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Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber
James Jacobs wrote:
PhelanArcetus wrote:

I'm not sure if you're the right person to ask, but you're a good starting point at least.

I'm looking to reverse-engineer a few rules to get a feel for the underlying assumptions, expectations, and targets... both so I can have a firmer sense of how to adjust encounters for my parties, and also for some general game design.

Is it fair to say that the stat blocks available for the iconic characters are roughly representative of the power level Paizo adventure and monster designers build for?

(This will help me reverse engineer things like expected chance to hit with primary attack, or how likely a monster is to make a save. Good both for figuring out how much to beef up the monsters in my games, and for non-Pathfinder design.)

No. The stat blocks for the iconics are variable. Some versions are meant to be easy to understand and standardized for ease of play in the Pathfinder Society. Some versions are meant to be customized for earlier Adventure Paths. Some versions are meant to simply portray them as the characters they are, personality wise. They are NOT meant to be anything close to "optimized" characters for their class, and in fact, most of them deliberately make choices that optimizers gnash their teeth at.

The BEST way to get a firmer sense on how to adjust encounters for your players is NOT to reverse engineer other people's work, but to pay attention to how your OWN design works and interacts with your group, and constantly adjust things to compensate for their own strengths and weaknesses.

When we build encounters and monsters, we generally assume a middle-level of player experience and a 15 point buy for a character with a party of 4 or MAYBE 5 characters. For Pathfinder Society adventures, we assume a group of 6 with 20 point buy and a LOT higher player skill... or at least, that's what we SHOULD assume.

Table 1–1 in the first appendix of the Bestiary is what we assume for building monsters, though.

I'm aware iconics are not optimized, and I'm quite fine that they're not. My goal was really to have a better sense of the PC equivalent of Bestiary Table 1-1; I know my PCs are more powerful than the adventure path assumes, but I was looking to get a somewhat more quantitative assessment of how much more powerful than the current qualitative assessment. That would, I think, make it easier for me to adapt existing published content to my game; providing a baseline for the adjustments to start from, at least.

I'm adjusting, but I'm still developing a feel for how much is suitable, and I was looking for a more... scientific approach, to treat it a bit less like an art form, at least until I get more comfortable.

That, and to unravel some of the underlying assumptions of Pathfinder for the sake of understanding them and deciding how I want to translate (or not) those assumptions to the system I'm oh-so-slowly designing.

Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

I'm not sure if you're the right person to ask, but you're a good starting point at least.

I'm looking to reverse-engineer a few rules to get a feel for the underlying assumptions, expectations, and targets... both so I can have a firmer sense of how to adjust encounters for my parties, and also for some general game design.

Is it fair to say that the stat blocks available for the iconic characters are roughly representative of the power level Paizo adventure and monster designers build for?

(This will help me reverse engineer things like expected chance to hit with primary attack, or how likely a monster is to make a save. Good both for figuring out how much to beef up the monsters in my games, and for non-Pathfinder design.)

Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

Plot is, generally, a bad way to restrict magic. If all magic is going to carry consequences, just keep it away from players.

At least, my experience is that having an ability that you're afraid to use is just frustrating; I'd rather not have the ability than stare at it and feel like I don't dare use it. Or it devolves into the player trying to figure out ways to protect against the consequences so that they can use the ability. This approach works much better in a narrative than in a game.

Within PF, I think the best options are to stick to the E6-E8 area, where spellcasters haven't pulled massively ahead (and other problems, like math breakdown, haven't started yet), and to selectively nerf or ban particularly problematic spells. Or to play a game wherein casters in general are banned (and not torture the players by throwing tons of casters at them).

Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

And that's part of the reason that the primary antagonists of After Atlantis are also humanoids. Now they are implicitly bound by the same rules as the PCs in terms of equipment and spell access. I don't have to worry as much about the spell-like abilities or defenses of enemies being "ok" in normal Pathfinder because of the assumption of better gear than my characters have. Likewise, why I'm basically capping equipment at about what players would have in normal Pathfinder at the level cap. In fact, this way, I can use almost anything of a CR up to, say, APL+2 without any real fear of destroying the party with threats they cannot counter due to lack of gear. Some care is needed, but nothing like if I went to level 20 while only allowing +1 weapons.

Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

One thing with lack of resurrection, actually from a campaign where it is available, we were just too low level.

DM hit us with a random encounter containing a bodak (3.5). My cohort, the druid's animal companion, and one PC all died immediately. I forget if we destroyed it, drove it off, or fled, but... retrieving the dead was relatively easy. We got them back to life in what could likely have been half a session if not for the slowness of playing online. The big cost is that we had to give the underworld equivalent souls, and just stabbing them in the face wasn't sufficient. Now, we had roughly a year for this, but the point is that it worked out well.

We didn't have to go on a long adventure before we recovered our lost; we hit up a knowledge check or maybe a city for some research, we found a way to the realm of the dead, and we pretty easily made the bargain. The DM switched back & forth between the living, working their way to the underworld to negotiate, and the dead, toiling away in a dreary afterlife a few times.

Now if a dead PC means "spend 3-4 sessions doing nothing or at best playing an NPC until you do come back", then you need raise dead effects. If, however, there isn't a large chunk of time with the player on the sidelines, it's much less problematic.

You could also do interesting things like have the dead PC haunt one or more of the living ones, to mechanical effect (take some limited actions, as well as still being with the party "in spirit", able to talk). Maybe the dead fighter ends up haunting the rogue or cleric, providing them with a buff to their attack rolls, getting to talk (maybe only to the one they haunt), and can, with consent, take over the haunted PC to use his own skills temporarily.

Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

That is an example of bad "low magic". I've also heard stories about "low magic" games where it meant "you guys get no spellcasters, no magic items, etc.... but you're up against Batman wizard liches with legions of troops equipped with magical gear".

The straight up settlement rules actually are pretty easily tweaked to avoid big, powerful items; even items under the base value are a 75% chance as I recall, and if you simply keep base value low (are there rules on what it should be? Ah, I see; even a metropolis normally has only 16,000 gp for that), then a lot of powerful items are very hard to find. I'm definitely going to keep that in mind when my PCs in Wrath of the Righteous want to make purchases (though I'm sure they'll have crafting feats).

I suspect a lot of people don't follow the settlement rules, and, of course, if you allow crafting feats, for a pretty small investment, a wizard PC can equip the party pretty extensively. In my Kingmaker game, we have Craft Wondrous Item, Craft Magic Arms & Armor, and Forge Ring, and that covers almost everything we could want (since metamagic rods got banned). We barely need to go shopping for anything non-trivial.

Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

Quick read of Xoth and I'm probably going to get it for the adventures (but quite possibly not the mechanics - it sounds more deadly than I enjoy). (That is, very deadly games, or ones that implement the Combat as War concept, tend to leave me feeling stressed about how to survive and win, rather than having fun.)

Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

I'm going to take a look at Xoth later today. I've got a lot of interesting ideas for my own system, but I'm always, always, always happy to mine other people for more ideas. Especially since a major inspiration for the main setting for my own system is, in fact, Conan. (I'm also sketching out a Dark-Sun-esque setting for it.)

Generally I have two major interests. One is to stay in that sweet spot, where the full caster doesn't just solve everything. I'm in enough high-level games as a limited or non-caster that it's just depressing to think about how much more breadth and power a caster has compared to a fighter. (Other related fixes are more skill points for the poor 2+Int classes who aren't Int-based and fewer spells that grant huge personal bonuses to skills or else simply bypass the need for them.)

The other is to feel like my character is powerful, not just a Christmas tree wearing a bunch of powerful gear. The more of your overall power comes from wealth, the less you feel personally powerful; this is especially true for the fighter types, I think, because the casters tend to add breadth or depth with items, while the fighters are mostly adding flat bonuses to bring their numbers up (whether the game really requires you to be as hard on the upgrade treadmill as you feel you need to be or not (I was reading Trailblazer last night)).

In fact, as much as there's much frustration in the game I'm playing a paladin in, which has no stat items, massively reduced wealth, and an annoying 2e-era nerf to your items for being on the wrong plane... I feel like a lot more of my paladin's power is my character, compared to my similarly high-level 3.5 fighter. (Granted the paladin has some pretty handy spells and smite, the fighter basically has power attack and huge saves; many of the class features he has are nigh-worthless.) So the paladin there has a much wider set of capabilities as well.

In Atlantis specifically, I want to not deal with high-level magic, high-level math breakdown, and so on, while exploring a world that has a lot of magic. Part of it is predicated on what a society with near-unlimited magic might do instead of developing technology, and part of it is about small kingdoms scrabbling to redefine themselves in the wake of the old political system collapsing (and fighting over the pieces). In this world, the players spend much of their time as, essentially, professional trouble-shooters. They're more likely to be available to solve problems, or even kept on retainer by one kingdom, than they are to be seeking out ancient ruins for personal profit.

I often look at the idea of prequel adventures set just before the Cataclysm, so the players can influence the history of the setting. Does Rome become a republic or remain a kingdom? The prequel decides. (This is also a way for me to not necessarily make all the historical decisions myself, and avoid writing far too much ancient history. I've had to shelve a great deal of historical information I was working out, which just doesn't matter to anyone but me, because it's so long ago.)

Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber
Anzyr wrote:
PhelanArcetus wrote:

  • Specific Spells: Unsure as yet; limiting to 4th or even 3rd level spells should take care of this, though I will likely ban some spells I just dislike in general. At E8 I may ban some specific spells that I fear will have an outsize impact on the world (dimension door, for example), or I may just provide workarounds (a non-magical material that blocks teleportation, for example). I may also cut the duration on some long-term buff spells.
  • Healing Access: Access is not restricted.
  • Resurrection Access: None, thanks to E6/E8. There are probably plot-related ways to bring back a dead companion, but they are adventures in of themselves rather than a spell or ritual.
  • May want to add Reincarnate to your specific spell ban list. May want to hit the Reincarnated Druid archetype while you are at it.

    Good point. I see druids in play rarely enough, and enough terror of changing race, that I forget Reincarnate even exists. The archetype... I don't see anyone I know wanting it. Wanting the associated story, yes, but wanting or caring about the mechanical effects, no. And since there's basically zero chance of publishing the setting, I haven't worried about making a full and explicit list of banned and not banned; my players are smart enough and nice enough to ask before taking anything questionable.

    Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber
    Dreaming Warforged wrote:
    PhelanArcetus wrote:

    Now I've got two basic approaches I use for that. One is E6-E8, in one setting. The other is writing an entirely different game system that aims to avoid many of the issues that arise with magic.
    Interesting... What are your thoughts on allowing only partial (1-6) casters?

    I haven't seen much point in doing that (though I often prefer to play those, because I tend to like a mix of martial & magical in my characters, and I've recently gravitated towards 4-level casters). Going to E6 or E8 addresses the issue well enough; the full caster has fewer spell slots, less powerful top-level spells, and he doesn't have the caster level to make his low-level spells into near-permanent buffs.

    True, partial casters have lower-level spells (3rd at 8th instead of 4th), and fewer spell slots, and they also tend to have fewer utility or problem-solving spells on their lists. But in the E6/E8 world, there's less need to worry about the gap, because it's smaller. As a side note, you also end up eliminating the entire "I am just a caster" archetype by adding martial or skill monkey or musician or something else into the character concept.

    As far as necromancy, that's a thing I should consider, along with summoning. A house rule limiting how many creatures you can have on the board, and the fact that raising undead is an Evil act and thus frowned upon are all I'd really need. (Last summer I played a one-shot wherein we had issues with the cleric raising tons of undead which were all competitive with the party's frontliners.) I also dislike setups wherein the summon-monkey has two entire parties worth of minions on the field; it's bad enough to sit around for 5 minutes waiting for the wizard to decide what spell to cast; it's much worse to sit around for 15 minutes while the wizard directs all his minions and half of them outperform your fighter.

    DrDeth wrote:
    PhelanArcetus wrote:

    One thing I note with the removal of magic item marts; .....

    The other is writing an entirely different game system that aims to avoid many of the issues that arise with magic.

    I dont replace Ye Olde Magik Shoppe with custom orders, I replace with drops. Sometimes custom drops, sure.

    Have you tried Iron Heroes?

    Yes, no doubt there are issues with Magic, but there are also issues with taking a normal magic game like PF and trying to make it Very Low Magic.

    I've looked over Iron Heroes, briefly, and it didn't seem to offer entirely what I wanted.

    I think that the sort of low-magic I'm targeting here is fine in PF, because the biggest part is actually gotten from a level cap.

    The non-PF game I'm building aims to focus on the sweet spot, and eliminate the hard distinction between magical and martial characters. Everyone will share the same breadth of capabilities and set of basic resources. (This lets me not worry about if more or fewer encounters/day give some classes more power than others.) I also want to make items a minor part of the character; the sort of thing where, yes, you have items, but you don't feel like the items are even close to as important to your effectiveness as your character himself is. Items should provide a small boost in effectiveness to the things you already do, and some additional capabilities.

    If I build this right, the difference between a high-magic-seeming world and a low-magic-seeming world will just be which choices of disciplines (closest analogue is cleric domains) are available to the players; if they're restricted to disciplines focused on strengthening yourself and tricky moves, it will feel low-magic, whereas if you have access to disciplines that hurl fire and lightning around, it will feel high-magic.

    Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

    After Atlantis

    1.1 Spells

    • Level Demographics (setting): Spellcasting classes are fairly common, though less so than in the past. There are at least as many spellcasters as typical DMG or GMG entries would indicate, but they are mostly low-level (even by the standards of an E6 or E8 setting).
    • Classes Available: No gunslinger (doesn't fit the setting), and it's possible a few others will be banned, but this is because they are "wrong" for the setting, from flavor rather than magic level. For example, paladins, as much as I like them, may be banned, because I'm not sure if the setting has a place for divinely empowered champions of good. (I want it to.) Some classes will be preferred by some cultures (not hard restrictions, but strong suggestions).
    • Character Level: E6 or E8. Most likely E8 with selected 4th level spells banned, but I might just remove all 4th level spells and use those slots for metamagic. I might also use highly limited amounts of Mythic in some stories.
    • Caster Level: E6 or E8 as above; a capstone feat will likely allow a +1 bonus to caster level (without boosting spell slots or spells known).
    • Specific Spells: Unsure as yet; limiting to 4th or even 3rd level spells should take care of this, though I will likely ban some spells I just dislike in general. At E8 I may ban some specific spells that I fear will have an outsize impact on the world (dimension door, for example), or I may just provide workarounds (a non-magical material that blocks teleportation, for example). I may also cut the duration on some long-term buff spells.
    • Healing Access: Access is not restricted.
    • Resurrection Access: None, thanks to E6/E8. There are probably plot-related ways to bring back a dead companion, but they are adventures in of themselves rather than a spell or ritual.
    • Counter Magic Access: Normal.
    • Casting Ease: Normal.
    • Rituals: Yes. No hard rules yet, but the basic premise is "caster-level-hours", similar to the real-world "man-hours" concept. Lots of time and lots of people needed.

    1.2 Gear (Magic Items)

    • Crafting Arts: Crafting feats are available, but hard restrictions on item power (see below).
    • Big Six Access: I don't like the boringness of the Big Six, but this is not the setting where I try to fix that. Unchanged from normal.
    • Magic Item Availability: Pretty much standard, modulo the power limits. Any item that a merchant can't nearly guarantee will be sold easily will likely be a custom order, but with the power limits, the wait time will be a week or less in general.
    • Magic Item Ubiquity: Basic and commonly desired consumables are all over. There are a lot of fading, semi-functional or non-functional old magical public works.
    • Magic Item Power: Strictly controlled; aside from some "artifacts" from the age of the Empire, items are hard-capped at something low-normal level for level 6 or 8; say no enhancement or similar bonuses above +2, no items above a +3 equivalent, and so on. Probably also a hard cap around 20,000 for item value; items above that just cannot be made (the knowledge is lost at least).

    1.3 Creatures

    • Fantastic Creatures: Somewhat less than normal, and skewed heavily to the ones originating from Mediterranean folklore.
    • Fantastic Races Availability: The various half-genie races (marid, shaitan, etc.) are definitely available. Other non-human races are likely very rare (or else, re-flavored so as to use their mechanics to represent a particular human ethnicity). I might conceivably add in as common, playable races some de-powered humanoid-ish types from area-appropriate myth (satyrs as an example).

    2. Distinctions
    2.1 Arcane & Divine Magic
    Cultural distinctions in terms of which cultures commonly have which types of casters; for example, Babylon has a lot of clerics and not many of other caster types. But the types of magic themselves are not treated differently.

    2.2 Players & Setting
    Rules are applied evenly. Players are more likely to break stereotypes than NPCs (i.e. you'll probably never find a Babylonian oracle or sorcerer, except as a PC).

    2.3 Locations & Periods (some history here)
    Most areas are the same. The ruins of Atlantis are likely an area of wild magic of some sort. Some knowledge is culturally restricted; for example, only Jerusalem has golems.

    There was more high-level magic in the past. Atlantis forged an empire on the backs of its sorcerers and priests, and it maintained power through magical public works. It had enough casters to forcibly maintain good weather throughout the Empire with ritual magic. Its armies possessed techniques, now lost, permitting the effective casting of spells in armor (moreso than the magus & bard), as well as magical items which made their spells more powerful and recharged their consumables. Power flowed from the capital (and the font of magic in the island city's volcanic heart) to the Empire, providing many benefits. Magical progress preempted mundane progress, and kept the Empire in the Bronze Age.

    Then the Cataclysm happened. Atlantis vanished, natural weather patterns violently reasserted themselves, and populaces kept in line only by the fear of the Imperial Marines revolted against the corrupt puppet regimes. Now the region is rebuilding itself, a collection of feuding city-states scattered around the sea.

    Certain secrets Atlantis kept to itself are lost. The font of power Atlantis was fueled by is lost. Magic itself is generally unchanged.

    2.4 Mobile & Immobile Magic
    No distinction planned.

    Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

    I'm going to have a couple of posts here, because I want to put out some general thoughts and then I want to try out that checklist with one or two of the settings I have in the process of being built.

    One thing I note with the removal of magic item marts; if all items need to be custom-made, make sure you do allow the players enough time to put in those orders and get them filled... especially if they might need to, say, give up the belt they wear every day for a month to get it upgraded. (I'm currently in a game where I think we've gained 2 levels in a month of in-universe time... and the items we commissioned before leveling up are not ready yet.)

    Another thing that I think we may want to include on the list of goals for low magic is related to the curtailing of narrative power; not just curtailing the ability of players in general to swing the narrative, but shrinking the difference between how much individual characters can swing the narrative.

    That is to say, at low level, a wizard and a fighter have similar abilities to short-circuit an encounter or adventure. As you get higher and higher level, especially if you don't adhere to the game assumptions of encounters per day, it becomes possible for the casters to just dominate the game... not just in combat, but in the sense that the fighter types end up sitting around waiting to see if the problem needs to be hit in the face with a sword (or possibly a skill check), or if the wizard and cleric are just handling the entire thing with magic. By reducing the power (and flexibility) of magic, you reduce that. Basically, it's knocking the full casters down one or two tiers (for the tier system, have a look at this post).

    Now I've got two basic approaches I use for that. One is E6-E8, in one setting. The other is writing an entirely different game system that aims to avoid many of the issues that arise with magic.

    Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

    Of course, the other thing is to make sure the game is fun.

    That's a large part of why I'm in favor of being explicit in saying "this creature that you have just found is too powerful for you". Because finding out the hard way, when half the party is already dead, is generally not fun.

    In a game that I'm currently playing in (should wrap up in another session, I think), there is a huge CR range; we're 17, and there are enemies ranging from CR 3 or so up to 25. We were told that up front. Unfortunately, what it has resulted in is something I don't enjoy; specifically, the need to immediately determine for each encounter whether we can stomp it as-is, or we need to retreat, study, prepare, and ambush that enemy. That's especially frustrating in a game that has an implied time limit, and when playing a character who doesn't have a wide variety of mechanical options.

    Of course, then we got a sphere of annihilation, and now there really isn't any combat left.

