeling put-upon, encouraging more limits on the operative player, and the cycle continues.

Overall, it just seems like this is a classic case of the cure likely being worse than the disease, and if it became the accepted norm I can foresee more conflict and tension around the table, not less. While I suppose there can be some schadenfreude to be had from watching those tensions boil over, I'd generally much rather play than argue, and I suspect most of us are the same.


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Hazrond wrote:
Suppose you were given the option to start the game with any one item for free, regardless of level or price, with the caveat that it can't be a weapon or armor. What item would you pick and what kind of character would you build around it?

Tier 10 computer miniaturized all the way down to negligible bulk, with the artificial personality, security IV, firewall, feedback and fake shell upgrades. That gives me a "companion" with a +20 on sense motive, bluff, diplomacy and intimidate checks, which is pretty cool, and allows for character hooks like a hacker that stumbled upon a weaponized nascent AI, or maybe accidentally stole an extremely valuable computer that has hidden data that he can't access, or really any number of other things, but while keeping the combat abilities pretty balanced - if someone else in the party is really interested in playing the "face" character, I can work with the GM to limit what the artificial personality can do, as well, so that it's not so much stepping on toes. Basically, its more than valuable and powerful enough to be a good macguffin for the GM but doesn't necessarily translate to direct combat power (though social encounters might be pretty trivial), and it also allows for a GM to occasionally drop in a key piece of info to help drive the campaign forward.


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Android voice:
"Hey, you don't look so good, you feeling alright?"
Human voice:
"Yeah, I'm fine, I just wish I wasn't so willing to perform heroics for every random person who gives me a quest. It's exhausting, and nobody seems to notice my pain - why can't I just not care about others?"
Android:
"You should talk to your doctor about prescription strength Cruelestra - I was saving orphans like three times a day, and Cruelestra helped me get that under control. Now I barely save anyone - today I saw a Halfling getting beat up, and I didn't even stop!"
Human:
"Wow! I should really talk to my doctor today! Thanks buddy!"
Android:
"Don't thank me! I no longer care enough about you to consider you a friend - I'm just doing this because they pay me - that's the power of Cruelestra!"
Fast voice:
"Cruelestra is not for everyone. Do not take Cruelestra if you are currently using any Holy weapon fusions, as it may cause an unsafe reaction. Talk to your doctor if you feel new or worsening homicidal rages. If you experience a murder spree lasting 4 or more hours, seek immediate legal representation. Side effects of Cruelestra include tiredness, loss of appetite, shrieking existential terror and soul tearing agony. In rare cases, users of Cruelestra have reported summoning world-eating horrors from beyond space and time. Do not operate heavy weaponry until you know how Cruelestra will affect you. Cruelestra - because sometimes you have to be cruel to be kind."


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Diego Rossi wrote:
Lemartes wrote:

Completely disagree. (Player issues aside, a mature player with a good backstory I would allow this trait/combo. It's really weak anyways.)

The rat example was to show how absurd ruling this as a violation.

What if he doesn't even know he's poisonous? Again it's not using poison it's that he's poisonous. If he gave his blood to someone to drink yes violation. Getting bit no way.

The code says "not using poison" it doesn't say don't be poisonous.

Finally it's the player that chose for the character to be poisonous not the character that chose to be poisonous. Therefore the character made no violation.

The chances of "a mature player" takin this ability and playing a paladin are practically nihil, as it is a clear attempt to bypass the paladin limitations.

Poisoning a rat isn't a code violation? So a paladin can poison rats in your world. What other creature he can poison with impunity? Where is the limit?
The code is very clear a paladin can't use poison in any situation. And paladins are responsible even of their involuntary acts.

If a deity has chosen a paladin as his champion he would cure him of his poisonous blood when he take this class. I.e. the player wouldn't be able to choose the ability at all.

Choosing this kind of ability for a paladin is simply a sight that the player want to be a troublemaker, and you know, there is a piece of text for that in the CRB:

CRB, page 404 wrote:
Don’t be afraid to ask the troublemaker to leave the game session if he won’t correct his behavior after a polite but firm request.

Protip - alcohol is a poison. If a paladin ever buys someone a beer, they fall.

Carbon monoxide is a poison. If a paladin ever builds a campfire, they fall.

Lye is a poison. If a paladin ever bathes with soap or gives someone else soap to bathe with, they fall.

Carbon dioxide and urea are poisons. If a Paladin ever has a functioning aerobic metabolism, they fall.

Oxygen is a poison. If a paladin ever has a functioning photosynthetic metabolism, they fall.

Since the paladin code is so clear about ANY use of ANY poison, it's obvious that anyone who rolls up a paladin with any race other than a chemoautotrophic archaea is an immature player who is merely trying to game the system and pull one over on the GM.


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Wszebor Uriev wrote:
Again, to reiterate... you can have more or less untamed wilderness in Maine coexisting with great cultures in Mesoamerica and mound builders in the Ohio Valley. Arcadia is vast.

To be clear, Wszebor, I think the bolded part here is the part that is the issue in terms of the narrative that you are trying to tell. I certainly can't speak for Coffee Demon et al on this, but as a historian by training, that's the part that makes me cringe, because that's simply not how it was. I get that you don't want to get into a debate about this, but I think you are mistaken when you assert that just because the campaign setting is vast that your narrative is equally "valid". I mean, sure, as a work of fiction, you are free to imagine things however you like, but as it is, I (and I think others) feel like your conceptions of the "natives" as presented here runs into three cardinal sins:

1) It's based on a false understanding of the real world. This is probably the least of the sins - again, this is a fantasy setting, after all. That said, if you want to get a sense of verisimilitude, it's often better to hew more closely to reality when possible. To be clear, the reality is that the American Northeast was not even close to an untamed wilderness - the great forests with their tall, old-growth trees, open game trails and wide idyllic meadows were the result of intentional and long term cultivation by the civilizations in that area. To the extent the colonists felt that the land was "untamed", they were either reacting to the fact that the land had frequently been recently de-peopled due to massive plague or else trying to justify what could easily have been considered theft when they did things like harvest cornfields which had until recently been tended to by the now deceased natives (probably both). Thus, the idea that there ever was an "untamed wilderness" is as scientifically wrong as saying pterosaurs were dinosaurs, or that tryptophan in turkey causes drowsiness.

