Why no ECL?


Advanced Race Guide Playtest

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I know that Pathfinder has never included the 3.5 Effective Character Level system for powerful PC races; I'm just wondering why not. To me it seems a simple and clear system that's easy to implement. I'm looking at these new RP tiers (standard, advanced and monstrous) and wondering at what PC level they'd be balanced.

Maybe someone can explain to me how this (in my mind at least) vaguely defined system is superior.


I've never played with 3.5 ECL, but I can't imagine it would be fun to be the RP 30 level 1 [insert_class_here] with a party of core race level 2-4 guys. That kind of balancing doesn't really work. The closest Pathfinder has come to that kind of pseudo-balance (monstrous cohort rules) is too limiting to those who chose to use them.

My advice, even though nobody asked for it, is that you have three options:

1) The PCs aren't evenly matched. Hopefully your core players won't get jealous.
2) All PCs are built at the same RP. If a PC wants to mess up this plan by insisting on playing a core race, work with them to pick bonus RP that hopefully doesn't screw with the flavor of the race to make things even.
3) If using point buy and advanced/monstrous races give bonus points to those playing lower tier races. Without doing any math at all, I think 5 points a tier is fair.


I couldn't stand ECL. It never ended up being balanced at all, usually the person with the ECL ended up being way too weak later on. I'm glad PF got rid of it entirely, and just left it up to the GM to decide if a race was ok or not

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure, Rulebook Subscriber; Pathfinder Battles Case Subscriber

Because slapping a number on a monster doesn't make it balanced. Rather than lead DMs on, they went with telling them 'you have to judge for yourself how powerful a race is, because you know the balance point of your game better than we do'.

Edit: James on the subject.


TriOmegaZero wrote:

Because slapping a number on a monster doesn't make it balanced. Rather than lead DMs on, they went with telling them 'you have to judge for yourself how powerful a race is, because you know the balance point of your game better than we do'.

Edit: James on the subject.

I think TriOmegaZero hit the nail on the head.

one who develops something are become blind to it's flaws.
But one who uses it, sees all.


It just seems to me that there's a definite lack of guidelines on how to play powerful races beyond the "you're smart, you figure it out" policy. Since this book is, in part, about doing that very thing, it seems to me a good place to address the topic.

How is a player intended to play an advanced or monstrous race in a group of starting level core races? Should they delay some of their racial abilities to later character levels or some other method?


Ambrus wrote:

It just seems to me that there's a definite lack of guidelines on how to play powerful races beyond the "you're smart, you figure it out" policy. Since this book is, in part, about doing that very thing, it seems to me a good place to address the topic.

How is a player intended to play an advanced or monstrous race in a group of starting level core races? Should they delay some of their racial abilities to later character levels or some other method?

That happened in Races of the Dragon for draconic and half-dragon characters (pages 70-71).


Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Ambrus wrote:

I know that Pathfinder has never included the 3.5 Effective Character Level system for powerful PC races; I'm just wondering why not. To me it seems a simple and clear system that's easy to implement. I'm looking at these new RP tiers (standard, advanced and monstrous) and wondering at what PC level they'd be balanced.

Maybe someone can explain to me how this (in my mind at least) vaguely defined system is superior.

Because ECL never worked. Each race with an ECL started off more powerful, evened up in the middle, and then was less powerful by the end. Not to mention most races were only good with the right class. A pixie sorcerer or rogue, was worth the ECL to start with, but a pixie fighter was definitely not.

Now you just give everyone in the party 20 pts. to build their race, and up the CR by 2 of all encounters until level 5 and 1 for levels 6-10.


Azure_Zero wrote:
That happened in Races of the Dragon for draconic and half-dragon characters (pages 70-71).

Exactly my point. There's been experimentation on different ways of accomplishing it including Level Adjustment, Racial Monster Classes, and delayed ability acquisition. I'm saying that Paizo should pick/design a method that works and then marry it to their RP build system.

Simply saying: "It's best to have all the players make equally powerful races at character creation" doesn't work because playing non-core races isn't everyone's cup of tea.


Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Ambrus wrote:
Azure_Zero wrote:
That happened in Races of the Dragon for draconic and half-dragon characters (pages 70-71).

Exactly my point. There's been experimentation on different ways of accomplishing it including Level Adjustment, Racial Monster Classes, and delayed ability acquisition. I'm saying that Paizo should pick/design a method that works and then marry it to their RP build system.

Simply saying: "It's best to have all the players make equally powerful races at character creation" doesn't work because playing non-core races isn't everyone's cup of tea.

Then only give then 15 points to build the race, and let the core races spend the extra 5 pts.


Justin Franklin wrote:
Then only give then 15 points to build the race, and let the core races spend the extra 5 pts.

There's got to be a better way of handling it than forcing all of the players into making übermensch just to accommodate you.


Had a good long post but took too long typing and lost it due to timeout. grrr

I think for slightly better races, the 3.5 level adjustment/ECL approach worked ok. My bugbear fighter 3 wasn't too much worse as a fighter than my human fighter 6 - assuming a level adjustment of 1 and 2 racial hit dice. But a pixie with no racial hit dice and a level adjustment of 6 taking one level of sorcerer as ECL 7 was no match really for a 7th level human sorcerer even if they had the same ECL. It really broke down there for those tougher monsters.

I think for simpler characters with not overly tough races the best thing to do is ignore it or just have some one time experience penalty or something.

For more advanced races, say if you wanted to play a mind flayer, basically make a version of a racial class that blends both race and class features and advances both in parallel. Again, have some XP penalty at the front end but ignore it after that. But don't take the Savage Species approach that has you have to take like 12 levels of your monster race before you get any of the features of a class. You want to have grow in your class features while at the same time becoming a paragon of your race.

L


Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber
Ambrus wrote:
Justin Franklin wrote:
Then only give then 15 points to build the race, and let the core races spend the extra 5 pts.
There's got to be a better way of handling it than forcing all of the players into making übermensch just to accommodate you.

Well since 5 pts. won't make you übermensch, I don't see that as a problem. But to answer your question the designers have been trying to come up with a way to balance Monstrous races for a decade with very little sucess, I think this is about as good as you are going to get.


Ambrus wrote:
Justin Franklin wrote:
Then only give then 15 points to build the race, and let the core races spend the extra 5 pts.
There's got to be a better way of handling it than forcing all of the players into making übermensch just to accommodate you.

Agreed. This isn't particle physics. We are taking about a game that is governed by assigning numbers to creatures, character abilities, spells, etc. I think with a little thought, it can handle something a little out of the ordinary without breaking down. Maybe the ECL wasn't perfect but at least it's a place to build from.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

I know it might be a shocking revelation to some, but 3,5 isn't a perfect system.

One of it's weakest points is the problem on how to make PCs of differing race power level play at the same table. Granted, it's a popular problem in RPGs, but some (or actually, many) never even bothered to touch the subject knowing that it's a potential pitfall.

Sadly, 3.5 did and here's the result - folks thinking that LA/ECL were working, balanced systems.


Gorbacz wrote:
One of it's weakest points is the problem on how to make PCs of differing race power level play at the same table. Granted, it's a popular problem in RPGs, but some (or actually, many) never even bothered to touch the subject knowing that it's a potential pitfall.

Actually, I think most would agree that balancing races isn't as tough as balancing spellcasting classes with martial classes. But, since magic is the cornerstone of the fantasy genre designers keep on trying to do it anyways. And I'd say the fine folks at Paizo have managed fairly well in navigating that metaphorical minefield.

Another cornerstone of the fantasy genre are fantastic races. The desire to play such a race is as normal as the desire to wield magic. So I'd think it equally important for Paizo to bring the same level of dedication and skill in tackling this issue. Quantifying all of the various racial abilities against each other is a great start. Now they've just got to take a step further than splitting races into the 'standard', 'advanced' and 'monstrous' tiers and then telling us to avoid the last two as much as possible.


Ambrus wrote:

Actually, I think most would agree that balancing races isn't as tough as balancing spellcasting classes with martial classes.

