Caster vs Martial Balance


Homebrew and House Rules


Ok. The stance of this thread is that high-level casters are more powerful than high-level martial characters. Yes, I know that martial classes are totally capable of outclassing (ba-dum, ch!) casters in DPR. But the wizard can do a pretty good job of damage, too. While flying. Invisible. With eight mirror images and blur just in case the fighter actually manages to swing at him through the army of summoned monsters. Without any magic items whatsoever. There's a darn good reason that the big bosses of most adventure paths are casters, and the reason is that they're a whole lot more impressive than a guy with a goatee and a rapier.

If you want to argue whether they are or not casters are more powerful than martial classes, move along. That's not what this thread is for.

That said, here's what I'm looking for:

Suggestions to both RAISE the power of martial characters, for high-fantasy games, and suggestions to LOWER the power of casting classes, for low-fantasy games.

here's what I'm NOT looking for:

Comparisons to 4th Edition. I know that whenever people bring up class balance somebody feels the need to say, "They already tried that, it's called 4e!" No crap. Obviously, I'm looking for something a little less like that.

Here are a few things that I've already considered:

BOOSTING MARTIALS: Allow access to the Tome of Battle for Pathfinder base classes. I'd like to playtest this sometime in the future, because I think that simply granting the Pathfinder martial classes the maneuver selection of a warblade, with altered discipline lists based on class, would boost martial classes without actually infringing on caster versatility.

NERFING CASTERS: Less spells per day at high levels, and altered casting times. For example, 0-level spells may be cast as swift actions, 1st level spells are cast at their listed casting times, and casting times increase by step from there.

swift action->move action->standard action->full-round action->1 round->3 rounds->5 rounds->1 minute, etc. Quicken spell allows you to shorten the casting time to a spell x levels lower in exchange for a spell slot x levels higher. I like this idea because it reinforces the image of a caster brewing up a powerful spell to change the tide of a battle while his allies work to keep him safe and contribute in their own way.
Discuss?


Caster: "Don't worry guys, I'll win this in 10 rounds! Just let me go get a coffee and text me when its done."

Yeah... You might want to find a better fix for the game. They'll spam cantrips at every chance.


Those casting times effectively make any higher level spells useless in combat. You might as well just remove all spells above level IV as anything other than ritual magic and give the casters some free meta-magic feats to use to fill their higher level spell slots.

As for ToB, I've tried adding ToB Maneuvers to the Fighter/Rogue (I give the Monk psionics) and letting the other martial classes take ToB maneuvers/stances with the Martial Study feat (Full BAB classes/Monk use class level as Initiator Level), it works pretty well at bringing those classes in line.

Without nerfing them full casters are still potentially ahead, but they can be played "down" to the level of the other classes pretty easily as long as the player isn't trying to break things open.


When "Martial" characters level up, they get bigger numbers in their abilities. When caster characters level up, they get new abilities.

There can be no equalization here--there is no thresh hold of damage that can balance against the ability to teleport thousands of miles.

Higher level spells solve new problems, or solve old problems in different/easier ways. Higher level martials solve the same problems they solved earlier in the game in the same way they solved it before.

My best advice is to play E6. Level 6 is a great cutting off point. 3rd level spells are still really useful and awesome, but don't create campaign breaking problems yet. Martials can still really shine because their bigger numbers aren't made irrelevant by alternate solutions yet. Seems like a win/win to me.


Make it like Conan, or the movie Excalibur.

Merlin never flew around lobbing fireballs at dude's faces, but he was feared. Kings lived in terror of him, and when he did his magic, it was absolutely terrifying.

When that little Asian dude brought Conan back to life, it took hours, and it almost killed them both, but by god Conan came back to life.

So essentially, retool magic, and make it more subtle, make it 90 times more powerful, but make the cost really great for the caster.


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The problem is that casters have a versatility that Martials can never even hope for. Spontaneous casters can make up their tactics on the fly out of the extremely varied bag of tricks they've chosen. Prepared casters, given a little advance notice regarding the situation, can change out one bag of tricks for another. With scrolls for the niche case spells, it's extremely rare that a caster doesn't have at least three valid options on any given round.

Martials should be able to approach combat similarly. Winning fights is about being adaptable, figuring out the enemy's weaknesses and exploiting them, not being forced to choose between the one attack routine you are good at and a bunch of others that will get you a face full of AoO just for trying.

