Character Building - Min / Max or Story?


Pathfinder Society

Grand Lodge

As a new player in the PFS, I am already noticing something that seemed a little off to me. I know character creation can be a very personal thing, and the way a character is played the same. I have noticed, however, that the characters I have interacted with seem to be nothing more than Min/Maxed Skill or killing machines. Sure, they have had some interesting names and ideas behind the characters, but the skill selections and stat allotments seem to be with one goal; getting the highest possible bonus so that the chance for failure is minimal.

As a GM, I have always had my players build characters that were story driven. There may have been one stat that was really high - when using rolling methods - but rarely a 17 or 18. As a player, I tend to try to build interesting characters, maybe a character who is rising the challenge of being an adventurer, and allot my stats accordingly. I actually had a player seem surprised that my cleric, at level 1, had a 15 Wis and 14 Con. He was truly baffled at why I wouldn't have chosen to spend more points to get one or the other higher.

This confuses me. I may be misunderstanding, but I thought the point of the PFS Campaign was a collective RPing community playing through the same scenarios. It appears, at least at this point, that it is more like creating a character on WoW or some other video game with the sole purpose of crushing combat and moving on to the next.

So, I am curious. Is Min/Maxing characters something that is common place or even recommended for PFS? Or is thins something that people are doing as their particular play style?

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

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Welcome to the Society!

Bael Hefthammer wrote:
I have noticed, however, that the characters I have interacted with seem to be nothing more than Min/Maxed Skill or killing machines. Sure, they have had some interesting names and ideas behind the characters, but the skill selections and stat allotments seem to be with one goal; getting the highest possible bonus so that the chance for failure is minimal.

Is it that they're nothing more than min-maxed machines, or that you haven't had occasion to see anything else about them? I've got quite a thoroughly-developed backstory for my cleric, and he's about to hit 6th level with no one having any idea what his deal is. If you played with him, you'd probably just chalk him up as another mechanical build and never know that he hails from Tian Xia, why he came to the Inner Sea, or that he's operating under a pseudonym.

So careful with the assumptions. ;)

Quote:
As a GM, I have always had my players build characters that were story driven. There may have been one stat that was really high - when using rolling methods - but rarely a 17 or 18. As a player, I tend to try to build interesting characters, maybe a character who is rising the challenge of being an adventurer, and allot my stats accordingly.

Do keep in mind that canon for the campaign is that all of our characters spent at least three years in boot camp training as cadets before becoming Pathfinder field agents. Thus, most PCs will be built as someone who could graduate that (and would want to in the first place).

Quote:
I actually had a player seem surprised that my cleric, at level 1, had a 15 Wis and 14 Con. He was truly baffled at why I wouldn't have chosen to spend more points to get one or the other higher.

This, I think, has less to do with min-maxing and more to do with assumptions people make about casters. See, lots of people just sort of assume that if you're a spellcaster, your casting stat is a top priority. They don't stop to think about how it actually works, and fail to realize that if you're casting things like bull's strength and lesser restoration (instead of fireball or create pit), there's literally zero advantage to having an 18-20 instead of a 14. People have a really hard time breaking out of the "But but but but casting staaaat!" mindset. I run into it all the time, especially since making my cleric (who, similar to yours, started with a 13 CON and 15 WIS). C'est la vie, I suppose.

Quote:
So, I am curious. Is Min/Maxing characters something that is common place or even recommended for PFS? Or is thins something that people are doing as their particular play style?

PFS is made to accommodate lots of playstyles. After all, the whole point is to get lots of different people playing Pathfinder. We can't build a community if we wall off your games from people who play differently.

As for whether min-maxing is "recommended for PFS", that depends on where you draw the line of "min-maxing". Remembering the campaign canon I mentioned, it makes the most sense if your character can make some reasonable contribution in combat (which can include other things besides dealing lots of damage, such as slowing down the bad guys, buffing your allies, healing, etc) such that the higher-ups in the (in-game) Society wouldn't have to be crazy to graduate you. On the other hand, some members of the peanut gallery will *think* you're not helpful just because you didn't have a 20 in a stat at 1st level. Just like sometimes people think my cleric isn't helpful because I'm chopping down bad guys instead of standing behind the fighter with a bunch of cure spells prepped.

Sometimes you just gotta smile and nod and keep being awesome, even if others don't understand. ;)

Grand Lodge

Everyones experience varies.

There are SOME characters I build for proof of concept - how does X class, interact with Y Feats/Traits to perform Z outcome.

For some characters its spell casting (building a good summoner), for others combat excellence (Aldori) etc.

Those characters I build for crunch.

There are other characters I play for fun and for RP concepts (investigator of dark tapestry/cults for example). I try to make them 'effective' however because if I am playing complete crap the rest of the party has to carry me.

In PFS play I've seen extreme munchikinism, and I've seen people play stuff like Barbarians with 15 Charisma and 14 Intelligence. Ideally people play what they will find 'fun'.