Totally disagree, spellcasters are easy. Balance and limit the damned spells. Done. Monster races are MONSTERS. Not PC's ,not meant to be PC's, you can not balance a human and a troll or an elf and a Ogre. The math will never line up, one is stronger and always will be no matter what random number you give it to give it a false balance.

ECL was a horrible, horrible concept, it was badly executed, poorly thought out and gave the GM the false Idea it "balanced" races.

It is good it is dead and it should stay that way.


seekerofshadowlight wrote:
It is good it is dead and it should stay that way.

Fine. Then replace it with a system that works. But don't ignore the issue; especially in a races book. This is Paizo's chance to do it right.

Silver Crusade

Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber
Ambrus wrote:
Gorbacz wrote:
One of it's weakest points is the problem on how to make PCs of differing race power level play at the same table. Granted, it's a popular problem in RPGs, but some (or actually, many) never even bothered to touch the subject knowing that it's a potential pitfall.

Actually, I think most would agree that balancing races isn't as tough as balancing spellcasting classes with martial classes. But, since magic is the cornerstone of the fantasy genre designers keep on trying to do it anyways. And I'd say the fine folks at Paizo have managed fairly well in navigating that metaphorical minefield.

Another cornerstone of the fantasy genre are fantastic races. The desire to play such a race is as normal as the desire to wield magic. So I'd think it equally important for Paizo to bring the same level of dedication and skill in tackling this issue. Quantifying all of the various racial abilities against each other is a great start. Now they've just got to take a step further than splitting races into the 'standard', 'advanced' and 'monstrous' tiers and then telling us to avoid the last two as much as possible.

Yes, it's a cornerstone.

And it's a cornerstone that many fantasy RPG designers don't touch due to rules problems they generate. Warhammmer RPGs didn't. 4E didn't. It works in GURPS due to the total granularity of the entire system, but d20 isn't as modular.

3.5 took a shot and that shot missed by a mile. I like that ARG seems to give rules for an "everybody is LA+X" groups, but having parties of Minotaurs, Vampires, Drow and sickly old halfling women running together is something that d20 doesn't handle well.

Yeah, I think it's one of the bigger and unfixable issues of the system. C'est la vie.


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Ambrus wrote:
seekerofshadowlight wrote:
It is good it is dead and it should stay that way.
Fine. Then replace it with a system that works. But don't ignore the issue; especially in a races book. This is Paizo's chance to do it right.

There is the point. No system works. You can not balance all the races in a system like pathfinder to be player races. You simply can not do it. A troll, an Oger, Vampire and a elf are not equal.

The best you can do is give a GM some help, but you can't make all monster/races equal. It simply can not be done.

Silver Crusade

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Pathfinder Adventure Path Subscriber

Wow, me and Seeker on the same page, break out the champagne or something to that effect. :)


It does happen. Pours shots of rum and bourbon Cheers.


Say what you will, but Savage Species attempted to do the impossible and won itself an enduring fanbase who somehow managed to successfully use those rules to play fun characters. Though I'm certain you'll say that it "missed by a mile", at least it tried. That's better than simply throwing up one's hands and declaring the task impossible.


I can say I can fly by flapping my arms if I really try. Does not mean I can.Some things can not be done. The system makes the power level radially different between a human and a troll. One is never meant to be a player character race.

You can not balance all races with one another. You simply can't. No system will make a human and a fire giant equal in power, nor a halfing and a troll, or a drawf and a Ogre, or a vampire, bugbear or a fairy.

The core races are not equal, much less every monster race. And yes SS, was one of the problems, not a solution. It make people think " Hey I can play a human, firegiant, troll, bugbear, and halfling in the same party with no difference in power level" which is a flawed and mistaken thought.


Quote:
Fine. Then replace it with a system that works. But don't ignore the issue; especially in a races book. This is Paizo's chance to do it right.