    But it's frustrating, because it makes me feel like a character who is in over his head, and having to play very carefully and defensively, and I just don't particularly enjoy the tension that entails.

    There's nothing wrong with unwinnable encounters (unless they're unwinnable by DM fiat rather than legitimate difficulty), as long as they're not forced. There's something too powerful for me out there, which I can avoid or run away from without major consequences? Fine. But follow the implications of the Three Clue Rule, namely that your players are oblivious and stupid, at least in the context of inferring or deducing the information you want them to. They're going to fail to find clue #1, they're going to misinterpret #2, and mostly misinterpret #3, but hopefully with all that they'll end up where they need to be. So just tell them flat out that whoever makes the knowledge check is pretty sure that, while he or she doesn't know much, he is confident this is too tough. Because otherwise, they're going to think this creature isn't nearly as powerful as it is, and they're not going to run away like you expect.

    And, of course, don't make it a world full of nothing but too-powerful foes. That will just make the players quit the game when they feel like they can't accomplish anything.

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    Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

    Most published adventures tend to avoid anything that is seriously beyond the players.

    Step 1: Tell the players flat out, at the beginning of the campaign, that there will be encounters they simply cannot handle. Some people may love that. Others may hate it. But they need to know (I've had so many problems in games I'm in due to players and the DM having different expectations and not realizing it).

    Step 2: Unless you're very good at it, don't spend your time trying to describe how deadly the creature is in abstract terms. Just tell them that their characters (especially whoever made the knowledge check) don't think they can take it.

    One thing I've very rarely found is a DM using a knowledge check to give a relative power level. I've seen descriptions of creatures far weaker than the party that sounded no less powerful than descriptions of creatures far more powerful than the same party (at the same point in time). Maybe every knowledge check should begin with an estimate of how dangerous the foe is, in terms of CR vs. APL (but, presumably, not the actual numbers; think an MMO's color-coding).

    The Worf Effect works if you're in a position to introduce the foe early, stomp some NPC or creature, and let the party walk away to level up before coming back. It's very awkward to do repeatedly, though (how many NPCs of known capability are available? Ok, you can use other monsters, but then the players need to know how powerful the monster is relative to the party, to be able to judge whether that demonstration is meaningful. Which works best if the party has fought a lot of that monster.

    Recent example from a game: a monster trivially destroyed a pair of frost worms. This was supposed to communicate to the party how much damage it could do, and at what range it noticed and attacked creatures. All we got out of it was "some sort of disintegration ray, ok". Never trust your players to understand what you're trying to communicate unless you are saying it straight out.

    Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

    Basically, I'm absolutely banning foe-biter. As far as legendary items in general, it really depends what the players are interested in. If nobody cares about a legendary item, then whatever, they're "banned". If someone wants a legendary, then I'll invest some time checking if anything else (aside from intelligent items, both because I don't want the burden of managing an intelligent item and because I don't want any "oh my armor casts a spell for me" extra action economy) needs to be blocked.

    I would suggest using half character level instead of using tier; it's going to be roughly the same value, but it makes more sense; being higher tier shouldn't make it more expensive to recover non-mythic resources... but there being more of those non-mythic resources should. That's what I'll use, prospectively.

    With the reduced mythic power regeneration you described, that might actually be too much; like any AP, there are periods when the PCs can sit back and relax for a week or two between trips, and periods where they'll be dealing with multiple encounters per day every day for a week. In the former case, they'll have full mythic power; in the latter case, they might run too short to be able to use Recuperation at all (and this is where it's most useful to use).

    Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

    Here's some notes I've taken (I'm running, but we're still in book 1):

    - Ability points from mythic are +1 to 2 different stats, rather than +2 to 1 stat. (Given that all but one of my characters is MAD, this will help their versatility while also cutting down the growth of their main stat).
    - The entire clause about criticals is being removed from Mythic Power Attack (this also makes it simpler).
    - Mythic Improved Critical is banned.
    - Pretty much everything that just says "and I ignore damage reduction or energy resistance/immunity" is out; either entirely, or just that clause is out.
    - I'm either killing foe-biter, or all legendary items entirely.
    - Channel Power is out.
    - I'm thinking about how to nerf Recuperation; raising the cost seems like a good idea.

    I haven't figured out yet how I want to address extra actions, if at all.

    On the plus side, my players are especially interested in the interesting abilities, moreso than the obvious better numbers ones (which, while powerful, are boring).

    My main goal is to prevent this AP from being more rocket-tag than a normal AP would be; ideally I'd get it even lower, but that seems highly unlikely. (My long-term goal for ending rocket tag is a system I am oh-so-slowly designing.)

    Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

    This thread has been quite scary for me. Fortunately, my party is still in book 1 (it's sad how much less you can get done in 4 hours when you have to play online), and is only 4 players. Plus, the cleric downgraded himself to warpriest (yes, one less person with 9th level spells to worry about!).

    I may be shooting myself in the foot, but I'm not going to ditch mythic. I am looking at what I think will be a few relatively low-impact houserules to nip the worst problems mentioned here in the bud.

    • No Mythic Improved Critical
    • Remove the entire clause about crits from Mythic Power Attack
    • No legendary items (or, at the absolute minimum, ban the Foebiter property)
    • Remove that double damage on first attack clause from Smite Evil (a little less burst, a little less "oh, wait, I did 15 more damage that I forgot about")
    • The ability boosts from Mythic are +1 to 2 different stats, rather than +2 to one stat.
    • Eliminate all abilities that partially bypass DR (i.e. treat DR as 10 lower) - these are just a hassle.
    • I'm pretty sure I'll make DR/epic impossible for the PCs to bypass.

    That's my list so far, plus, of course, borrowing a lot of adjustments from this thread as I progress, and regularly chaining encounters in a dungeon together to avoid the "here's 2 dudes, you curbstomp them. In the next room are 2 more dudes, who you also curbstomp".

    My good news is that the players do a decent bit of self-censorship, and will (aside from one player, who leans towards the Combat as War approach) prefer fights that are not horribly swingy, so if I need to adjust around that, they'll be up for it.

    I don't want to give up on this - this is the first campaign, though not first game, that I've run, and the story is something we're all interested in. So house rules, preemptively, and as-needed.

    Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

    I tend to prefer rituals for bigger spells; but then, I mostly think of rituals in cases where I'm, say, planning E6. There's no way you can cast earthquake if you're not going past 6th level. But maybe you and a few buddies can cast it over the course of an hour.

    That's the sense I tend to prefer rituals in, but it's also good for smaller spells; it doesn't chew up those combat resources, and it doesn't have the advantages over mundane methods like being a standard action instead of a minute to pick a lock.

    I didn't like the 4th edition approach because every ritual cost money for each and every casting, which seemed to me like it would make it hard to justify using rituals regularly. If you have alarm, you want to use it nightly, but the costs add up pretty quickly.

    Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

    Looks like most anything I would say has already been said.

    I'm quite bad at being spontaneous. I attempt to compensate for that with preparation. It doesn't always work perfectly, but it helps. Plan out the NPC's voice, and it will be easier.

    Never be afraid to ask the players for a short break to work something out, especially if they've thrown you for a loop. I mean, try not to take a 5 minute break every 6 minutes, but if you need to pause, then do it.

    I'd definitely suggest getting some of the adventure modules or paths; I'm running an AP with the intent of having that chassis in place to build upon, to get experience modifying encounters to suit my party before I try building all my encounters from scratch. I feel like this is a good way to build my own confidence. (Your mileage may vary, of course.)

    Work with your players to decide which aspects of the game you want to focus on, and which you want to de-emphasize. Perhaps nobody really cares about tracking carrying capacity in your game. Then just don't worry about it unless they're doing something ludicrous.

    Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

    I'm sure it's doable - in fact, it's essentially what I am looking at doing to Reign of Winter, so that it can fit into an E8/P8 setting of mine.

    That said, you're very likely going to need to do a lot of reworking of encounters to accommodate E6 rules.

    Some things off the top of my head:

    • Straight numbers. Enemy attack bonuses, save DCs, and ACs, and save bonuses, are going to be huge relative to the PCs. Attack bonuses are the least of your worries, since you could give the PCs all the gear they'd normally get. You'd either need to inflate the other PC values, or lower the enemy values.
    • Capabilities. Certain parts of the AP assume the players can cast a variety of high-level magic to solve problems. You'd need to provide a mechanism by which the players could teleport, plane shift, and similar.

    Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

    Another good thing to do is to combine existing encounters, especially in dungeon-like areas. Let the fights cascade in, with a couple of rooms worth of creatures joining the fight over a couple of rounds. This helps cut down on the repetitive, easy, grindy fights, makes the place seem a bit more alive & responsive, and they're not all on screen at once. Which means not only that you don't need to deal with a dozen monsters at once, but that they're not all eating the same fireball.

    Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

    These sorts of questions are near and dear to my heart as well, though I'm not as far along (we only manage to play once a month or so, and we're online, so the party just made it above ground again this weekend).

    My biggest step, so far, has been to be prepared to adjust on the fly. I've reduced some enemies in power as I've realize the adjustments I'd made were too much, and I'm prepared to go the other way. I've also said flat out that if we get a TPK due to me making a mistake in encounter adjustment, then we rewind that.

    Most everything has been pretty easy for my party so far as well. One thing I know I need to do is challenge the back line some; the two frontliners have been taking almost all the hits. Not that I've had a lot of ranged attackers so far; I'll need to adjust that.

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    Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

    There's also the option of sitting down with the player and explaining exactly what you just said.

    "I can tell from the character you're describing that what you want to do is get into melee and be a big, deadly bruiser. However, the build you've described is so good at melee that I'm concerned that it's impossible to challenge your character without negating his entire concept. Let's look at some constructing some house rules and/or adjustments to your build so that we can all be happy."

    Of course, it's also possible the player is looking to design an invulnerable, ultra-deadly blender of doom, and doesn't want to be challenged; I can't say, as I don't know the player. Maybe he wants to feel like he's steamrolling everything in his path.

