I've been working on my 5 Tips series for PF's base classes for a while now. I finally made my way through the Core book, and I'm easing into the Advanced Player's Guide. One of the most requested classes I hit for this expansion was the summoner. While I've only played a handful myself, I've seen a lot of other players make what I think are the same mistakes with them tonally, and story-wise. As such, I thought I'd share my take on how to get more juice out of the class in terms of story and roleplay.
If the group only sees you as competent because of your numbers, they may the ones having badwrongfun
A point that I think is worth making is that, while roleplaying is the first two words of the title, game is the final word. You can't have expressly one or the other, because they're intertwined.
If you don't have the numbers, you don't succeed. It doesn't matter how unique your character is, or how cool a story moment it would be for them to finally be the one that shines, if the numbers aren't on your side, then you fail (this is assuming no DM-ex-machina that just gives you a win regardless of what the rules say happens).
It doesn't matter where your numbers come from (retraining, multi-classing, metric ass-load of magic items, enchantments from the rest of the party, corruption, etc., etc.) you still need to have them on your side if you want to do the thing. And while it's entirely possible to layer on the buffs to make an everyman into Iron Man, that takes a lot of resources, and a lot of help from everyone else at the table to make it work (as well as a lot of gold, spell components, etc.). If those resources aren't available, or no one is willing to carry you (after all, why buff the crippled fighter to the level of the party barbarian when you could, instead, buff the barbarian into an engine of destruction?), then what are you going to do in order to succeed?
On the one hand, yes, character matters. Unique characters, and fun concepts, should be embraced. But if your PC literally needs to roll a 19 or higher to do anything (or the villains have to roll a 2 to negate any effects you try to create), then you're not helping with the game aspect. Which is why, before you put a character into play, you need to ask what their schtick is, and how it's going to help the party. You also need to understand their weaknesses, and have something in place to overcome them so you're still a viable member of the team.
Melee sorcerers are awesome! Perhaps my proudest moment was when a friend of mine sighed, shook his head, and said, "Of COURSE the sorcerer has a 16 Strength and is carrying a greatsword... he's YOUR sorcerer!" Still, had a higher Charisma, and proved quite hard to touch for the first few levels.
Over the past few months, I've seen a slew of players asking how to make what is essentially an anti-class. The weak, sickly barbarian, the uncharismatic sorcerer, the fighter with no physical stats, and the one from the title, a stupid wizard. In short, the players wanted to take the attributes that a class's abilities sort of depend on, and purposefully put their lowest scores in them.
I get the reasoning behind it. If you have a character who has to struggle to overcome something, then they can feel like they have more of an arc. But if you are essentially less useful than your average commoner, why would someone bring you out into a dangerous situation? Which was why I made the case in No One Wins When You Build A Stupid Wizard that the way to have your cake and eat it too was to play a character who is actually another class. The weak "barbarian" is actually a slayer or a rogue who uses precision and tactics to overcome stronger opponents, the smart "fighter" is actually a magus or a wizard who is a soldier, using arcane power to compensate for physical frailty. Etc., etc.
What surprised me, though, was the vehement reaction from a lot of people to this opinion. If a player wants to play a wizard with an INT of 11, they said, then they should be allowed to do that for story reasons. Which left me scratching my head. After all, if you don't bring anything to the party, then why would they want you on their team?
Looking for thoughts and opinions from others. To be clear, I'm not talking about players who put their second-best stats into a class's necessities, or who use feats and class features to substitute abilities for their features. I'm talking about situations where a player is purposefully sabotaging their own character's effectiveness, and why anyone would impose that kind of a burden on the rest of their table.
One of my favorite things to do is to gather the most common stereotypes about classes, and then invert them in a way that is wholly within the rules, but wholly outside of what people consider traditional for that class. It's why I got together with the folks from Dungeon Keeper Radio, and in the latest episode of Mythconceptions I took aim at the stereotypes and assumptions people make about what sorcerers have to be, and how they have to be played.