2) It's cliche. This, to me, might be the greatest of the three sins, honestly. Everyone has already heard the trite colonial whitewashing story before, and I think you owe your OTHER interesting story ideas more than wrapping them in with a half-baked cliche about noble savage natives. Honestly, if you are looking for a cool additional "hook" for your AP, you could do worse than to try to stand out by showing a more nuanced look at things. I don't even mean that you have to try to make a deliberately anti-racist narrative, so much as consider alternate possibilities. For example, I have a seed of a story idea that goes like this: What if the reason a sapient organism doesn't have tools is because it doesn't NEED them? The connection to Arcadia might be something like this: Civilization took a different track in Arcadia - instead of being empire builders and monument hoarders like the mage-lords of Avistan, the leaders of Arcadian civilization were more akin to what we might think of as sci-fi biotechnologists. They figured why build a city when you can train the trees to grow into buildings for you? Why wall in farmlands when you can just train your crops to grow only in the correct areas? Why till the land with peasant labor when you can train the moles/earthworms etc to till it for you? And so on, essentially taking the idea of real world Native American cultivation of the land and turning it up to 11 (and in the process neatly subverting the "noble savage in tune with nature" trope, I hope). In this model, you can present the meeting of two culture types that are equal, but so different from each other they each represent an outside of context problem for the other, and then let the PCs work out that conflict. In fact, no, actually, I'm claiming that idea, you can't have it:P

3) Unlike cliches about pterosaurs and tryptophan, the 'untamed wilderness' cliche is a fairly hurtful one. It essentially expunges an entire people from history, and in so doing prevents us all from understanding a fascinating and important (if not always pretty) part of the story of the human race. Again, I'm not saying that it is a requirement to go out of your way to be anti-racist, or to try to use your Pathfinder game to try in some way to right the wrongs of history. I get that isn't everyone's cup of tea - sometimes (probably most of the time) you just want to roll dice and have fun telling a cool story with friends. It just seems to me that if we're going to be making up a fantasy world anyway, we might owe it to ourselves to make our fantasy worlds more than a boring, hurtful cliche if we can - and after all, what's the use of fantasy if we can't imagine a better, more interesting world?


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Ssalarn wrote:
I actually postulated to Mark Seifter, and he agreed with the assessment, that probably 80% (or very likely quite a bit more) of the people who play this game play closer to the bottom of the skill curve than the top...

Really? 80% of players play closer to the floor than the ceiling? What does that even mean? Why is "Makes a mechanically optimized character" a "higher" level of play than "Makes an interesting character"? Now, I know people will jump to "DUR STORMWIND FALLACY MUCH?", but get over yourself. I'm not saying that mechanically optimal is mutually exclusive with being an interesting character. What I'm calling out here is that when people spout off about being "better" players, or about skill floors and ceilings, etc., it's clear they are not talking about "who makes a more interesting back story" or "who is better at getting into character". Rhetorically we all know we're supposed to understand “playing near the skill ceiling” as meaning “finding rules-legal combinations that maximize combat efficiency”. So, yes, it is possible to create characters which are both optimal and interesting, but it's patently obvious that it's the former that "really" matters - the latter is mentioned only insofar as an acknowledgment that playing "well" doesn't necessarily preclude developing actual characters. You know, if you happen to be into that sort of thing.

To be fair, I get WHY this bias exists - there are several reasons, really. First, and probably most importantly, its about quantification. We can quantify things like expected damage per round, damage soaked per encounter, etc. People like to do "well", particularly when it comes to leisure time and hobbies, so there's a very strong seductive pull of the ability of numbers to give that kind of feedback. I know that it's "awesome" when my character is able to do significantly more damage than expected for an "average" character of his level, that's something I can readily judge. On the other hand, how do I know if the dramatic in-character monologue I just delivered was actually a successful bit of role playing, or merely a cringe-worthy bit of melodrama? I can try to read the reactions of the other players, but maybe they are just humoring me, or maybe they hated it but have bad taste, so who cares what they think? It's much more subjective, so it's much harder to know that you've "won" the characterization part of the game.

This leads to the second major reason for the bias towards mechanics - making interesting characters is actually much much harder than making mechanically powerful characters. In part, this is related to the above - it's harder to get good feedback on the quality of the characterization of characters, so players have a much harder time improving that aspect of their play. Beyond that, though, is the simple fact that making a great (read "interesting") character requires such a delicate balancing act that most people are simply not equal to the challenge. Consider that to really make a standout character a player has to find an idea that is novel enough to catch people's attention, but not so crazy as to be impossible for the average person to understand or relate to. The character also has to be strong enough to not come off as pathetic, or a dead weight, but also has to be flawed or "human" enough to not seem like a Mary Sue, and so on. To top it off, once a player has the concept of a character down, that concept still has to be successfully executed at the table, and that requires a level of improv acting skill that most people just don't have, as well as the courage to put on what amounts to a command performance for a very small and potentially hyper-critical audience. Thus, most players (in my experience) simply don't bother with much (if any) characterization. At best maybe a line or two of background, and a Google search for a nice looking portrait they can "borrow". Making a good character is hard, so it's safest not to even try.

And that last point is the really galling thing, because the bias towards mechanical play is so strong that not only is characterization not considered important, but realistically it's seen with mistrust, contempt, and active hostility. Look no further than up-thread where The Sword is taken to task for having the audacity to advocate that GMs perform the explicit function of a GM by adjudicating situations where there are not clear mechanics. The examples given are all on point, and mirror my own experiences – I've actually long since developed something I call the “table test” - I will, as early as possible, try to improvise in combat by using the environment in some moderately creative way. I call it the table test because the first time I really had to confront this issue was a game where I tried to have my character tip over a table to have cover in a bar fight. Near as I can tell, there are no explicit mechanics for doing that, but even if there are, we certainly didn't find them at the table I was playing at. Thus, it was up to the GM to adjudicate, and it was more or less a travesty.

First came the initial gut reaction of “no, that's cheating”, followed quickly by the appeal to the slippery slope fallacy (“If you can flip over this table and use it for cover, then every fight in any room with a table is basically going to end up giving someone a free tower shield that doesn't require proficiency to use”), followed by a grudging agreement that it made sense to allow the attempt in the name of immersion and verisimilitude followed by a passive-aggressive setting of the unmodified strength check to do so at such a high level that I would have needed to roll a 19 or 20 to pass it (with a fairly average character str of 12), and then ending with the post-hoc “well, it wouldn't have ever worked anyway, because you didn't take a perception check to notice that the table has big gaps in the surface so wouldn't have been effective cover, and anyway it's bolted down”. What really struck me was how I was evidently the bad guy in this scenario for trying to do something cinematic and maybe “cool” (if a bit cliched), instead of just playing like a “normal” person. After all, it was said, if I just wanted to make things up with house-rules, why not just go home and write the novel I so clearly wanted to write instead of playing the game of Pathfinder.

I have seen this happen again and again - I had an aquatic themed summoner I wanted to play in a Skull and Shackles campaign, and encountered massive resistance to the attempt to describe casting “grease” as conjuring a slick of “sea slime” - purely a cosmetic change, but absolutely forbidden because it might somehow give me an “unearned” advantage in the game. I thought this kind of thinking was a joke, but no, it's actually baked right into the rules for organized play, which is simply shocking to me. If I somehow find a hypothetical situation in which altering the cosmetic description of my spell for thematic reasons results in a mechanical advantage, how is that “unearned”, or “unfair”, or “against the rules”?

The answer of course is that it isn't any of those things, it's just a different way of playing, and thus a challenge to the accepted paradigm of what “good” Pathfinder play looks like. Even that wouldn't be so bad, but so many of the “problems” with Pathfinder arise only because of that paradigm. Player balance and class balance and all that jazz wouldn't be nearly as much of an issue if characterization and telling a story was considered at least as important as optimizing the mechanics of a character. Improvising and creative play wouldn't be such a contentious issue if people weren't so automatically hostile to even the suggestion that a characterful description should potentially benefit a character in an “unearned” way. Being “overshadowed” wouldn't be as much of a thing if mechanical efficiency wasn't the only yardstick by which characters (and thus players) were measured, and so on.