Here are the fixes that have worked for me.

Part 1, Basic mechanical changes::


  • Power Attack, Combat Expertise and other similar feats are tossed out. Instead, these become "Stances' that anyone can enter, allowing characters to reduce one combat number to increase another at a rate of -1/+1 for every 4 BaB a character has. Conditional modifiers apply, such as gaining additional damage with a two handed weapon while in Aggressive stance (as per power attack) or gaining additional AC when wielding a shield while in Defensive stance (because duh.)

  • If you have a higher BaB than your enemy, you do not provoke AoOs when attempting Combat Maneuvers against them. (If you aren't sure if you're more skilled than the guy you're facing, use Sense Motive) Anyone who's ever played sports or taken martial arts classes knows that combat maneuvers aren't any more or less difficult than normal attacks and defenses.

  • Non Proficiency Penalties reduce by 1 for every 4 BaB you have. By the time someone has +16 BaB there shouldn't be a weapon anywhere that they can't pick up and figure out intuitively.

  • Weapons gain more mechanical adjustments.
    Spears are one-handed weapons (see: every ancient culture ever).
    Nunchaku are double-weapons (that's why they call them a "pair").
    Shields give you a bonus for (and against) Overruns and Bull Rushes.
    Light thrown weapons can be whipped out and tossed as if you had Quick Draw as long as you have a free hand (so that when you get lucky and crit on your first attack you can still use the rest of of your attacks)
    Poniards, Rapiers and Bayonettes gain bonuses (or are touch attacks) against Light armor.
    Picks and about half the polearms gain bonuses (or are touch attacks) against Heavy armor.

    Golf-Bagging weapons with different advantages should be second nature to high-level Martials.

Combining Stances, Combat Maneuvers and Weapons become a Martial character's "metamagic" letting them adjust their tactics on the fly.

Now all of a sudden Martials are no longer gimmicky and forced to hyper-specialize to remain even half-way competitive. They might (and probably will) still specialize, but when they hit any of the usual road blocks against their usual attack routine, they have a whole bunch of options to pick from.

part 2, Wildcard Combat Feats:

Combat Feats are the backbone of a martial character's combat options. They should never be a straight jacket. Any good warrior learns how to adjust their tactics.

Bonus Combat Feats and similar abilities, granted by any class, are able to be chosen on the fly. As a Swift action, a character may choose to switch one Bonus combat feat for any other that they qualify for. Think of it like Retraining, only a whole lot faster.

That means that a 5th level fighter has 3 feats they can rearrange as combat goes on, completely switching their style over the course of 24 seconds. As any fight against a given opponent drags on, the Martial character learns better and better how to fight them. Once that opponent is down, they begin revising their tactics for the next one.

The reason this is balanced is because no martial character is operating above the standards set by their level. They are just operating across a broader spectrum under those limits. Secondly, because only one feat per round may be switched, fighting a group of different types of opponents becomes as much a tactical challenge as what spells to use.

Fighters are the masters of this, with a total of 11 feats they can swap around by 20th level. Give a 20th level fighter a minute and they can completely reinvent their strategies and options to be the ideal killing machine against whatever they face.

Cavaliers Are less adjustable in their personal tactics, but they have Teamwork feats they can switch around and grant to their allies, making them the ultimate combat quarterbacks.

Monks become Swiss Army Knives, allowing their ability to qualify early for many feats to let them become the unpredictable combatants they are supposed to be.

Rogues with Combat Trick become trickier. Rangers get to play around within their combat style. (new feats allowing a ranger to switch between more than one combat like a Master of Many Styles monk would open additional options)

Paladins get spells, which are their version of Wildcard options. They get fewer, sure, but they tend to be pretty serious buffs (take a look at Holy Sword and compare it to a feat). Spell-less paladin variants should be given access to a Wildcard feat or two as they go up in level.

Barbarians, well, they're the weak link in this change. It makes some sense though. They tend not to be the most adaptive sorts, and they tend to out class everyone when it comes to the thing they're best at.

Before you knock the ideas, try them. I bet your martials become a lot more tactically minded, start scouring the books for options like casters do, and discover interesting combinations they never would have tried before.


