How Do I Prevent These Two Players From Dominating The Group Without Arbitrary Gimping Them?


Advice

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I am a GM of 10 years and numerous systems. A while ago my group ask me if I would run a Pathfinder campaign and I said I would look into it. I read the rules and said no, the game isn't balanced and you have already proven I can't trust you guys to not to have a campaign degenerate into interpersonal conflict when a game isn't balanced.

Well I did a different campaign instead, the plot lasted for 5 months and ended over the holidays. They bugged me to start a new campaign and ask to play pathfinder again and I caved.

The players made the following party and all are now level 5:

Gnome Oracle (Heavens)
Human Wizard (Necromancer)
Human Cavalier
Half Elf Rogue
Human Ranger(Guide)

The Gnome Oracle and Human Wizard are the problem. Not just in combat but I will start with that.

Firstly the Gnome Oracle has Charisma 22, Awesome Display, Eschew Materials and Improved Initiative. The majority of encounters effectively end when he casts his DC 18 -6 effective HD on the targets Colour Spray. Sure its not technically over, there are usually a few enemies not caught in its radius if the encounter is outdoors but this takes the sense of urgency out of any fight. Before you even start on the subject of using enemies that are blind or immune to mind-affecting, I already am and there are only so many of those that can be shoe horned into an adventure they don't thematic belong in. Its at the point other players have commented on only being their to knife the throats the a unconscious seizureing enemies so the Gnome doesn't need to get his hands dirty.

Secondly the Human Wizard, generally anticipates what he needs prepared in terms of utility spells but more on out of combat later. He is currently in command of several Undead that made up the "immune to mind-affect" enemies the party has fought. Diamond Spray, Scorching Ray and Ray of Exhaust are the only combat spells he ever bothers with. Rarely has more than 2 Prepared because of how effective they are. There has been 3 instances of encounters ending on turn 2 because helpless creatures with Dex 0 can't pass Reflex Saves worth a damn due to a Colour Spray + Diamond Spray combo.

Out of combat the Gnome Oracle dominates social encounters given their maxed out diplomacy modifier. Both the Oracle and Wizard also dominate in the problem solving department between their spells and tbh being smarter than the other three players IRL. The Gnome Oracle is also the best roleplayer and knows all of the best questions to ask of npcs, the Rogue really feel useless sharing it. The rogue is still getting the opportunity to RP but it feels redundant.

The other players are asking me to do something about them being useless in combat but for the life of me I can't think of anything I have already done. Every solution to the Oracle and Wizard either makes them totally useless and/or hampers the entire party (anti-magic fields turn off the other players equipment as much as the casters spells). Having more outdoor encounters than we already have to kept AoE from beign as strong will just make people b@&&& about the Cavalier being give to much of an advantage. Taking away the Wizard's ability to have undead minions both invalidates his character concept and taking away colour spray goes against the intended design of the Oracle class (given Awesome Display was intentionally meant to go with this spell).

Seriously how do you people play this game with players of differing skill levels? If I just arbitrarily come down on these players I am just being a s~$+ty GM to them as much as letting it go unhindered is beign a s$++ty GM to the others.


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You need more minions.

Way more minions.

All the minions.

Get the primest filet minons and have them filet guys with teeny area of effect abilities. Diamond Spray, Color Spray, Scorching Ray, and Ray of Exhaust are all very single-target problems. Even a CR-appropriate swarm of GOBLINSES would be effective here. Maybe with m/w weapons.


What curse did the Oracle take? Is he/she playing it?

Dark Archive

Enemies with fly-by attack would make it difficult to colour spray. You could also throw some monks at them, or druids, or something else with a high will save.

I've noticed that monks despite being arguably poor player choices tend to be great advanced mook enemies. They're fast, they don't have a lot of loot to give the party, they have a high will save, and they can full attack pretty well. Have them start out with potions of owl's wisdom to increase their AC and will saves, and stunning fist one of the two problem casters.

If a big bad were watching the party right now, he'd be picking out the worthiest targets to be gimped right away. If your casters win initiative, have them try to take the oracle out of the fight, even temporarily.

Shadow Lodge

What can you tell us about the capabilities of the cavalier, rogue, and ranger?

Also, why is having the oracle and wizard dominating okay, but the cavalier dominating is cause for concern among your players?


archers.

Dark Archive

Actually yeah, archers would be good too. Ooh, Zen Archers. Best of both worlds.

The wizard is a necromancer, right? His control undead feat doesn't let him control more hit dice than he has, if I recall correctly. Throwing high level undead at them would mean immune to mind effecting and immune to control as well.

Liberty's Edge

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Pathfinder Companion Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Charter Superscriber

Grimlock monks...