If you're interested in the interview with Alessa Greenbough, Assistant Dean of Transmutation at the Royal Academy of Arcane Arts, then by all means take a listen to Mythconceptions 3: Scholars and Sorcerers.
However, I'm curious, what are the misconceptions about sorcerers that annoy you the most? How do you subvert expectations? What is an often-overlooked way to play the class that no one at your table saw coming?
I've had a lot of requests for Overwatch characters, and while I don't play myself, I do enjoy the world lore. So after reviewing some of the more prominent heroes, I figured I'd take a shot at converting some of the fan favorites. The mechanics, of course, won't be accurate, but the spirit of the abilities the characters have is my goal here.
So, I was messing around with the folks at Dungeon Keeper Radio recently, and we put together a silly little episode called Familiar Problems. The basic gist is that it's an agony aunt style show, where familiars write-in with their problems. The ones we hit on were how casters will often send their familiars into danger to keep themselves safe, how familiars used for buffing and healing might not feel their jobs are all that important, and how a caster who starts turning toward corruption can drag their familiar into wickedness with them.
I was curious, though, what sorts of familiar problems the community has experienced apart from these three scenarios? Have you had familiars who were capricious, and unhelpful? Did they constantly fail will saves, or always wind up injured, or captured? What's a common scenario out there?
Pretty much this.
The selling point for me was that there would be no conversion necessary. You would, essentially, just have new classes and races to choose from, with a lot of stuff from the technology guide suddenly being a lot more prominent. Use some of the modern firearms rules, where they're common enough to be considered simple weapons, and bam, you're off and running.
However, just from what I've seen, Starfinder is essentially a metric bolt. PF is a standard wrench. Sure you can MAKE it work with some effort and ingenuity, but I don't buy a brand new game just to crack and reverse engineer it back at home. I want it complete, functional, and doing what I want straight from the get-go. That's why I pay money for it.
Starfinder doesn't seem to be doing what I want. It's perfectly good on its own merits, but what I wanted were space-faring summoners, demon possessed barbarians fighting with laser axes, interstellar evokers, and swashbucklers with vibro-blades. This game is not really giving me what I wanted, there, and converting PF to SF is not something I'd recommend anymore than converting 3.5 to PF. It's a door best left not opened, from what I'm looking at.
I've been running an occasional feature as part of my "5 Tips" series, and every new installment touches on a new base class. This month I wanted to show the druid some love, and help players step out of the "bearded recluse who hates cities" stereotype. Because while that's one way to druid, there is so much more than that out there.
A lot of the time players will make PCs who are entwined when the game begins. They're childhood friends, family members, or they've been co-workers for some time. Other times the DM has to contrive a way to make the party form up. That can be a huge pain, especially when you're bringing 4-6 strangers together, and expecting them to form a team.
One way to help with that is to ask players to create Their Small Legend. Even low-level PCs are notable in small ways, so get players to ask what people know about them. Is The Headsman's Daughter feared for her skill with her father's ax? Have people heard the songs and stories of Briar Redwood, the northern skald whose drinking is nearly as impressive as his sword arm? Etc., etc.
Just a handy tool I wanted to pass along to any fellow DMs.
I love Golarion as a setting, and it seems every time I dig through one of the national splat books, or re-read an entry in the Inner Sea World Guide, I find another reference to part of Earth's history that I've not seen in a fantasy setting before. It's one of my personal areas of geekdom, so I thought I'd see if anyone else shared it.
What's your favorite? For me it's the reference to The Varangian Guard in the huscarls of Taldor's Ulfen Guard which protect the Grand Prince.
Ciaran Barnes wrote:
It drives me crazy when a player thinks he can say whatever he wants - to the point that another player is offended - because its the character doing it. If you consider that even a non-evil aligned adventuring party habitually kills other sentient creatures and robs them, it is not a stretch of the imagination that they would would not be afraid to use force with one another (although they might stop short of killing). "I'm role-playing and thats how my character talks" seems as logical as "My character would break your nose".