That said? PFS is an 'episodal' experience - you may be playing with people with whom you have never met and will never play with again - they don't give a flying toss about your page of backstory and your characters inner angst over a failed oath/relationship/challenge. Its a 3-4 hour session where there's about enough time to focus on the story and plot of the adventure at hand. Your RP may amuse and entertain but its only what the other players see during that time and there isn't time for long expositions.

Should you 'Role Play'? Sure - if it makes you happy. I simplify it somewhat - I like my characters to have mannerisms, personality quirks and a moral code that I bring to the table along with the sheet but I do it to amuse myself - if it entertains others, great but I don't go deep. There isn't much point.

I am also aware that its a team activity - that means I try to be a good 'citizen'. It means having my own healing, bringing resources, skills and solutions to the table rather than being a player who just sits there asking 'can I roll to hit now?' and then justs burns oxygen for the non combat time and expects other players to spend resources to keep them in the game.

For other players PFS is a tactical challenge that they approach differently. There is a clear 'win' to the PFS experience unlike what you will see in home campaign play so a lot of players like to win - get their 2prestige points, 1xp pile of gold and not die. It changes play style a bit.

I suppose my advice to you is try different venues and groups and players - you'll see that players and playing styles DO change and everyone has a different approach. The Role Players are out there but I think PFS play does encourage a 'beat the scenario' mentality that does see more than its fair share optimisation resulting from the set up of PFS play.


First, 10 is an average stat. So assigning 14 13 13 13 13 13 would be a guy slightly better at everything than his neighbor, but was not near as good at specific tasks as any one of the other 1000 neighbors in town. Not really a compelling character for a hero type. I am Mr. Slightly Above Average Man!

Reading a story about someone who is just good at everything is boring. He has no flaws, other than he is just a little good at everything. . .

Conversely, 5 14 14 12 8 20 (halfling) is a weak, small, healthy, agile, character with poor impulse control, but one heck of a personality.

just based on that description, I think I would rather read a story about #2.
===========================================================
Pick your favorite comic/television/movie hero type, and then stat him up with 20 points. See what you come up with.

Example: Here is my idea of what Dr. Horrible (Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog) would look like on paper:

07 Str. Like most science geeks, the gym is a low priority. Always getting beaten up.
14 Dex. Pretty nimble on the keypad to save his girl
14 Con. Recovers well when the corporate tool konks him.
20 Int. Builds transporters and freeze rays!
08 Wis. Bad impulse control. that is why he is kinda sorta a villain.
09 Cha. Not completely useless in social situations, but lacks the power and confidence to ask out the love of his life.

Great character. Compelling character. Min/maxed character. Optimized character.
===========================================================
Conclusion:

Good design and good story are not mutually exclusive. Just as you dislike playing with characters with poor story and great builds; many dislike poor builds regardless of the back story. You are best off combining the two. Build a mechanically sound character with a compelling story.

Grand Lodge

Jiggy wrote:
Welcome to the Society!

Thanks.

Quote:


Is it that they're nothing more than min-maxed machines...

I think it is just a playstyle I am not used to. And, the characters in question were most definitely min/maxed. It was brought up to me that certain skills are useless as they have not been used in scenarios, so putting points in those skills isnt worth doing.

As far as the boot camp thing, I understand that. I think I am just too oldschool, and it will take some time to break that for me. I was under the impression, again oldschool, that 10 is average. Anything above 10 is above average, so haveing 12, 14, 13, 15, 12, 13 is a great set of stats based on average vs above average. Several of the characters mentioned to me at the session, when I was chatting after the game, had stats of 8's and 9's to offset 17's and 18's. Difference of opinions I suppose.

I agree that it takes all kinds of s players to make up a community, and I was not meaning to sound like I was dogging or belittling anyone. We all have our own ways of doing things. Some mesh, and some don't. I was just trying to get more information on things so I can decide if PFS is going to be for me or not.

5/5 ⦵⦵⦵

This is a false dichotomy, often refered to in gaming circles as the stormwind fallacy.

Whether you role play your character or not is completely independent of whether he's as well rounded as a bowling ball or as specialized as a panda bear. You, the player, are what put heart soul and depth into the character as they're being played: not when you make the character. Nothing is less interesting about a character because they start with a 20. Nothing is more interesting about a character because you diversified their stats.

With that said, there are a number of barriers to role playing in pfs. Not insurmountable ones, but ones none the less.

-Time. The scenarios are supposed to take 4 hours to play, but that assumes a minimal amount of time being set up,moderately optimized characters, a moderately optimized party, no late people, montey python jokes, looking up rules, convention games... and role playing. Often there just isn't enough time to have an extended conversation with the npcs, kill the baddies AND woo the princess (unless its a faction mission)

-Number of players: PFS tables tend to be large. A 4 person group will role play a LOT more than a 6 or 7 person table one.

-Venue: I have a hard time role playing at large conventions just because i have to shout to make myself heard and i can barely hear the dm. In a gaming store you might be worried about scaring the muggles.

