# Mathematically define a "viable" or "successful" character

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As the framework forms a clearer more focused idea shines through.

So a character's focus based on it's class/party role should define mathmaticly the minimum's of a "viable" or "successful" character/party in aney given RAW framework.

Now we are getting somewhere!!!

But the question remains. Was the intent to focus on stats alone or the meat like skills and feats?

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MATHEMATICALLY DEFINE A "VIABLE" OR "SUCCESSFUL" CHARACTER

• I > U

Where I = 1337sauce and U = lulz11!1!1

*shakes fist*

• Hmm, I've never really thought of a Mathematical way to determine a viable or successful character before other than if the Character lives to die of old age and boredom in his Keep / Castle / Tower / Hamlet / Kingdom or is dumped in an unheroic heap in a land fill.

I guess it would go something like this:

Melee - Viable - Must be able to stand up to a level specific target with out fear of getting drilled in a round except by a freak Crit. He / she must also have a reasonable ( 75% or better ) chance of stomping said baddies guts out in 3 rounds of close contact (ie Full Round Actions).

Ranged - Viable - Must be able to lay a sufficient amount of fire on a target to either suppress Casters not in close melee or help to obliterate a melee in close combat with his Melee / thugs. This means he must be able to penetrate heavy armor regularly.

Skill Bunnies - Viable - Be able to succeed on his / her specialty a minimum of 8 out of 10 attempts. I mean, if that person has gone down that quagmire that is a Skill Bunny, they better make it pay off and DUMP points into those skills. They should also be able to help with combat by either flanking heavies, restricting the enemies mobility, etc. I don't expect my skill heavy players to be toe to toe with out some extenuating circumstances and even then, they need to be able to weather the fire till relieved.

Mages - Viable - Be able to every fight contribute to Battlefield Suppression / Exploitation, Direct Damage, Damage Mitigation. Even if they are not casting spells, they should have wands, scrolls and potions ready to assist others. If you are a out of spells, you better have some tricks up your sleeves to keep you and your buddies in the fight!

Clerics - Viable - The ability to supplement your party in any circumstance. Be it combat, recon, Intel Gathering or what ever. Also, I've seen numerous debates on healing in combat, if you don't like to heal in combat, you'd better be able to deny the enemy the ability to do damage to your thugs.

I'm not sure if that answers your query or if anyone agrees but that is what makes a character viable in my games.

Group - Viable - They work as a team, coordinating strengths to minimize weaknesses and exploit the enemies flaws.

Group - Non Viable - They could all be 30 point equivalent build characters maximized for what their roles are but if they don't work together, fail group.

Have Fun out there!!

~ W ~

psionichamster wrote:
Brian Bachman wrote:
stuff

Well, I usually base the "is this a good/bad/excellent character design" on the "can he survive the game?" question. Seeing as how a non-combat Skillmonkey (Expert, in other words) would not really be a fun or interesting character to play as a PC, the ability to contribute when blades come out is necessary.

Now, there ARE ways to negate combat as a Skills Type - Diplomacy, Bluff, Linguistics (forgeries) and the like - but in a typical setup, that will not be viable at least some of the time. Thus, combat-abilities.

As far as the "auto-succeed" on skill checks...perhaps it's just my bias, but a Trapfinder who fails to find traps nearly guarantees his (or her party's) demise. If your schtick is to get through doors or climb up walls, being able to succeed under normal circumstances (not covered in ice, not ability damaged, have the right tools, etc) should be practically a given. At least, after the first couple of levels, when everybody's bit is "try to fail in an elegant fashion."

Some examples of my characters that would be the "skills" type, for clarification:

3.5ed: Shifter Ranger/Reachrunner. Party scout, she had all the physical skills completely maxed out, getting stacking Racial, Class, and Enhancement bonuses to Climb, Spot, Listen, etc. She was not nearly as capable in combat as the other fighter-types, despite having nearly full BAB and decent stats, but she could out-see, out-climb, and out-stealth almost anything in the game.

PF: Human Rogue throughout Second Darkness. Eventually took Skill Mastery, just to be able to Take-10 during combat on things like Acrobatics, Stealth, etc. Party Face & Leader, whose contribution to combat came into play mostly because the rest of the group was playing synergistic classes (Bard, Buffing Cleric, Buffing Sorcerer, etc)

I have to disagree with you on the non-combat focused Skill Monkey not being fun to play. I've seen a lot of folks have fun playing them over the years. I think it is highly campaign specific. Obviously the more chance they have to use those skills, the more fun it is for them. Some campaigns are all about the combat, and I agree it wouldn't be fun in those. Others aren't. For example, I'm currently DMing Kingmaker, and the last two sessions have been devoted almost completely to roleplaying, non-combat skill use and kingdom building, with just one combat encounter each night to break it up. The players have been having a ball bringing out their inner leader.

On traps and so forth, I think there should always be some danger from them, even if you have an expert trapfinder. They've always been part of the spice of the game, in my opinion, and I don't particularly like that they have been deemphasized and made less deadly in 3.X/PF. I think autosucceed takes away from the tension that helps create danger and fun, IMHO.

meatrace wrote:

The short version is you should be able to contribute meaningfully to every challenge thrown at you without dying or running out of resources. What constitutes a meaningful contribution changes by role/class.

A skill monkey needs to be able to succeed on taking 10 for open locks/disable device. He also needs to be able to do some damage every round in combat.

A melee character needs to be able to survive minimum 4 combats a day and should be able to 2-round level appropriate challenges (CR=APL).

A caster needs to be able to provide out of combat utility (fly/teleport past obstacles, shrink item, identify, knowledges, etc.) and provide at least one game-changer per combat encounter.

Healer needs to be able to maintain equilibrium as far as party HP total.

Those are the 4 basic roles, but some classes have more than 1 (a cleric is likely a healer but is also a caster and a backup melee). You'll notice also that some of these requirements depend on the viability of your support. You can be both viable skill monkey and viable melee in theory (ranger), or skill monkey/healer (inquisitor).

Looks like you set the bar higher than I do, with the necessity to autosucceed on skills for skillmonkeys; not just win combats, but win them quickly for martials; and contribute a game-changer in every encounter for casters.

Thank you, this is exactly the point I was trying to get at, that different tables have different assumptions about what constitutes viability and success for a character, and that fact colors the statements we all make about viability and such in discussions on these boards.

Zotpox wrote:

As the framework forms a clearer more focused idea shines through.

So a character's focus based on it's class/party role should define mathmaticly the minimum's of a "viable" or "successful" character/party in aney given RAW framework.

Now we are getting somewhere!!!

But the question remains. Was the intent to focus on stats alone or the meat like skills and feats?

As the OP, my intent was more simple, just to expose the fact that we all make different assumptions about what makes a viable and/or successful character. I chose to use mathematics as the vehicle for doing so, because many of those who make the most statements on viability are also those who focus most closely on the math behind the mechanics of the game.

Personally, I don't think a viable or successful character can be fully defined mathematically. However, I wanted to give a platform to those who do emphasize the mechanics of the game more so I can learn more about the assumptions behind their gameplay. Differing viewpoints interest me, and help me improve my own game.

Wallsingham wrote:

Hmm, I've never really thought of a Mathematical way to determine a viable or successful character before other than if the Character lives to die of old age and boredom in his Keep / Castle / Tower / Hamlet / Kingdom or is dumped in an unheroic heap in a land fill.

I guess it would go something like this:

Melee - Viable - Must be able to stand up to a level specific target with out fear of getting drilled in a round except by a freak Crit. He / she must also have a reasonable ( 75% or better ) chance of stomping said baddies guts out in 3 rounds of close contact (ie Full Round Actions).