The, "that's what my character would do," is valid for everyone. If you are going to shout in someone's face, then they can use the same defense to put a poisoned dagger in your ribs.
That is a very good question. Other folks had some good answers, but what I run into most in my experience (which is not to say this is the ONLY explanation, just the one I most commonly run into) is Wolverine syndrome. Occasionally referred to as The Perseus Complex.
You have a PC who, for one reason or another, doesn't want to get into this game. They've retired, or they have a family, or they don't want to be part of a violent crusade, etc. The problem is that instead of coming up with a compelling reason for doing something they don't want to do ("I owe my old captain this one, last favor," for example, or the ever-popular, "I want my kids to know what kind of man their father is. I take no pleasure in this, but don't let it be said I didn't step up when the job needed done."), they just whinge about it.
If there's nothing stopping you from going back home, you're fully welcome to do so. If you'd rather go solo, the party won't get in your way. Sadly I think we're used to the archetypes of Batman, Wolvering, etc. who are nominally part of teams who tolerate their BS, and when that doesn't happen, there's nothing in the source material for how they should proceed.
My sympathies on that one, Lorewalker.
In general, it is sort of a more specific application of rule 1. Mostly, though, I feel like a lot of players take the assumption that their character is going to be allowed to do what they want a little too far sometimes and that can lead to problems.
Ideally, the DM will look at the player and ask them how this PC is going to function in the setting. They'll find a niche for the PC to fill, and encourage the player to roll with it. But there are always going to be players who threaten to murder their party mates, or who actively steal their gear while they sleep, then wonder why they get kicked to the curb.
So, I addressed this topic a few days back, and it rather exploded. As such, I thought I'd bring it over here to see what folks on the boards thought.
In short, I think that a lot of the time players assume that because they are PCs, that they can take certain actions free of consequence. For example, the party can't kick them out for doing something harmful, dangerous, or evil. If someone is bringing in a new PC to an existing game, then they will be integrated without question, even if there is literally no reason for their character to come with the party. Or, in some cases, the character is actively resisting going with them, such as staying at the bar to get drunk rather than going out to raid the kobold warrens.
In short, it is up to the player to meet the rest of the table, and the DM, halfway. You need to create a character who has motivation to participate, skills the party needs, and who is a bigger help than a hindrance. If you can develop rapport with the party, and make sure you do your job, hey, bonus.
So, those are my basic thoughts from Remember, The Party is Under No Obligation To Adventure With You. I'm sure folks have their own opinions on the matter, though.
This is precisely how I THOUGHT it was supposed to work. However, it seems that the ability is viewed differently elsewhere. According to most of the people I asked in Pathfinder FB groups, HIPS did not take away the need for cover or concealment. Therefore you still had to have one or the other in order to make the Stealth check.
That confused me, of course, because if you had either of those things then they wouldn't have line of sight on you, so you could make a Stealth check normally.
Upon further reflection, saying you can do it while being observed does imply that you no longer need cover or concealment to make the checks. Just the necessary nearness to areas of low light. Thanks for weighing in on what likely seems an uncontroversial topic.
So, I've recently put my first Shadowdancer into play, and I'm trying to wrap my head around the Hide in Plain Sight ability. I know it isn't a skill-based form of invisibility, so I can't just walk down a dimly-lit corridor like it ain't no thing, but I'm having difficulty understanding precisely what the advantages of it are. If you can't just pull a Lamont Cranston and step into a dark alleyway to vanish, then what IS it good for?
You can make Stealth checks while being observed if you're within 10 feet of a shadow. That doesn't remove the necessity for cover or concealment, though (or it doesn't appear to, at least). So what is the advantage of being able to step into another room if people can see you went that way?
If there's a guide that breaks this down, or something in a book or FAQ that would help, I'd appreciate a link.
So, this week I decided to explore the possibilities of the tumor familiar, and what you could do by combining it with the familiar archetypes. My results are below. I intend on field-testing this at some point, but haven't had a chance to just yet.