Again, I'm not saying that mechanically strong characters can't also be interesting characters, nor am I saying that mechanically inclined players can't also be strong role players. What I'm saying is that it isn't enough to merely pay lip service to the idea that the two aren't necessarily mutually exclusive (except of course when they are, see the Organized Play ban on re-flavoring for example), when the only criteria for “good play” that seems to ever matter is mechanical performance. Saying “you could still role play your special snowflake character all you want if the rules were more balanced” is frankly a lie when the rhetoric used in the advocacy for such balance changes makes it clear that role playing simply isn't a part of the conversation when it comes to playing “right”.

PS before you start with “Your summoner example was specific only to organized play, so just don't do organized play”, the jokes on... well, me, I guess – that WASN'T a Pathfinder Society table, but “surprisingly” it turns out that the appeal of a hypothetical “official” way to play is very hard to resist, which, again, is why it's probably important to discuss what those norms are, and if they are good for the community.


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Andrew Christian wrote:

There is a huge difference between what you've done, and just claiming it.

You expended resources on legal mechanical options that gave your character certain abilities and traits and most likely a specific look. You didn't expect to have all that immediately, but continued to become more dwarf-like as you expended more resources to morph more and more into a dwarf.

That's using mechanics to your advantage. There literally is no fluff reskinning going on here.

Just saying, "I'm part dwarf," when you don't have anything mechanical to back you up, doesn't...

100% disagree. The logic you are using doesn't hold up IMO, and further demonstrates the ugly propensity in Pathfinder design (and in the player community) towards imparting nonsensical "cool tax" penalties on players.

The problem with your logic is that you are presuming that because there's no mechanics to hook on to, that it is somehow unreasonable to expect people to reasonably roleplay with the character, which is a perspective I find bizarre. After all, so much of any character has no mechanics (in fact, for my money, the most important parts of any character are typically the non-mechanical ones). The simple example that comes immediately to mind is a character's general physical description, which nobody seems to have an objection to roleplaying with, despite having no direct mechanical effects. If I describe my totally vanilla human as being stocky and hairy, I don't see why that is fine, but hinting that the phenotype there might imply some dwarf blood is simply out of bounds.

What if another player made the suggestion, based on the player's description and actions? Is that okay? If the OP roleplays "dwarfish" long enough and well enough for other players to pick up on the vibe without being explicit about it, is that okay? If no, why not (and where do you draw the line about a player's responsibility for how others perceive his/her character)? If it is fine (and I think any reasonable person would agree it is, to be clear), then why is cutting to the chase and being explicit about it NOT acceptable?

I mean, what if he gave his otherwise normal human character just a Dwarven sounding name? Is that out of bounds too? Are we now imposing limitations on what types of names are vanilla enough to not upset the apple cart? It doesn't seem like what he was suggesting was anything more significant than that - he's saying that his character believes (with some good reason) that he may have Dwarven ancestors. So what? That doesn't make him "count as a dwarf" anymore than the innumerable "deposed rightful heir" backgrounds people cook up make their characters count as the rightful king of Gondor. The fact that there is no mandatory mechanical effect one way or the other is, to me, a stellar reason why there should be no quibble with it at all.

Further, I really don't buy into the idea that players should have to "earn" their right to roleplay things by sacrificing elements of their mechanical builds on the altar of the cool tax. It seems to me that the cool tax mentality comes from a gruesome melange of game-ist and permissive-ist assumptions about Pathfinder as a tactical skirmish war game, rather than a collective narrative framework. While I can somewhat sympathize with the view that organized play as a framework requires a high level of standardization, at what point does it become clear that the pressure to standardize has cost too much? My answer would be we passed that point whenever it became outre to expect other players to at least acknowledge the mechanics-neutral description of a character without demanding to see where that description was reflected in the "build".


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DM Beckett wrote:

People attribute to Lincoln a lot of morality and heroic ideals he really doesn't deserve. But then, so much taught about of the civil war is pretty ridiculous....

I'm sorry - this is going to be a long post with only one connection to the Davis affair (a pretty powerful one, though), but I think it's important to respond to this. Put bluntly, this understanding of the Civil War is deeply flawed, and has gained far too much traction in our culture.

Let's start with the central assertion that the Civil War wasn't about slavery, but rather economics and the limitations on states rights. This is a common fallacy that comes about (in my experience) largely because of attempt by people to be "fair-minded" and "objective" about what the war was about. Sure, we can agree that slavery was distasteful, but shouldn't we acknowledge that the slave-holding states had a legitimate gripe? I mean, certainly they were looking at a situation where a wealthier and more populous north was going to increasingly dominate national politics, to the detriment of the economic and political interests of the southern states, right? So, really, slavery was just one minor part of that, and not that big a deal - the civil war would have happened regardless of the existence of slavery, and thus discussing slavery is a sideshow that muddies the water with irrelevant moralizing.

There's a key problem with the above line of reasoning, though. Here is a link that allows you to read the text of the declarations of the causes of succession for Georgia, Texas, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Virginia.

http://www.civilwar.org/education/history/primarysources/declarationofcause s.html

As a fun exercise, how many of those documents explicitly list hostility in the north against the institution of slavery as a primary motivator for succession? I'll give you a hint - all of them. So, yes, the Civil War was about state's rights - but the specific right in question was slavery. Yes, the Civil War was about economics, but the economic system at the heart of the dispute was chattel slavery. This, by the way, is the great connection to the whole Kim Davis debacle - it's all about branding. "Religious Freedom" is a great cause to fight for, despite being an utterly inaccurate assessment of the situation. It's much easier to get people to rally behind a general cause or an abstract ideal like state's rights or freedom of religion than it is to get them to defend the ugly specifics, like a woman seeking the right to violate the law so she can continue to exercise what she sees as her religious freedom to use her government office to condemn and scorn people she disagrees with.

Second, this understanding of Lincoln's actions in the context of the war is incomplete, at best. Yes, Lincoln instituted martial law, and yes, there were controversial decisions and serious disagreements in the north about the course of the war - shockingly, none of this is unusual when you are dealing with a civil war, and in fact there has never been any disagreement that the President has vast powers to preserve the nation in the face of a rebellion. The disagreements that continue to the present are generally along the lines of "Did Lincoln have the right to do what everyone after the fact recognized was necessary, without the Congressional approval of said actions which he eventually got anyway?" The fact that this question remains unanswered to this day demonstrates how unsettled much of the case law on civil liberties in wartime actually is, which is scary, but not germane to the fact that virtually everyone agrees that what Lincoln did was at least justifiable, if questionable.

Moreover the central implication of this yarn is that Lincoln didn't much care about this issue - this dovetails nicely with that other chestnut that Lincoln was actually just as virulent a racist as any plantation owner, making him a feckless hypocrite too.

Of course the truth is more complicated - It is true that Lincoln "delayed" the Emancipation Proclamation, and that it was a fairly limited document in scope in that it didn't address the issue of slavery in the loyal states, all of which is above and beyond the question of whether it was even legal to begin with. On the later point, Lincoln was at least somewhat shrewd, however, because he was able to turn the central idea of chattel slavery (that people can be property) against the institution of slavery itself. There is no doubt that war (or open rebellion) gives the government broad powers to seize or otherwise destroy property which is being used by the other side to prosecute the war, and it's difficult to argue with Lincoln's justification of the Proclamation on those grounds (that it was an act of war which attacked the war-making ability of the south).