Ranged - Viable - Must be able to lay a sufficient amount of fire on a target to either suppress Casters not in close melee or help to obliterate a melee in close combat with his Melee / thugs. This means he must be able to penetrate heavy armor regularly.

Skill Bunnies - Viable - Be able to succeed on his / her specialty a minimum of 8 out of 10 attempts. I mean, if that person has gone down that quagmire that is a Skill Bunny, they better make it pay off and DUMP points into those skills. They should also be able to help with combat by either flanking heavies, restricting the enemies mobility, etc. I don't expect my skill heavy players to be toe to toe with out some extenuating circumstances and even then, they need to be able to weather the fire till relieved.

Mages - Viable - Be able to every fight contribute to Battlefield Suppression / Exploitation, Direct Damage, Damage Mitigation. Even if they are not casting spells, they should have wands, scrolls and potions ready to assist others. If you are a out of spells, you better have some tricks up your sleeves to keep you and your buddies in the fight!

Clerics - Viable - The ability to supplement your party in any circumstance. Be it combat, recon, Intel Gathering or what ever. Also, I've seen numerous debates on healing in combat, if you don't like to heal in combat, you'd better be able to deny the enemy the ability to do damage to your...

This is probably the closest to my own assumptions as any post so far, although your bar may be just slightly higher than mine. I also liked your points on group viability at the bottom. To be most successful the group must be better than the sum of its parts, and that has a lot more to do with how the characters are played than it does with their builds.

Brian Bachman wrote:
Mathematically define a "viable" or "successful" character

Viable = >0 Hit points.

Successful = Unable to compute. Depends on character's goals.

Viable: Success on your specialty 75% of the time (martial=attack, rogues=skills, casters=save DC against worst save) in a working party (Buffs, Battlefield Control etc)

Successful: Success in your specialty 90% of the time in a working party.

Overpowered: As successful without party cohesion and tactics.

If you need more than a 5 to hit on your first attack, your martial character is weak.

Same for rogue and skill checks.

Casters aren't too much of a mystery. Max relevant stat and know what save to target.

Kamelguru wrote:

If you need more than a 5 to hit on your first attack, your martial character is weak.

I can definitely see that at higher levels (13+), or possibly even at the upper end of the mid levels (7-12), when iterative attacks can be expected to miss more often, but it seems overpowered at low levels (1-6), when you usually have only one base attack. Can you clarify if you meant at all levels or not?

Brian Bachman wrote:
Kamelguru wrote:

If you need more than a 5 to hit on your first attack, your martial character is weak.

I can definitely see that at higher levels (13+), or possibly even at the upper end of the mid levels (7-12), when iterative attacks can be expected to miss more often, but it seems overpowered at low levels (1-6), when you usually have only one base attack. Can you clarify if you meant at all levels or not?

Completely on your own? Probably not on the lowest levels. My statement also includes the expected +2-4 from basic buffs and teamwork (flanking etc). If you don't have caster friends at all, life is gonna be harder for the martial character.

Guess I should clarify: "If you need more than a 5 to hit on your first basic attack in a working party, your martial character is weak."

Basic: If you are doing weird stuff, like dual-wielding one-handed weapons, using combat expertise and power attack, this obviously negates the sentiment.

Also, being properly equipped or not does make a world of difference.

I didn't touch on skills earlier because I wanted to focus on getting combat minimums explained.

Skill challenges (borrowing a term from 4e) should be designed in variety of ways.

If the possible results of skill usage are pass/fail and the fail prevents the plot from moving forward then failure rate should be extremely low or non-existent, or the penalty for a "try again" result should be relatively low.

Example: If you want the party to get through a set of doors in a dungeon in order to get to the BBEG the DC for the Disable Device check should be low enough that the PCs can reliably get through the door.

If they need to take 20 to bypass the lock then time spent and possibility of a hostile patrol should be the major consequences. It should also be illustrated to the PCs that a take 20 action is appropriate.

If the results of a failed skill can still advance the plot then it's okay to have the rate of success significantly lower. For most skill use actions it's okay to set the DC at 75%. For major skill use actions you could lower expected success rate to 50% or lower.

If skill challenges are also designed in manner so that there is more than one possible solution then the skill challenge is more flexible. Adventure design should have multiple paths to the solution instead of being a linear track. Good GMs don't need to be wearing a conductor's hat ;)

Skills that use a static matrix to set DCs aren't particularly great designs. One of the core problems with skills like Diplomacy are that the suggested DCs can be difficult for beginning adventurers but charisma focused face characters can routinely achieve stellar results.

Diplomancy should be avoided at all costs. Personally I'm in favor of combining Diplomacy and Bluff into a Persuasion skill opposed by Insight (Sense Motive). That way you can have DCs for social interactions scale with APL.

Kamelguru wrote:
Brian Bachman wrote:
Kamelguru wrote:

If you need more than a 5 to hit on your first attack, your martial character is weak.

I can definitely see that at higher levels (13+), or possibly even at the upper end of the mid levels (7-12), when iterative attacks can be expected to miss more often, but it seems overpowered at low levels (1-6), when you usually have only one base attack. Can you clarify if you meant at all levels or not?

Completely on your own? Probably not on the lowest levels. My statement also includes the expected +2-4 from basic buffs and teamwork (flanking etc). If you don't have caster friends at all, life is gonna be harder for the martial character.

Guess I should clarify: "If you need more than a 5 to hit on your first basic attack in a working party, your martial character is weak."

Basic: If you are doing weird stuff, like dual-wielding one-handed weapons, using combat expertise and power attack, this obviously negates the sentiment.

Also, being properly equipped or not does make a world of difference.

Still not getting to hitting on a 5 or better at the lowest levels, but I see where you're going and understand better. I wasn't really counting buffs and flanking or other tactics, as they are highly situational and you may or may not have them in any given encounter. Sure, in a perfect world you would always have your optimal combat combinations teed up, but any campaign I've played in is a lot messier than that, with some combats resulting from ambushes or meeting engagements in which there is no prep time, so it takes a couple of rounds to get the buffs up and running, and get into the best tactical positions.

vuron wrote:

Diplomancy should be avoided at all costs. Personally I'm in favor of combining Diplomacy and Bluff into a Persuasion skill opposed by Insight (Sense Motive). That way you can have DCs for social interactions scale with APL.

Good post, with which I pretty much agree.

Can you clarify the last bit? Is Diplomancy a typo or are you cleverly combining Diplomacy and Necromancy in a way I'm too thick-witted to understand? I tend to agree with you on combining the social skills, with one caveat. The more you combine the skills, the easier it is for the high Intelligence character (read wizard) to be able to duplicate what the skill monkeys can do, leading to some possible class balance/class relevance issues. I think a potential weakening of the rogue's unique role has been a bit of an unforeseen byproduct of the new streamlined and cleaner skill system.

Diplomancy is a direct reference to diplomancer builds.

Basically due to the static nature of diplomacy DCs it's possible for Charisma focused face builds to become diplomancers.

High Charisma + Feats + Gear allow you to get utterly ridiculous bonuses to your diplomacy stat. With a high enough bonus to diplomacy it's theoretically possible by RAW to convert enemies to fanatical allies with one application of a diplomacy action.

So even though it's a one minute use of the skill (which is thank god a change from 3.x in which diplomacy is a regular action) you can effectively circumvent a large number of noncombat encounters using diplomacy.

According to the interpretation that some people put forth it basically becomes an at-will skill based charm monster spell :( Throw it on a cohort and you are good to go.

Personally I've never liked that interpretation of Diplomacy and houserule Diplomacy to pieces but it does show up occasionally in games.

vuron wrote:

Diplomancy is a direct reference to diplomancer builds.

Basically due to the static nature of diplomacy DCs it's possible for Charisma focused face builds to become diplomancers.