Vamptastic wrote:

Make it like Conan, or the movie Excalibur.

Merlin never flew around lobbing fireballs at dude's faces, but he was feared. Kings lived in terror of him, and when he did his magic, it was absolutely terrifying.

When that little Asian dude brought Conan back to life, it took hours, and it almost killed them both, but by god Conan came back to life.

So essentially, retool magic, and make it more subtle, make it 90 times more powerful, but make the cost really great for the caster.

The game you're looking for is called Riddle of Steel.

Scarab Sages

Witch's Knight wrote:

Suggestions to both RAISE the power of martial characters, for high-fantasy games, and suggestions to LOWER the power of casting classes, for low-fantasy games.

While your are trying to balance everything:

Please address the caster/martial imbalance at low level. This is where most players spend the vast majority of their time.

Sovereign Court

mplindustries wrote:

When "Martial" characters level up, they get bigger numbers in their abilities. When caster characters level up, they get new abilities.

There can be no equalization here--there is no thresh hold of damage that can balance against the ability to teleport thousands of miles.

Seconded.

Many of these threads go "martials aren't as flexible as casters, so let's give them another +X to hit"; that's not solving the problem.

I hate the idea of nerfing spellcasting times too. I doubt many players will enjoy them; it basically means that during combat you're sitting around for 10 rounds wondering if you'll get to complete a spell, or will be interrupted during it, or if the martials will win the combat before you complete it. But those ten rounds will probably take an hour, in which you as a player have nothing to do. This is not a good nerf.

Instead, look for ways to make martials more flexible. Not more powerful; they actually are powerful, they do a lot of the hard work in combat and do so better than most casters. But they need to be able to do more other things, things outside of combat.

Players will not appreciate nerfs, but they will appreciate empowerment/options for the martials.

Scarab Sages

Ascalaphus wrote:
Players will not appreciate nerfs, but they will appreciate empowerment/options for the martials.

There is nothing a caster is capable of that cannot be accessed through UMD.

Sovereign Court

Yeah, I'm thinking that to a large degree, martials are supposed to fake the versatility of casters through magic items, UMD and non-class specific both.

There's a LOT of wondrous items that give you versatility, but if you spend all your money on Big Six, and dump Int so you don't get skill points, it's easy to lose out on that versatility.

Basically, while wizards get the most versatile spell selection, they're also spending money on that spell selection, money the martials could use to buy a few magical knick-knacks to become more versatile.

I'm not saying that solves the whole problem, but an Int 7 fighter with only Big Six items isn't entirely innocent either.

Scarab Sages

Ascalaphus wrote:
Basically, while wizards get the most versatile spell selection, they're also spending money on that spell selection, money the martials could use to buy a few magical knick-knacks to become more versatile.

This^^^

Magic items extend the adventuring day for casters without adding greatly to their versatility.

Magic items give new versatility to non-casters, who could already swing their weapons all day.


MrSin There's no need for sarcasm. I'm sincerely looking for suggestions. The above increased casting times could also be swift->move->standard->full-round->1 round->1 round+swift->1 round+move->1 round+standard->1 round+full->2 rounds->etc. And I'm not terribly concerned about my casters spamming cantrips. If one comes up that causes problems, I'll fix it.

Ninja_in_the_rye I've actually considered a spell point system using free metamagic feats, limited by casting ability (i.e. if you have an 18 int you begin play knowing four metamagic feats). Sure, you can maximize that Burning Hands at 1st level! If you want to exhaust your spells for the day.

Doomed Hero I've considered a few of these already myself, like removing Power Attack and Combat Expertise. Swapping out feats on the fly is an interesting idea! I'll have to look into that.

Artanthos In my own games, I haven't seen a lot of low-level imbalance. In 3.5 playing a caster was incredibly frustrating at low levels, but I thought Pathfinder hugely improved that with bloodline and school abilities. What imbalances are you looking at? Also, UMD is not a fix for martial classes. I'm looking for a better fix than to tell my fighter that, in order to be competitive, he has to pretend to be a wizard. Though, to be honest, my issue has less to do with UMD and more to do with magic transparency, which is definitely NOT a discussion for this thread.

EDIT
As far as magic items, part of the point of this thread is to address balance in low-magic games, where magic items aren't readily available.