As for the delay, and the fact that it targeted only the states in the Confederacy, well, here we see Lincoln the great pragmatist and statesman. First, there is unquestionably the idea that Lincoln did not want to antagonize the slaveholding border states which had not seceded, as those states were seen (probably correctly) as being vital to the eventual outcome of the war. Moreover, it would be much harder for Lincoln to justify the Emancipation Proclamation as an act of war if it was also directed at loyal states and citizens. Finally, Lincoln recognized what most people of the day did - the writing was on the wall for slavery in any case in those states, and seeing which way the wind was blowing all the loyal slave states except Kentucky and Delaware had abolished slavery before the Thirteenth Amendment (which made the debate moot in any case).

It would, therefore, have been politically costly and foolish for Lincoln to have taken a more sweeping approach, given that the more limited one got the same result, and with less (but certainly not zero) controversy. It's true that Lincoln favored a more gradual approach to abolition than the southern states gave him credit for (having painted him as a radical abolitionist for their own propaganda purposes), but when given the opportunity to chart a path towards national abolition, it's probably fair to say that Lincoln charted the course that was maybe less ideologically pure, but much more likely to succeed in accomplishing the end goal.

This, then, leaves the question of Lincoln's personal beliefs. Let's not mince words here - the man was a racist (as was the vast majority of the population of the north, including the majority of abolitionists). He did not, ultimately, truly believe that a black man was the equal of a white man in terms of actual ability or quality. That said, what makes him truly remarkable is that he recognized two great truths beyond that - first, that regardless of his personal feelings on the matter, equality before the law was an ideal which deserved to be fought for, and second (and I think even more heroically), he was able to recognize that his racist beliefs diminished HIM as a person, and that he could do what he knew was right, even if he didn't personally agree with it.

Bringing this back around to Kim Davis, this is why it is so important to make it clear that there is, in fact, no issue of religious freedom here, unless you are willing to defend the very specific freedom which Mrs. Davis is fighting for - namely the right to break (or at least ignore) the law in order to use her government office to condemn and marginalize people she whose lifestyle she doesn't agree with.


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Couple of rules issues with your guide -

First, for eidolon as mounts builds I think it's important to point out that NONE of the good aligned subtypes can actually take the mount evolution, because mount is limited to Daemon, demon, devil, elemental or protean. Once you add in the base form restrictions that excludes devil as well, and then alignment restrictions will likely mean that the majority of players will be shoehorned into elemental for this build.

Also, because Rake requires quadruped base form several of the subtypes you have it listed for (angel, archon, azata) actually can't take it - it is more or less impossible to build those subtypes as natural attackers as a result.

Finally, I'm not sure you will get away with the assertion that slam doesn't require the use of the arms. I get where the RAW argument is, but I think that this is one of those things that would end up varying from table to table, so probably should be caveated as such.


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Puna'chong wrote:
Your post makes it sound like you, personally, are under attack. You aren't. Nobody who likes the APG summoner is under attack.

No, it doesn't make it sound like that at all. It makes it sound like I feel like my preferred style of game is under attack by a pervasive mentality that I find more or less distasteful. I'm especially tired of the rhetorical victory laps people take about the "fixes", and it drives me crazy that Paizo empowered that perception by talking about the lack of a flavor straitjacket on the APG Summoner as if it was a bug, not a feature, and most especially by treating the Unchained Summoner as official "errata" for PFS.

The fact is, as I pointed out (and you conceded), the APG Summoner wasn't even the most powerful, game breaking class in the game (pretty decent, as you put it, and I agree with that assessment), and aside from getting rid of the weird bug with making cheaper wands of some good spells (which I couldn't possibly care less about), the Unchained Summoner doesn't even fix the complaints about how hard the class is to manage at the table with action economy etc. Instead, all it did was gut the flexibility of the class while leaving the complaints about how hard the class is to manage (and even audit - having to check to make sure the base form and individual evolutions are legal for the subtype doesn't seem like less work than the APG system). Yet still we have people talking about how great the new version is. As I said - it's ludicrous.

Puna'chong wrote:
The Unchained summoner is a tool, an optional tool, which should (and in many cases has) take a class that was pretty disliked by many DMs and turn it into a rehabilitated one that's allowed to join in the fun. If your DM won't let you bring your snowflake of an APG eidolon with you to a session, then have some backups. There are a lot of classes in Pathfinder, and if the DM won't work with you it's not the game's fault, it's the DM's.

The problem with the original was that GMs didn't like it, so the solution is to work with the GM, and we should blame the GM for not being willing to make the APG Summoner work? I don't even... Actually, that's not true, I do know where to begin. At the end - I concede your last point - the problem is not (and has never been) with the class, it's been with GMs and players, which is just shows that there was no need for the fix in the first place. It wasn't a problem with the class, it was a problem with how people perceived the class. Before Unchained debates about APG Summoners all more or less followed the same pattern - someone would assert that they were too strong, followed by a discussion in which it would generally be agreed that the problem was really just that Summoners had a higher optimization floor than other classes, and that they were hard for new players to manage effectively. The darkly hilarious thing is that the Unchained Summoner probably doesn't solve either of those problems (it's certainly not easier to manage given the need to now navigate the interplay between the various restrictions on base forms and evolutions per subtype, in addition to the restrictions which people already felt made it tough to build an eidolon correctly). The fact that many people demonstrably feel better about the Unchained Summoner is pretty strong evidence that it has always been about perception, not about any real mechanical problems with the class.

Puna'chong wrote:
Speaking personally, the biggest problem I had with APG eidolons is the fact that they were a blank canvas in a class that had other very powerful options, and so it was easy to min-max the hell out of a character and his mutant terror-fist. Some of that stuff's been toned down, and the new archetypes are also something I like because they make sense to me from a perfectly valid, rational, and not-ludicrous flavor perspective opinion, which I can have, because I have an opinion. Because of this, as a DM, I would probably allow for there to be an eidolon option that was just an amorphous blob if the player really had their heart set on something that needed those extra two evolution points from day one. That's fine, and it's about having fun.

Your perspective is that removing the blank canvas and replacing it with paint by numbers is somehow more flavorful. You are certainly entitled to have that opinion, but given that a flavor agnostic system would allow both of us to fill in the flavor of our choice as desired, I don't see how you can object to being called out on how on face absurd that stance is. I'll say it again - as an alternative eidolon option, the new subtypes would be a welcome addition. As a replacement for the old, however, they fail miserably to achieve the goal of making the eidolon easier to build/manage/audit, AND they kill off swaths of concepts for seemingly no good reason to boot. Note that you've already had to concede that you would probably allow the APG eidolon as well, pending your approval of the concept in question, which raises the question of why you couldn't just do that in the first place?

Puna'chong wrote:
But don't pretend that you're the only one affected by this, and that anyone who doesn't think that this is woefully, shamefully ludicrously farcical in a way that squelches the limitless creativity of all of the genius summoner-builders out there-- wholesale--because of Paizo's treacherous machinations is some kind of toady or someone who doesn't have a leg to stand on against the raw might of your righteous and indignant nerd-rage.