So, this one might be preaching to the choir, but it seems like everywhere I go people are always asking, "How come you play Pathfinder? Why aren't you playing 5th ed?" The other game title changes, but the question stays the same. So this week I thought I would put down my reasons. The blog post is fairly long, but so far it's received some positive support. So I thought I'd share it here, and see if folks agree with my reasons.
Are there reasons I don't mention, or things that you prefer instead?
So, I know that most folks don't mess with drugs in Pathfinder because of the ability damage, and the chance of addiction. However, a recent character concept I put together I'm calling The Pill-Popping Paladin embraces the harder alchemical items Golarion has to offer. Is it for the rush? To reach a higher state of mind? Or to gain an advantage when standing against the hordes? All potential options.
Some classes get more pigeonholed than others, and for my money the barbarian is one of the most stereotyped classes in the game. So I thought I'd put together this handy list for players who were new to the class, or who wanted to do something different with it.
If you're open to 3PP material, Rogue Genius Games' Guide to Hellfire Magic is what you need. There's even a spell that turns his head into a burning skull.
I try to avoid 3rd party material as much as I can, because I know the most common rule at most DM's tables is "Paizo books only." This is my 42nd character conversion, and it's the first time I've recommended applying a template to make a concept work.
So, I'm going to stand up on a soap box for a moment, and talk about an issue very close to my heart. Some players may agree, others may not. However, I think that the goal of any player should be to build effective characters who can achieve their goals, and back-up their fluff and story with concrete rules.
At the same time, I do not believe that being creative when it comes to character story gives you a free pass on the mechanics. You are bound by the same rules as everyone else at the table, which is what stops the game from turning into a round of playground make-believe where you can conjure an everything-proof shield.
Claiming your character is "well-rounded" doesn't change the fact that we brought you along to help slay the dragon. If you can't hack it, say so up-front instead of explaining why you invested in Perform (Dance) and Run, instead of abilities that would assist the party in getting the job done.
For those who care to read more, You Don't Get Brownie Points For Building Ineffective Characters sums up the rest of my feelings on the subject.
*steps down from soap box*
I get why "adventurer" is a part of the game's lexicon. It's an easy, catchall term for the sorts of professional lunatics that would volunteer for dragon slaying, undead hunting, and giant fighting. But I find that the catchall term, when players throw it down, tends to be more of a story crutch, and it leads to poorly fleshed out concepts. That's why I put together my pitch for this strategy in Stop Using The Word "Adventurer" And See How It Changes Your Game.
It's not for everyone, but for those who share my feelings on the word, give it a try. I've had good results, and a few other tables have opted to use my strategy.
Paladins are the base class which causes the most arguments. If it's not arguments about what constitutes lawful good, or the complaints that the class shouldn't have to deal with alignment restrictions, then it's one of the legion of stories about a player who took it upon themselves to police the party's actions, even when those actions aren't criminal, or even, strictly-speaking, immoral.
While I doubt we'll ever settle all the issues surrounding the class, I have identified what I think are some key areas where problems can be avoided, with a bit of planning. Because sometimes all it takes is a little forethought, and cooperation with your DM, to completely avoid drawn-up, frustrating debates. Hopefully folks find some value in these 5 points.
Slanderous at the end. Populists are about as far from evil overlords as it's possible to get.
First, because I feel like being pedantic, it's only slander if you speak it. Given that it's written, you'd call it libelous.
I'm also not entirely sure that you can fit Jackson under populism, especially given both his standing as a member of the elite (a war hero, lawyer, and landowner) along with his behavior while he was in office. A flagrant lawbreaker who saw himself and his office as the ultimate authority in the land, he was prone to ignore laws he disagreed with, reacting to pressure from the other branches with an invitation to a duel on more than one occasion.