-Customization: In a home game, the dm either tailors the scenario for you or creates it for you out of whole cloth. If you're playing a character that was scarred by fire as a child you may get a chance to rescue people from a burning building, if your character has a phobia of snakes he can drop you into a pit full of them because he's a bas... because thats drama! For PFS you're sort of at the whim of random chance as to whether or not it comes up.

-Knowing the other players: Knowing the difference between a hilarious in character quip and a comment thats going to upset another player usually requires knowing the person: which you don't always do at a pfs setting.

5/5 ⦵⦵⦵

Jiggy wrote:
Do keep in mind that canon for the campaign is that all of our characters spent at least three years in boot camp training as cadets before becoming Pathfinder field agents. Thus, most PCs will be built as someone who could graduate that (and would want to in the first place).

They're moving away from that as an in character requirement and more of a come as you are approach linky

Grand Lodge

Bael Hefthammer wrote:


As far as the boot camp thing, I understand that. I think I am just too oldschool, and it will take some time to break that for me. I was under the impression, again oldschool, that 10 is average. Anything above 10 is above average, so haveing 12, 14, 13, 15, 12, 13 is a great set of stats based on average vs above average. Several of the characters mentioned to me at the session, when I was chatting after the game, had stats of 8's and 9's to offset 17's and 18's. Difference of opinions I suppose.

I think you and I would get along great - I like low powered 15pt play (eqiv of moderate rolls of 4d6, drop the lowest IIRC) and in some games a 16 is a 'wow - not bad' stat... 18s are rare.

PFS builds are 20pts. It gives you an '18' with not a lot of effort after racial bonuses and still gives you decent stats (for example 16 costs 10 pts and 5 sets of 12 would be 10 more points for a total of 20). It gives you a different character make up.

edit - Look at the Core rules - your NPCs are build on 13,12,11,10,9,8 (3pt build) so you are right - 14s and 15s are good. But this 20 pt build allows for a greater differentation from the base line population.*

*for my home games I make NPCs 5pt builds and give them an extra 2pts somewhere in their stat blocks

Sovereign Court

It depends on who you play with as well. Some memorable PC's I have encountered.

I swear my mom was human - tie fling shadow dancer.
Sorry you are just a familiar and that teddy bear is the real pathfinder. - Gnome summoner
Hi I'm father Ale, I mean Al - drunken cleric improvised weapon stein.
Yes I'm a dancer but not that kind! - Bard
And you say criminal as if its a bad thing - Arcane trickster (szarni)

I think one item I don't see (sometimes) at PFS is the introduction phase for each character at the start of the game.

Grand Lodge

Helaman wrote:


I think you and I would get along great - I like low powered 15pt play (eqiv of moderate rolls of 4d6, drop the lowest IIRC) and in some games a 16 is a 'wow - not bad' stat... 18s are rare.

Heh, well, if you are ever in the Asheville area, let me know. Maybe we can get a game together! :D

Grand Lodge

Sydney Australia :)

Grand Lodge

Helaman wrote:
Sydney Australia :)

Hrmm.. I have always wanted to visit Australia. I think my books and dice would fit in my carry-on lol

Grand Lodge

Righty_ wrote:

It depends on who you play with as well. Some memorable PC's I have encountered.

I swear my mom was human - tiefling shadow dancer.
Sorry you are just a familiar and that teddy bear is the real pathfinder. - Gnome summoner
Hi I'm father Ale, I mean Al - drunken cleric improvised weapon stein.
Yes I'm a dancer but not that kind! - Bard
And you say criminal as if its a bad thing - Arcane trickster (szarni)

I think one item I don't see (sometimes) at PFS is the introduction phase for each character at the start of the game.

Love it.

I try to use a name plate holder (like you use at conferences or business meetings that has the name and a blurb or character description on it.

Example: Valdrim Archedrast - Lawyer of the firm 'Wolf, Ram and Hart'. Specialist in contracts Mundane and 'Diabolical'.

Generally that gets people's attention and captures both the Chelish vibe and the characters background.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Bael Hefthammer wrote:
I was under the impression, again oldschool, that 10 is average. Anything above 10 is above average, so haveing 12, 14, 13, 15, 12, 13 is a great set of stats based on average vs above average. Several of the characters mentioned to me at the session, when I was chatting after the game, had stats of 8's and 9's to offset 17's and 18's. Difference of opinions I suppose.

Both methods work, actually. For instance, I have an Eldritch Knight who started with both a 17 and a 7, and he's done well. I also have a cleric who was rocking a 16/14/13/12/15/10 spread at first level and he's doing great too. I personally enjoyed the challenge of building an effective generalist with no dump stats, as it's more difficult than building a specialist (so much so that there are plenty of players who think it can't be done).

Both the 20/7 guy and the 12-15 guy can be great additions to the team, if their players are there to have fun. :)

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

BigNorseWolf wrote:
Jiggy wrote:
Do keep in mind that canon for the campaign is that all of our characters spent at least three years in boot camp training as cadets before becoming Pathfinder field agents. Thus, most PCs will be built as someone who could graduate that (and would want to in the first place).