High Charisma + Feats + Gear allow you to get utterly ridiculous bonuses to your diplomacy stat. With a high enough bonus to diplomacy it's theoretically possible by RAW to convert enemies to fanatical allies with one application of a diplomacy action.

So even though it's a one minute use of the skill (which is thank god a change from 3.x in which diplomacy is a regular action) you can effectively circumvent a large number of noncombat encounters using diplomacy.

According to the interpretation that some people put forth it basically becomes an at-will skill based charm monster spell :( Throw it on a cohort and you are good to go.

Personally I've never liked that interpretation of Diplomacy and houserule Diplomacy to pieces but it does show up occasionally in games.

Got it. I and my fellow DMs regularly apply significant circumstantial modifiers to pretty much every Diplomacy roll, so this doesn't come up in our games. Basically, we use logic. No matter what your Charisma score is or how many ranks in Diplomacy you have, you ain't going to convert enemies to friends easily or other such nonsense. Some things are just impossibly difficult. People who tried it at our table would fail the giggle test, and then their character would likely die wondering why their natural 20 diplomacy roll didn't keep the Ogre King from decapitating them. An excellent example of why the game system doesn't work without a strong DM to interpret the RAW and apply it logically.

 RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

I can't come up with a quantity because there are too many variable factors to consider--GM style, player style, type of campaign, and emphasis on tactics. One build may do extremely well in an urban campaign with tons of puzzle solving and intrigue and do very poorly in a difficult terrain filled wilderness adventure filled with constant combat versus dragons.

In the end: if you and your players feel like you are significantly contributing (want a number? let's call it at the very least 60% or more of the time) to the party's success in some way, be it in or out of combat or both, your character is viable.

Each GM and player is going to have to define the term "contributing" based on the various factors of how the game is run and played. Message board theory has little purpose in determining what is viable, save in a smooth flat open sky arena combat scenario, and I've never actually seen one of those crop up in an actual D&D or Pathfinder game.

Abraham spalding wrote:

...snip...

Combat however is the "majority" role -- just like Caucasian make up the majority of the USA but are under 50% of the population combat makes up the "majority" of the 'normal' campaign -- also combat is generally more deadly and/or permanent in its dealings with PCs. As such it plays a very important role in defining what is going on at the table.

but see, this really illustrates the issues here. mathematically speaking a game that is 25.1% combat, 25% rping challenges, 25% puzzles, and 24.9% skill checks as well as one that is 99.9% combat and .1% everything else both fit the description in the gamemaster section about combat being the most common encounter type. i submit to you that these two games would require completely different sorts of characters.

Abraham spalding wrote:

...snip...

Just like a martial character that only focuses on melee without regard to flying creatures or things faster then him a character that completely focuses only on say combat or skills and role playing isn't doing his best for his party.

Each type must be good at what they do -- but it shouldn't be the only thing they do either.

My over all understanding of the thread was that we were here to establish minimums for character types. As such at a minimum each character should be good at what his focus is. Beyond that is where players and characters grow.

yes, but what good is being good on what you've focused on if your focus is irrelevant to 74.9% of encounters even if it really works for the most common encounter. or alternatively, you're really focused on being good at diplomacy in a game where the only time you talk is to other players.

also complicating matters is that these things are not cut and dried. for instance, a single perception roll can be the difference between a tough but winnable fight and getting your ass handed to you in the surprise round. a role playing challenge can be much tougher if you didn't have the means to gather useful information. depending on the level, a climb skill check can influence the outcome of a puzzle or a fight.

now, i do believe it would be possible to mathematically model the effectiveness of a character, but it would be some higher order math due to the number of variables that must be taken into account, and i don't know if there's enough computing power available yet. which is why i think that phrasing it as if 50% of the time the rest of the party is glad you're there, you're doing good. if, on the other hand, 50% of the time, the rest of the party watched you take care of the encounter yourself you're overpowered.

or to sum up: what deathquaker said, only more longwinded and not as harsh. i mean, 60%?

now if the OP, who i realize only started this thread to set a trap, wants to explicitly state what sort of campaign he's asking about, i think that would make doing the math much easier.

Brian Bachman wrote:
Kamelguru wrote:
Brian Bachman wrote:
Kamelguru wrote:

If you need more than a 5 to hit on your first attack, your martial character is weak.

I can definitely see that at higher levels (13+), or possibly even at the upper end of the mid levels (7-12), when iterative attacks can be expected to miss more often, but it seems overpowered at low levels (1-6), when you usually have only one base attack. Can you clarify if you meant at all levels or not?

Completely on your own? Probably not on the lowest levels. My statement also includes the expected +2-4 from basic buffs and teamwork (flanking etc). If you don't have caster friends at all, life is gonna be harder for the martial character.

Guess I should clarify: "If you need more than a 5 to hit on your first basic attack in a working party, your martial character is weak."

Basic: If you are doing weird stuff, like dual-wielding one-handed weapons, using combat expertise and power attack, this obviously negates the sentiment.

Also, being properly equipped or not does make a world of difference.

Still not getting to hitting on a 5 or better at the lowest levels, but I see where you're going and understand better. I wasn't really counting buffs and flanking or other tactics, as they are highly situational and you may or may not have them in any given encounter. Sure, in a perfect world you would always have your optimal combat combinations teed up, but any campaign I've played in is a lot messier than that, with some combats resulting from ambushes or meeting engagements in which there is no prep time, so it takes a couple of rounds to get the buffs up and running, and get into the best tactical positions.

At lv1, you will not be able to hit on a 5 unless you put a 20 in str, take heirloom weapon and weapon focus (+9 to hit). That is not just good, it is as good as it can be. But already at lv2, it is expected that you have a masterwork weapon, and be in the +7-8 area, and from there, it should scale pretty sharply. Belt of Str, magical weapon, weapon training/smite/rage/favored enemy, better buffs etc.

GM wondered how I got to +21 to hit with my lv8 paladin without even smiting last session. Base +13 (not too great), Blessing of Fervor+2, flank+2, Warrior of Holy Light aura +1, bonded weapon +2, prayer +1. We often have haste up too (+1), and then if I smite (+5) I could conceivably get +27 to hit. But that is "best case scenario" just like "I can do over 200 damage if I crit on ALL attacks with my great-axe!". Not going to happen too often.

Wallsingham wrote:
Melee - Viable - Must be able to stand up to a level specific target with out fear of getting drilled in a round except by a freak Crit. He / she must also have a reasonable ( 75% or better ) chance of stomping said baddies guts out in 3 rounds of close contact (ie Full Round Actions).

This is just not reasonable given a 15 point buy character against a CR = APL + 1 encounter. That's why I was saying we can't know viability unless we know what our baselines are.

In this setup, a full BAB character has roughly a 50/50 chance to hit this character on average (not counting flanks, counting the monster's debuffs, etc.) at a given level and CR (APL + 1). Also, the mob has roughly a 50/50 chance to hit the full BAB character assuming armor is a tertiary priority beyond weapons and stat-boosters.

Spellcasters with a Spell Penetration feat (maybe Greater Spell Penetration a bit later on) have about a 50/50 chance to hit SR targets. Saving throws depend on the monster, but against all good saves there's also around a 50/50 chance to pass/fail.

So defining what is "reasonable" is hard without actually looking at the numbers. Throwing in 20/25 point buy and CR = APL encounters will of course shift the math around. But ultimately those adjustments aren't the standard values.

Kingmaker spoilers possible. . .:
And just looking through the Kingmaker module, if a level is mentioned before starting a series of encounters, the average CR of the corresponding combats is APL + 1, with most being APL + 1 or greater.

meabolex wrote:
Wallsingham wrote:
Melee - Viable - Must be able to stand up to a level specific target with out fear of getting drilled in a round except by a freak Crit. He / she must also have a reasonable ( 75% or better ) chance of stomping said baddies guts out in 3 rounds of close contact (ie Full Round Actions).