    Unfortunately, nobody, game designer or not, is perfect. Games like Pathfinder tend to break down as more and more material gets released, and players have more time than designers to invest in identifying rules synergies. I've put together a couple of very interesting builds in my time, often by combining a couple of relatively obscure rules sources that were never really intended to be used together (at least in the sense that they were designed without knowledge of each other).

    Couple that with the increased complexity of high-level play itself, and yes, there's a lot of potential for the game to break down. The best solution I'm aware of is to look at what breaks the fun of the game for you and your group, and look into addressing those things, quite possibly by banning them.

    Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber
    Tinkergoth wrote:
    Belabras wrote:
    Beary interesting.

    Heh, I see what you did there :P

    Ah Sir Bearington, truly a classic story.

    I'm also a big fan of Lord Crabbington, the druid with a giant crab companion. Played as if the crab is the actual character, and the druid is just his translator/assistant/servant (the crab communicates by clicking its claws).

    *Click click* "Very good sir, right away"

    "Uh, why are you talking to that crab?"

    *Click click clack* "No my lord, I'm sure they didn't mean any offense"

    *CLICK CLICK* I'm not entirely sure that killing them is justified sir"

    *Click clack click* "Please Lord Crabbington, show mercy!

    I guess I did something sort of similar to this in a one-shot; I played a summoner who believed that his eidolon was a servant of the Great Old Ones, and he was there to serve the eidolon, not in an equal partnership. I'd made a pretty messed up creature; quadraped that I'd given arms (and weapon proficiency) to, a few tentacle attacks, and I'm pretty sure I'd added acid to the bite. So this crazy mad prophet type rode around on a slavering insanity beast seeking to bring his dread masters home.

    Amusingly, the GM actually had a way-out-of-CR Lovecraft monster, a Mu Spore, I think, in the adventure, not as an enemy, but more as flavor. It was trapped in some Desnan priest's dream. After the climax, I went back and killed the sleeping priest, releasing a CR 21 monster on an unsuspecting world. It killed me immediately, of course, but that didn't matter. I'd done what my dread master obviously wanted.

    I've seen more of the opposite, though; my fiance semi-recently played a summoner whose eidolon functioned as her butler (yes, it was inspired, heavily, by Black Butler). And I have a PFS summoner whose eidolon is a bodyguard / advisor (assuming I ever wander back to PFS games; might use them as a springboard to meeting some more people).

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    Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

    My biggest tip is to use technology.

    I've transitioned to making all my character sheets be spreadsheets (I mostly use Numbers on Mac, but I still sometimes use Excel; Google Docs should suffice as well).

    The big reason for this is that it lets me create a block where I can just check boxes on or off for various effects. This is better than trying to write up all the situations, because buffs and debuffs come and go, especially when dispels get going in high-level play. It's not trivial (but if you're proficient with spreadsheets it's not very hard either), and it can be time-consuming out of game, but it means that all I need to do is click a checkbox (in Excel, a Yes/No pulldown might be better; I've had issues with Excel checkboxes), and all the calculations are done for me. Likewise, all the weird circumstances you don't expect are handled.

    Weaknesses are that a math error during setup is going to be concealed during play, and that the mentality can make it harder to account for a condition you didn't incorporate into the spreadsheet. (I'm going to add checkboxes for flank & charge tonight, so I don't screw those up.)

    Likewise, you can speed up other hassles by having page references, or even links, all over your sheet. Casting a spell? Have a page reference for it, or with technology, have a clickable link to the spell itself. Pretty much all my character sheets contain a spell summary written by me, as well as a page reference, though I may as well convert that latter to a link. My current wizard's sheet is over-complex, but it has a short spell description (longer than the standard summary) alongside each prepared spell.

    So really, a lot of the best help (for me) is in preparing out-of-session. These mostly help with reducing on-the-fly calculations, and time spent searching for a rules reference.

    Another thing you can do is use an electronic dice roller for things like high-damage spells. Don't want to roll 24d6 by hand? Get a computer (or phone/tablet) and roll electronically; the math will be taken care of.

    Non-technologically, you can, as a group, agree to avoid certain types of mechanics on both sides of the table. For example, mechanics that allow/require someone to roll twice and take the better or worse result for a round; just agree not to use those.

    You can also do average damage, rather than rolling; this is primarily good on monsters with many attacks.

    Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber
    Paladin of Baha-who? wrote:
    PhelanArcetus wrote:

    For truly bad characters, I'd heard about Lord Bearington, a bear with such an obscenely high bluff that nobody can tell he's a bear.

    I've actually played a session with that character. It was intensely depressing. I think the character was some sort of cleric, but really the only things that mattered were:
    1. He was a bear, but everyone had to treat him as a normal human; I believe he actually couldn't speak, but could bluff so hard that we thought a bear growling was a human speaking common.
    2. He and his friend, neither of whom we had back, made every single "bear" pun they could for the entire session.

    How did a bear get to put ranks in bluff? Was this an awakened bear? If so, I think awakened animals get a language, don't they? *checks* Yes they do.

    I don't have an answer for this. I assume he was awakened, and I have no idea why the GM let it be played. Well, aside from the following:

    • This particular GM lets almost anything be played, especially if it seems likely to produce interesting inter-party plot.
    • If I recall correctly, the GM didn't know this player was coming at all until he showed up; he basically tagged along with a friend who had been invited. Neither was invited back.

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    Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

    For truly bad characters, I'd heard about Lord Bearington, a bear with such an obscenely high bluff that nobody can tell he's a bear.

    I've actually played a session with that character. It was intensely depressing. I think the character was some sort of cleric, but really the only things that mattered were:
    1. He was a bear, but everyone had to treat him as a normal human; I believe he actually couldn't speak, but could bluff so hard that we thought a bear growling was a human speaking common.
    2. He and his friend, neither of whom we had back, made every single "bear" pun they could for the entire session.

    Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

    I've read SKR's system, and that I'm just fine with. The idea there is just to allow more upgrades withot actually causing level inflation. Basically, instead of leveling up every 4 sessions (hypothetically), you would gain the BAB, saves, skills, or class features associated with that level up after each session. Or something very similar. The end result is the same, except that instead of jumping from 1 to 2, you're going 1 to 1.25 to 1.5 to 1.75 to 2... essentially.

    The end result is the same, it's just giving you partial levels incrementally.

    And that is a solid potential approach to giving the players more frequent upgrades. It might be especially valuable in a low-loot game, because it helps give the players a sense of advancement.

    The systems I really have a problem with are the ones that let you buy up anything, possibly charging more for each successive level in a given attribute. I've played a couple, and they've gotten frustrating fast, especially as several of the attempts to encourage a well-rounded character instead end up with people saving up points to buy up the thing they really care about.

    Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

    I have a weakness for force effects, so my wizard's secondary focus, to the extent that it's more than just spell selection, is force.

    I regularly keep pilfering hand and chain of perdition prepared; having just hit 4th level spells, I've added resilient sphere and telekinetic charge. All of these spells are at least somewhat versatile. I especially like spells such as chain of perdition, because they let me stretch my spell slots through the fight; one spell slot provides actions for the entire encounter (generally), while not interfering with my ability to cast other spells.

    Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

    I've been tempted by the flexibility implied by a system like this. And then I've been turned off by thinking about just how much harder it makes it for a designer to set up challenges for an arbitrary party.

    Designing challenges for your party, when you have access to their character sheets, isn't really any more of a problem. But designing challenges for an arbitrary party, the way someone looking to publish an adventure would, gets harder as you give players more flexibility.

    The problem is that the more flexibility you give the players, the more they're going to deviate from whatever you think the norms are. And especially if there's something they think they can get away with neglecting entirely. For example, I've got a wizard right now, and due to terrible Strength and mediocre Dexterity, I simply avoid any spell that would involve me making attack rolls. (Lots of melee in the party and no desire to invest in Precise Shot contributes as well.) On this character, I might never, ever invest in increased to-hit, instead saving all that XP for caster level or feats. It wouldn't meaningfully lower any stat I have (my CMB & CMD are already utterly laughable), but it would increase something I do care about further.

    Basically, the more opportunity & ability you give players to min/max, the more they're going to. You'll get a wide mix of total one-trick ponies and very well rounded characters, and it will be impossible for anyone outside the table to figure out what to expect.

    It's a concept I look at periodically, but just can't get behind.

    Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

    If you don't want to just rely on "this fireball is now a lightningball", then your first step should be surveying the available lightning spells.

    There are some, but not an amazing amount. Since this is, broadly speaking, the theme of my admixture evoker wizard right now, I'll list off a few key ones I remember being in his spellbook or wantlist.

    • jolt: it's just a cantrip, but still.
    • shocking grasp: I'm not using it, because I'm afraid to get close enough, and there aren't enough other appealing touch spells to make me go for Reach Spell. Though I'll revisit that just in case.
    • sheet lightning: 3rd level spell from the Rival Guide, I believe. Damage is negligible, but it's an area-effect daze, for a 3rd level spell.
    • lightning bolt: I've got this for completeness; I don't actually expect to use it much.
    • ball lightning: This is a pretty nice spell, so long as you're willing to do some damage each round, rather than trying for a knockout punch.
    • call lightning: This is for druids, and like ball lightning, it's for sustained, rather than knockout, damage.
    • chain lightning: This is where lightning starts to shine.
    • stormbolts: This is a nice big hammer, though you do need to get a little close to enemies.
    • ride the lightning: This is amusing, but I tend to doubt I'd end up using it.

    As I hear it, the classical blaster build is one level of crossblooded sorcerer (dragon (blue or bronze), orc), followed entirely by wizard, evocation school, admixture subschool. You basically ignore the sorcerer level as far as casting goes, and your damage is increased by 2 per die from the bloodlines, and 1 per 2 wizard levels on evocations. Plus you can convert a few spells to electricity each day. Of course, that also takes some work to justify in the character's background.

    I recall being unimpressed by the Stormborn Sorcerer bloodline. I hadn't seen the crossblooded build when I made my wizard, and, honestly, it's too cheesy for my tastes. Despite how tempted I am by anything to compensate for hp scaling faster than spell damage.

    Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

    A while ago, I ran a one-shot, using a PFS module. One of the players decided to be silly, moreso than he usually is in one-shots.