They're moving away from that as an in character requirement and more of a come as you are approach linky

Interesting! Thanks for the info!

Grand Lodge

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To everyone who has offered up opinions and such here, I want to thank you. I think, having been a DM/GM for too long, I have painted myself into a corner and become too comfortable in my own ways. I am going to attempt to open my mind a bit, and look at it like I think I should. The game is here for fun.. whether it be a character that is a generalist or a specialist, as long as my fellow players are having fun, that is all that matters.

So, with that in mind, I think I am going to make the second character in my first character's back story, his brother Bael. I am going to look at making him a little more specialized as a fighter type, and see what comes up.

Thanks again for all the opinions, and I mean that. Sometimes, a strangers perspective can help shape your own!

Cheers

Sovereign Court

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"Shoanti Tribeswoman

First, 10 is an average stat. So assigning 14 13 13 13 13 13 would be a guy slightly better at everything than his neighbor, but was not near as good at specific tasks as any one of the other 1000 neighbors in town. Not really a compelling character for a hero type. I am Mr. Slightly Above Average Man!"

"Average Man or Woman"

Stats do not make a good role player. A good RPGer is someone who can play a character capable of doing her job. If a player "min/maxes" a PC that is the nature of a game with varying abilities. In PFS we choose stats from a High Fantasy point block. We are encouraged to do so. We are success oriented, and the rules support this.

In PFS you are a member of a team of varying abilities. Your team lives or dies depending upon your ability to perform. If the team is lacking essential skills, then you are sunk before you slide down the way. If your interest is an unusual character with a rich background and personal history that is fantastic. Play your character accordingly. Fantasy literature (Hell, real life!) is full of average people doing above average things. Do you honestly think a Fire Fighter is superman? Do you think the first cop at the New York school shooting was over whelmed? What did she do? She entered the school and started searching for the shooter, heedless of her own safety. When she found a live kid, standing amongst a pile of dead bodies what did she do? She searched on, knowing the shooter was there, somewhere. Tough decision - yup. Did she/he have an "S" on their chest? Did they have an 18 dex or 20 strength? Probably not. Chances are that officer had a pot belly after years of bad food, years of stress, too much coffee, and not enough sleep. What about the first Paramedic on that school shooting - how many patients and only two hands. How about the "average" bus wreck or rollover Motor Vehicle Accident with van full of critical patients spread all over 1/4 mile of freeway. Talk about stressful! Unless you have been there you cannot understand what it feels like.

My point? Average stats does not mean a character has to be superman, but a lot can be accomplished by the average "guy" doing extraordinary things. It is a game - play it for fun, play it to win, play it to survive to the next encounter. Do your best, it is all anyone can ask. If you choose to emphasize role-playing over combat feats, okay; but please at least bring a sword and use average tactics to support your party. A perfectly role played character with personalized gestures a perfect astroasian middle Slombovian accent is great - but bring a crossbow for chrissakes! Use the damn thing. Bad RPG is rewarded with death and lack of experience. Self rectifying, huh?

EDIT: Oops, got off on a bit of a rant! Apologies.

Sovereign Court 5/5 Venture-Captain, West Virginia—Charleston aka Netopalis

Just to chime in here, I agree with the idea that this is a false dichotomy - I think the trick is to start with an interesting character concept, then pick a useful combat built to go along with it, maybe making a few sacrifices along the way for things that will help you out.

A great example of this is my newest character, Adrian Quinn, a hardboiled detective. He's a gunslinger with a level of Urban Ranger. Gunslingers can be quite powerful, and I can usually be pretty effective with him in combat. He's also got some fun RP moments (he tends to do the film noir monologue bit), and has 16 skills above +5. For a level 2, that's not bad.

Dark Archive

Helaman we should make a law firm together. Mine was the law offices of Asmodeus Dralneen and Meridoc. Public defenders, contracts, and class actions. Serving Golarion since planet all and beyond. Here at ADM we are happy to help. We care about YOU and WHERE you are going.

No crime too heinous, no fee too high.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

The ideas are, in theory, a false dichotomy. But, as the saying goes, there's no difference between theory and practice, in theory.

There are players who can pull off the optimizing and coming up with an interesting character. And then there are players who cannot. There are simply players who don't have the time or ability to do both and, it has been my experience, those players outnumber the ones who can do both to the point that it's not impractical to bring up the dichotomy. Though perhaps we should call it more a difference in primary development strategies.

Ultimately, with tables of players being built from scratch, there's a premium put on being able to contribute with any motley crew of PCs. While building for total self-sufficiency may seem like a useful strategy in that case (as if you'd adventure alone), it tends to be better to specialize and stake out that area within the party rather than hope you're 2nd or 3rd best at everything.

The other thing I'd like to add is, with scratch built groups, subtle elements of your character are unlikely to make an impression. More subtle, long term elements may work great for a home game with a stable group of players, but no single group is around long enough at PFS convention events to notice. So go simpler on the impressions if you really want to make one with your character.