Not as simple as it sounds. People have been trying to make a system that works properly for a decade now. So far, none work right.(Granted, some do work all right in a few cases. They also fall apart in the majority of cases.)


seekerofshadowlight wrote:
You can not balance all races with one another. You simply can't. No system will make a human and a fire giant equal in power, nor a halfing and a troll, or a drawf and a Ogre...

And yet it happens often enough that a human PC can face off against a fire giant NPC or a halfling PC against a troll NPC or a dwarf PC against an ogre NPC with the outcome being uncertain. How can they ever share the battlefield on equal footing if they're so utterly incompatible?


Ambrus wrote:
seekerofshadowlight wrote:
You can not balance all races with one another. You simply can't. No system will make a human and a fire giant equal in power, nor a halfing and a troll, or a drawf and a Ogre...
And yet it happens often enough that a human PC can face off against a fire giant NPC or a halfling PC against a troll NPC or a dwarf PC against an ogre NPC with the outcome being uncertain. How can they ever share the battlefield on equal footing if they're so utterly incompatible?

They are level appropriate encounters. Made for a whole party of the correct level to face.

What you are talking about is makeing a monster that could take on the whole party balanced with a single human.

You can't.


seekerofshadowlight wrote:
What you are talking about is makeing a monster that could take on the whole party balanced with a single human.

What I'm talking about is having a single PC facing off against a single monstrous NPC and not knowing who'll win. I'd imagine that such situations aren't particularly rare in most games.


The player might not know, but the GM will have a good idea who will win.

They are not the same issue. No where near the same issue.


And more importantly, you're talking about a way to make sure they're balanced not at one particular level but that they stay balanced across a range of levels and a range of design choices.


Why not? If a fire giant NPC and a human PC can stand on equal footing with neither clearly superior to the other than they've somehow achieved a balance of sorts. That's a starting point from which to build upon; which is where Savage Species came from. So it wasn't as successful in the attempt as you'd would have liked. Fine. Why not try improving upon what's come before rather than simply abandoning the idea altogether?


A 1st level human will never be equal to a 1st level ogre, nor a 20th level ogre to a 20th level human. They are created with different goals in mind, they are not made to be used as a player race, nor will they even be able to be balanced with a race made to be a pc, across the whole of the game.In order to "fix" the balance, you need to rebuild the whole game, ground up, every monster, every race, the whole of the system.

If you can't understand the underlining flaw in what you are asking. We will never convince you. I am done trying.

Liberty's Edge

I am not sure you can really balance out the standard and non-standard races. If you nerf them too much then more often than not people will complain they are either too weak and not take them. Keep them as is for the most part and the inevitable cries of "broken!" along with "unblanced" with a healthy does of "why did you release a Races book now no one will play the core classes". They have to make balance when creating a race. Not too weak or strong. We need to remmebrer is that not all races are created equal. I certainly do not want to see another gun rule fiasco. Where they implement something new yet make it weaker for the fear that the new option would be used above all others.

Here are the attributes for the Flind from the Tome of Horrors:

+8 Str, +4 Dex, +6 Con, +2 Int, +4 Wis, +2 Cha

As you can see no negative atttributes as Flinds are supposed to be superior version of Gnolls. Along with no ECL The Paizo devs being as conservative imo as they are you will not see the above. Yet as I said if the start to balance every race with the core then what's the point. Unless they do what Wotc did with Savage Species. Make the race powerful over time and once a certain level is reached then it's a full powered memeber of the race.


seekerofshadowlight wrote:


A 1st level human will never be equal to a 1st level ogre, nor a 20th level ogre to a 20th level human. They are created with different goals in mind, they are not made to be used as a player race, nor will they even be able to be balanced with a race made to be a pc, across the whole of the game.In order to "fix" the balance, you need to rebuild the whole game, ground up, every monster, every race, the whole of the system.

If you can't understand the underlining flaw in what you are asking. We will never convince you. I am done trying.

As much as I dislike it, he is correct.

a 1st level core race PC does not equal the challenge rating from a 1st level giant.


Savage Species didn't attempt to balance a 1st level human against a 1st level ogre; it instead implemented monster classes as part of its solution and it met with moderate success.