I don't think this affects only me - that's kind of the reason why I care. I think this affects (at a minimum) anyone who also prefers the kinds of games I prefer. I think there's a strong case to be made that since my philosophy of the "right" way to play is pretty much inclusive of anything you and others would want to do that adopting my viewpoint is likely to be superior to the alternative. For the rest, all I can say is that I can see clearly the ways in which the position that states that the APG Summoner is broken but the Unchained Summoner is fine is indefensible. It may be an opinion that someone is entitled to hold, but lets not pretend that all opinions are created equal.


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Milo v3 wrote:
blackbloodtroll wrote:
Well, can my Unchained Eidolon be an Unicorn?
... Yes. It's actually easier than with the old one, since the new one can get healing powers and magic circles against evil.

Actually according to the rules in Unchained the only "good" aligned subtype which can take the quadruped base form at all is the Agathion, and that doing so sticks you with a "unicorn" which has a bite attack but can't have a gore attack at first level, and which can never be ridden since Agathions can't take the mount evolution, and which have to be NG only, instead of the standard CG of unicorns, and which can never have "hoof" attacks because they don't actually exist for unchained eidolons, so no, you really can't make a unicorn without a relatively amount of GM handwaving to make it work. Herein lay the problems with this "simpler" system.


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LazarX wrote:

They did that for a very good reason. The Summoner is no longer a caster who summons an amorphous blob and remakes it into shapes. He actually is now summoning an actual outsider and putting some shape into it.

But mostly, they did it to fix a class that was clearly out of control... to the point where it had become a problem with PFS play, and many GMs outside of PFS had gotten to the point where they were banning it altogether.

Your "good reason" sounds to me an awful lot like a "bad reason" - terrible, even. It amounts to saying "We don't like this concept, so we're going to try to get rid of people playing it", which is why I find the whole thing so ridiculous, and borderline offensive. I get that some people didn't like the "flavor" of the old summoner because it doesn't fit with what they thought it should be. That's fine. Just understand that as far as I'm concerned, that opinion is flatly ludicrous - the "amorphous" nature of the summoner before was hands down its greatest feature, because it allowed players to build concepts that were otherwise impossible. It's sad to think that Paizo's developers didn't understand that the lack of directed flavor was a place for players to fill with their own creativity. Now the summoner is really just someone who gets a weird form of the Planar Binding spell from level one, and sure, that can be an interesting concept, but it shouldn't be the only one. As additional options, the unchained eidolons are fantastic. As a wholesale replacement they are a farce, a pale shadow of the limitless options players had before, and it's frankly dishonest to pretend that this is a universal "good thing".

Then, of course, there is the whole balance angle. Let's be clear - the Summoner was not the most powerful class by a long shot. Any prepared full caster can potentially put the Summoner to shame. Instead, the balance issue is and always has been primarily an issue of players, not the class. Some players aren't very creative, and so instead of taking advantage of the Eidolon's flexibility to make something interesting, they just made the kind of flavorless murder machine that "overshadowed" the fighter, or else they made a skill monkey that put the rogue to shame. From my perspective, that's not the fault of poor class design, though, that's simply the result of either a GM who doesn't know how to engage players in anything other than combat, or players who aren't interested in anything much other than the "fighty" parts of adventures, and can't come up with a way to play interesting and engaging characters regardless of whether or not they have the biggest numbers. And that's fine - it may even be the most common mode of play, but it's certainly not mine.

And this circles back to my beef above - the fact that the spread of the prevailing sentiment on these boards has made it harder for me to find the kind of games I like, because of an assumption of a certain type of game as "normal" and thus the baseline that should be expected and catered to. And I know that there are the common protestations of "Nobody is telling anyone else how to play their home games", but let's face it - often times those pronouncements come with a sense that "home games" or "house rules" are not "true" Pathfinder, and in any case it seems again dishonest to pretend that the prevailing sentiments of the board do not have at least some persuasive power in the "Real World". Unchained has raised the prohibition against APG Summoners so high that I think it's likely that I will never again be allowed to play one myself. Sure, I can let people play them when I GM, but they will be playing THEIR concepts, not mine, so some of my favorite character ideas will simply wither on the vine.


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LazarX wrote:
Scythia wrote:
Mighty Glacier wrote:
Pre-unchained Summoner is either always banned or at least frowned upon.
Sweeping generalizations are always incorrect.
When one of the actual developers of the game bans a class from his home games, that means something.

Yep! It means that people are not homogenous, and that something that doesn't work for his home game might work perfectly fine for the rest of us.

Or, put another way - the original Summoner was only a problem for some people. I never had a single problem with it, and I don't know many people who did. Sure, I see lots of complaints on these forums, but these forums represent only a very particular subset of players, and I'm not even convinced a majority of the people on the forums have a problem with it. I AM convinced that a plurality of the most prolific posters have a problem with it, but I also don't value the opinions of those posters very highly since they tend towards a gaming philosophy that I simply don't buy into.

The problem, of course, is that now that Paizo has "fixed" the class by offering an entirely optional alternate take on the class, that same plurality of posters has taken to crowing at every opportunity about their "victory" in the name of the fatuous concept of "balance". It would be a lot nicer if the people who prefer the unchained version of the Summoner would stop asserting wrongbadfun on anyone who dares prefer the original.


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Rynjin wrote:

You might want to back up a second and recognize that you are essentially saying we should outlaw people being wrong.

Think about that for a second.

I've thought about it a lot, actually, and I'm okay with it, since, you know, that's how most laws work. It's wrong to murder, so we outlawed it. It's wrong to steal, so we outlawed it. It's wrong to deny people basic human dignity on the basis of their race, so we outlawed it.

We outlaw things all the time because they are wrong. The fact that they are also done out of ignorance doesn't excuse them, nor should it.


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DualJay wrote:
This is a straw man. You do not know where I would stand on the issue of discrimination against African-Americans in the 50s and 60s, as the issues are not directly equivalent, no matter how much one may treat like they are.

It's not a strawman at all. It's obvious that the situations are more than a little similar, so the analogy seems apt, and the burden is on you to demonstrate how they are distinct situations beyond your weak-sauce assertion that because they are not exactly the same, we can't extrapolate from support of bigotry in one area to support for it in another.

DualJay wrote:
You are trying to evoke an emotional reaction, which is not suitable for a conversation that should be thoroughly rational.

Bullpucky. First, the entire impetus for laws like the one you are supporting is an emotional appeal to least-common-denominator fear-mongering about an "other" that is tearing apart the moral fabric of our lives by denying even the freedom to fight back. It's hardly a rational place to start from. In fact, it should be noted that in a real sense, there's no rational need for such laws, since it is currently not illegal to discriminate against people on the basis of sexuality. The only reason to pass the law is the fear in the Republican base that "the gay agenda" is coming to get them.

More importantly, from an actual rational perspective, at best, you end up with competing interests - one group feels put upon by the existence of the other. In breaking this tie, we should use the concept of least harm, agreed? I assert that being forced to provide a service for a person you don't care for is not nearly as harmful as being allowed to publicly discriminate against that person. On balance it seems more likely that the law will cause more harm than it will prevent, so from a utilitarian standpoint, it's clearly irrational.