Grand Lodge

Meridoc wrote:

Helaman we should make a law firm together. Mine was the law offices of Asmodeus Dralneen and Meridoc. Public defenders, contracts, and class actions. Serving Golarion since planet all and beyond. Here at ADM we are happy to help. We care about YOU and WHERE you are going.

No crime too heinous, no fee too high.

I would but the Non-Compete clause at the home office is 'deadly'


I once had a dm call me a min maxer because my kender rogue was not useless in a fight and did not fail saving throws to get away with ridiculously dangerous stunts.

I still laugh about that.

In pfs your character should be effective at whatever they do. Otherwise why would you be in the society. This doesn't mean min max. It means competent.

Grand Lodge 5/5 Regional Venture-Coordinator, Great Lakes aka TwilightKnight

BigNorseWolf wrote:
...there are a number of barriers to role playing in pfs. Not insurmountable ones, but ones none the less

BigNorseWolf has a good position on this subject. Everyone has a different play-style that was largely developed by the games they played with their friends. Going into organized play exposes us to an endless supply of alternate methodology and styles and, IMO, makes everyone a better gamer. Min/Max vs. story does not have to me mutually exclusive build concepts. You can blend them to be effective in both areas. This topic becomes much more viral the more you migrate to one side or the other, but even still, we have to remember that everyone experiences, and derives fun from different aspects of the game.

The nature of OP is such that the scenario/adventure is not tailored to your PC like a "home" game is. Combine that with the often restricted time frame and you don't get many, if any, chances to reveal your PC's cool backstory. They become a personification of their stat block.

IMO, a home-game is about the characters. Their choices, assuming the GM is flexible, completely control the direction of the campaign. In PFS, however, it is more about the story, and the characters are somewhat relegated to experiencing it rather than controlling it. For many players, this mean building characters that have an increased level of survival, call it min/max, powergaming, etc. This might be a simplistic view, but it has some level of merit. As long as the individual player espouses the the most important tenet of PFS, COOPERATION!, it doesn't matter what style you use.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

Bob Jonquet wrote:
They become a personification of their stat block.

Or to be more precise, they become seen as a personification of their stat block. You can totally roleplay your backstory, you just have to make your peace with being the only person who will ever know that you did so. You will be the only person who knows the real reason you CdG'd the human necromancer but tried to befriend the evil goblin. You'll be the only one who knows that failing to ever use your bite attack except in one specific encounter was a decision rather than mere forgetfulness. And so forth.

If your roleplaying is for your own enjoyment and not dependent upon the other players, suddenly there's a LOT of room for roleplaying your backstory. :)

4/5

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Pathfinder Starfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
BigNorseWolf wrote:

This is a false dichotomy, often refered to in gaming circles as the stormwind fallacy.

Whether you role play your character or not is completely independent of whether he's as well rounded as a bowling ball or as specialized as a panda bear. You, the player, are what put heart soul and depth into the character as they're being played: not when you make the character. Nothing is less interesting about a character because they start with a 20. Nothing is more interesting about a character because you diversified their stats.

With that said, there are a number of barriers to role playing in pfs. Not insurmountable ones, but ones none the less.

-Time. The scenarios are supposed to take 4 hours to play, but that assumes a minimal amount of time being set up,moderately optimized characters, a moderately optimized party, no late people, montey python jokes, looking up rules, convention games... and role playing. Often there just isn't enough time to have an extended conversation with the npcs, kill the baddies AND woo the princess (unless its a faction mission)

-Number of players: PFS tables tend to be large. A 4 person group will role play a LOT more than a 6 or 7 person table one.

-Venue: I have a hard time role playing at large conventions just because i have to shout to make myself heard and i can barely hear the dm. In a gaming store you might be worried about scaring the muggles.

-Customization: In a home game, the dm either tailors the scenario for you or creates it for you out of whole cloth. If you're playing a character that was scarred by fire as a child you may get a chance to rescue people from a burning building, if your character has a phobia of snakes he can drop you into a pit full of them because he's a bas... because thats drama! For PFS you're sort of at the whim of random chance as to whether or not it comes up.

-Knowing the other players: Knowing the difference between a hilarious in character quip and a comment thats going to upset another player usually requires...

This pretty much sums it up.

When developing PFS characters, I no longer develop a backstory. Nobody hears your backstory but you. What I develop is a personality that I can bring to the table. While I may have a set of things that are highlight moments of a character's life, I don't bring those to the table. I bring the actions that are informed by those experiences.

If PFS played more like a home game, I might be inclined to build a more backstory-heavy character. Unfortunately, when I'm playing in PFS, I have to respect the environment of play and that means I have to realize that there is a limited amount of non-encounter time and adjust appropriately to allow everyone to have some of it.

5/5 ⦵⦵⦵

Also, another huge factor...