Perhaps the implementation was flawed, but that doesn't mean the idea doesn't have merit and isn't worth trying to improve.

Dark Archive

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One of the problems with ECL was the fact that the racial abilities were really good if you had one...and then they weren't. As in:

At first level, all of the abilities of a Drow are pretty awesome.

At 15th level, all of the abilities of a Drow aren't as good as if you traded them in for what your ECL wasn't letting you have.

Personally, the new system looks great. I need to try it out first before I can say whether it is or not.


Ambrus wrote:
Why not? If a fire giant NPC and a human PC can stand on equal footing with neither clearly superior to the other than they've somehow achieved a balance of sorts. That's a starting point from which to build upon; which is where Savage Species came from. So it wasn't as successful in the attempt as you'd would have liked. Fine. Why not try improving upon what's come before rather than simply abandoning the idea altogether?

If an ogre or a fire giant are comperably powered, it is because the DM thought through on perfectly ballancing out the level of the NPC vs the power of the PC, gear of the PC, gear of the NPC. The problem, this isn't a steady number, and changes drastically every level, in different directions for every race, and every class combination used with every race. It is easy to ballance something accurately once, but to ballance it correctly 15 times, per race/class combination. That is just insanity. Abilities that are godly at level 1, are useless at level 20. A loss in caster level in exchange for 2 hit dice, is a huge perk at level 1, and a huge loss at level 20.

A level 1 ogre wizard, is drastically different in power level from a level 1 ogre fighter, etc...

A fair attempt at ballancing a monsterous race, would require a 100 page book, for each race.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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Because ECL caused more problems than it solved.


James Jacobs wrote:
Because ECL caused more problems than it solved.

Fair enough. So what would you recommend for those wanting to play monster PCs?


James Jacobs wrote:
Because ECL caused more problems than it solved.

I agree James, but some sort of system would be helpful. I mean, you guys developed a kingdom building system from scratch, can't you guys figure out how to deal with more powerful races?

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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Ambrus wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
Because ECL caused more problems than it solved.
Fair enough. So what would you recommend for those wanting to play monster PCs?

Advanced Race Guide.

Paizo Employee Creative Director

Renvale987 wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:
Because ECL caused more problems than it solved.
I agree James, but some sort of system would be helpful. I mean, you guys developed a kingdom building system from scratch, can't you guys figure out how to deal with more powerful races?

Advanced Race Guide.

I'm repeating myself here because this playtest, which is a part of the upcoming Advaned Race Guide, is PRECISELY us trying to "figure out how to deal with more powerful races" as player character options.


I have had a group of players together now for some twelve years, where probably 75% of them are always begging me to let them play some savage creature or other. Thus, I had extensive experience with ECL.

It never worked. It was, in my experience, never truly balanced. Aasimars were underpowered, half-ogres were waaaaayyy overpowered, even after their supposed re-tooling. Those are just two examples. Don't get me started on half-dragons and the like.

The PF rules help just a little bit by actually stating that the kinds of creatures my players want to use are not balanced for play. At least I can show them that. We still have a lizardfolk-lovin' player, but no problems so far. I am leery of the idea of giving her an extra level between levels, since most of her racial abilities in this case do scale up with character level. But we'll see.

As to the half-dragon, I was able to convince that player to take levels in sorcerer, with the draconic bloodline. She is very happy with the result. So all is well.


James Jacobs wrote:

Advanced Race Guide.

I'm repeating myself here because this playtest, which is a part of the upcoming Advaned Race Guide, is PRECISELY us trying to "figure out how to deal with more powerful races" as player character options.

I get what you're saying, and I see the direction you're going with this first playtest. And while I don't see anything wrong with the build-your-own-race-as-a-stand-in-for-monsters approach, there seems to be a lack of guidelines for playing anything beyond the standard 10 RP races. I simply suggest exploring different means by which a player can try his hand at making an advanced or monstrous race without forcing the GM to boost all of the other PCs to compensate. I propose a Savage Species style delayed progression as one possible approach. If you can think of something better then, by all means, try it out in the playtest. =)

Grand Lodge

@Bruunwald, odd that, every single game I've played in with an Aasimar in the group, always had the Aasimar as the single most powerful character, not by much in some cases, but always more powerful.