This is just not reasonable given a 15 point buy character against a CR = APL + 1 encounter. That's why I was saying we can't know viability unless we know what our baselines are.

In this setup, a full BAB character has roughly a 50/50 chance to hit this character on average (not counting flanks, counting the monster's debuffs, etc.) at a given level and CR (APL + 1). Also, the mob has roughly a 50/50 chance to hit the full BAB character assuming armor is a tertiary priority beyond weapons and stat-boosters.

Spellcasters with a Spell Penetration feat (maybe Greater Spell Penetration a bit later on) have about a 50/50 chance to hit SR targets. Saving throws depend on the monster, but against all good saves there's also around a 50/50 chance to pass/fail.

So defining what is "reasonable" is hard without actually looking at the numbers. Throwing in 20/25 point buy and CR = APL encounters will of course shift the math around. But ultimately those adjustments aren't the standard values.

Ahh, we use a Roll and Keep method, not point buy. It is a generous method also. So, I defer to your call on the melee for your argument. In my two campaigns, the above is what goes for Viable for us.

Spellcasters are not only doing damage. My Older Group has learned that they have a plethora of options if they are bouncing spells. They enhance melee, debuff / buff and do other things to get 'fire superiority' on targets. Kinda scary when they get going.

I also see folks wanting to put actual numbers to this question, which I really can't for the reasons you stated at the bottom of your post. With out knowing the Stat Method, CR vs Character Level and even situational modifiers it's tough. The examples above are what passes for Viable in my games.

YMMV

Have Fun out there!!

~ W ~

Brian Bachman wrote:

Reading through various threads, I was struck by what seems to me to be a basic disconnect that I think might be arising from varying expectations. Lots of people bandy about terms like "viable", "successful", "gimped", "overpowered", etc,, but I'm not convinced we are understanding what each of us means by the terms. So I ask, breaking it down into basic game math, what makes a character "viable" or "successful".

For a martial character, is it being able to hit a level appropriate opponent 25% of the time? 50%? 75%? 90%? Almost always?

Automatic hit, or close to it, and hitting hard enough to matter. Exactly how hard this is depends on the level, but if your full attack cannot one round an average HP at level enemy you are definitely below par. Keep in mind getting full attacks is immensely difficult unless you have Pounce or a similar ability, enemies have a LOT of HP, and if even 1 of those HP are left they are fully fighting fit. Not to mention your actual damage output will likely be lower than the spreadsheets say in actual play, as many, many abilities shut down swording (above and beyond shutting down full attacks) so expect to actually need more than that to get the necessary amount through.

As an example, a level 11 character who does 160 on a Pouncing full attack reliably is a little below par. Not much, but a little. This is because enemies at this level average 163.83 HP, which means if everything goes right... they survive, and are fully fighting fit. And if it doesn't, which is more likely you'll do substantially less.

Quote:
For a skill monkey, succeeding at the appropriate skill (Stealth, Diplomacy, Search, etc.), same percentages

Skills expire at level 5. But if you're still fooling with them anyways...

Stealth absolutely must be at auto pass levels to even attempt it. Otherwise what will happen is sooner rather than later, the enemy rolls high, and this at best means the scouting attempt fails. Since most of the scouting types are low tier, this often results in a dead scout. Though a solid class, such as Druid can generally avoid this, you still have the problem of setting off the encounter when there's only one of you there instead of all of you.

For Diplomacy to compare to even low level spells, auto pass.

Traps are irrelevant, so Search doesn't matter.

Quote:
For a caster, spell success (the effect you wanted, be it failed SoS save, successful battlefield control or buff, blasting enemies to chunky little bits of XPs, etc.), same percentages

As high as possible. How high this is depends on the level, and the rules in play. For example you will see higher success rates at lower levels, and you will see higher success rates in a pure PF game, as opposed to one that also includes 3.5 material. It rarely drops below 50% unless fighting enemies designed by a skilled optimizer DM who is using a lot of 3.5 material, and 95% is not unheard of. The reason why 3.5 material diminishes spell effectiveness is due to buffs that increase saving throws.

Quote:
For the party as a whole, defeating level-appropriate encounters.

> 99%. 90% means there is a greater than 50% chance you're dead by fight 7. Which is to say, half of one level into the campaign. Suffice it to say if your success rate is only 90%, I hope you don't mind recycling character sheets by writing "the second" or "the third" or "the thirty fourth" on your character sheet after your character's name. And forget about campaign continuity, or roleplaying, or any of that. It's not happening, as everyone will start treating their characters as if they are puppies with cancer.

While > 99% sounds impressive, it still gives a surprisingly low campaign survival rate. About 5 levels in, half of you are dead at 99%, so it needs to be greater than that to preserve continuity.

Of course, your survival rate, without optimization will be substantially lower than 99% or even 90%. So while you might do fine in the very short term, don't be surprised if you die more often than you level.

And keep in mind that if you do lose a battle, death is the best thing that can happen to you. Running away in D&D is impossible. Getting captured is worse than being killed. Losing magic items is worse than being killed. And those things still force you to make a new character to continue on.

Oh, forgot to mention:

One of the biggest reasons why the 1 rounding is required (aside from avoiding being 1-2 rounded, yourself) is that there could easily be more than one enemy, and without that quick killing speed you can get overwhelmed anyways, particularly in the harder fights.
Making all saves on a 2+. I didn't explicitly say this, but it's kind of required to not get shut down all the time. This is not possible at low levels, and isn't possible at mid levels without the SC, but if you have even a 25% chance of being save or losed, expect it to happen in at least half of all fights... more, if the enemy gets more than one round of actions against you.
Everyone, regardless of class needs 14+ Con. Period. SAD characters can easily get away with 16.

If you are a 1/2 BAB class, you need to hit high touches on 11s.

If you are a 3/4th BAB class, you need to hit monsters on 11s.

If you are a full BAB class, you need to hit monsters on 2 to 5.

Generally speaking, you need a high enough AC that a monster has to get an 11 to hit you. Your DC needs to be high enough that a monster must roll 11 to succeed. Your skills need to be high enough that you can succeed at average non-daring task checks without rolling, and daring task checks on 11s or higher.

You need to provoke as little opportunity attacks as possible, do as much hp damage as possible, control the monsters to the best of your ability, and generally be prepared for anything strange (a fighter carries a silver warhammer for liches; a wizard has a scroll of stone shape to get through walls; a rogue has a wand of cure light wounds to deal sneak attack damage to high-DR undead).

Basically, you need to look at monsters your CR and go, "Can I reasonably impact this monster so that an entire party could remove it in one turn?" or "Could I survive this monster attacking me with it's full attack action?" If the answer is no, your character is a) poorly built, b) not viable, or c) unprepared. The key to success is all three-- playing a well built character that's concept is viable and attainable at a reasonable level who is always prepared.

Keep in mind we're talking about the border between ineffective and effective. By definition, an effective or viable character does _at least the bare minimum_ to be effective and/or viable. What is that bare minimum?

Basically, there's:

Ineffective/not viable | Effective/viable . . . Optimized

There's nowhere to go once you hit optimized. . . you're doing the best possible. But there's quite a bit of wiggle room between the border of effective/ineffective and optimized. The border between viable and not viable changes depending on the situation. The key is (to paraphrase Ice Titan) build the character to do what you want it to do, make sure you do what the character is good at, and be prepared for as many kinds of different situations as possible.

However, no one is going to agree where the line exists between ineffective and effective because everyone plays in a different game with different characters. Your game is going to be different than mine. And even within a game, we're all playing different characters with different roles.