First of all disallow diamond spray, it's a 3.5 spell.
The rogue isn't going to be able to do much with that party.
I don't know why the ranger feels left out, especially with the guide archetype (this archetype is better for levels<10-12 but worse for 12+).
Is the cavalier using any archetype? If not well he isn't going to be able to be at his fullest without an outdoors campaign.
The oracle problem shouldn't be so big* after several levels but i am not quite familliar with that oracle build.
The wizard shouldn't be such a problem at those levels, where did he find the undead? Even lesser animate dead is a 3rd level for the wizard. Also how does he hides them when they are in a village/town?
Be sure not to have a 15 minute work day.

Anyway have those players played DnD before? Because those two sound like they know what they are doing.

*And would want to be a cleric

Dark Archive

How is the oracle getting within colour spray range so fast? Have them face an enemy necromancer controlling his own undead minions (so the wizard can't auto-control them), and put the necromancer far out of colour spray range. (Isn't it only like 15 feet?) That way there's mooks for everyone to take out, and the objective can still be to clear the way for the oracle's big finisher.

Dark Archive

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Sounds like you are ignoring the trifecta of caster lockdown moves.

Range: Color spray has a 15' range (diamond Spray is only 20') so either be 40' outside it to start the fight and get into melee as quick as possible. He can't reach you with the spell until you charge, He tries to cast, it provokes and you pound him to paste with your greatsword/axe. OR just fill him full of arrows at 40 ft (outside of his range to move + cast). They will have a horrible AC and next to no Hit Points so it shouldn't take more then a round.

Senses: Neither of these characters can cast on anything they can't see and neither has darkvision. Hit em with a greater darkness/silence stone trick and charge em, they are useless inside of it and when they try to run AoO's all around.

Encounters per day: Casters rule the 15 minute workday so don't do that. Hit em with 4 encounters a day (Wandering Monster charts where created for a reason) and watch them start panicking since they have crap for spells per day.

Stop playing by their rules and make them play by yours.


Well, roleplaying isn't just talking, so have more skill challenges for the rogue.

Lantern Lodge

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If not everyone is having fun, talk to the two players and ask them to tone down their characters. Let them know that it's great that they want their time to shine, but so do the other people playing at the table.

I hate it when (in LFR) I get someone at the table who just massacres everything in round 1 and the DM calls the combat. I want to do stuff too, dang it! I don't care that the combat was finished in that first round. That sucks and isn't fun for anyone except the one PC who did all the damage dealing.


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-Constructs
-Ambushes
-Equally capable enemy spellcasters
-Outsiders (preferably with a high SR)
-Archers (as mentioned above)
-CASTY SMASHING AM BARBARIANS

Dark Archive

There's also the always fun Mirror of Opposition.


pipedreamsam wrote:

-Constructs

-Ambushes
-Equally capable enemy spellcasters
-Outsiders (preferably with a high SR)
-Archers (as mentioned above)
-CASTY SMASHING AM BARBARIANS

Ehm, the party is 5th level, so most of them can't be thrown at them or aren't as effective.


There should be social negatives to having a necromancer in the party, especially one that keeps undead around. Even being known to favor necromantic debuffs should make one unpopular unless there are a lot of white necromancers around, and white necromancers are likely to try to discourage dead animating. If I were one I'd try to control the onyx market. They're pretty, but as long as they're used in necromancy they can go be pretty at the bottom of a lake guarded by golems.

So the first thing I'd do is use social pressure to strip away those undead. It sounds like someone else raised them, but your necromancer is keeping them around. Pharasma and the townsfolk don't approve.

The other thing is that when they hit level 11 they qualify as targets for the Legend Lores spell and you can justify people gunning for them with knowledge of their past tactics. That's your license to metagame them to death and if they complain just point to the spell.

Sovereign Court RPG Superstar 2009 Top 32, 2010 Top 8

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As soon as I saw the 'wizard has undead minions' I thought of this.


Spiral_Ninja wrote:

What curse did the Oracle take? Is he/she playing it?

Tongues: Celestial. The Wizard and Half-Elf also speaks Celestial so its a moot point.

InVinoVertas wrote:

What can you tell us about the capabilities of the cavalier, rogue, and ranger?

Also, why is having the oracle and wizard dominating okay, but the cavalier dominating is cause for concern among your players?

A) It is not OK having them dominating (hence this thread), they will b!%&+ like this any time one player is noticeable more important to the party than others. Two of the player and to a lesser extent a third b$&%% like this any time they feel less important than other party members.

B) The Rogue is the vanilla type and has high AC and has good perception. I've let him find some poisons to boost his power already. He uses a short sword and short bow. He has Boots and Cloak of Elvenkind so his sneak is very high. Trapfinding wise he's not as good as he could be.

The Ranger is a Guide and is actually surprisingly useful out of combat despite his b@&+$ing. He has a high perception, buff the group by sharing his favoured terrain bonus for Plains with them. He has the highest perception, OK stealth and is a good tracker. Several adventures have hinged on his tracking but he forgets this when its time to b%#**.

The Cavalier is just an outdoor combat monster. Great Ride skill for mounted combat goodness, Lance and heavy shield on barded horse back and he has the best magic weapon in the party a +1 Shocking Flail and it along with Improved trip when on foot.


I would encourage you to take the following steps, in the following order.