    His character was named Murderhobo. That's about all there is to say. Granted, in what amounted to a one-time PFS game, there wasn't much need for backstory. In other similar one-shots, we've seen similar awfulness. When we were experimenting with ACG classes, he played a bow-wielding warpriest named Stirling.
    I immediately said "G&^@!*$&% Archer!", and promptly renamed my character Lana. But hey, it's one-shots, I don't feel too bad about doing silly things there.

    As far as Diplomacy, Bluff, or Intimidate, I do expect players to describe what they're doing, and what they're trying to accomplish. That doesn't mean they need to give a speech in character, and if they're trying to bluff someone unimportant, they don't necessarily need to come up with their own lie. But I do need to know what they're trying to accomplish.

    (I'll also allow them to use the skills directly to assist. Having trouble coming up with a lie? Roll Bluff and I'll help you (actually I'll get the party to help; I'm pretty bad at lying myself). Making a speech and not good at coming up with proper phrasing? Roll Diplomacy and your character will clean up what you're trying to say, correcting some gaffes based on the check result. Both of these stand in good stead in my experience, with me just not being good at coming up with lies on my feet, despite sometimes wanting to play a character who is good at it, and some players I know phrasing things in awkward ways that can end up offensive even though they're intended to be diplomatic.)

    With knowledge checks, I'm learning that I need to specify what I want to know, because my poor wizard keeps ending up getting useless or obvious information in place of useful. Last night, in fact, I got four pieces of information, including name of the creature type. Name in of itself is useless, and one of the other pieces was obvious from looking at the creature ("you mean that it uses those big lobster claws to attack?") Coming back and asking specific questions helps, but it slows the game down more to keep revisiting.

    The paladin I'm playing in a short campaign right now has a backstory informed largely by the need to justify Skill Focus (Survival). All I knew initially was "Paladin + Eldritch Heritage (orc)". Quickly I figured out that the paladin was a half-orc, raised by an orc tribe, which he ran away from when he realized how much their morals and his diverged, spent much of his life living alone in the wilderness, and maintains a hopeful, optimistic, attitude even in the face of failure and repeated rejection.

    Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

    Recently I've just used point buy, because it's relatively easy.

    In both campaigns that I've played with rolled stats, there were major disparities between the player characters. The first, I can't remember because it was so long ago, but I think my high stat was 15 and another player had an 18 and probably also a 16 as well.

    In the other, we once calculated up 3.5-era point buys for the characters existing stats. My wizard had something like a 42 point buy (I had something like 17 16 15 14 12 10). The fighter/cleric, on the other hand, had more of a 20-25.

    Ever since, we've used either simple point buy, or something more complicated but designed to ensure every PC has a stat array of roughly similar power. The one current game that isn't simple point buy used our choice of two randomly generated stat arrays, where all arrays were of a similar point buy (about 28-32 in 3.5, as this is a 3.5 campaign).

    Getting back to the main topic, as usual, I'm undecided on the way skills work in 5e. I'm pretty sure that your average Pathfinder player character does in fact just max N skills, so for those people, there probably isn't much difference. I often end up trying to invest in a couple more skills than I truly have the skill points for. But it's that whole "fewer, but more meaningful choices" thing. You basically pick skills once, and that's it. There is no mechanism to be somewhat good at a skill and then stop investing in it while still progressing overall.

    The thing is, I often find myself regretting what I end up doing to squeeze more options out of my character. Ok, the paladin I'm playing... not a lot of skill points, a few prerequisites, I don't actually expect to succeed on anything but Perception on this character (Survival, but I don't expect it to ever be rolled; in this case max ranks in Survival fits a backstory and helps justify the Skill Focus (Survival) feat investment needed as a prerequisite). I also find that figuring out how to best spend skill points was actually more interesting in 3.5, when cross-class cost more. (Note, I'm not asking to return to that mechanism; I found that 3.5-style cross-class skill investment was pretty much a trap.)

    So I think that for many players, the change in skills won't be that significant, especially with the reduction in number of skills and concurrent increase in how much of the skill spectrum a single character can typically cover (4-6 out of 18 instead of 1-12 (high-Int rogue, unlikely) out of 34 (counting all knowledges but not splitting out craft/perform/profession)). A minimum-skill 5e character covers not quite a quarter of the possible skills. Most characters are minimum skill, but it's a lot more options. Most Pathfinder characters are sitting on 2+Int, perhaps 4+Int, but most don't have much Int, so you're looking at, let's be generous and say 4 skill points with at least 24 skills that are worth investment (I'm ditching craft/perform/profession and knowledge skills outside of the big 4 for this). That's a (generous) typical case of being able to cover a sixth of the possible skills. Which means that a 5e character will feel like they have a broader selection of abilities.

    Also, I don't recall seeing any 5e skills flagged as Trained Only. Combine that with the much smaller difference between a skill you're proficient with and one you're not, and it also feels less painful to not be trained in a skill. It may even help push back on the "I'm not trained in that skill / maxxed out in that skill, I can't even try" notion, which is something I suffer. (Interesting anecdote: about a year ago, I think, I was rebuilding a character who was, between my choices and the DM's, a huge mess; a magus with a couple of levels of rogue and a bunch of free psionic power, as a full psionic character. I gave him some free stuff as I built him... and then last week, I was chatting with the DM and he said "does your character have telepathy?" I said "no, of course not." But the reasoning behind that was that when I looked for a few freebies to boost the character's capabilities, mostly in the sense of what I'd already seen given out (basically it amounted to a free archetype and a free rogue talent), I didn't even consider things that were not standard PC abilities. The notion of giving my character the telepathy monster ability, even on a character it does make perfect sense for, just didn't even occur to me.)

    I touched on this in a totally different conversation recently: one big thing 3rd edition did, which has remained through Pathfinder, is aimed to have a rule for everything, while 2nd edition, somewhat 4th, and definitely 5th (so far, given that I don't have a DMG to look at) goes more towards the general guidelines for resolving whatever, and leaves it to the DM to figure out how to resolve specifics. A few years ago, I found the "rules for everything" notion very helpful; knowing I could look up a rule for anything buttressed my confidence when it came to running a game. Now I look at it more as a straightjacket; I have to fight the parts of my brain that say "there's a rule for that, and it says you can't succeed" or "there's no rule for that, it's just not possible" when I want to do something that isn't entirely standard.

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    Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

    I do, sometimes, love the complexity of Pathfinder.

    I'm playing in a Pathfinderized A Paladin in Hell, an old 2nd edition module, and I spent an incredible amount of time building out the character. I must have spent 4 or more hours surveying Inner Sea Gods and the domain / subdomain writeups to determine which domains I could access for my Sacred Servant paladin, and then decide between them. (I finally chose Luck over War, because I didn't feel like also dealing with keeping track of all the feat candidates I had from the domain power, and because it told a story more different from the basic paladin.)

    And I do have a list of mechanical concepts I want to one day play in Pathfinder; that's pretty much how I picked out the paladin I'm playing, though I spent a ton of time on the finishing touches. (Core idea was paladin with Eldritch Heritage (orc). That meant a lot of my build was done almost immediately. The domain, the last feat or two, and equipment, those took hours and hours.)

    But sometimes, that level of time investment outside of the game just grates on me. Especially when either I'm intentionally skipping powerful options to avoid overshadowing other party members (often the easiest way to do this is just to not be a full caster), or when I'm helping someone else power their character up to the same level that I'm at. Sometimes I don't want to feel that I need to pore over the books, looking for spells, feats, and class features that provide interesting and powerful new synergies, to be able to build an effective character.

    Pathfinder is better than 3.0 & 3.5 on giving the ability to play a character concept from level 1, but as thejeff pointed out, there are still some which you just can't pull off until mid levels. And quite often, those are trading out straight power for versatility, which may or may not be a good trade. (I know I tend to go for a greater degree of self-sufficiency in characters, and several of my friends do as well.) Sure, in Pathfinder you can play a fighter/wizard who feels like it from level 1... as long as you're willing to deal with the constraints of the magus (one-handed weapon, no shield), and accept that you're going to end up with less BAB and spell selection than you might achieve with careful multiclassing (I remember 3.5-era optimization, where a gish was considered acceptable only at BAB 17+, caster level 17+, and likely having actual 9th level spells as well).

    The martial/caster disparity is something I want to see go away. That, actually, is probably the biggest single cornerstone of that system I'm so slowly building. And the two biggest components to achieving it, in my mind, are:
    1. Separate out the combat subsystem from the non-combat subsystem(s). While the core resolution mechanics may be the same, resources need to be different. The biggest part here is that you shouldn't need to give up combat potential for more social skills. (i.e. avoid how the rogue trades combat effectiveness for a large number of skill points and a large class skill list.)
    2. Give all classes equivalent resources. A huge part of the martial/caster disparity is that casters have more powerful options, because their options consume limited resources. But this breaks down unless there is sufficient demand upon those limited resources to force the caster to conserve them against future need. And it's non-trivial to consistently enforce that demand.

    Obviously 5th hasn't tried to give equivalent resources to all classes; 4th did that, and it was part of the problem there. (Though I think how it was presented, and the sameness of all the options, was more a problem than the notion of martial characters with limited resources. At least, it was for me. Presenting kicking sand in someone's face as a once-per-day action felt silly, but the martials were being kept entirely martial, so it couldn't be a matter of expending ki or a similar resource.) Some of the adjustments to the spells system, however, do help; mostly the fact that spells no longer inherently grow in power as you level, which means that you don't have lower-level slots becoming amazing sources of long-term buffs, or utility that trumps the skills, at a low effective resource cost. (i.e. greater magic weapon and magic vestment grow in power and duration even as the value of their spell slots decreases.) This reduces the caster's ability to solve every problem with spell slots, because the lower-level spell slots don't gain in power even as they are freed up from combat usage. (The change in spell DCs also keeps lower level spells somewhat more viable in combat.)

    Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

    That's a fair point. I'm developing a pretty good idea (slowly but surely) of what I want as, at least, a default game style & genre. I'm structuring a ruleset around that, and certain design concepts I'm coming to like (or avoiding the ones I've come to dislike).

    It might be my One True RPG, when done, assuming that I consistently want to play a particular class of games which that ruleset supports. And, of course, if it's ever finished and anyone other than me likes it.