That's why there has to be some kind of baseline to make comparisons against. But right now we can't agree to a baseline. I'm saying 15 point buy against CR = APL + 1 challenging encounters with guidelines for standard fantasy rules. But clearly I'm in the minority with that |:

Without outside buffs, a martial character should be able to kill a lvl=CR opponent within 2.5 rounds and survive the full attacks for 3, on average. Ranged characters can reduce this survivability because they can full attack without equal repisal from the opponent. It should also be able to survive for 1 round the full attack of a CR+4, and deal about 25% of that enemy's health in 1 full attack.

Skill monkies should be able to accomplish many different tasks, and be fluent in all skills necessary for their function, including any proffession, knowledge, or craft skills they may need. They need to be able to hit the necessary DCs to the portions involved about 60% at low levels and 85% by mid-game. Opposed skills can have lower values in extreme cases. Since not all DCs scale with level, they do not need to keep all of these skills maxed, but the primary ones likely need to be. Skill focus feats are usually unnecessary though can be useful in the case where the skill comes up frequently (ex. intimidate using demoralize).

Casters should have about a 75% chance to hit opponents with highest level spells against a low save, and 50% vs high save. I personally would like these to be lower (~65 and 30), but those numbers are what the system supports. They should also have multiple non-save related spells available to them by mid levels and some useful utility and buff spells. They should be able to contribute in every fight with useful spells at least half the rounds, and have an alternate mode to assist with cleanup when their spells are no longer needed.

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Trying to gauge a game by math, theorycraft, or whatever you want to call it, works well for computer games which have relatively few variables.

Given however the Human element of roleplaying games on top of the variability of dice, upteen gillion different character builds, if the goal posts on this were any more mobile, they'd be on a Romani caravan.

If character=x then he is viable, where x=enjoyable and memorable for all involved.

That's the only maths you need.

meabolex wrote:

That's why there has to be some kind of baseline to make comparisons against. But right now we can't agree to a baseline. I'm saying 15 point buy against CR = APL + 1 challenging encounters with guidelines for standard fantasy rules. But clearly I'm in the minority with that |:

I actually think the baseline should be Elite Array Characters rather than 15 PB because it's readily apparent that starting with a 20 rather than a 17 in a casting stat is a significant boost to power for the caster. 20 instead of 17 in strength is also a significant boost but is less significant over the entire course of a fighter's career.

I'm okay with stipulating CR = APL +1 as the expected power level.

WBL with no discounts for self or group crafing should be the expectation as well.

Even though most encounters will not be 4 vs 1 CR+1 encounter the math should work for describing those encounters. Possible exceptions might include Dragons and some high CR outsiders since it's relatively clear that even with revisions to base monster CR some of the dragons and outsiders are still undercosted.

CoDzilla wrote:

Brian Bachman wrote:

Reading through various threads, I was struck by what seems to me to be a basic disconnect that I think might be arising from varying expectations. Lots of people bandy about terms like "viable", "successful", "gimped", "overpowered", etc,, but I'm not convinced we are understanding what each of us means by the terms. So I ask, breaking it down into basic game math, what makes a character "viable" or "successful".

For a martial character, is it being able to hit a level appropriate opponent 25% of the time? 50%? 75%? 90%? Almost always?

Automatic hit, or close to it, and hitting hard enough to matter. Exactly how hard this is depends on the level, but if your full attack cannot one round an average HP at level enemy you are definitely below par. Keep in mind getting full attacks is immensely difficult unless you have Pounce or a similar ability, enemies have a LOT of HP, and if even 1 of those HP are left they are fully fighting fit. Not to mention your actual damage output will likely be lower than the spreadsheets say in actual play, as many, many abilities shut down swording (above and beyond shutting down full attacks) so expect to actually need more than that to get the necessary amount through.

As an example, a level 11 character who does 160 on a Pouncing full attack reliably is a little below par. Not much, but a little. This is because enemies at this level average 163.83 HP, which means if everything goes right... they survive, and are fully fighting fit. And if it doesn't, which is more likely you'll do substantially less.

Quote:
For a skill monkey, succeeding at the appropriate skill (Stealth, Diplomacy, Search, etc.), same percentages

Skills expire at level 5. But if you're still fooling with them anyways...

Stealth absolutely must be at auto pass levels to even attempt it. Otherwise what will happen is sooner rather than later, the enemy rolls high, and this at best means the scouting attempt fails. Since...

Thank you. This is one of the best posts I've seen you write,as it answers the questions and gives valuable information about how you see the game and what some of the assumptions are behind it. As others have said many times, and judging from the variety of responses I've received in this thread, your table does seem to operate at the extreme upper levels of the power spectrum when compared to other tables - the "bleeding edge" so to speak. That has certain implications for what will and will not work in your campaign, and this post allows me to better understand where you are coming from, even if I don't agree with you.

I know, I know. You are firmly convinced that the way your group plays is the the only viable way to play, and nothing I say will convince you otherwise. As you are also unlikely to convince me, I prefer to just acknowledge and celebrate our differences, and wish you continued good gaming.

LazarX wrote:

Trying to gauge a game by math, theorycraft, or whatever you want to call it, works well for computer games which have relatively few variables.

Given however the Human element of roleplaying games on top of the variability of dice, upteen gillion different character builds, if the goal posts on this were any more mobile, they'd be on a Romani caravan.

I actually agree, but started this thread to give those who do define success and viability more mathematically a forum to express themselves, so that I can understand them better and grow as a player/GM.

Questions of whether a character is viable out of combat is kinda a smoke screen. It really doesn't matter what percentage of your game is combat, unless that number is 0% there is going to be some period of time where characters are going to be thrust into combat.

Some might argue that it's okay for some characters to shine in combat while others hide behind them and cower in fright but honestly that's not the type of action that the game is simulating and I venture to say that it's not that game that most people want to play.

People want to contribute to the game in meaningful ways and those ways should be supported by mechanics.

Because success rate per action is one of the few commonalities in the game it's probably the best measure of "viability" or "success". Skill Use and Combat all revolve around character skill vs Target DC. Thus it's possible to analyze components of the game to see if they work or don't work given certain assumptions.

Assumption 1: Most people want to succeed more often than they fail at a given task. If your fighter swings and misses with his primary attack more often than he hits then that is frustrating and should. If your spells fizzle more often than 50% then you aren't doing much to help out the party that round.

Assumption 2: D&D games feature a combat fairly often No that does not mean that combat is featured every session although that is a fairly common thing.

Assumption 3: Combat encounters take a while to adjudicate Unlike skill usage which can generally be resolved in a couple of dice rolls combat encounters take time to resolve.

Assumption 4: Most players want to be able to contribute as much as other players during combat Nobody wants to sit around the table and be a passive spectator while the rest of the group is kicking butt. They want to be able to kill the bad guy at least once in a while.

Given these assumptions it's possible to look at the problem area of combat and see if the game provides a positive experience for the players given certain parameters.

For most of the people responding thus far the success rate per action should hover right around 75% for most of a PCs career. For some respondents that number should be higher, for some that should be lower. CoDzilla thus far seems to be an outlier in that his assumptions are based around 95% success rate per action and 95% kill/incapacitate rate per round.

Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Brian Bachman wrote:
LazarX wrote:

Trying to gauge a game by math, theorycraft, or whatever you want to call it, works well for computer games which have relatively few variables.

Given however the Human element of roleplaying games on top of the variability of dice, upteen gillion different character builds, if the goal posts on this were any more mobile, they'd be on a Romani caravan.

I actually agree, but started this thread to give those who do define success and viability more mathematically a forum to express themselves, so that I can understand them better and grow as a player/GM.