1- Explain to the OP how and why they are breaking your world, and encourage them strongly to bring their characters in line with the world you want them to live in

if 1 fails

2 - Speak to the other players, and help them 'evolve' their characters to be more in keeping with the power of the others. if does not solve issues repeat 1

3 - Start designing areas with features like
a) anti magic zones
b) immune to magic creatures (constructs)
c) Immune to mind affecting effects creatures (undead), if does not solve, repeat 1

4 - Create an encounter with creatures smart enough to target the threats (I think an NPC party of Oracles and Wizards to demonstrate the point would do best, read treantmonk's guide to being a god in designing the wizards. The Wizard + Oracle should be somewhat famous, and their tactics the stuff of legend, hence the party hunting the treats have memorized the same spells if only to sacrifice to Counter Spells). if does not succeed repeat 1

5 - design an encounter to thematically kill off the characters who refuse to comply. It is not good to allow 2 people to ruin the fun of the other 4 (3 players and the DM). Giving them so many options to change and so many chances to realize the problems they are causing no longer makes a story driven TPK/Partial PK arbitrary.


What a perfect storm of a group.

Dark Archive

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> How Do I Prevent These Two Players From Dominating The Group
> Without Arbitrary Gimping Them?

Talk to them.

The Exchange

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1. The first range increment of the common shortbow is 60'. A 5th-level caster of color spray throws a 35' cone. Start more fights in big rooms, long corridors, or the great outdoors.

2. Anything that has SR 6 or more compels your oracle (and wizard, when he's casting) to make one more roll to succeed.

3. Your party's necromancer is in for a truly nasty surprise the first time he comes up against an evil cleric who took the Rebuke Undead feat...

4. Using the same signature attack over and over is going to come back to haunt both characters soon: I refer you to the Clr4 spell spell immunity.

5. Employ more monsters that nauseate, entangle, grapple/pin, blind, etc. - and if they're smart enough to know who the real dangers are, make sure they beeline for the casters, regardless of AoOs. (If the martial characters intercept the monsters, that still suits your long-term goal of "make the other characters feel useful.")

6. Don't be afraid to put in plenty of low-level enemy spellcaster support: acid arrow, glitterdust, magic missile and silence are all solid ways to make things uncomfortable for casters. I've also had PCs blow a surprising amount of first-round spell resources on what turned out to be a minor image...

7. Sounds to me like the party is suffering from 15-Minute Work Day Syndrome (i.e., the spellcasters can stop and rest as soon as they've used up their best spells.) There are several other threads that discuss fixing this problem.

8. Introducing contacts specific to individual PC can help with the social situations. The cavalier might know a nobleman who trained with him, while the rogue knows an information broker in the city who can find out just about anything... for the right price. Giving everybody, including the oracle & wizard, a contact will help avoid the impression of playing favorites (even if the non-casters happen to have slightly more useful contacts.)

9. Lastly, there's the away-from-the-table solution. Privately ask the players of the Oracle and the Wizard to concentrate a little less on immediate overwhelming force and a little more on making sure the majority of the players are having fun? Reserving their best tactics for times when the other players can't handle the fight will make them much more popular...


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undrhil wrote:
If not everyone is having fun, talk to the two players and ask them to tone down their characters.

This works no matter what amazing build a player comes up with and does not lead to an arms race with the GM. If they refuse to listen, they risk alienating the other players and losing a GM.

Sovereign Court

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If I might ask, why are you running games for them at all when it doesn't sound like they get along and your not having any fun?


Threat of violence often work.
I have a poster tube that I keep my maps in with a +1 merciful enchantment on it I could lend ya...


leo1925 wrote:
pipedreamsam wrote:

-Constructs

-Ambushes
-Equally capable enemy spellcasters
-Outsiders (preferably with a high SR)
-Archers (as mentioned above)
-CASTY SMASHING AM BARBARIANS
Ehm, the party is 5th level, so most of them can't be thrown at them or aren't as effective.

Yeah I should have read the OP more carefully, but in the worst case those are all good options for later.


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Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

Look at the problem areas and look at the vulnerability of the tactics/spell/whatever they are using.

Case in point - you mention Color Spray with Awesome Display being a problem. Color Spray is a 15' cone so one solution is to start encounters with the foes being spread out and further than 15 feet away at start of of encounter. In that way, even if the oracle goes first, he is only going to get one or a few foes in the area of effect.

Pick foes with good initiative modifiers. Even if the oracle goes first, the oracle will learn real quick that moving forward to cast color spray only for the enemy to move next before the rest of the party and get their licks in on him may teach him caution.

The fact that the wizard only uses diamond spray, scorching ray and ray of exhaustion implies that you thrown the foes at them in a very predictable fashion. Mix it up, change it up and always have ranged attackers whenever possible so that the default spell selection for these two characters isn't going to be a free pass to the next encounter that it has been up to date.