Continuity

You don't play with the same characters all the time. So something you do or hint at in 1 adventure, and then do again may look completely unrelated to each other because the other folks at the table don't see both acts.

For example, my Roguey druid Doyle travels with a stash of pathfinder chronicles (they're stated out in the iswg as mw knowledge tools) in a bag of holding. In one adventure he hands someone a chronicle collection for Architecture and engineering for a +2 bonus. In another a fellow PC was a local sports star celebrity, and Doyle had him sign the knowledge: local chronicle. In another adventure he asks an NPC to sign a chronicle about her and uses the opportunity to slip her something.

Doyle does this because he's an ascended fanboy: he grew up reading the pathfinder chronicles and still has minor "Squeee" moments at meeting "real" pathfinders. No one would know that just from playing though because those incidents were with different groups. In a home game you would see the whole picture, in pfs you usually don't.

Scarab Sages 5/5

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Griff always makes time for his fans! Just make sure to eat your tasty cakes, always part of the balanced breakfast of champions.

Grand Lodge 5/5 Regional Venture-Coordinator, Great Lakes aka TwilightKnight

BigNorseWolf wrote:

Also, another huge factor...

Continuity

Thanks for the laugh BNW, had me on the floor :-D

Grand Lodge

Bob Jonquet wrote:
BigNorseWolf wrote:

Also, another huge factor...

Continuity

Thanks for the laugh BNW, had me on the floor :-D

Great!

Grand Lodge 2/5

There have already been some pretty good answers already. Some things that I might have said, had someone not said them first:

1. Role-playing vs. numerical maximization is a false dichotomy. It is possible to have an effective AND characterful character, or you could have a ineffective AND dull character.

2. There are some oddities about a living campaign that inhibit some of the long-scale storylines that might come up in a home campaign (unless you just fill in that stuff in your head, for your own entertainment).

When I set out to make a character, particularly for PFS or some other living campaign, I ask myself:

1. What can my character contribute in combat? You know there are going to be fights. You don't have to be crazy optimized but make sure you can do something useful when the fighting breaks out. Have a plan B if you run into a fight where your usual thing doesn't work (e.g. when your pyromancer runs into a creature that resists fire).

2. What can your character contribute outside of combat? You can't possibly be good at all the skills, but be able to list a couple of situations where you can say "if the party runs into X, Y or Z type challenges, I'm going to (one of) the best at dealing with that." Given that you can't always count on who else will be at your table in PFS, I'd argue that being good at a couple of things is better than being ridiculous at one thing and hoping your companions can cover the rest.

3. What makes this character distinctive? People don't necessarily want to spend game time listening to your 5 minute monologue, or reading pages of your backstory, but give your characters at least one thing to set them apart from a numerically similar character. People should be able to remember "this is the tiefling rogue who talks like a British gentleman" and "that's the tiefling rogue who wont drink a drop of alcohol" rather than just thinking of similar characters as Thing 1 and Thing 2.

I feel that's helped me make pretty reasonable characters, but then again everybody probably thinks their level of optimization and role-playing is the best way :-)

Grand Lodge 3/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Washington—Southwest aka Socalwarhammer

I guess it is time for to comment on this thread, albeit much later than when it originated.

I have been a consistent PFS player for about a year and having come from nearly 25 years of D&D and in more recent years Pathfinder, I do find that many (but not all) of the folks I have met through my local PFS events can best be defined as Min/Max'ers (M&M). Such as, the Paladin with a 7 Intelligence and Wisdom, in order to max out Strength and Charisma. Not to mention the Tiefling Cross-blooded Sorcerer with the Celestial & Undead bloodlines, again with a 7 intelligence.

I have joyously played the 16 Strength Dwarven Fighter, who sported no stat lower than 10 (Charisma and Intelligence), only to be effectively sidelined by the uber-builds. While I have sat and played in some fairly homogenous groups, of like minded players and have found the situation very rewarding, this was too often the exception, not the rule.

In addition, when the 5 Charisma, 7 Intelligence and 9 wisdom Dwarven Barbarian discusses and develops detailed, thoughtful and tactically brilliant battle-plans, I think the Role-playing aspect of the game dies and becomes a video game, with just pen, paper and dice as a mechanic.

In closing, stats need to mean something other than just being reservoirs of points to be gutted in order to max out an uber stat build. They need to help represent the actually abilities of the character, and not be ignored by a player. Good GM's must be encouraged to help players 'feel' the negatives of a M&M build during game play. Thoughts and opinions are welcome.

Silver Crusade

If you make your character mechanically inept, you will likely not get past tier 8-9/10-11 without running out of prestige/cash. Unless you are in a set play group being carried by power builds.

As has been pointed out, there is no reason you can't do both. Stormwind fallacy and all that.

5/5

It is as easy as - a player can do one, both or neither.

It is really up to the player to develop their roleplaying skills along with their system mastery. A player's can have an easy time or hard time developing either of those skills based on their own natural inclinations, habits or abilities.