You don't need to start any more of these threads, they go on and perpetuate themselves as back and forth arguments. And from my experience in the hobby, which dates back to 1980, I'd say that the limited utility of these theorycraft exercises does not justify the noise and nerdrage they inevitably bring up. And if they teach anything, it's about how to approach this game in the worst way possible as far as living in the spirit of roleplaying goes.

vuron wrote:

...snip...

Assumption 4: Most players want to be able to contribute as much as other players during combat Nobody wants to sit around the table and be a passive spectator while the rest of the group is kicking butt. They want to be able to kill the bad guy at least once in a while.

Given these assumptions it's possible to look at the problem area of combat and see if the game provides a positive experience...

hmmm, i think number 4 is rather too big of an assumption. or at least, you've phrased it in such a way that i'm i think your premise might be a little off.

contributing during combat can actually involve a lot of contributing before combat. if the rogue spent days gathering info, scouting locations, and planning an ambush, he probably had to sacrifice some in combat utility on purpose, so i doubt he's going to be upset that he's not doing as much damage as the fighter, or one shotting the enemies like the mage.

now i agree you probably wouldn't want to be a passive spectator, but there's a huge range between that and contributing "as much" as the other players during combat.

LazarX wrote:
Brian Bachman wrote:
LazarX wrote:

Trying to gauge a game by math, theorycraft, or whatever you want to call it, works well for computer games which have relatively few variables.

Given however the Human element of roleplaying games on top of the variability of dice, upteen gillion different character builds, if the goal posts on this were any more mobile, they'd be on a Romani caravan.

I actually agree, but started this thread to give those who do define success and viability more mathematically a forum to express themselves, so that I can understand them better and grow as a player/GM.
You don't need to start any more of these threads, they go on and perpetuate themselves as back and forth arguments. And from my experience in the hobby, which dates back to 1980, I'd say that the limited utility of these theorycraft exercises does not justify the noise and nerdrage they inevitably bring up. And if they teach anything, it's about how to approach this game in the worst way possible as far as living in the spirit of roleplaying goes.

I respect your opinion, but actually this thread has been extremely civil so far, with productive and informative responses from pretty much everyone. If I see it evolving into "noise and nerdrage" I will walk away from it myself and/or ask the moderators to shut it down.

Like you, I've been playing for a long time (1978), and I have a pretty firm understanding of what I like and don't like at the table. However, I'm very curious about how others play the game, particularly if they do it a lot differently than I do. I'm always looking for ways to improve our home game, and those can come from surprising places. Also, although our group is pretty steady and static, occasionally somebody new joins who has a different playstyle. Hearing other viewpoints makes me better at adapting to their style and/or dealing with it. I understand if this type of thread doesn't appeal to you. That's your right and you are welcome to participate in, lurk or just ignore it, as you see fit.

angryscrub wrote:
vuron wrote:

...snip...

Assumption 4: Most players want to be able to contribute as much as other players during combat Nobody wants to sit around the table and be a passive spectator while the rest of the group is kicking butt. They want to be able to kill the bad guy at least once in a while.

Given these assumptions it's possible to look at the problem area of combat and see if the game provides a positive experience...

hmmm, i think number 4 is rather too big of an assumption. or at least, you've phrased it in such a way that i'm i think your premise might be a little off.

contributing during combat can actually involve a lot of contributing before combat. if the rogue spent days gathering info, scouting locations, and planning an ambush, he probably had to sacrifice some in combat utility on purpose, so i doubt he's going to be upset that he's not doing as much damage as the fighter, or one shotting the enemies like the mage.

now i agree you probably wouldn't want to be a passive spectator, but there's a huge range between that and contributing "as much" as the other players during combat.

I think I did phrase it awkwardly but the logic I'm using is that nobody wants to play the lantern bearer or the pack mule. They want to be doing something dynamic during each and every round of the combat.

That doesn't mean that they are all contributing in the same manner or at precisely the same mechanical effect. Rather that each class have meaningful options that they can use in combat situations that will positively impact the fortunes of the party.

4e has undeniably adopted this strategy with the adoption of combat roles but in a very real sense those roles are still there in 3.x just less mechanically defined.

Defender/Fighter- This character does consistent DPR, has high Hit Points and has good physical defenses. In theory he should be able to protect the rest of the party, in practice the mechanical support for this is limited.

Striker/Rogue- This character does burst DPR that depends on situational modifiers. Decent Hit Points and decent physical defenses. In theory he should be able to assist the fighter and provide a tactical advantage to the party through superior mobility. In practice he's also the skillmonkey in non-combat situations.

Leader/Cleric- This character does consistent but mediocre DPR, good hit points and defenses. His role which is fairly well supported is to make the team better than they would be without him. Buffs and healing are the primary application of this.

Controller/Wizard- This character does burst DPR, controls the battlefield, and provides debuff/buff status effects. He also provides significant out of combat utility through spell use.

Other classes are either in one of these roles or they have abilities that simulate more than one role.

As such I think it's mathematically possible to analyze each and every class according to their designated role and see if they "succeed" an acceptable percentage of the time given their current abilities.

For me the biggest problem exists with the 3.x belief that skill use and out of combat utility should be balanced against combat utility. In other words in order to have combat utility you need to be inferior out of combat (bad skill points and class skill selection) and if you are good out of combat then you need to take a mechanical hit in combat.

This results in the unfortunate situation that even under burst DPR conditions the rogue variant of the striker role tends to lag significantly behind the Defender classes.

Responding to both of you at once.

Brian Bachman wrote:

Thank you. This is one of the best posts I've seen you write,as it answers the questions and gives valuable information about how you see the game and what some of the assumptions are behind it. As others have said many times, and judging from the variety of responses I've received in this thread, your table does seem to operate at the extreme upper levels of the power spectrum when compared to other tables - the "bleeding edge" so to speak. That has certain implications for what will and will not work in your campaign, and this post allows me to better understand where you are coming from, even if I don't agree with you.

I know, I know. You are firmly convinced that the way your group plays is the the only viable way to play, and nothing I say will convince you otherwise. As you are also unlikely to convince me, I prefer to just acknowledge and celebrate our differences, and wish you continued good gaming.

vuron wrote:
For most of the people responding thus far the success rate per action should hover right around 75% for most of a PCs career. For some respondents that number should be higher, for some that should be lower. CoDzilla thus far seems to be an outlier in that his assumptions are based around 95% success rate per action and 95% kill/incapacitate rate per round.

The problem with a lot of people here is that they are not thinking long term. Winning "a fight" is not especially difficult. Even with a mere 75% success chance, you will most likely win "a fight" - after all, that is what 3:1 odds in your favor mean.

But D&D is not a game about "a fight". It is a game that contains a long series of fights over the course of the campaign. Whether it is about those fights or not, and just how long a series it is varies, but ultimately does not matter for one simple reason - since you must win every time to win, but the enemy need only win once to win, there is Flawless Victory and then there is You Lose, with no in between. And because it is a long series of fights, and the victory conditions are so skewed, you do end up being required to stack the odds very heavily in your favor to make it in the long term.

What's more, this is more a factor of optimizing defense than offense. So it has no bearing on the power level of a campaign, as it's more a mindset thing. You need to be able to resist the save or lose on a 2+, because failure = you lose, and that is the minimum possible failure rate. Immunities would be a good idea as well.

Of course defense alone is useless, you do need to have some rockets of your own to play Rocket Tag (and since it is D&D, it IS Rocket Tag). The only problem here is that not all classes have them, and the ones that do not have to optimize to get them, if they are available at all.

That 75% success chance in a fight means half the party is dead by the end of the second, and there's only one person left by the end of the first day of the campaign. Such a low success rate is obviously unsuitable for any non joke campaign. And yes, Tomb of Horrors is a joke campaign.