Look for the flaws and weaknesses in the tactics and spell selections of the two players and exploit them. For example, the wizard's spell selection limits him to 40 ft right now based on level for ranged spells. That means control through foe placement, AoE, obstacles and terrain so he can't exploit that range so foes are always outside the 40 ft range and it is these foes which will focus on the obvious threats (namely, the two characters).

Look at the stats of the two characters in question. Assuming point buy, the oracle has dumped the majority of points into Charisma, which means he will be most likely vulnerable in the three save categories so pick the most vulnerable attribute and hit him with something to take him out of the fight for a bit so he can't take advantage of the casting of his spell.

For the wizard, look at his daily spell selection and find what he is expecting and then pull the unexpected on them sometime that day so his spell choice is sub-optimal for that fight.

Since it is spell casters being the problem, don't simply allow the party to rest and recover spells on their terms all the time. Push one or two more encounters more on the party than they normally fight, so the spell casters don't nova and blow all their spells in one fight with the expectation that they will immediately rest afterwards. Do this a few times and the spell casters will be more conservative on using the spells since they don't have the certainty of when they will be able to recover spells. That alone will go a long ways in helping curb the dominance of the spell casters.

You just have to use your imagination, find the weaknesses in their stats, tactics and spell choices and then exploit the hell of those vulnerabilities.

Post their stats up if you want specific ideas on where they are weak and what can be done to limit their dominance over the party.


leo1925 wrote:
The wizard shouldn't be such a problem at those levels, where did he find the undead...Anyway have those players played DnD before?

They were enemies I used because they were immune to the Oracles spells.

Yes. 4 out of 5 played D&D 3.5 for 5 years.

Mathwei ap Niall wrote:
...

And any only else who mentions range.

Its called War Pony for the Gnome, Expeditious Retreat for the Wizard or they are inside the distances are not very long. The War Pony often comes inside places anyway due to being medium.

Jus me wrote:
...

Ok I know what you mean by #1. I have mentioned it but they feel they are being punished for just being better at the game than the others. As far as I am concerned they are not breaking the world at all, I thin kits perfectly find from the story;s perfective, its the b+%%&y other players who I am trying to placate.

#2 I have mentioned to them. The ranger player is just a manchild who expects other people to conform to his power level because he only wants to play that exact concept but the Rogue and Cavalier are trying make their character better. I think I will allow them to rebuild them from the ground up.

#4 I will likely do this at some point in the near future.

#3 and #5 bad design and bad Gming, you should be ashamed. I already said I have done some of those things. You should know that by reading what I wrote and that they are to low a level for fighting Golem-like enemies without a TPK. Anti-magic fields hurt everyone because their equipment becomes useless.


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All systems favor some concepts over other concepts. When the group is of the same creative agenda, this is not much of an issue. However, when you have optimizers mixed with non-optimizers, it becomes a problem.

Discussing the issues with everyone should help. Are the non-optimizers not optimizing because they do not know the system well enough? Ask the others to help them out. Do they have specific concepts in mind? Again, ask the others to help them meet their concept and stay relevant. Do they have some other reason for not wanting to optimize? See if all of you can find some common ground where everyone can enjoy the game.


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I second archers and mobs

Talk to your players - explain how you experience the situation . Ask them what they think about it. Listen to what they say. If no solution can be found, stop playing pathfinder and change system.


CourtFool wrote:

All systems favor some concepts over other concepts. When the group is of the same creative agenda, this is not much of an issue. However, when you have optimizers mixed with non-optimizers, it becomes a problem.

Discussing the issues with everyone should help. Are the non-optimizers not optimizing because they do not know the system well enough? Ask the others to help them out. Do they have specific concepts in mind? Again, ask the others to help them meet their concept and stay relevant. Do they have some other reason for not wanting to optimize? See if all of you can find some common ground where everyone can enjoy the game.

We have had this problem before more than once and we have talked about it ad nauseum. The one of the players sucks at optimization and never budges on character concepts, two are OK and have played 3.5 for years but b~*$@ easily when out shined. They have both played casters before and don't care when they are doing it but if they have a non-caster concept they want to play they expect other people to tone down their casters for them when they wont do it for others. The last two are just too good at character optimization, they do it without even trying, I've seen them make extremely powerful characters in 5 different systems within a few hours of picking up the books for the first time and tbh I am with them in terms of skill level.

TBH The only reason myself and the two optimizers play with the others is because we have tried 2 player 1 GM campaigns in a few systems and it always sucks. The two hypocrits are our friends and generally don't suck as bad as they have in this campaign, in Vampire, Eclipse Phase and 4e we don't have any of these problems. The Ranger's player has been kicked out of the group several times for his attitude but eventually we let him back when short on people.

Scarab Sages

There are a ton of things you can do here. Create a level 3 golem. Fightable, won't kill the party, immune to magic.

Infrequent night-time assaults can mess up casters.

3 is not bad dm'ing. Abandoned ancient temple that ends up being a golem workshop? Or possibly a gladiatorial ring where different effects appear at different times.

Drop in a few races with spell resistance.

Have some enemy archers ready to attack someone if they start casting a spell.