DualJay wrote:
And here's a key point: People can be wrong. I support their right to be wrong. I do not support being wrong. They are free to be wrong, but that does not make wrongness right. Do I make myself sufficiently clear?

Nobody has a right to ignorance and bigotry. Sorry. Choosing to allow people to be wrong is, in fact, a tacit acceptance of that wrongness. If you acknowledge that bigotry is wrong, the only moral recourse is to attempt to correct it, not enshrine it into law.


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DualJay wrote:
So long as the care is good enough for the individual to survive with minimum lasting harm, then that is sufficient.

Really?

REALLY?!

Sorry GLBT people - you only get "sufficient" health care, because that's all we're "obligated" to provide creatures like you. This isn't state sponsored discrimination, though - it's FREEDOM, so suck it up!

I mean, I could go on, but really... I don't know how anyone could read what you wrote and not vomit at least a little.


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Calth wrote:
No, I meant Spellstrike. How exactly are you casting the spell without using the hand not holding the weapon?

No, you didn't, you meant Spell Combat, because Spellstrike says nothing at all about the requirements to cast the spell, it only talks about how to deliver the charge from a touch spell once you do cast it. If you disagree, please quote the text of Spellstrike which talks at all about needing to have a hand free, etc. Since I'm actually looking at the text now, I can promise you that search will be futile.

As far as your question about how I'm casting the spell in the first place, that has already been answered - I am keeping a hand free (as Spell Combat requires) but not using it for somatic components (because nothing in Spell Combat says that I have to), and indeed Spell Combat makes it clear that the free hand requirement is independent of the somatic component requirement. Thus, casting the spell my making the required gestures and sketching the required arcane glyphs with the tip of my sword. Again, prove that I can't describe my character this way.

You are assuming you have to use the free hand to cast the spell. You don't. You are assuming that casting a spell is the same as attacking with a weapon. It isn't. You are assuming that precise strike requires that your hand stay completely empty and unused. It doesn't.


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Calth wrote:
Let me ask you a question. You are trying to spellstrike shocking grasp. You are holding a weapon in one-hand with which you intend to deliver it. Can you make that attack without using your other hand?

Yes. Spellstrike says nothing at all about the off hand (and in fact explicitly says that the normal touch attack is delivered with the weapon instead) meaning on face I don't have to use my "off hand" for anything in terms of "making the attack". You lose there.

But wait! I guess you probably mean to refer to Spell Combat here, because spell combat requires that I have a hand free to cast a spell, even if the spell doesn't have somatic components (which already shoots your argument down since the need for somatic components isn't the reason the hand has to be free). Thus, as long as his hand stays free, I am perfectly free to describe my magus as standing in a classic fencing pose trading precise blows with enemies while sketching the arcane runes of his spell in the air with the glowing tip of his magical rapier, before unleashing that energy in a well delivered strike. Please prove that I can't.

Counter question - I hold a baby giraffe in my off-hand. Can I precise strike? If no, why not (and remember, use actual rules text in your answer, not what you think the rules should say)?


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How is this thread still even a thing? You can do this, RAW.

1) Dervish dance precedent. Dervish dance has harsher restrictions, and still allows combining with spell combat/spell strike. If precise strike doesn't work, then clearly neither does Dervish Dance. On the other hand, if Dervish Dance does work with Spell Combat and Spell Strike, then it must be true that Precise strike does as well.

2) Precise strike's actual, real, textual limits do not say anything about having to have an "empty hand" or a "free hand" or anything like that. This is objective fact - the limits as stated in the rules are that you cannot make a weapon attack with that off hand, and you can't use a shield other than a buckler. Any other reading is inserting language that simply isn't in the rules, no matter how much you want it to be.

As a request, from now on, if you are going to argue about the RAW of precise strike, please quote the exact text of the rules where it makes the claims you are making. To help, I have put the text for precise strike below: (copied from the PRD and cross checked against my physical copy)

Quote:

Precise Strike (Ex): At 3rd level, while she has at least 1 panache point, a swashbuckler gains the ability to strike precisely with a light or one-handed piercing melee weapon (though not natural weapon attacks), adding her swashbuckler level to the damage dealt. To use this deed, a swashbuckler cannot attack with a weapon in her other hand or use a shield other than a buckler. She can even use this ability with thrown light or one-handed piercing melee weapons, so long as the target is within 30 feet of her. Any creature that is immune to sneak attacks is immune to the additional damage granted by precise strike, and any item or ability that protects a creature from critical hits also protects a creature from the additional damage of a precise strike. This additional damage is precision damage, and isn't multiplied on a critical hit.

As a swift action, a swashbuckler can spend 1 panache point to double her precise strike's damage bonus on the next attack. This benefit must be used before the end of her turn, or it is lost. This deed's cost cannot be reduced by any ability or effect that reduces the amount of panache points a deed costs (such as the Signature Deed feat).

I have bolded the only part that provides a limit on use in terms of what the off hand is doing, and it does not say anything about needing a free hand, or anything like that. RAW a character could use precise strike while holding on to a swinging chandelier with his off hand and shouting "What-ho?!", so he could certainly do it while wiggling his fingers.


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James Risner wrote:
Claxon wrote:

I think it's technically within the rules, but I don't know that I'd allow it as a GM as I don't think it's within the spirit.

Are there any spells that do something similar to this and at what spell level?

+1 against the spirit.

See Through Stone is a 4th level Druid spell, so this is a full 2 spell levels early.

Except, See Through Stone doesn't let everything on the other side see you right back, so, I'm not really sure that comparison makes much sense.


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Orthos wrote:
So basically "I can't imagine it any other way so this is how it has to be". Which is the exact sort of thing a lot of people have been complaining about right in this very thread.

But no, see, because the story of how a GM holding a character's advancement hostage to force the player to learn how to stop having wrongbadfun makes it clear that the game needs MORE of these limits, not less!

I propose the following:

Wizards must be lawful. Wizardry requires an intense focus and a detailed mind, so all Wizards must have a lawful alignment. Any Wizard who becomes non-lawful loses the ambition and discipline to continue his/her magical studies, so retires from adventuring and takes a job working at his/her brother-in-law's dealership.

Sorcerers must be chaotic. Sorcery is powered by a "taint" of magic in the blood that is difficult to control (or even restrain). Any sorcerer who becomes non-chaotic looses this primal connection to wild magic, and decided to grow up, give up the zany life of adventure, and take a job at his/her brother-in-law's dealership.

Rogues must be kleptomaniacs. Rogues steal things. They just do, okay? Any rogue who passes up the opportunity to get the party thrown in jail by blowing a sleight of hand check against the town mayor has clearly lost his/her nerve for a life of crime, so gets clean, goes straight, and gets his/her life on track by taking that job at his/her brother-in-law's dealership.

Fighters must be cheerfully stupid brutes. Fighters only know two things - fighting and chewing bubble gum. And they accidentally swallowed the bubble gum. Any fighter who demonstrates caution, planning, or thoughtfulness will immediately have an epiphany about how dangerous and silly the adventuring life is, and realize it's far better to stay home and work on the brother-in-law's dealership.

Barbarians- see fighters, except Barbarians must be irrationally angry. In addition to fighter restrictions, if a Barbarian ever passes up an opportunity to get the party thrown in jail by murdering a town guard over an imagined slight, the Barbarian learns to just let it go, and looses all access to class abilities, resulting in a shameful return home to take a job at his/her brother-in-law's dealership.