CoDzilla wrote:
That 75% success chance in a fight means half the party is dead by the end of the second, and there's only one person left by the end of the first day of the campaign. Such a low success rate is obviously unsuitable for any non joke campaign.

Statistically, yes. However, actual play does not follow statistical averages.

CoDzilla wrote:
You need to be able to resist the save or lose on a 2+, because failure = you lose, and that is the minimum possible failure rate.

Curious about this statement, as it contradicts my experience. Does one individual in the party failing the typical SOS spell really end up frequently in player death for your group? My experience is that, although it is more serious for the bad guys, for most parties it just means someone is temporarily out of the fight, or at worst, needs to be raised after the fight, which ain't no big thing past a certain level. Of course if everyone fails the save, that's a different story, but statistically unlikely unless you are up against somethign you shouldn't be fighting. So unless the failed SoS save results in a TPK, it's basically just a temporary inconvenience of varying duration.

Brian Bachman wrote:
CoDzilla wrote:
You need to be able to resist the save or lose on a 2+, because failure = you lose, and that is the minimum possible failure rate.
Curious about this statement, as it contradicts my experience. Does one individual in the party failing the typical SOS spell really end up frequently in player death for your group? My experience is that, although it is more serious for the bad guys, for most parties it just means someone is temporarily out of the fight, or at worst, needs to be raised after the fight, which ain't no big thing past a certain level. Of course if everyone fails the save, that's a different story, but statistically unlikely unless you are up against somethign you shouldn't be fighting. So unless the failed SoS save results in a TPK, it's basically just a temporary inconvenience of varying duration.

Well, let's review:

Over the past 5 years, I count that there have been 105 character deaths in games that I have played in or ran. This is not counting games I have watched, either directly, or by getting a cliff notes version from one or more players involved.

Of these, 14 were the direct result of a save or lose. Finger of Death, etc.

66 were the result of an indirect save or lose.

Now granted there were some other problems with many of these deaths. Low tier classes for example (there were a lot of deaths in 3.x before we figured out what those were and why). But a good part of the reason why those classes are low tier, is vulnerability to such tactics.

Get Glitterdusted, be unable to fight back effectively for a while, and get easily killed long before it wears off. And every save or lose with a duration > 1 round has a duration at least equal to the combat. The one round ones might not last the entire fight.

Get Slowed, get completely shut down (if a martial character) or unable to both move and cast (as a caster). Is often followed up by full attacks to take advantage of the vulnerability.

And that's just the lower level examples.

It's not just happening in my games either, but in games I am watching as well. For example in one, one of the PCs got Glitterdusted in the first round of the first fight of the first campaign. He then got beaten down into negatives, and only not finished off because 1: He hadn't done anything at all the entire combat, all of his actions failed due to the Glitterdust. 2: The opponents were not evil. 3: The DM was clearly going easy on him as it was the first fight of the first campaign.

The character in question was well designed, but he rolled a 1. If he were not well designed, it would have had a much greater chance of happening.

The only reason why save or loses are generally regarded as worse on the enemy than on the PCs is because there are multiple PCs to follow up. But that assumes the encounter is party vs single save or lose caster. And no one throws a single opponent at a group if they want that opponent to be difficult, so well designed encounters can easily follow up as well.

Oh and for what it's worth the other 25 were varying circumstances. Most commonly low tier martial character attempts to do their job, dies in one full attack. There was also about 8 that cannot be blamed on bad luck or bad system design. Those were sufficiently epic to not be shameful. But that's quite off topic.

TriOmegaZero wrote:
CoDzilla wrote:
That 75% success chance in a fight means half the party is dead by the end of the second, and there's only one person left by the end of the first day of the campaign. Such a low success rate is obviously unsuitable for any non joke campaign.
Statistically, yes. However, actual play does not follow statistical averages.

So what you are saying is there's some long shot chance everyone is still alive. Yeah sure. But there's a much higher chance everyone fails that 1/4 check the first time.

CoDzilla wrote:
So what you are saying is there's some long shot chance everyone is still alive. Yeah sure. But there's a much higher chance everyone fails that 1/4 check the first time.

No, I'm actually saying that the chance isn't a long shot. In actual practice, everyone surviving happens as much if not more than everyone dying. You can say they have a one in four chance of dying, but it actually does not in a lot of cases. Every character being dead at the end of the day does not happen every time. Now, if we are discounting rez and healing magic and treating that as 'dead' then the occurrence certainly is more frequent.

CoDzilla wrote:
Brian Bachman wrote:
CoDzilla wrote:
You need to be able to resist the save or lose on a 2+, because failure = you lose, and that is the minimum possible failure rate.
Curious about this statement, as it contradicts my experience. Does one individual in the party failing the typical SOS spell really end up frequently in player death for your group? My experience is that, although it is more serious for the bad guys, for most parties it just means someone is temporarily out of the fight, or at worst, needs to be raised after the fight, which ain't no big thing past a certain level. Of course if everyone fails the save, that's a different story, but statistically unlikely unless you are up against somethign you shouldn't be fighting. So unless the failed SoS save results in a TPK, it's basically just a temporary inconvenience of varying duration.

Well, let's review:

Over the past 5 years, I count that there have been 105 character deaths in games that I have played in or ran. This is not counting games I have watched, either directly, or by getting a cliff notes version from one or more players involved.

Of these, 14 were the direct result of a save or lose. Finger of Death, etc.

66 were the result of an indirect save or lose.

Now granted there were some other problems with many of these deaths. Low tier classes for example (there were a lot of deaths in 3.x before we figured out what those were and why). But a good part of the reason why those classes are low tier, is vulnerability to such tactics.

Get Glitterdusted, be unable to fight back effectively for a while, and get easily killed long before it wears off. And every save or lose with a duration > 1 round has a duration at least equal to the combat. The one round ones might not last the entire fight.

Get Slowed, get completely shut down (if a martial character) or unable to both move and cast (as a caster). Is often followed up by full attacks to take advantage of the vulnerability.

And that's...

That's a pretty impressive mortality rate, unless you are playing more than once a week or so, roughly a character death every couple of sessions. Most groups I'm familiar with wouldn't find that real fun. It's indicative of a style of play where everybody is going for the jugular at all times, and it sounds like the enemies are played with the intention of doing maximum damage to the party at all times, regardless of whether that is the smart move for them or not. To me the smart move is to ignore the helpless characters and focus on the ones still capable of hurting you, knowing that you probably have time to finish off the helpless ones later. Unless you know you have no chance of surviving the fight and are fanatical, in which case you will just try to do the most permanent damage you can before dying. Not how most enemies should logically be played, IMHO. But I assume that style is fun for you or you wouldn't still be doing it after 5 years. I can certainly see it as being exciting, as long as you aren't too attached to your character.

Still doesn't address the point that in 3.5/PF, even death is just a temporary inconvenience for characters after they reach a certain level, unless there is a TPK. So how often do you TPK and have real long-term consequences for failing that save, like the bad guys do all the time?

vuron wrote:

I think I did phrase it awkwardly but the logic I'm using is that nobody wants to play the lantern bearer or the pack mule. They want to be doing something dynamic during each and every round of the combat.

That doesn't mean that they are all contributing in the same manner or at precisely the same mechanical effect. Rather that each class have meaningful options that they can use in combat situations that will positively impact the fortunes of the party.
...snip...

As such I think it's mathematically possible to analyze each and every class according to their designated role and see if they "succeed" an acceptable percentage of the time given their current abilities.

For me the biggest problem exists with the 3.x belief that skill use and out of combat utility should be balanced against combat utility. In other words in order to have combat utility you need to be inferior out of combat (bad skill points and class skill selection) and if you are good out of combat then you need to take a mechanical hit in combat.