Fight on ships in turbulent oceans where concentration and balance checks are needed.

Give your enemies some magical equipment to protect them or improve their saves.

Invisibility or improved invisibility are all around great.

I'd suggest trying to work in mixed groups. A couple trained oozes, a couple archers, maybe a fighter and a cleric. Don't stack up on the same type of enemy.

Let the oracle decide if it's worth color spraying the approaching fighter and cleric while trying to get away from the oozes. They don't see so they're immune to color spray. Let the wizard get shot at by the archers when he tries to cast. Who is he going to target now? The archers or the approaching enemies?

And if you've made something extremely rare or uncommon, drop in a world-changing event. Meteor strikes the planet, creates earthquakes, storms, and suddenly these rare creatures all climb out of their hidey holes.


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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

Encounters per day. The 15 minute workday is why your casters seem so strong, have a look at this article. The wizard and oracle cant dominate every fight if there are 6 of them each day. And honestly, if you just get them out of the expectation of only having one or two fights a day, then there wont be a problem. Force them to conserve their resources (or do without in later encounters) and the rest of the party will have plenty of time to shine.


Sounds like your problem is not the players class, or even the two players, its all of your players combined. You are reacting to something that isn't going on in game, but outside of it, people complaining. Ignore it. Concentrate on story. Get all of your characters involved in it. It wont matter as much about combats if all your friends are more intrigued by what is going to happen after you kill the lich than actually fighting it. I eventually just started picking up modules with the best stories and playing them 100% by the book encounter wise, letting my players know I was going to, if they wanted to break it, they could, but if they got bored with combat that was their problem, not mine.


even if they are inside the distances for the ranged characters, that means their partners aren't.

even with color spray, being a wizard/oracle surrounded by bad guys is not a good place to be.

A couple archers in the back with a couple frontline guys are going to mess up the casters.

Either the casters engage the melee combatants and get picked apart by the archers OR they go to engage the archers and are surrounded.

Longbows have a range increment of 100 ft, crossbows are 80-120 (light/heavy) if they try to run, they are going to have a bad time.

The PCs will still win the fight, but the casters, even if the attacks are distributed evenly, are going to end up worse then the rogue, ranger, and cavalier.

this sort of encounter will also favor the rogue and cavalier:

The rogue can stealth and sneak up on the archers, dealing good damage and coming out relatively unscathed

the cavalier can just charge headlong into them due to his mount's movement and hopefully his decent armor.

Also, the ranger should have a bow on him as well, there is no reason not to. Even if he is a melee ranger.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber
Quote:

And any only else who mentions range.

Its called War Pony for the Gnome, Expeditious Retreat for the Wizard or they are inside the distances are not very long. The War Pony often comes inside places anyway due to being medium.

Its called the 'home ground advantage'. The majority of encounters is the party going forward into a situation that they most likely have minimum or no knowledge of the layout of the encounter area.

That means ambushes, ground prepared to be difficult terrain, terrain features that favor your forces, traps, concealment, and battlefield control spells all become part of your toolbox for each and every encounter if you wish it for that encounter.

Ground - make it hard to cross - caltrops, pit traps, difficult terrain, barricades, ledges, spells like spike stone, grease, web, etc are just a sample of the possibilities

Visibility - smoke, web, low light, areas of shadow and darkness, fog, spells that inhibit visibility etc. are just a sample of the possibilities that will hinder targeting and inhibit unrestricted movement.

Use the 'home ground advantage' for intelligent foes. The most famous example of the concept is Tucker's Kobolds.

Tucker's kobolds were a tribe of kobolds featured in Roger E. Moore's editorial in Dragon issue 127.[24] They were used by a Dungeon Master, Tucker, who ran an adventure for high level characters featuring an ordinary tribe of kobolds who utilised traps, ambushes and local knowledge to significantly challenge the party, going against the stereotype of kobolds posing no significant threat. Tucker's kobolds became a famous part of Dungeons & Dragons lore,[25] often referred to as an example of how cunning and local knowledge can be used by physically weak opponents to overcome much more powerful adversaries.

Dark Archive

Frustrated wrote:
leo1925 wrote:
The wizard shouldn't be such a problem at those levels, where did he find the undead...Anyway have those players played DnD before?

They were enemies I used because they were immune to the Oracles spells.

Yes. 4 out of 5 played D&D 3.5 for 5 years.

Mathwei ap Niall wrote:
...

And any only else who mentions range.

Its called War Pony for the Gnome, Expeditious Retreat for the Wizard or they are inside the distances are not very long. The War Pony often comes inside places anyway due to being medium.

Jus me wrote:
...

Ok I know what you mean by #1. I have mentioned it but they feel they are being punished for just being better at the game than the others. As far as I am concerned they are not breaking the world at all, I thin kits perfectly find from the story;s perfective, its the b%+~+y other players who I am trying to placate.