Sometimes it takes outside motivation to cause a player to gain the desire to improve their roleplaying or character building skills, because they have finally played with someone else that makes those particular skills appealing.

Bottom line - play the way you want to play, but do it well enough to make others want to play in the same manner.

Shadow Lodge 3/5

I'd recommend what other posters have said, which is do a blend. You don't want to be wildly ineffective but you don't want to faceroll everything. In general PFS is very very easy with regards to combat, I've seen people almost solo entire scenarios with two or even one character. Also sadly yes back-story doesn't come up as much, but character personality does so you can create back-story and use that to influence your characters personality. :)

In PFS you need a balance, if you can't help at higher levels that's going to be boring for you and may possibly hinder the group. If on the other hand you're so good (again, not difficult in PFS) that you annihilate everything with impunity then the rest of the group may be bored and not want to play with said character again (seen it happen a lot). I've even seen people make characters and deliberately pull their punches so as to let other people do stuff, so there's always that option. Although it's weird when someone does that then when combat starts to go bad all of a sudden they obliterate everything. lol

Silver Crusade

Felix Gaunt wrote:

I'd recommend what other posters have said, which is do a blend. You don't want to be wildly ineffective but you don't want to faceroll everything. In general PFS is very very easy with regards to combat, I've seen people almost solo entire scenarios with two or even one character. Also sadly yes back-story doesn't come up as much, but character personality does so you can create back-story and use that to influence your characters personality. :)

In PFS you need a balance, if you can't help at higher levels that's going to be boring for you and may possibly hinder the group. If on the other hand you're so good (again, not difficult in PFS) that you annihilate everything with impunity then the rest of the group may be bored and not want to play with said character again (seen it happen a lot). I've even seen people make characters and deliberately pull their punches so as to let other people do stuff, so there's always that option. Although it's weird when someone does that then when combat starts to go bad all of a sudden they obliterate everything. lol

Your statement becomes less true at higher tier because NPC HD scales non-linearly with PC level, and therefore CR. Most combats are pretty dangerous to say the least at tier 10-11. And dpr becomes valuable, because many NPCs have abilites that burn parties down if they are not neutralized quickly.

Something like a single glabrezu would not be a huge problem for my homebrew party at level 10, but that group is like a machine. In PFS, throwing random builds together gets more and more dangerous.


Why is it whenever people talk about 'cheesy build' or 'min maxing' all that is often mentioned is ability scores? I mean clearly a Pathfinder Field Agent is not just the sum of what he was born with but also the training and experience they've obtained. I think that any character with a dump stat (a marked and obvious flaw) that makes it into the chronicles is something spectacular. A clever build that enables a character to contribute to the health and safety of his teammates is not a bad thing. I have often sat at tables where my 'optimized' Barbarian was more than welcome because of that. And a pat on the back to anyone who found an interesting combination of feats, archetypes, classes, spells and/or magic items that let’s their character do something unexpected and amazing.

Silver Crusade

Because ability scores are the starting point of min/maxing and the easiest to discuss.

Yes, we could talk about how dervish dance builds dominate the magus class, etc.

At the end of the day, due to the mathematics of the system, wanting to survive CR 13 encounters often means being able to break CR 5 encounters while leveling up. If PCs were like Eidolons and got a free rebuild every level, this wouldn't have to be true, but since choices build on one another, we are a bit stuck.

Shadow Lodge 3/5

David Bowles wrote:

Your statement becomes less true at higher tier because NPC HD scales non-linearly with PC level, and therefore CR. Most combats are pretty dangerous to say the least at tier 10-11. And dpr becomes valuable, because many NPCs have abilites that burn parties down if they are not neutralized quickly.

Something like a single glabrezu would not be a huge problem for my homebrew party at level 10, but that group is like a machine. In PFS, throwing random builds together gets more and more dangerous.

In general PFS is easy, yes it's gotten harder with each subsequent seasons, but I can count on one hand how many 10-11 I've played\GM'd that I thought were even remotely difficult. I suppose if they threw in like you said a Glabrezu in 10-11's with moderately frequency it'd be different, but that seems a bit rare. I'm looking at a late Season 10-11 now that I'm going to run and a level 10 PC that I just GM'd for could probably kill the BBEG in one round without breaking a sweat. That's not to say there aren't tough scenarios out there, there are, they are just extremely few and far between.

PFS will never ever be difficult for someone who twinks out their character, whereas in home game you can customize things to keep it interesting and competitive for your party, PFS alas doesn't have that luxury. PFS is working at a handicap so adjust accordingly. :-P

In essence it's about balance, no need to go full bore with the twinking. Just make something competent and fun and it's all good. :-)


Socalwarhammer wrote:
I have been a consistent PFS player for about a year and having come from nearly 25 years of D&D and in more recent years Pathfinder, I do find that many (but not all) of the folks I have met through my local PFS events can best be defined as Min/Max'ers (M&M).

Mm-hm.