    My core point, really, was that I'm very willing to steal from any and every game, though most of my experience is with d20-based systems. And 5th definitely has enough interesting ideas to be considered as a source.

    Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

    I like Pathfinder, but it's definitely not my One True RPG. I don't have one of those.

    I don't think 5th edition will be either, in part because, while it does reduce it, it retains the caster / martial divide, and the associated balance across multiple encounters method of handling some characters having limited resources and some not.

    I'm slowly sketching out my own personal One True RPG, and I'm happy to take ideas from everywhere. It's a very slow process, because I'm simultaneously trying to figure out where my One True RPG's balance between simplicity and realism is. Where it sits on a spectrum of easy rules as opposed to deep customization. What sort of decisions the ruleset should make to keep play from bogging down. I find myself wondering if I want to stick to a simple d20 base, or go for a different probability distribution (say, using 3d6 or 2d10 instead of 1d20); I've already ruled out bucketfuls of dice for the sake of fast resolution. So it's a long, long way to that.

    As time has gone by, I've moved away from high-simulation, high-complexity concepts and towards simpler ones. I'm debating whether armor as damage reduction makes sense, not on system complexity, but just on the extra calculation at the table.

    And I'm happy to take ideas from eveywhere. I've taken some from the Stargate RPG, I've taken some from Pathfinder, I expect I'll take some from 5e. There's even some from 4e (mostly divorcing combat & non-combat resources).

    In fact, I might take 5e's spell system in place of the power point system I was intending; it's similarly simple, flexible (if not so much as to risk options paralysis), and makes it harder to nova.

    Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

    I have zero doubt that Wizards will release too many supplemental rulebooks, given enough time. How much will that be? I don't know for sure. Probably sooner than I'd like, unless there an adjustment in their business model.

    I expect they'll end up with something akin to what I remember from the relatively early 4e days; a couple of big hardcovers a year, and somewhat more focused books, hard or softcover, aiming to fill the role of the old Complete books; focus on a broad character archetype or something similar.

    Paizo has managed to last longer on that front due to the relative focus on adventures, as opposed to rulebooks, and some degree of separation between the rules published in the rulebook line and rules published in the other lines. Even so, Paizo seems to be reaching saturation point as well. And any company that intends to release new rules will eventually reach that point. Will WotC do so comparatively quickly? Quite possibly; I wouldn't be surprised at all. It doesn't bother me too much, because I don't feel obligated to use or allow all published content.

    Another thing I didn't note that I do like: 5th has the notion of spending feet of movement to do things, rather than spending a move action. This is simple, penalizes characters less, and is flexible. A DM can quickly and easily (and roughly) come up with a feet of movement cost for interactions beyond the free one. But the cost being "some feet of movement" rather than "your move action" also helps characters move around.

    I spent some time over the long weekend reading some more of the PHB, and overall, I continue to like what I'm seeing. The skill list is streamlined but not down to uselessness. I'm hopeful (but need to see it in action) that rogues, for example, are not penalized in combat for having more skills. Between the smaller skill list, and the two proficiencies from character background, I get much less of the feel from 3rd edition & Pathfinder of "this is the skill character, the rest of you aren't any good at it". (Pathfinder's reimplementation of class vs. cross-class skills made a big improvement there; but retained the issue with number of skill points, ranging from 1 on the low end to 10 or more on the high end.) With the number of skills proficiencies ranging from 4 to 6, matters are less problematic.

    Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

    I'm running an AP for a similar reason; I don't yet feel competent to build an adventure, let alone a campaign, from scratch. But I still have to do a lot of adjustment.

    I do preliminary adjustments before the game; increase monster HP, throw advanced on some enemies (as we get further in, it will be all enemies, I suspect), add an enemy here or there, work out how enemies may cascade into the encounter, and so on. This, along with basic prep like making sure I have the stat blocks and either know how abilities work or have easy access to the necessary references, does most of it.

    But sometimes I need to do a little more on the fly. Perhaps lucky rolls on one side or the other are swinging the combat too far in one direction. Perhaps I made a mistake in my original adjustments. In these cases, I tend to tweak enemy hp, and occasionally AC or attack bonus.

    It's a little harder, since I'm playing online, and the enemy rolls are generally public (though there's no reason I have to do it that way). At least, it's a little harder to quietly mess with attack bonuses.

    My general, broad rule, is that if things are going badly for the PCs because they're doing something stupid, they can pay the price for that (though I would like to avoid any campaign-ending events). If things are going badly for the PCs because of something I did (incorrectly estimating the adjustments I need to make, for example), I will do whatever I can to give the PCs a leg up, and if necessary, that will include rewinding and redoing the encounter from the beginning. That hasn't happened yet, but I have had to tweak enemy numbers a bit.

    I've also knocked down enemy hp a couple of times just to streamline things. After two consecutive rounds of both sides missing every attack, I reduced enemy hp just to speed up the encounter, and try to reduce wasted time. Shifted them from taking 3 hits to finish to taking 2 hits to finish.

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    Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber
    Tranquilis wrote:
    JoeJ wrote:

    I haven't picked up the PHB yet, but based on the Basic Rules and those bits of the playtest material I've been able to look at, it looks like WoTC is deliberately heading in the "rules lite" direction, where most of the options are in the character concept and in the role playing choices rather than in the game mechanics.

    Bingo. As hard as it is for some to comprehend (and I don't mean that disparagingly at all - it does seem a bit illogical at first), more rules can result in fewer options in-game.

    When some players see umpteen hundred feats in a game, they see straight jackets - not freedom and options.

    Neither is right or wrong: obviously Pathfinder has embraced the player-focused, character-build philosophy. Other games like Castles and Crusades have harkened back to roleplaying choices versus mechanical choices. Who knows what the future holds for 5th, but it is apparent that with the PHB, WotC decided to go with "less is more" over Pathfinder's "Do you want that wrapped in bacon?" approach.

    31 flavors and all that.

    This is true. With a personality like mine that tends to study the rules... if the rules tell me I need feat X to do something, then I don't ask the DM if I can try. I either have the feat and do it, or I don't have the feat and immediately write it off as impossible (due to lack of feat). Likewise I often don't think about non-standard uses of spells. I'm working on getting better at that, but a lot of the time I see a spell as doing exactly and only what the spell description says, nothing more, ever. That said, as a DM, I try to encourage the opposite thinking and am quite happy to make quick & dirty rulings; I also sometimes suggest ways to ad-hoc a situation to the DM when I'm playing. (So far I haven't done it for an action I was taking, but for others).

    Lots of rules are good for consistency across a campaign and across multiple tables. That's really helpful for something like organized play; since you might have a different DM each time, you don't want to rely on something that's a DM judgment call; your character might be excellent with one DM and near-worthless with another.

    The way Pathfinder is written, if it can be done, there are rules for it. That's not strictly true, of course, there's nothing stopping a DM from making a ruling. But the basic assumption is that if the game rules don't model it, then it's not supposed to happen. Or you should construct it from the existing rules. I've watched games derail while a DM decided to survey half a dozen books and build a composite ruling on an unexpected action, because that was the "correct" way to go.

    A more rules-light system has a tone of giving you the tools to make rulings on matters not covered in the rules.

    Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

    Getting further along in reading through 5e... I skimmed the spells chapter today. There's a couple of specific questions I need to go back and review, but on the whole I'm liking a few things:

    • Spells don't inherently scale with the caster's level, only with the spell slot invested. This is great because it means that you don't have spells that aren't that good... until your caster level reaches a certain point. Spells don't increase in power as their relative cost (relative cost of the spell slot) decreases. This should also help get rid of casters (or entire parties) sitting on a dozen or more spells.
    • Spell save DCs are all the same. This reduces the impulse to relegate spells below the top 2-3 levels of your casting capability to support spells, or at least ones without saves. That is, you won't feel like it's a waste to cast fireball because the save DC is too low at 19th level to consider worth the action.
    • Spells having more effect when cast in a higher level slot really helps with limited spells known, as well as reducing duplication in spell lists. It also means that to get a greater effect from a spell, you have to expend a more valuable resource.
    • Offensive cantrips that don't fade into uselessness after a couple of levels extend a caster's endurance.
    • Straight up fewer spell slots overall mean that valuable resources probably won't be squandered. The casting mechanic itself means that you don't have to spend nearly so long poring over every spell slot in an attempt to avoid wasting the slot by preparing something too niche.
    • While not every class has expendable resources, to match how casters have spell slots, many do, at least with specific choices within the class. That helps reduce the disparity between expensive but powerful actions and cheap but less powerful ones. And the spells themselves seem toned down. It seems that we're less likely to just solve everything with a well-placed spell, making other options more viable.
    • A lot of the spells that just ended a fight (or at least a creature's participation in the fight) are much weaker now. While it's satisfying to neutralize a foe with one action, it's also something you live in terror of having done to you. And can far too easily chump solo fights (one more reason why simple solo fights are boring).

    I'm not entirely sold on the concentration mechanic for limiting buffs. I like the idea, just not entirely sold on that being the mechanic. It'll work, but it might be a bit stricter than necessary narratively. Still, it's more coherent than saying that a person can only be subject to N spells at a time (and then we'd stack small buffs on someone until they were effectively immune to debuff spells).

    Advantage/Disadvantage I think is a decent concept used a bit too much, and benefits a lot from a simple houserule: whichever you have more of on the roll is in effect. If you have advantage once and disadvantage once, they cancel out. If you have advantage twice and disadvantage once, then you have advantage. This prevents a single source of disadvantage from canceling out all effort to get advantage.

    I'm hoping to see, as I look into the non-combat aspects, that investment in the combat, social, and exploration aspects does not come from a shared resource pool. That is, I don't want a character to have to sacrifice ability in combat for skill at lockpicking or conversation; that's an aspect of 3rd edition which I think contributed greatly to the relative weakness of the rogue. Likewise the pre-Pathfinder skill tax of Concentration on spellcasters.

    One thing I liked the idea of in 4e (and hated the execution of) was skill challenges. Specifically the part where it was designed to get the entire party engaged in the encounter, rather than standing back and letting the bard do everything. The concept encouraged characters to have breadth instead of pure specialization. The execution... I won't discuss.

    Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber
    Dispari Scuro wrote:
    dariusu wrote:
    Dispari Scuro wrote:
    Only movement causes AoOs? So there are no concentration checks in 5e?
    Only movement out of a creatures reach in most cases. There are concentration checks in 5e but only for getting hit while concentrating on a spell. Casting a ranged spell in while within 5 feet of a creature causes disadvantage on the attack.

    Removing concentration checks in general would be very nice. It's something I find very limiting and even frustrating. If I plan on playing a character who is going to be close to badguys a lot (magus, bard, inquisitor, some cleric/oracle setups), I end up having to take both a trait and a feat to get a +6 toward concentration checks so I don't flub the rolls. It's a very un-fun feat tax just so I can access basic features of my class.

    Even with the trait/feat, I end up looking at situations where I "only need to roll a 3" to pass the check, but of course I always roll a 2 when it counts. Nothing more frustrating and disappointing than: "The other six people went, so it's finally your turn. What are you going to do?" "Lose a spell slot, apparently." Of course it's still possible for a melee class to roll a 1 on an attack roll, but unlike a fighter I have a limited number of spells. And a lot of them require attack rolls or saves as well. Concentration just adds an extra layer I don't agree with.

    I'll be starting a new campaign soon, and one of the players is doing a magus. They already have the +6 combination from traits and feats, and would probably be very happy to hear that they don't need that just to cast spells. So, I may pick this up.

    This does open up some questions though. What happens with the Disruptive feat tree, for instance.

    Oh goodness, Concentration. My magus has, I think, never failed it (before he became a gifted blade soulknife instead, and then he hasn't had to roll it yet). But I remember my wizard and a pack of trolls. I had the perfect shot to finish all of them with an acid-admixed burning hands. Sure, I had to stand next to one of them, but he was prone, and I'd make the Concentration check on something like a 3, this will be fine, right? Yeah, I rolled just below. Now my item queue is topped by the bracers that provide a bonus and allow some re-rolls. Just in case.

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    Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

    My only problem with the Arcanist is that I'm not sure it's valuable to the game to have all three casting mechanics:
    - Full Vancian (wizard, cleric, etc.)
    - Full spontaneous (sorcerer, oracle, etc.)
    - Arcanist's hybrid method

    That said, I love the mechanics, independent of the class's power level. I just see it as a great design choice. Were I designing a whole new system that used spell-slot-based casting, I would most likely use the Arcanist mechanic, because it makes more narrative sense to me.

    It hits that sweet spot with me. Between the fear of playing a wizard and guessing wrong as to what we'll need today, and the away-from-the-table work of making sure my sorcerer has the necessary breadth of problem-solving capability with limited spells known (and possibly without the assistance of a human favored class bonus). Instead, I get to have access to basically every spell in the game, but don't get them every day; I get a subset. And while I have to choose what spells I expect to need today, that's not too hard to fill out a common baseline... being able to not worry about how many of each, and how to metamagic, that makes me feel much more comfortable, much less paranoid about screwing up my prep.

    And it doesn't have that Vancian mechanism that's always been weird to me.

    There may be some exploits to ban; I see no reason to ban the class entirely.

    Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

    One thing I've taken to doing is making my character sheets be spreadsheets. As long as I can put in the design work in advance (and sometimes during a session), I can simply check buffs on or off on my tablet, and the formulas are automatically calculated. That's a huge, huge help in Pathfinder... especially at high level when you may carrying a half-dozen or more magical buffs... that could go away in a moment if someone throws a dispel at you. I've seen high-level games grind to a halt on one good set of rolls on a dispel, because backing out all the changes takes so long.

    The downside of this is that I'm no longer self-trained to keep track of buffs & debuffs that are not on the spreadsheet; it's very easy to forget about something I don't have incorporated yet.

    Of course, the spreadsheet approach is not for people who don't have a laptop or tablet to run it on, and while most of the formulas are fairly basic, it's still quite time-consuming to set up. (There's a lot of side benefits I enjoy, like having a section to compute how many skill points I should have and compare against how many I've spent.) I'm getting better and better at it with every character I set up a sheet for, and I've started throwing together a template; I'll start throwing common buffs & debuffs onto it, I'm sure. And I wasn't willing to actually do it before I got a tablet, because a laptop just takes up too much table space... at least when multiple players are using them, they do.

    But if you don't have something like that, even with a scratch pad of buffs & debuffs, most people are likely going to be taking their normal attack sequence, and adding a couple of modifiers. Sure, you could compute that sum and add only one number... but then, especially if any are commonly coming in and out, you have to recompute that regularly, which is also annoying.

    I'm totally fine rolling one attack at a time; I've found that if I roll more than 2 at a time, though, I lose track of which die was which much too easily. (Also I don't actually have enough color variety to roll more than 3 at once unless I'm very careful about positioning the dice.) And I've seen some insane situations; recently I was attacking a wizard, and had to roll 4d100 plus my d20, because closing my eyes and relying on blind-fight was a better proposition than dealing with both displacement and mirror image, and even after that, there were two custom spells which also provided percentile miss chances. That was insanely time-consuming compared to a normal round, even though we were online, so I could roll 4d100 in a single command.

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    Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber
    Ssalarn wrote:
    PhelanArcetus wrote:

    It doesn't entirely come down to system mastery here; I feel my system mastery level is similar to that of some other players... who continually outshine me.

    Why? Because they're playing high-mastery full casters (the concept they tend to prefer), and I'm playing martial / part casters, also at a high mastery. And since most of the campaigns I'm in have only one encounter per day, the full caster is just more powerful. With no need to conserve resources for the second, third, and fourth encounter of the day, they can solve most situations with spells, they can throw their biggest spells at any fight, and that balancing factor of me having mostly unlimited actions, while they have limited but more powerful actions is gone.


    That's less a problem of the system itself, and more a problem of your group literally not playing the game the designers intended. Pathfinder is built under the assumption of 3-5 combat encounters, with an easy encounter (CR = APL) consuming roughly 20% of the group's daily resources. If you're playing a game that deviates from that expectation, you should adjust classes that are balanced against it accordingly. If you're only doing 1 encounter a session, you should be cutting expendable resources like spell slots, rage and bardic performance rounds, channel energy uses, etc. by 40-60%. That alone will likely substantially change the gaming dynamic you're experiencing.

    5e does balance the classes more on single instance performance though, so your group might be one that benefits from such a system, which works under different assumptions.

    There is also a system mastery disparity in your group; you, and presumably the rest of your group, know that there will only be 1 encounter per session. By choosing a class rewarded for longevity in a campaign where longevity will never be a factor, you have already made a sub-par choice. Unfortunately, unless your GM applies the appropriate modifications to make up for this, you've started in a...

    This is a fair point. The campaign's been going on for quite a long time, so I can't recall if we knew in advance that there would be very few situations where we had multiple encounters per day. (Some of those encounters are quite long, of course, and early on, we were much more likely to have multiple encounters.) I'm pretty sure it wasn't explicitly stated, but that doesn't mean we didn't know it going in.

    Of course, this is one reason why I dislike that method of class balance. (And, since we're in the midst of some revisions to the house rules due to frustration with the game, I'm proposing reducing spell slots. I suspect it will not be done.)

    I am, I think, willing to accept fewer but more meaningful choices over many, comparatively small, choices. It can be frustrating on both sides. I recall in playing World of Warcraft in the old days, sure, every level up got you a talent point (after 10th level). But most of them were tiny, incremental improvements you could discern when looking at the character sheet, but not in gameplay. A few were big deals, typically the one-point talents. But you got to do something every level up. Later on, talents were reduced to... I think 6 choices, evenly spaced. You picked a specialization at 10, and a single talent at 15, 30, 45, etc. (if I'm remembering Pandas correctly). So you had entire level-ups where nothing that mattered happened (sometimes you got a new ability, sometimes you got a higher rank of an existing ability, sometimes straight up nothing happened except stats), but there were only a very small number of choices to make.

    On the one hand, making a lot of choices that feel meaningless is frustrating. On the other hand, not getting to make a choice at all is frustrating.

    I do want it to be that every time I make a choice, I can discern the difference in my character. That's something that feat trees don't always give. The last character I built is a paladin using Eldritch Heritage (Orc); he started at level 16. And of the 7 feats I took, 3 (skill focus (survival), toughness, and eldritch heritage itself), feel meaningless in of themselves. Two of those facilitated Improved Eldritch Heritage and Quicken SLA (touch of rage), but were otherwise near worthless. Toughness is there because all stat items were banned and I felt compelled to compensate for the lack of a Con increase for my hp. Even Power Attack is so much a given for someone wielding a two-handed weapon that it barely feels like a choice. In essence, most of the choices were made by the concept rather than leveling up. I suspect that leveling that way would have been frustrating, making essentially pre-defined choices. (Much as I did find leveling in World of Warcraft was frustrating when I already knew the one and only "proper" set of talent points to select.) Likewise, several of those choices would have had no immediate impact on the character, because their purpose was to unlock a later choice.

    I've felt for quite some time that if a choice is such that not making it is just flat out stupid, then it should be built in. I also hate choices that have to be made to facilitate a playstyle, like Dex builds needing to expend resources on applying Dex to hit & damage. Or how World of Warcraft retribution paladins had a few talent points that were necessary to make the build function... and were not available immediately. If everybody using a two-handed weapon is going to take Power Attack, build it into the mechanics. If everybody who wants to play a dextrous melee combatant is going to take Weapon Finesse, build it into the mechanics. I like when I see that done, because it removes false choices, freeing up cognitive and character resources for choices that are actually open.

    Definitely reserving final judgment until I've had a chance to actually play, rather than just read part of the rulebook.

    Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber
    Istovir wrote:

    The big problem I have with 3.xx in general including Pathfinder is what happens when there's a significant divergence in system mastery in a group. Then, unless the DM spends a lot of effort building encounters that have a place for everyone in the group, the players with system mastery play the game while the other players basically watch them. This makes on the table tactics and teamwork much less meaningful, because if player A's character is 5x more effective in combat than player C's, what does it matter what player C does?...