#2 I have mentioned to them. The ranger player is just a manchild who expects other people to conform to his power level because he only wants to play that exact concept but the Rogue and Cavalier are trying make their character better. I think I will allow them to rebuild them from the ground up.

#4 I will likely do this at some point in the near future.

#3 and #5 bad design and bad Gming, you should be ashamed. I already said I have done some of those things. You should know that by reading what I wrote and that they are to low a level for fighting Golem-like enemies without a TPK. Anti-magic fields hurt everyone because their equipment becomes useless.

@ #1, war pony has a dozen hit points and can't make a save against anything. Perfect, Readied action with fireball + Lesser Rod of Maximize. Solved mobility issue and probably killed the oracle too (at very least he's trapped way away from his party all alone).

And the wizard is burning ALL of his first round actions moving into position leaving him wide open to melee stomping? Charge + Power Attack + Greatsword = Dead wizard (he should only have about 20 HP's and 2D6 +6 +(5-10) +x should either drop him or keep him from being able to cast)

@ #2, laugh at the manchild. Sounds like he has a personal problem and theres nothing you can or should do about it.

@ #3, there are more types of constructs then just golems. There are half a dozen applicable constructs under cr % that will fulfill this need (Homonculus, Animated Objects, Scarecrow, Soulbound Dolls, etc.) Use em.

@ 5, So it's bad dm'ing to use the exact same tactics PC's have been using for years against them?
Quit babying them, any tactic they see as fair game throw it back at them.
If it's good for the goose it's good for the gander.

RPG Superstar 2015 Top 8

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Apologies if I miss something or repeat something someone else has said, I am noticing people are posting to this as I type.

Frustrated wrote:

I am a GM of 10 years and numerous systems. A while ago my group ask me if I would run a Pathfinder campaign and I said I would look into it. I read the rules and said no, the game isn't balanced and you have already proven I can't trust you guys to not to have a campaign degenerate into interpersonal conflict when a game isn't balanced.

Well I did a different campaign instead, the plot lasted for 5 months and ended over the holidays. They bugged me to start a new campaign and ask to play pathfinder again and I caved.

The players made the following party and all are now level 5:

Gnome Oracle (Heavens)
Human Wizard (Necromancer)
Human Cavalier
Half Elf Rogue
Human Ranger(Guide)

The Gnome Oracle and Human Wizard are the problem. Not just in combat but I will start with that.

First, a question: what's the theme of your campaign? Is it urban, wilderness, dungeon crawl, planewalking, etc.? That might help us provide some more specific suggestions suited to your campaign (and/or highlight more why certain PCs are shining more than others).

Knowing what books you allow might be helpful too.

And finally, as someone noted--it may be worth sitting down and having a chat and asking the Oracle and Wizard--who sound like more experienced players--to tone it back and also talk to the other three players about how they can think more tactically.

Some more specific stuff follows.

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Firstly the Gnome Oracle has Charisma 22,

How and why? Was there a very generous point buy allowed or did he roll well? High point buys tend to favor SAD classes like spellcasters because they can become solid in all stats but then still be able to boost their primary stat way up. Just a note, may not be able to change it now. I suggest going light on stat boost magic items becoming available.

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Awesome Display, Eschew Materials and Improved Initiative. The majority of encounters effectively end when he casts his DC 18 -6 effective HD on the targets Colour Spray. Sure its not technically over, there are usually a few enemies not caught in its radius if the encounter is outdoors but this takes the sense of urgency out of any fight. Before you even start on the subject of using enemies that are blind or immune to mind-affecting, I already am and there are only so many of those that can be shoe horned into an adventure they don't thematic belong in. Its at the point other players have commented on only being their to knife the throats the a unconscious seizureing enemies so the Gnome doesn't need to get his hands dirty.

The "they don't thematically belong" is exactly why we need to know more about the nature of the campaign.

As others have noted, you need large numbers of mooks and terrain where everyone isn't close together so that when he casts his spell, there are a lot of foes outside the area of effect of this spell. Interestingly, this gets easier as they get higher level, because you can have a lot more creatures that add up to the party's relative CR.

Color spray is also a relatively close range spell. Make it so he has to traverse difficult terrain or provoke AOOS to get into position to cast the spell.

Having a one trick pony can prove to be problematic to the player, eventually. Depending on the campaign, there should be enemies who get wise to the fact that "the damned gnome will cast an illusion to stun everyone first." If he really is doing it all the time, the enemies should begin to be prepared. Give them potions that boost their Will save or other disposable items that give them temporary resistance versus the gnome's opening gambit. Make sure you have someone shout -- "there's the damned gnome, don't get too close, or he'll zap you with those pretty lights of his, just like he got Bob!" before they wail on him with ranged weaponry. Make it clear they know he does this all the time and his lack of creativity in fighting is becoming a liability.

(The reason I say disposable items is because you don't want to give the party an amulet that makes you immune to illusions or what have you; on the other hand, their getting a few potions of owl's wisdom isn't game breaking. Plus, disposable items are cheap and should be well within a CR 3,4, or 5's treasure allotment)

Where appropriate, foes could occasionally have their own spellcasters (or outsiders with SLAs--those can start showing up) stay out of range and target the gnome oracle's likely low Fortitude saves. And nothing stops you from giving them Improved Initiative as well.