ECL:
Incomplete 3rd Edition rule, that was unclear, that was never clarified or modified, that wasn't balanced, that applied guesstimated wrong ECL numbers to monsters that were almost as useless as using the monster CR, and did nothing but give players a reason to demand the aceptance of clearly unbalanced monster PC races in the way they read the rules.

So, no ECL please, a new system? I'm waiting for it.


Kais86 wrote:
@Bruunwald, odd that, every single game I've played in with an Aasimar in the group, always had the Aasimar as the single most powerful character, not by much in some cases, but always more powerful.

But did you apply the +1 LA they're supposed to have in core 3.5?

In my experience, Aasimar are fairly well balanced without an adjusted level at all, which is certainly an indication that the LA/ECL system as it was didn't work very well (since they should have been significantly more powerful to warrant losing a class level).

Paizo Employee Creative Director

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Ambrus wrote:
James Jacobs wrote:

Advanced Race Guide.

I'm repeating myself here because this playtest, which is a part of the upcoming Advaned Race Guide, is PRECISELY us trying to "figure out how to deal with more powerful races" as player character options.

I get what you're saying, and I see the direction you're going with this first playtest. And while I don't see anything wrong with the build-your-own-race-as-a-stand-in-for-monsters approach, there seems to be a lack of guidelines for playing anything beyond the standard 10 RP races. I simply suggest exploring different means by which a player can try his hand at making an advanced or monstrous race without forcing the GM to boost all of the other PCs to compensate. I propose a Savage Species style delayed progression as one possible approach. If you can think of something better then, by all means, try it out in the playtest. =)

It's just a playtest. It's raw rules, really. Feedback from the playtest is what we'll use to inform and advise us on what to write for guidelines, particularly on playing things beyond the standard. Note that it's entirely possible that the feedback we get could lead us to decide that it's NOT a good idea for players to play races with racial HD. I know that'd disappoint some fans, but I'd rather just admit it's not really a good idea to use the Pathfinder RPG to make PCs out of dragons and demons and spectres and awakened rocs, any more so than it's a good idea to use a power drill as a hammer.

One thing that I know we don't want to do is present racial HD monsters as "classes" you can take (the Savage Species style), though. Monsters like succubui and medusas and chimeras and krakens and lillends and hill giants were never intended to be PC options, and forcing them to be while still trying to keep them what they are as monsters is probably a pointless exercise in frustration. Especially since the game itself is built for players characters who have a head, two arms, and two legs.

What folks are often asking for when they ask for rules on playing characters SO different from human shape is, effectively, rules for an entirely different game from the ground up.

Advanced Race Guide is for the Pathfinder Game, not that theoretical new RPG, and as such it's going to skew VERY heavily toward the creation of zero HD human-shaped races. But if we can set up this race-building section so that it can handle increasingly unusual races... that's great!

Grand Lodge

Are wrote:
Kais86 wrote:
@Bruunwald, odd that, every single game I've played in with an Aasimar in the group, always had the Aasimar as the single most powerful character, not by much in some cases, but always more powerful.

But did you apply the +1 LA they're supposed to have in core 3.5?

In my experience, Aasimar are fairly well balanced without an adjusted level at all, which is certainly an indication that the LA/ECL system as it was didn't work very well (since they should have been significantly more powerful to warrant losing a class level).

Nope, sold off 1,000 xp, as per Unearthed Arcana or maybe it was savage species, not sure it's been years since I played 3.5, instead of dealing with that. I might be a level behind the rest of the party for a fight in the low levels, but after that I was okay, especially considering how much of a joke getting XP was in 3.5, usually around level 8 or so I'd go off and have a solo fight to catch up with the rest of the group.


James Jacobs wrote:
But if we can set up this race-building section so that it can handle increasingly unusual races... that's great!

It would indeed. It's what I dearly hope to see. Thanks for listening. Good luck. =)

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