Interesting discussion so far! Thanks for keeping it civil :)


Alright, well if you want a more full answer I'm willing to give it. That was just my first reaction.

Unless you give a limit on spells cast you do create an issue where you can spend Swift+Move+standard to pop 3 spells in a round. the longer it takes to cast a spell the player is less needed at the table, which is why I said 10 rounds and may as well text him after he goes to get coffee or whatever. This isn't really that fun or exciting I don't think.

TOB is nice because it helps set you up for full attacks and doesn't require investment to do damage while moving(vital strike!) the additional effects were icing on the cake, and diamond minds moment of perfect mind and similar manuevers were fantastic for saving your heroic butt a dozen times. Options are the big thing you need, as MPL said. Create pit, haste, and fireball all do things melee just can't do. Now add metamagic and you can entangle foes, or catch them on fire. I don't want to say mundanes need powers like that, but it would be nice to have options.


Make gained spell list random and spell books rare. For example, only low level magic books can be found for wizards on market, the rest requires a wizard either to find by slight chance of luck or spend time and resource to create the formula.

Sorcerers and spontaneous spell casting classes have no controls over their spells, so they have not a single clue what spells they would gain when leveling up. For clerics and druids, the deity grant random spells to them for an ongoing quest and the player cannot switch the spells at least for one week of preparation.


Adventure Path Charter Subscriber

Some ideas:

Make all base saves based on 1/2 HD/Character level. Add a class bonus of +2 to a class's strong saves (Fort for fighters, all 3 for monks, etc).

Increase the casting time of most spells to 1 round. Keep the evocations, direct damage, and combat-friend abjurations down at 1 standard action. Enchantments and other traditional save or die spells shouldn't be 1 standard action casting times.

Get rid of concentration checks to grit through damage taken and successfully a spell. Use it only for maintaining concentration on a spell already in effect.

Restrict wands to combat spells and healing. This enables them to be used in combat without risking AoO for casting while preventing the wizard from making wands of knock.

Cap the stat modifier that can be applied to a the save DC of a spell. Not exactly sure what level would be ideal. +7-8(based on a 24-26 stat) seems quite sufficient.


MrSin Well I feel silly for missing that 3 spells/round thing. And I agree, 10 rounds of casting only works from a narrative standpoint, it's not fun to play. I still don't think that 2 or 3 rounds would be too wretched for a 9th-level spell. I feel that the step-increases would make the caster feel the impact of their spells and abilities more. If Gate now takes 3 rounds to cost, the arrival of that extra-planar muscle is a big deal. If you pick up a greater quicken rod, that Gate takes one round less to finish, which is an even bigger deal. That's my logic, but you're absolutely right that unless the player can do something else during those turns then they'll just be bored out of their skulls. I like the concept, but I'll have to play with it.

MirageWolf I've considered something like this before, specifically in the region of clerics. I recently had one of my players ask me, "Why does the cleric cast spells? Shouldn't he pray to his god and be grateful for whatever comes?" That can be answered by flavor, of course, but I've been quite tempted to actually do that. The cleric "prays", and I tell them that their deity granted them a boon of X.

Bill Dunn I don't love all of your suggestions, but I do love a few of them.
Your casting time suggestion gave me an idea to incorporate into my own casting time idea: What if spells had increased casting times, but specialists could cast their specialized skills faster? Evokers can pop off fireballs, but have to spend more time focusing on their defensive magic; Illusionists can toss around veils like nothing, but have to gather their energy for a blast spell; and everyone but focused Conjurers really have to work at summoning a creature from another plane.
Restricting what spells can be turned into wands would solve a big issue I have with caster utility out-of-combat. Nice suggestion!


So, if your problem is that casters have spells that let them do things other than damage, ban the spells that you have issue with.
Cutting their spells or abilities is just not right. Wizards are squishy, they need to be invisible with multiple images going on to not die. If your problem is with players playing smarter and knowing how to not die then there is not much help we can offer.
Best way I've found to nerf them is by enforcing the rules on them, and raising taxes,.they have to pay for new spells just like martials have to pay for weapons per the roles.


Alright, I guess I need to say this again: I'm not trying to nerf casters in normal gameplay. I'm trying to nerf them for low magic games, and increase martial options for high fantasy (aka "normal") games.