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Secondly the Human Wizard, generally anticipates what he needs prepared in terms of utility spells but more on out of combat later.

Then you need to be more creative with the kind of "utility" that is required of the party. You mentioned the cavalier doing well outdoors, so I assume you are in the wilderness some. Start playing with weather and terrain effects --- these can create "utility" situations that the wizard shouldn't immediately be able to fix. For example, terrain that you can traverse well only if you have good Acrobatics (then the Rogue gets to shine), weather that forces a concentration check to cast spells, generally difficult situations that let the ranger take care of the party, high altitudes and extreme temperatures that force Fortitude saves, etc. etc. etc.

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He is currently in command of several Undead that made up the "immune to mind-affect" enemies the party has fought.

Correct me if I am missing something, but Control Undead (per the necromancer ability) allows you to control, per the PRD, "any number of undead, so long as their total Hit Dice do not exceed your [wizard] level." This is at most 5HD of undead. Even low level undead usually have at least 2 HD, which leaves him at most, about 2 minions. Useful, but this should not be game breaking. If they're skeletons, then 5, but 5 skeletons are 5 skeletons.

Secondly, Control Undead works as command undead, which lasts only 1 minute per level, or 5 minutes for your wizard. Assuming an Int of 18 or 20, he can attempt to Control Undead 7-8 times a day, thus for a total of at most, 40 minutes per day. Presumably once he ran out of the uses of the ability, he should not be able to command them anymore, and they would either attack the party or wander off.

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Diamond Spray, Scorching Ray and Ray of Exhaust are the only combat spells he ever bothers with.

I cannot find a spell called diamond spray in the Pathfinder rules. If you're importing broken stuff from 3.x splats, no wonder your casters are dominating. I might rethink that--at least for your next campaign. If I misunderstand this, then I apologize.

Scorching ray and ray of exhaustion are both nasty -- but especially by the party's level, there should be some foes that have high touch ACs that should make it harder for these spells to be successful. Hitting the wizard with effects that lower his attack bonus also works. Not to mention things that block line of sight.

For the former, enemies with fire resistance (again, disposable potions of resist energy should be easily available to appropriate foes) should also help keep that from being a win button. For the latter, high Fort saves should help.

The rays are also, IIRC, single target spells. Again---lots of enemies. So that even if he knocks someone down, someone should still be standing.

Also, I think doing these things shouldn't gimp the casters--just force them to come up with new strategies, which is good for everyone involved.

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Rarely has more than 2 Prepared because of how effective they are. There has been 3 instances of encounters ending on turn 2 because helpless creatures with Dex 0 can't pass Reflex Saves worth a damn due to a Colour Spray + Diamond Spray combo.

Don't know how you can work it into your campaign, but a pair of assassin vines would be an interesting fight. Again, you mentioned there were some wilderness fights, so I assume they could be in a wilderness scenario somewhere. The right CR, they have to get close to see them for what they are, by which time the casters are in range of the vines' entangle ability (which can be activated as a free action!). It will be immune to color spray (and I assume, diamond spray, whatever that is), and it has good Fort saves to reduce the effect of ray of exhaustion, and fire resistance to reduce the effectiveness of scorching rays (but it will still work, but that makes the wizard feel useful--just not as effective as usual).

It would be worth looking at constructs and oozes.

And again, if they have repeated enemies or enemies from the same organization/group, word of how they fight should spread. If the same spells are being spammed over and over again, enemies should have a chance to get wise to that and prepare accordingly.

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Out of combat the Gnome Oracle dominates social encounters given their maxed out diplomacy modifier.

Not all social encounters should come down to Diplomacy. It can help, but there should be things where Bluff, Intimidate, and Sense Motive should also be important.

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Both the Oracle and Wizard also dominate in the problem solving department between their spells and tbh being smarter than the other three players IRL.

That isn't an issue of game imbalance, that's an issue of two players being more experienced/tactically oriented than the other three. That's not something that can be fixed in game. This is where the talking comes in, both to ask the vets to back off a little and talk to the other three about how they can improve their tactics.

Maybe run an unofficial "training session" with the other three players to give them a feel of how to work together without the other two stepping on their toes. Shouldn't count as part of the main campaign, basically it's just a practice session.

Also talk to the three about what kind of challenges excite them and what they are good at, and make sure you include challenges like that in your sessions.

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The Gnome Oracle is also the best roleplayer and knows all of the best questions to ask of npcs,

"Knows all the best questions to ask NPCs" doesn't sound like "best roleplayer" to me. It sounds like best metagamer. Maybe I'm misinterpreting this, but is it appropriate for the character to be asking the questions he does, or is he using player knowledge to influence his actions? That's metagaming, and that should not be tolerated in cases like this.

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the Rogue really feel useless sharing it. The rogue is still getting the opportunity to RP but it feels redundant.