See! Fun!


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I don't really understand how anyone could think there's anything approaching a "right" answer for this topic beyond what I think is the obvious answer given earlier - players should communicate with the GM and vice versa, and be willing to accommodate each other while acknowledging that it might simply not work out, and the best thing to do is part amicably instead of playing a game that isn't fun out of a sense of obligation.

If a GM is insisting to have so much control that I feel like it impedes my ability to play a character the way I want, I might suggest that GM go write a novel instead of railroad me into "his" story. If one of my players is so laser focused on a particular vision for a character that any deviation is automatically a problem, I would suggest the same. To me the game works best when everyone realizes that the plot advances by mutual consent only - it's not just the GM's story, and it's not just the player's story - it's the group's story, and should be treated as a collaborative project.


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Sissyl wrote:
A strong character that needs to hold back to not outclass your character means, even if it never does a single thing to be overbearing, that the entirety of your character's existence, motivation, struggle, whatever you call it, becomes meaningless in a single stroke. If Superman is with us, why doesn't Superman solve every problem with the villains? Your character becomes a supporting cast character in Superman's story... and feels completely irrelevant.

The fact that people feel this way doesn't mean they should feel that way, or that those feeling are valid concerns. The problem is not with the player who brings a "too strong" character, and is willing to adjust his/her playstyle to allow the rest of the group to have fun. The problem is with the players who are bent out of shape because:

A) they feel entitled to know the details of his/her character so they can tell when he/she's sandbagging a little to give the other players a chance to shine.

B) they feel entitled to be "the star" even when nothing about their character or their personal player skills justifies that.

C) they feel that "value" and "worth" of a character is inextricably linked to the mechanical power of that character.

The solution here, as always, is that some people just shouldn't play together, because they want such different things from the game, and/or they have widely disparate skills. If you want to play Bob and Alice, the plucky underdogs who barely get by with grit and determination, you can absolutely do that. If you want to play Dave the Almighty and wreck face with supreme cosmic power, you can do that to. If only one of those playstyles sounds good to you, then you should not play with people who want the other, instead of pretending that there is some perfect game balance or social contract that will make it so that "Supreme Cosmic Power" can be roughly equal to "I pick locks good".


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noretoc wrote:
I don't agree. It is quite clear to me that you can not use both.

Can you explain why, though? Your first attempt doesn't work because it relies on limitations that simply aren't there - Precise Strike doesn't say that you can't use your off-hand, or that your off hand must be "free", it says you cannot make an attack with a weapon or use a shield other than a buckler and still benefit. I maintain that "Spell Combat" is explicitly neither of those things. Instead of attacking with a weapon in the off-hand, you are casting a spell, so on face it doesn't meet the criteria set out in Precise Strike.

You have to either run with "Spell Combat is exactly literally Two Weapon Fighting", which is unsupportable per the rules text (and even the SKR quote from earlier points out that when they make explicit distinctions you should honor those), or you have to read "but the off-hand weapon is a spell" as making a very broad claim that spells are off-hand weapons, instead of the more logical and more technical reading that it is clarifying that the difference between Two Weapon Fighting and Spell Combat is that Spell Combat uses a spell instead of an off-hand weapon. Or, I suppose, you have to believe "casting a spell" is automatically the same thing as "attacking with a weapon", but I think that's clearly the weakest of the readings.


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noretoc wrote:

I understand Calth and exactly where he is coming from and agree with him (though in my home game I would be ok with it, cause its cool)

The Faq and dev comments talk about the way they think of extra attacks and the metaphysical "hands". When you make a second attack using a weapon it takes up your second "hand" even if you are not using your other actual hand to make the attack.
Precise combat denies you the bonus if your offhand is in use. It is intended to not work with two weapon fighting, so that means it is referring to that metaphysical "hand".
Spell Combat, when using it uses up that "hand" as if you were using two weapon fighting.
Hence no precise strike with spell combat, when you are attacking and casting.
Agree 100% RAW.

First, again, I find it unlikely that an interpretation that relies on understanding meta-game concepts like "hands of effort" that are neither well defined nor explicit in the rules is "simpler" than an interpretation based on explicit distinctions drawn in the rules text.

For example, note the bit of what you wrote that I bolded - this is the same kind of "over-reading" of the rules text that Calth is doing when he says "spells are weapons" or "Spell combat is two weapon fighting". The text to precise strike doesn't say you can't use it if your hand is "in use" - it says you cannot use precise strike if you use your hand to attack with a weapon, or if you use a shield other than a buckler. You can, for example, use your off hand to hold a cloak, hang from a rope, make an obscene gesture, or even paint a picture if you wanted, and you would still be able to use Precise Strike.

So, textually, Precise Strike says you "cannot attack with a weapon in her other hand or use a shield other than a buckler". Those are the only two conditions on the "hands" that matter. Spell combat says "This functions much like two-weapon fighting, but the off-hand weapon is a spell that is being cast." In order for those two to conflict with each other, you either have to read "much like... but..." as "Exactly the same as", OR you have to read "but the off-hand weapon is a spell that is being cast" as meaning "Spells cast 'off-hand' are weapons" instead of reading it as "instead of using an off-hand weapon, you are using a spell".

Edit: Heck, I just realized - you could even be "holding" a weapon in your off hand and still get precise strike as long as you don't attack with it. I really think maybe the key conceptual issue here is people over-reading what the limits to Precise Strike actually are - it never says you can't carry anything in the off-hand, or that you can't "use" the off-hand. The conditions are very specific - "attack with a weapon" or "use a shield other than a buckler". That's it. "Cast a spell" is on face neither of those things.


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Calth wrote:
My interpretation is hardly complex. It is: If you use a hand to cast a weapon-like spell, you are making an attack with that hand. That prevents the use of spellstrike with spells with somatic components.

?!?!?! Wow, if that's your argument... I don't even know. I think, giving you the benefit of the doubt, what you meant to say was "preventing the use of Precise Strike with spells with somatic components", but even then, I think your interpretation is much more complicated than simply letting them work together - heck, you are already having to caveat with "with weapon-like spells", which is a term that is not clearly defined anywhere.

Calth wrote:
As for points 2 and 3, if you don't follow the intent that similar abilities, especially rules that reference another rule, follow the same rules even if they don't have the exact same wording or name, huge portions of the game break. For example, anything that has a prerequisite "animal companion class feature" cannot be taken, as there is no such class feature. There are a bunch of class features that grant an animal companion, but none by that name. The game is explicitly designed around the "duck" logic because it's easier to design that way, since the devs don't have to worry about incredibly nuanced references to every other similar ability and exactly replicating wording. Your insistence that it is bad logic is meaningless, it is a stated design principle of pathfinder.

Except that SKR even said "treat them the same, and trust us to tell you when they are different". Saying "Except that the off hand weapon is a spell" seems both literally and informally to be creating exactly that kind of exception. Basically you are saying we have to read the rules technically enough to catch that Spell Combat is technically treated similarly to Two Weapon Fighting, but not SOOO technically that we we notice that it is, in fact, not really Two Weapon Fighting. Basically, you have to believe that you are reading the rules at the exact right level of technicality to "win". If you read a little more technically, or a little less technically, and your interpretation stops making sense.