My problem isn't that casters can do things other than damage. My problem is that, currently, my options in a low-magic campaign are either to disallow casters or to inexplicably have a player playing a full-blown wizard in a world where people are in awe of +1 weapons.


Witch's Knight wrote:

Alright, I guess I need to say this again: I'm not trying to nerf casters in normal gameplay. I'm trying to nerf them for low magic games, and increase martial options for high fantasy (aka "normal") games.

My problem isn't that casters can do things other than damage. My problem is that, currently, my options in a low-magic campaign are either to disallow casters or to inexplicably have a player playing a full-blown wizard in a world where people are in awe of +1 weapons.

If that's what you want, then I say slow down spell progression to match a cross blooded sorcerer, that is, it takes them 2 extra levels until the next spell level becomes available. I would also make sure to keep track of spell components, and make sure casters know they need to do that. If spell casting is rare, the components shouldn't be purchased in one easy item for only 5 gp. It's not like every shop is going to have complete knowledge of what arcane components even are and have them all packed neatly in one package deal. Eschew materials becomes increasingly important in such a campaign, which, while being a nerf, also slows down the wizard fest progression and makes them wait 2 more levels before they can get all the crazy metamagic feats going.

By level 7 they will only have 1 3rd level spell, plus bonus spells. I also would take cantrips away as a class ability, and make them keep track of them.

Scarab Sages

Witch's Knight wrote:
My problem isn't that casters can do things other than damage. My problem is that, currently, my options in a low-magic campaign are either to disallow casters or to inexplicably have a player playing a full-blown wizard in a world where people are in awe of +1 weapons.

Severe restrictions on spell access, with no free spells for leveling.

All new spells must be researched using obscure texts. Moldering tomes founds in the ruins of an ancient wizards tower, private libraries with owners that want something in return for access, etc.

All spell require DM approval and are subject to DM modification before being researched.


master_marshmallow wrote:

If that's what you want, then I say slow down spell progression to match a cross blooded sorcerer, that is, it takes them 2 extra levels until the next spell level becomes available. I would also make sure to keep track of spell components, and make sure casters know they need to do that. If spell casting is rare, the components shouldn't be purchased in one easy item for only 5 gp. It's not like every shop is going to have complete knowledge of what arcane components even are and have them all packed neatly in one package deal. Eschew materials becomes increasingly important in such a campaign, which, while being a nerf, also slows down the wizard fest progression and makes them wait 2 more levels before they can get all the crazy metamagic feats going.

By level 7 they will only have 1 3rd level spell, plus bonus spells. I also would take cantrips away as a class ability, and make them keep track of them.

Many of these ideas are actually really painful. If anything you make it not fun to play a caster unless you really like resource management and having to wait on power. Neither of these are fun nor balance. Taxing the casters more won't make them weaker, as they're sometimes funded by other players(pooled funds for example), and they're spells easily replicate magic items but not so much the other way around.

Same respond to Artanthos. The point isn't to make it not fun. Its to assist in balance. It also can alienate the player and make them feel almost untrusted depending on the DM.


I actually think a few of these would be about right. For instance, the "low-magic" Karzoug, under Artanthos's suggestion, still gets a stupid amount of spells. He's still scary, he's still THE most powerful wizard alive in this age, but a player caster might have access to a single 9th-level spell. That's his nuke. I think it's an interesting and simple suggestion.

MrSin, I appreciated your thoughts on boosting martials for high fantasy games. How would you handle a low-magic game, if you were to run one?


I'll agree with something said above, if you want a low magic game playing E6 or E8 is your best bet.


To be honest I'd use another system. Pathfinder and 3.x aren't very good at this. If had to try and do it with Pathfinder. I'd probably go with giving the players bonuses without magical items similar to vow of poverty from BOED in order to help keep them up with the gear treadmill. I'd reduce it for casters who are bound to make up for it, but I wouldn't take away their spell casting at all. They'll still find artifacts and the like, and they might have ways to empower it through some sort of rare magitech from an archaic civilization. This way they have the occasional magic item, but in all honesty they are heroes who only grow stronger with the world around them instead of being dependent on getting that belt with +2 whatever. I think I'd try and make items rarer, to make them seem more powerful and give them special qualities beyond a +1/2 rather than making them more powerful from the start. They'll be more cherished if they're special and have RP value. Hopefully players as they grow strong with magic items won't feel reliant and they will feel like they are the heroes of the world.