Work in some stuff with black marketeers speaking Thieves Cant (requires Bluff to understand and communicate in). Or something like that.

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The other players are asking me to do something about them being useless in combat but for the life of me I can't think of anything I have already done. Every solution to the Oracle and Wizard either makes them totally useless and/or hampers the entire party (anti-magic fields turn off the other players equipment as much as the casters spells). Having more outdoor encounters than we already have to kept AoE from beign as strong will just make people b@+$+ about the Cavalier being give to much of an advantage.

Ranger should have an advantage too, outdoors, and Rogue in a wilderness area should have room to flank and/or shoot things, so if they really feel this is a problem, again this is something that needs to be discussed -- and the three non casters need to have a long chat about improving tactics.

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Taking away the Wizard's ability to have undead minions both invalidates his character concept and taking away colour spray goes against the intended design of the Oracle class (given Awesome Display was intentionally meant to go with this spell).

You shouldn't have to have take them away, but they have in built limitations I think you are not either aware of (a la Command Undead) or using (color spray is Will negates, close range, and in a limited cone area).

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Seriously how do you people play this game with players of differing skill levels? If I just arbitrarily come down on these players I am just being a s$$$ty GM to them as much as letting it go unhindered is beign a s&++ty GM to the others.

In the worst case scenario, you have two players with a very set way of playing who are very tactical, and three different players who have a different play style and aren't very tactical. If they cannot adapt to work with each other, it might be best for you to run the group of people you are happiest running the game for, and telling the others they need to find a GM who can meet their needs more easily.


Frustrated wrote:
CourtFool wrote:

All systems favor some concepts over other concepts. When the group is of the same creative agenda, this is not much of an issue. However, when you have optimizers mixed with non-optimizers, it becomes a problem.

Discussing the issues with everyone should help. Are the non-optimizers not optimizing because they do not know the system well enough? Ask the others to help them out. Do they have specific concepts in mind? Again, ask the others to help them meet their concept and stay relevant. Do they have some other reason for not wanting to optimize? See if all of you can find some common ground where everyone can enjoy the game.

We have had this problem before more than once and we have talked about it ad nauseum. The one of the players sucks at optimization and never budges on character concepts, two are OK and have played 3.5 for years but b&#&+ easily when out shined. They have both played casters before and don't care when they are doing it but if they have a non-caster concept they want to play they expect other people to tone down their casters for them when they wont do it for others. The last two are just too good at character optimization, they do it without even trying, I've seen them make extremely powerful characters in 5 different systems within a few hours of picking up the books for the first time and tbh I am with them in terms of skill level.

TBH The only reason myself and the two optimizers play with the others is because we have tried 2 player 1 GM campaigns in a few systems and it always sucks. The two hypocrits are our friends and generally don't suck as bad as they have in this campaign, in Vampire, Eclipse Phase and 4e we don't have any of these problems. The Ranger's player has been kicked out of the group several times for his attitude but eventually we let him back when short on people.

So to sum up yout posts , "I have two players that are good and create amasing character that are good in and out of combat and the other players suck at the game. Please help me nerf the good players so that they are as bad ".

and to sum up the other post.

" create situation and encounter designed to screw them ".

Dont waste their time is my sujestion. Let them know you going to repeatedly screw them until the make fighters and only take skill focus dancing.

Player breakdown
guy who wont budge on concept - Its his fault hes geting outshined
the two ok players - need to learn to build better
the two good players - are doing it right and about to be smacked down.


not screw them "challenge" them.

The Exchange

Tagion wrote:
So to sum up yout posts , "I have two players that are good and create amasing character that are good in and out of combat and the other players suck at the game. Please help me nerf the good players so that they are as bad "...

Frustrated came to the Advice forum for advice, Tagion. If you don't have any advice, why did you post?


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I do. Dont try to nerf players for creating good character because the rest of your group sucks


2 people marked this as a favorite.

Well one thing I have learned is you can't change people. If people like b%^&*ing then they will. No amount of sympathy or fixing of problems will stop it for long before they find something new to b%^&* about. It's how they were brought up to act and it's how they influence others. The most effective tactic I have employed against such people is silence. Ignore them when they b%^&*. Another tactic if they are better friends is to admonish them for being hurtful over a simple game.


Talk to them and explain why they are causing a problem for you ,
and if that don't work just hit them with a large fireball


The Saltmarsh 6 wrote:

Talk to them and explain why they are causing a problem for you ,

and if that don't work just hit them with a large fireball

Or just tell them to intentionally do poorly or your going to kill them.


Why are there characters good because they kill stuff


In the OP he said the oracle domminates with spells and out of combat with very high diplomacy and cha. In other words are very well designed character with abilities to help with anything the party is doing.


Tagion, you seem a tad bitter. Do you need a hug?


1 person marked this as a favorite.

nah. thanks though. Your right though , it hits a nerve when I see posts saying help me punish these guys for not being a horrible at the game as the people around them. sorry , go on.

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