Calth wrote:
But I am done responding unless something new comes up, as you refuse to cite any rules element or dev statement remotely supporting your side.

I'm curious - why is me pointing out that the rules and devs you cited probably support ME and not you not sufficient to meet your evidentiary standard? I don't need new references, because I believe I'm much more correct about what your references say than you are.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Maps, Pawns, Rulebook Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Calth wrote:
1.) I have freely admitted through the whole thing that handiness of a spell is the crux of the issue. I believe spells with somatic components are associated with the hand cast by them.

Except that you literally just conceded that spells aren't necessarily and automatically connected to a "casting hand", so... are you agreeing with me here that your interpretation is less likely to be correct?

Calth wrote:
2.) Spell Combat not working with precise strike is an entirely different issue. Spell Combat is explicitly written to work like TWF with the spell counting as the off-hand weapon. So a Magus cannot use Spell Combat with Precise Strike period, hardly a corner case.

Uh, the entire topic of this thread is "Does Spell Combat work with Precise Strike", so it's hardly a separate issue. Also, again, you are treating "like" as "is identical to", which is not, SKR's quote below notwithstanding, how language works in either an everyday setting or in technical writing.

More specifically, precise strike says you can't use a weapon in your off hand - spell combat says it is like two weapon fighting, except that the off hand weapon is a spell. To me, that clearly draws a major distinction between the two. It's like saying "it works like two weapon fighting, except your second weapon is <not a weapon>. Thus, there is no textual reason to see them in conflict.

Calth wrote:

3.) I'll just go with SKRs quote:

( http://paizo.com/threads/rzs2ln8z?Can-a-Life-Oracle-with-Channeling-take#30 )

If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it's probably a duck. If you line up Daffy Duck, Donald Duck, Duckman, and Howard the Duck, from a game standpoint it makes sense that a +1 duck-bane arrow is going to do +2d6 damage in addition to normal arrow damage if you shoot any of them, because they're all ducks. And if you shot that arrow at "Duckie" from Pretty in Pink, it wouldn't get any bonus damage, because he isn't a duck. And you should be able to see why those first four are ducks and the last one isn't.

First, no matter who says it, "If it looks like a duck..." is not ever good logic. It's merely a lazy way of avoiding actually doing rigorous thinking. For example - maybe if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, lays eggs like a duck, swims like a duck, etc, it's still a goose. In other words, as soon as you can draw a clear distinction between things, they can no longer be considered the same thing. That is a bedrock of logic and language.

Second, you are misunderstanding the underlying purpose of what SKR is trying to say - he's essentially appealing for people to look for the simplest interpretations, because the rules are written in a way that seeks to make them easier to remember by referencing similar mechanics while making specific exceptions. I feel like that makes your interpretation WORSE, not better.

Basically, you are proceeding from a place that seems to believe that you have the simplest interpretation, and thus the most likely to be correct. I find your interpretation to be anything but simple, since it requires all sorts of appeals to concepts that are never clearly defined, while simultaneously requiring a (to my reading) massive distortion of the meaning of actual words, all so we can end up with a situation where, evidently, you believe that we can't combine casting a spell while wielding a one handed weapon with a one handed weapon style unless we happen to be casting a spell which acts like a weapon because a specific class feature creates a loophole which disassociates the "casting hand" from the "attack". Somehow, to you, this makes more sense than simply admitting that acting like two weapon fighting in some limited ways is not the same thing as literally being two weapon fighting.

I would even argue that given that SKR says "treat things as the same unless we tell you they are different" is much more consistent with my point that Spell Combat specifically does draw such a distinction - the off hand weapon really isn't a weapon at all. Since Precise strike is limited by attacking with an off hand weapon, and since Spell Combat specifically is using a spell in place of an off hand weapon, the simpler interpretation is to just let them work together, as well as that being the interpretation which is more technically correct.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Maps, Pawns, Rulebook Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Calth wrote:
I missed the still spell part, which does mean the ray is not associated with a hand. As for the rest of your "claims" I don't bother responding to them because they have no basis in the rules. Rays and touch spells are weapons, every rule and ruling in Pathfinder specified this, and I don't need to support that more than to cite the relevant rules which I already have.

1) You have just conceded that handedness isn't a set in stone issue, and thus that the interpretation that says that with Spell Strike you "attack" with the primary hand is more likely to be true.

2) You are ignoring the fact that even if it were true that SOME spells are weapons, not all spells are weapons, and thus at best your interpretation would boil down to "Until they get Spell Strike, magi are unable to cast touch attack spells with Spell Combat while still using Precise Strike", which is such a narrow and corner case limitation that it may as well not exist.

3) Your certainty in your position is not a persuasive answer to my claim that spells are not weapons. The rules do not literally say spells are weapons, and in fact RAW spells can't be weapons. Here's my mathematical proof:

If you are a weapon, then you require proficiency to use without penalty.

Thus, if you do not require proficiency to use without penalty, then you are not a weapon.

Ray and Touch spells do not require proficiency to use without penalty, thus they are not weapons.

Again, you are making the "looks like a duck" argument, and that is bad logic, and not how language really works. Just because two things are similar in some specific ways (touch attack spells and weapons) does not mean they are the same thing.


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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Maps, Pawns, Rulebook Subscriber; Starfinder Charter Superscriber
Calth wrote:
Casting a spell that deals damage is making an attack. This is a clearly stated base rule and cannot be question.

What about a spell that does not deal damage directly, like "Create Pit" or "Bladed Dash", or a spell that doesn't deal damage at all, like "Shield" or "Haste"? Are those all still attacks? More importantly, are they attacks "with a weapon"?

Calth wrote:

There are only two things that are up for interpretation: Are spells delivered by touch attacks weapons, and does spellstrike change the hand associated with the weapon.

Evidence leans towards yes for the first, as the spell turns an unarmed attack into an armed attack, and who knows for the second. I lean towards no, unless the spell does not require a somatic component. Additionally, there is some evidence that weapon focus(touch) is a valid feat, or at least was in 3.5 and nothing in the conversion to Pathfinder affected the rules to change this.

There is enough ambiguity in the rules that there needs to be a dev clarification.

Again, you keep saying the evidence supports you, and then not actually responding to the reasons why, in fact, it doesn't. My contention is that despite the existence of exceptions which allow spells to be treated as weapons in specific, limited ways, it cannot be true that spells are literally weapons. Thus, at best, your argument devolves into a belief (or maybe hope) that the designers intended to create another such exception here. RAW, it does not exist, and cannot be reasonably extrapolated from the text.

Second, the "handedness" issue has actually been pretty handily knocked down by the bit you were attempting to dismiss below:

Calth wrote:
Also, in your example with a ray, you would be unable to cast any ray with a somatic component while wielding a rod and a dagger.

Except, he specified that the ray was being cast with "Still Spell", so, there is no somatic component anymore. So... what happens? If the answer is "The ray can't be fired, because there are no free hands to attack with", why is that a more reasonable answer than "The ray gets fired from wherever the player wants, and is treated normally"? Functionally, if you deny the player the use of a ray because it requires a free hand, you are creating an exception to "Still Spell" eliminating the need for gestures.

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