    It doesn't entirely come down to system mastery here; I feel my system mastery level is similar to that of some other players... who continually outshine me.

    Why? Because they're playing high-mastery full casters (the concept they tend to prefer), and I'm playing martial / part casters, also at a high mastery. And since most of the campaigns I'm in have only one encounter per day, the full caster is just more powerful. With no need to conserve resources for the second, third, and fourth encounter of the day, they can solve most situations with spells, they can throw their biggest spells at any fight, and that balancing factor of me having mostly unlimited actions, while they have limited but more powerful actions is gone.

    A side note related to this is that much of the martial side of 3e/PF lacks a use for that swift action, while the casters regularly have uses for them.

    I saw above a few discussions regarding mechanics to support your abilities, versus not having any mechanics, and I just want to add to that.

    Sometimes it's really nice to have mechanics to support that you're a blacksmith, or you can drive a chariot. It's great to have a way to be good at that, it's even better to feel progress (and the more things that advance as you level, the better, because the feeling of progress is a big deal). Other times, though, it's detrimental to have those mechanics, because they get presented as "you can't do this unless". And suddenly your character can't be a blacksmith, because you didn't actually invest skill ranks. Or when the time comes to drive a chariot, you have no idea how. Because you didn't put points into it three levels ago. That's when having those mechanics is very frustrating.

    One thing related to this which I hate in 3e/PF is that all those interesting, secondary abilities compete for resources with the core systems. For someone who optimizes, both out of personal interest and out of a sense of necessity in the games I play, spending a limited resource on something that doesn't contribute to the sorts of things the system is built around when I could have hurts.
    i.e. I feel bad that my wizard has Breadth of Experience (which is pretty much superfluous on him anyway), when I could have had a more combat-oriented feat. I, and many of the people I play with, would find it hard to even consider spending something like a feat slot on the character's background or downtime activity (magic item crafting excepted).

    By the time we spend skill points on things that feel essential (Perception, anyone?), there are none left to spend on something like Craft or Profession.

    As far as 5e... I've read about half the PHB so far (only skimmed a few spells). I see a lot of promise, and I'm going to make sure I get to play or run it a little bit, at least. Hard to say much definitively until I've seen it in action. But I like the intent I'm reading from the rules.

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    Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

    There are a lot of classes out now, and that does raise the burden on both the GM and on any player who wants to build a character in a mechanically optimal fashion.

    We're playing a Pathfinderized A Paladin in Hell now, and the GM didn't ban much, all told, but he did ban. He banned Arcanist, Gunslinger, and Summoner, and restricted us to Core Rulebook items (with stat enhancers banned).

    Arcanist was banned because he feels it's overpowered (I may well agree).
    Gunslinger because it's off-theme, which I'm sure is common.
    Summoner was banned because he wasn't sufficiently familiar with the class to feel comfortable including it.

    We also had some complaints about design decisions within the ACG, especially things like the feats and archetypes which seem designed to replace multiclassing. Though honestly, I'm not sure what I prefer; the flexibility of full 3e multiclassing is nice, but oftentimes it was frustrating to find you couldn't effectively play the concept you wanted to for X levels. Dedicated classes can provide the concept from level 1, and provide useful synergies that make a character feel complete.

    For example, I like the Magus a lot because it's not just a guy who can swing a sword, and also cast arcane spells. It's a guy who can do both at once. It can feel very odd to play a hybrid who can only be one side of the hybridization on any given turn.

    But we're definitely reaching the point, even in the hardcover rulebook line, where there's just too much stuff for me. I think if we stuck to the hardcovers, we'd be pretty good. It's the softcovers in the campaign setting & player companion lines which contribute a lot (and many players are sufficiently divorced from the setting that they don't actually note or comprehend the implicit restrictions on culture tied to some of those feats).

    Of course, some people love that complexity. I like... some complexity. I do like being able to find synergies within the rules and make my characters more capable... but I don't like needing to search through thousands of pages of content to be able to create a character at the power level I feel is required for the game. (That requirement could be to not be chumped by the enemies, or to not be rendered irrelevant by characters built better; this latter part is exacerbated by how I tend to prefer concepts in the mid-range power level, while several friends prefer the full casters and play in games where resources are not tight.)

    Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

    Necromancying so that I can add an FAQ click mostly.

    My gut feeling is that, somewhere in the design process, the feature changed between granting slots in which you could only prepare oath spells, and simply adding spells known. From one to the other, not sure which way.

    And the change just didn't get fully propagated to the text, so it's somewhere in between.

    (I'm also considering running an oathbound paladin shortly in a one-shot, so I'll be asking the GM there for his interpretation, but this seems to want a click.)

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    Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber
    HolmesandWatson wrote:

    Gary Gygax’s 17 Steps to Role Playing Mastery

    Step Fifteen - Play In Tournaments

    Note: Italics are quotes by Gygax, contained in the book, Role Playing Mastery.

    Gaming clubs exist and game conventions are held in most areas of the United States and in many locations in other countries, especially Canada and Great Britain. To achieve mastery as a player, you must eventually (if not immediately) become involved in RPG tournaments that are staged by clubs and convention organizers. These are special play sessions in which various groups of players take part in the same game adventure at different times (similar to the way a duplicate bridge tournament is run).

    By comparing your performance to that of other players whose PCs were faced with the same problems and challenges, you can get a sense of your strengths and weaknesses in a way that is not available to you as long as your experience remains restricted to one or a few local campaigns.

    Seems like a natural progression from Step 14 (Play Outside Your Group's Campaign Frequently).

    Tournaments often spawned new modules (Ghost Tower of Inverness comes to mind and I know there were at least a couple Judges Guild tournament modules).

    Of course, in Gygax' time there was no D&D Encounters, Pathfinder Society or even online play. So, you were a lot less likely to find gaming opportunities outside of your immediate group and tournaments played a larger role in steps toward Mastery as he viewed it.

    Many (if not all) of the points made in Step 14 would seem to apply here. I don't know: do you think playing at Gen Con, or Origins or Paizocon will make you a better player as Gygax saw it? Do you need to compare your play to other tournament RPGers to identify your strengths and weaknesses?

    Surely it doesn't hurt, but does this step really remain relevant today?

    It's a bit different, I guess.

    In a classic tournament setup, many groups would play the same adventure, at the same time. The only one I ever played, we had pregenerated characters.

    It sounds like he's describing the value of the tournament as a science experiment. Hold as much equal as you can, changing the players at the table. Compare results. Then you will see what other groups of players did better or worse than you, learning from the experience of all N tables instead of just your own.

    In my (also limited) experience with organized play... there's so much variety between GMs and parties that it's less viable to learn this way. Earlier this year, partly because a friend was suggesting we should all get PFS characters so he could play with us when we happened to be at cons, partly for something to do other than sit at a dead art table with my fiance, I played 4 games worth of PFS.

    I think I had the same GM twice, and one time I had a player overlap, using a different character. Several of the players clearly knew each other due to being local. I learned some interesting things about odd builds (one of which I would have liked to have seen), but at no point did I encounter someone playing something similar enough to my own character to learn something directly about that build, or even style of playing the character type.

    Organized play fits more into the general "play outside of your normal group" than into tournament, I think. There is value; you can meet new people, you can see concepts you might never see otherwise, and you can learn from all that. But it's more of a different group than a tournament lesson / experiment.

    Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

    Create a setup where outsiders, in general, require mortal intervention to act on the Material Plane. As a simple fact of planar mechanics, make it so that even if the outsider has gate as an at-will spell-like ability, it simply cannot gate to the Material Plane; a request must come from the Material Plane.

    Let them send dreams and visions, but beyond that, they need to be summoned or called by mortals, beings already on the Material Plane. Now, for the most part, all you need are stories, and human nature.

    Heaven won't help a deposed prince recover his throne unless he truly is just, good, right, unlawfully deposed, and the current ruler is a tyrant, and so on. More importantly, Heaven won't offer to do so. Heaven might provide aid if requested, but they'll require goodness out of the prince, and Heaven will say so up front, and honestly.

    Hell, on the other hand, will whisper, maybe directly, maybe just through legends, about how it can restore the prince to his throne (regardless of whether he's good or evil at that point). And Hell won't tell him what the true cost is until he's already accepted the deal.

    The assistance of Hell will be seen as a shortcut to power (probably with a very bad downside at the end, but people are notorious for believing that they can avoid the comeuppance that everyone before them got). The assistance of Heaven will be seen as expensive, difficult to get, and only even available if you meet their strict criteria of goodness.

    This, then, works on all outsider groups, not just Heaven and Hell. The more the group wants to be on the Material Plane or directly influence it, the more they'll whisper to mortals.

    An alternative is for Heaven to be a bunch of jerks whose attitude is "those stupid mortals summoned a demon? They (mortals in general, not just the specific group that summoned a demon) deserve whatever they get." I've met outsiders like that in games. They're really, really annoying, so unless you want PCs to hate Heaven, I don't recommend it.

    Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

    First piece of advice: Don't come up with a rule and blindly follow it.

    Second piece of advice: Generally, bump enemy HP from average to maximum; this is a simple change that helps.

    The other two big things are in fact the Advanced Simple template and increasing the number of enemies, as mentioned above. And, again, as mentioned, for solo fights, add some minions or lieutenants.

    Be very cautious about the Advanced Simple template at low levels; basically at low level, there's less room for optimization to have made a big difference, so adding +2 to hit and +4 to AC on enemies makes a big difference. I almost killed my party's paladin very early because I underestimated how dangerous the template made some enemies.

    As you get a feel for the party, you'll get a feel for adjusting the encounters as appropriate to your party.

    Also, don't be afraid to make tweaks mid-encounter. If the party is having too much trouble, invent an explanation and weaken the enemies. If the party is blowing through too easily, have reinforcements come in, or insert another random encounter to make them expend more resources.

    The reinforcements strategy is also a nice way to avoid having your increased enemy count get wiped out by one fireball, and to deal with dungeons where there are a bunch of adjacent rooms with similar enemies; it keeps you from doing many repetitive small combats, avoids overwhelming the party with a huge mass of foes, and means you don't need to explain why these guys just hung around in their room while the party killed their friends next door.

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