This results in the unfortunate situation that even under burst DPR conditions the rogue variant of the striker role tends to lag significantly behind the Defender classes.

hmmmm, i think this still probably comes down to where exactly in the spectrum your game falls. for an anecdotal example, i played in a campaign for two years, where we met every week for 4-12 hours. we had hit level 9 when i had to quit. the combats often took up a lot of real time, and my character probably contributed the least during combat as i had built a socially oriented skill type. however, out of combat, the fighter, who was very good in combat at these low levels, had literally nothing to do, while my character probably contributed the most, and at the least always had something to do, and the mechanical means to attempt it. and in real time this sometimes meant two weeks without a combat. these were the niches we chose though, and neither of us was particularly upset about it.

now that said, i do think pathfinders streamlining of the skill system has actually hurt this sort of balance. in 3.x, if you wanted perception in your party you had to have a rogue, ranger, bard, or druid(not that you wouldn't want a 3.x druid anyways). in a game with balanced types of challenges, like the one i describe above, this actually did result in something somewhat resembling balance.

now, realistically, every class can max out perception, or any skill for that matter. this has actually helped out wizards the most and i'd say hurt rogues the most. now it is easy for any two other characters to usurp a skill monkey's role, whereas before those two characters would likely have been stuck with somewhat crappy and/or less fun skills. this is obviously made way worse as the importance of combat in a game increases.

one idea i've been kicking around to try and rectify this somewhat is to eliminate class skills from all full casters, and enable something like the d20 epic skill uses for class skills. probably at lower difficulty though. i see no reason why a level 10 character shouldn't have a chance to balance on a thin branch.

Hehe, I guess I would be in a completely different mindset if a character died every other session or so.

In my last big 3.5 game (over the course of at least 3 years), one player would get his character killed over and over. He played different characters all the time. He would die *not* because of a poorly designed character (his characters were always effective, if not optimized) and *not* because the party wasn't trying to save him. He just made a ton of poor choices. The vast majority of PC deaths fall into this category. Rarely, the PCs are put in a situation where if they don't run away quickly enough, they're going to die. I've seen a PC die in a situation or two like that. Most encounters that don't fall into that category can be overcome by proper preparation, proper teamwork, and moderately decent character design. I did put in bad guys at the end of some one-shot adventures that were specifically designed to kill the party. Hey, it was a one-shot and I wanted to see if the party could somehow overcome the difficulty. . . they couldn't q:

If you're not going to follow the guidelines for balance as a GM, that's fine. But if I were a player in game that heavily modifies game balance, I wouldn't complain about dying every 2-3 sessions. The game is simply designed to operate in a specific way with certain expectations. If that way isn't followed, you have to accept the consequences. And in the case of CoDzilla's game, the consequences of not playing in the accepted manner are apparently drastic.

CoDzilla wrote:

Well, let's review:

Over the past 5 years, I count that there have been 105 character deaths in games that I have played in or ran. This is not counting games I have watched, either directly, or by getting a cliff notes version from one or more players involved.

Of these, 14 were the direct result of a save or lose. Finger of Death, etc.

66 were the result of an indirect save or lose.

Now granted there were some other problems with many of these deaths. Low tier classes for example (there were a lot of deaths in 3.x before we figured out what those were and why). But a good part of the reason why those classes are low tier, is vulnerability to such tactics.

Get Glitterdusted, be unable to fight back effectively for a while, and get easily killed long before it wears off. And every save or lose with a duration > 1 round has a duration at least equal to the combat. The one round ones might not last the entire fight.

Get Slowed, get completely shut down (if a martial character) or unable to both move and cast (as a caster). Is often followed up by full attacks to take advantage of the vulnerability.

And that's...

That seems to match my general experience. If I had to make a guess...

60% of PC deaths were the result of something bad happening(failed a key save, or got out manuvered), and the players couldn't or didn't compensate.
30% were just plain dumb luck. The bad guy got a lucky crit with a x3 or x4 weapon or something like that.
10% were epic deaths that the players took on themselves. Running in to hug the BBEG with a necklace of fireballs while the wizard lines up fireball on you and the bad guy both.

What I would like to know is the style of encounters CoDZilla is regularly going against. If most of them are just stuff out of the monster manual then it's probably usually like CR=3+APL and least about 4 of them to get the danger level that he's talking about. Now if things are more along the lines of leveled NPC's then I can see how the party faces much of SoL that he talks about.

LazarX wrote:
Brian Bachman wrote:
LazarX wrote:

Trying to gauge a game by math, theorycraft, or whatever you want to call it, works well for computer games which have relatively few variables.

Given however the Human element of roleplaying games on top of the variability of dice, upteen gillion different character builds, if the goal posts on this were any more mobile, they'd be on a Romani caravan.

I actually agree, but started this thread to give those who do define success and viability more mathematically a forum to express themselves, so that I can understand them better and grow as a player/GM.
You don't need to start any more of these threads, they go on and perpetuate themselves as back and forth arguments. And from my experience in the hobby, which dates back to 1980, I'd say that the limited utility of these theorycraft exercises does not justify the noise and nerdrage they inevitably bring up. And if they teach anything, it's about how to approach this game in the worst way possible as far as living in the spirit of roleplaying goes.

Or, you know, people can enjoy both aspects of the game.

I you actually do the math and create characters based off of most people's assumptions, you will find that everyone who is claiming to be in the ~75% croud is building fairly standard characters who are not optimized at all. In fact, a fighter can reach my damage objective by merely taking power attack and using a 2 handed weapon and getting fairly standard equipment. No weapon spec or focus required. Other classes have a little more problems. The AC value I state can also be hit using standard wbl guidlines.

Before you go out and attack people for using math in the game that is designed arround it, perhaps you should look into what they are actually saying. Most of us are saying that you don't need to be twinked out or getting every advantage in order to be productive and successful.

How do you think they came up with what bonuses the fighter should get and what levels? They did the math to see what they needed to be viable, in the designer's eyes. Its the same reason most of the classes have similar DPR for their function, even though they do it in different ways.

TriOmegaZero wrote:
CoDzilla wrote:
So what you are saying is there's some long shot chance everyone is still alive. Yeah sure. But there's a much higher chance everyone fails that 1/4 check the first time.
No, I'm actually saying that the chance isn't a long shot. In actual practice, everyone surviving happens as much if not more than everyone dying. You can say they have a one in four chance of dying, but it actually does not in a lot of cases. Every character being dead at the end of the day does not happen every time. Now, if we are discounting rez and healing magic and treating that as 'dead' then the occurrence certainly is more frequent.

No, what you are describing is a success rate much greater than 75%.

erik542 wrote:
What I would like to know is the style of encounters CoDZilla is regularly going against. If most of them are just stuff out of the monster manual then it's probably usually like CR=3+APL and least about 4 of them to get the danger level that he's talking about. Now if things are more along the lines of leveled NPC's then I can see how the party faces much of SoL that he talks about.

Depends on the game.

Some of the games were Normal difficulty. So the typical encounter is at level, and being played intelligently, with a significant portion higher level than this. Which is the exact level of difficulty the game describes. That's still enough to get encounters with a save or lose caster of a decent DC + follow up, or enemies that just 1-2 round you with full attacks as even the default difficulty is very fast paced and lethal.

Some of the games were Hard difficulty. Hard is like Normal, except raise the level of all encounters by 1-2, and have them use more tricks. Giants with Knockback for example, to play ping pong with the party. It's not too bad if it's not a boss though.

Some of the games were Very Hard difficulty. APL + 3-4? Normal fight. It goes up from there. And the enemies are absolutely vicious and ruthless. Super charge? Save DC optimization to spam DC 40 save or loses? Expect to see it early and often.

The thing is though it doesn't matter what difficulty it is, as even the Normal difficulty is easily able to kill you in very short order, meaning that I am completely right.

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