As I understand it, the president was not considered the most powerful position in America before Jackson gave it that makeover. A lot of the attitudes we have today are directly because of how he chose to act, regardless of legality and general consensus. Not exactly a man of the people, and since he chose to go for bloodshed instead of fairness, far from what the alignment spectrum would consider a good man, as well.
I have full builds for a number of heroes and villains on my Character Conversions page on my blog. A list for those who haven't been there yet includes:
That's in addition to my Game of Thrones and Badasses of History conversions. Hope folks find some useful stuff there, if they stop by.
Let's assume, since it seems we have to say it, that the post is about Golarion, and the nations therein. Since it's what we have as a "common world" for setting.
A DM can declare in his or her setting that characters of certain classes are, inherently, agents of the law, or the government. But, nowhere in the class description does it say that's a requirement. And nowhere in your class abilities for base classes do you get an ability that gives you command or control of NPCs.
That's the point being made, here. If you choose to play a base class, and you want that character to have some position in the game, whether that's a deputy sheriff in Sandpoint, or a city watchman in Korvosa, that is not inherently tied to your class. That is your backstory and RP. Difficulties come when players don't do the story work, but assume that, by virtue of their class, they get those social benefits anyway.
A few things before I start off. One, this isn't JUST a post about paladins; they just happen to be the class this happens with the most. And Two, the main thrust of this post is questioning the assumptions that we make as gamers, and getting us to hold them at arm's length to get a better look at them.
Anyway, this week I put together a fluff post titled You Don't Have Any Actual Authority, Just Because You're A Paladin, and there has been a lot of popular support for it. So I wanted to share it with the folks here, and hope that I could get some reasoned thoughts, and if any of my statements are incorrect, to get a page number with the rulings so I can alter what I said.
In short, I feel that too often we, as players, forget that having PC levels doesn't give our characters legitimate authority in the game world. Having levels of Inquisitor doesn't give you the ability to walk onto a murder scene and start ordering around NPCs like you're a watch detective, for example. Being a paladin doesn't automatically make you a recognized secular authority like a sheriff. If you do have that kind of authority, it typically comes as a part of your character's story, which includes membership in a law enforcement organization. Sometimes you might get limited authority as part of a prestige class (Grand Marshal, Hellknight, Eagle Knight, etc.), but if you're level one, it's probably because you and your DM agreed on a certain background.
The other point, and one that's gotten lost in the cross-talk up until now, is that because secular authority in the game world is granted through your story (for the most part), you don't have to have it if you don't want to. If you want to play a paladin who's just a lone adventurer, with no ties to a church or to a nation, you can do that. It's kind of like the lawful good rogue... we overlook it so often that we eventually forget it's something we can make, if we want to.
Anyway, these are my thoughts. What are yours?
My new preference is to take 2 levels of rogue, along with the Extra Rogue Talent feat. I have a feeling this might show up in more than one future character build... particularly if I want True Strike twice a day.
[southern drawl] "I reckon I'm just a simple country folk witch, but seems to me there's nothing quite as comfortable as sitting in my rocking chair with my pet crow having a casual conversation on my porch. As it runs across the country [/southern drawl]
I'm tired, so I misread part of that as "southern dwarf." Now I need to make a backwoods dwarf witch. Just has to be done.
Around the time I finished this article, I had a desire to play a draconic sorcerer who, for his 15 minutes of intense reflection, will just bask in his hoard. When he's level 1, he reclines on a sumptuous throw pillow, which is the softest, nicest thing he owns. Around level 8 or 9, though, he has a bag of holding just for his hoard. If someone gets too close while he's relaxing, it's likely a breath weapon will manifest.
Mr. Lee holds a very special place in my heart. I put an article together about him several years ago titled True Facts About Christopher Lee that would serve as a handy base.
Certainly not out of the question, but not likely to come up for a little longer.
There are certain parts of the game that get glossed over and hand waved away more than others. Travel time, what you're carrying, and spell preparation are the three I see most commonly. The last one, though, always makes me sad, because there's so much flavor and RP you can get out of how a character prepares themselves for casting.