Socalwarhammer wrote:
In addition, when the 5 Charisma, 7 Intelligence and 9 wisdom Dwarven Barbarian discusses and develops detailed, thoughtful and tactically brilliant battle-plans, I think the Role-playing aspect of the game dies and becomes a video game, with just pen, paper and dice as a mechanic.

Hm? You don't say.

I can see why it took ten months to come up with that, I'd never heard these sentiments expressed before.

As far as your specific example, part of "role-playing" is that your character, in-game, has no knowledge of the other character's stats. That dwarf barbarian of your example, despite being apparently a dunce, is pretty brilliant tactically, whether by intuition, natural talent, dumb luck, or hard-won experience. It sounds like you think "My character in the game has the highest intelligence" equates to "Other players at the table are not allowed to express their ideas."

Shadow Lodge

If you want to make your character a good gardener, would you make it the best gardener you could, or a crappy gardener? Unless your character's "story" is to be bad at everything, your "story" character should maximize his strengths and minimize his weaknesses just like the so-called powergamers you complain about.

Your ability to make an effective character, and your ability to make a character with a well-rounded backstory, goals, etc. are not mutually exclusive. Please don't insult those of us who do not ascribe to that fallacy by claiming that our characters are somehow less valid than yours because we want them to be good at what they do.

Grand Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber
Jiggy wrote:
Do keep in mind that canon for the campaign is that all of our characters spent at least three years in boot camp training as cadets before becoming Pathfinder field agents. Thus, most PCs will be built as someone who could graduate that (and would want to in the first place).

If you reference the Pathfinder Society Primer, you'd see that that's ONE option. The other is that of Field Recruitment. The choice of background determines what feats in that section you may qualify for.

Grand Lodge 3/5 Venture-Lieutenant, Washington—Southwest aka Socalwarhammer

@Sacrcomancer, despite your obviously pithy comments, that was not the only point I expressed. I waited for quite a while to form my opinion(s) of what I observed after attending numerous events at different locations. To have done it sooner, would have been disingenuous and premature.

In regards to the Dwarven Barbarian example. You can try and rationalize min-maxing all you want, but the simple fact is that when YOU (the generic you) make the conscious effort to design a character with a 7 intelligence, you are choosing to do so. You expressly want your character to be significantly less intelligent than average. Now, if you are doing so with the full intention of role-playing a character with those stats, and being a lovable lunk-head or simple minded brute, then I would say 'great'.

And I would say that knowledge in game-terms can best be surmised by skills, feats and back story.

And your comment, " It sounds like you think -My character in the game has the highest intelligence- equates to -Other players at the table are not allowed to express their ideas", couldn't be further from the truth. But I do enjoy role playing.

Grand Lodge RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

LazarX wrote:
Jiggy wrote:
Do keep in mind that canon for the campaign is that all of our characters spent at least three years in boot camp training as cadets before becoming Pathfinder field agents. Thus, most PCs will be built as someone who could graduate that (and would want to in the first place).
If you reference the Pathfinder Society Primer, you'd see that that's ONE option. The other is that of Field Recruitment. The choice of background determines what feats in that section you may qualify for.

If you look at the post date, you'll see I wrote that before the PFS Primer was written.

5/5 ⦵⦵⦵

1 person marked this as a favorite.

On that note, I just did a confirmation... with 6 people who all chose the field commission option as background discussion.

Janira needed a little extra brandy.


Socalwarhammer wrote:

@Sacrcomancer, despite your obviously pithy comments, that was not the only point I expressed. I waited for quite a while to form my opinion(s) of what I observed after attending numerous events at different locations. To have done it sooner, would have been disingenuous and premature.

In regards to the Dwarven Barbarian example. You can try and rationalize min-maxing all you want, but the simple fact is that when YOU (the generic you) make the conscious effort to design a character with a 7 intelligence, you are choosing to do so. You expressly want your character to be significantly less intelligent than average. Now, if you are doing so with the full intention of role-playing a character with those stats, and being a lovable lunk-head or simple minded brute, then I would say 'great'.

For somebody who likes to emphasize the role-playing aspect of the game, you sure seem to have an awfully reductionist view of ability scores. As I suggested in my other post, there's more than one way to RP a low score. I don't see anything intrinsically more noble about playing a character with no ability score below 10 than playing a character with 7's and 5's.

I hope you didn't interpret my caustic reply as genuinely malicious, I assure you it's all in good fun. We obviously disagree but you will find plenty of people on the boards who share your views.


BigNorseWolf wrote:

On that note, I just did a confirmation... with 6 people who all chose the field commission option as background discussion.

Janira needed a little extra brandy.

There's a lot of "well I don't actually want to train and be a Pathfinder, I just want to work for a company who's willing to pay me to travel the world and murder and steal."

Grand Lodge 5/5 Venture-Captain, Arizona—Phoenix aka TriOmegaZero

4 people marked this as a favorite.
Kyle Baird wrote:
There's a lot of "well I don't actually want to train and be a Pathfinder, I just want to work for a company who's willing to pay me to travel the world and murder and steal."

Hey, I just got a new character idea!

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