Even spontaneous casters have to take 15 minutes a day to focus... so what's their ritual?
I had a lot of suggestions on the topic, so I put together a post titled What Does Your Spell Preparation Look Like? If anyone has unique methods of spell prep, or fun stories about past characters, I think this would be a great place to pool them.
Dave Justus wrote:
I figured the entire purpose of Racial Heritage was so you could integrate monsters and races you aren't typically allowed to play by just putting a drop of their heritage into a human. The same way one would use Eldritch Heritage to gain some, but not all, of the powers a given sorcerer bloodline manifests naturally through level progression.
And now, the second entry in my Rogues Gallery series! Harley Quinn is the only iconic villain to ever make her debut through the Batman animated TV show, and she remains one of the most popular characters from Gotham's mythos. Also, if you liked my Joker build, who not add her as your cohort?
So, I'm contemplating a new series of character builds titled Badasses of History. I started it off with out 16th president, who was an ax-wielding mutant, famed for his wrestling prowess across several counties. Honest Abe was never afraid to get down and dirty when required. So, what do you all think? Would you like to see more articles that are one part history lesson, and one part character build?
I might be late to the party on this one, but one of my current campaigns is the first time natural attacks have been something the party is using, as well as the DM (we have two skinwalkers in the party, one a swashbuckler, the other a barbarian). I was aware that natural attacks are useful, and they've always been great flavor, but it wasn't till someone put me behind the wheel that I realized how much damage you could do with them.
I also wrote up a post breaking them down, and showing their strengths and weaknesses at Natural Attacks Can Turn Your Pathfinder Character Into a Monster, for those who are interested. Just wanted to geek out a bit, and give my brain a break from trying to make a whirlwind of attacks at the lowest level possible.
I had a ridiculous plan similar to this. I wanted to play a pseudodragon character who was either a wizard or a sorcerer, and then give him a barbarian as a cohort. Said cohort would be the wizard, and the pseudodragon nothing more than his "familiar" in order to confuse the rabble. With the right transmutation spells, this could lead to some serious damage.
So, anyone who's seen my posts knows that one of my favorite things to do as a gamer is to defy expectations for what a class looks like in-game. I've talked about the touchy subjects of the ninja, the samurai, and the paladin, so I thought I'd go for a slightly less controversial, but still pigeonholed, class: The Barbarian.
I love barbarians, but I wanted to encourage players and DMs alike to take a step back, and re-examine what the rules say the class has to be. I think you'll find it is a LOT more flexible than we often believe at first glance.
Dave Justus wrote:
My question, then, is why do we ban the ninja, but give the monk a pass?
Monk weapons are also traditionally Eastern in many respects, but how many times have we given the caveat of, "you can play a monk as long as you use a staff or kicks; no kama or shuriken."
The argument appears to be the same for allowing/disallowing either class. Monk, since it's in the core book, is one that feels like it has more right to be in a game simply because it came first. So, I suppose what I'm asking, is that where does it stop when you ban on flavor? If you ban the samurai and the ninja, do you then ban the monk? Do you ban certain nationalities of character? Do you ban access to certain exotic weapons, even if a player eats the cost for the feat, and takes a trait that gives them said exotic weapon to start with?
All of these things are up to DM discretion. But once you use the blanket, "this isn't Western enough for my game" argument, it's going to apply to a lot more stuff than just one or two classes, and a few exotic weapons.
EDIT: Also, a note on "baked in" flavor. Barbarian rage began emulating the historical Berserker rage associated with the Vikings. If I recall correctly, it began with a kit in 2nd edition. Despite that, though, I don't see anyone arguing you can't have barbarians from whatever culture or country you choose. Nor do I see anyone saying your Rage HAS to look a certain way in order for the character to be acceptable. So why does something inspired by Japan get all this baggage, but something inspired by Scandinavia is re-flavored without any real issue?
Tequila Sunrise wrote:
I'm glad someone found that amusing. I'd been holding onto that joke for months looking for a place to make it.