E6, as people are saying is a good alternative probably, but I actually don't have any experience with it. Probably worth a peek. I myself am not that great at number crunching.

Scarab Sages

MrSin wrote:
Same respond to Artanthos. The point isn't to make it not fun. Its to assist in balance. It also can alienate the player and make them feel almost untrusted depending on the DM.

The key in any custom world setting is communication between player and DM. The player needs to know what to expect during character creation. As long as that understanding is there, player conflict should be minimal.


Artanthos wrote:
MrSin wrote:
Same respond to Artanthos. The point isn't to make it not fun. Its to assist in balance. It also can alienate the player and make them feel almost untrusted depending on the DM.
The key in any custom world setting is communication between player and DM. The player needs to know what to expect during character creation. As long as that understanding is there, player conflict should be minimal.

I understand that, but I'm still against nerfing to make things better. I've said before in other threads that nerfing alienates players and feels like an attack, especially midgame.

Putting what spells you get in the DMs hands also puts up a road where "Can I have this spell" can later become a problem, regardless of expectations. Your already taking away the majority of a prepared arcane casters additional spells in a low magic game, because its unlikely you'll find magical items and when you do sometimes burning them into your book isn't actually the best option.


Part of the issue is monsters.

1) If a monster is invulnerable to mundane damage remove it. Any fight where half the party is impotent is unfun for those players.

On the martial side the changes are simple.

1) Give noncasters better saves. I'd give Barbarians reflex, Rogues will, and Fighters, Cavaliers, and Samurai will.

2) Allow full attacks after movement, possibly at -2 or with iteratives at -6/-12/-18 instead of -5/10/15.

3) Condense melee feat chains, especially the maneuvers and style chains.

There's a range/melee gap that also needs addressing while I'm tinkering.

4) Ranged weapons except repeating crossbows iterate at -6/-12/-16.

5) Manyshot just gives another shot. It's confusing for new players and removing th the +10% damage from a crit chance isn't worth the complication.

On the caster side it's more complicated.

1) For every spell, ask yourself what you could do if you were the only one in the world who could cast it. If "Take over a third world country" is a plausible answer remove the spell or raise its level to at least 7th on a full caster list or 5th on a bard-like list. If "Take over a first world country" is a plausible answer it's a 9th level spell or 6th if it's on a bard-like list. If "Take over the world" is a plausible answer remove it entirely.

2) Determine which spells are critical to handling CR appropriate monster abilities. Put them on as many spell lists as plausible at the appropriate level (unless there's a valid substitute like the cleric's Air Walk in place of Fly or the druid's Reincarnation instead of Raise Dead). Currently you basically need two full casters to be able to handle all CR appropriate challenges. Arcane/Divine niche protection appears to make casters weaker, but it really just means every party needs two. A single caster trying to fill both roles will be spread thinner.

3) Remove SR from any evocation that would be subject to energy resistance. Unfun fights where some players stand around impotently apply to casters too. This change makes opposition school choice harder, while not actually buffing casters significantly except in the case that they're mostly useless.


Ninja in the Rye wrote:
I'll agree with something said above, if you want a low magic game playing E6 or E8 is your best bet.

This. By level 8-10ish in a normal campaign, even the most mundane of the martials should be pretty damned magical. In an explicit low-magic campaign I can't really see that working.


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+1 to the "if you wan tlow magic play E6" suggestion.
And if you wan to balance martials vs, casters at a higher level you could check out "Kirthfinder" house rules here on the message boards. I am reading them now and am very impressed with them.


IMHO opinion, the only real way to make casters balanced is revising their spell lists.

It's not the DC or damage of the spells that is the problem, it's the fact that they can do everything. With enough spells, a character has pretty much every option she can think of.

Wizards can easily add dozens of spells to their spell books. Clerics/Druids don't even have to bother.

Limiting spells known and/or removing/nerfing overpowered spells is the only real way to lower the power of full casters. Unfortunately, that's a lot of work.

The reason Wizards are often considered to be the most powerful class is because they have both the most versatile spell list (spells can do everything) and too many spells known ("limitless" spell list).

Now, there are a few ways to buff martials... IMO, the most important changes are:

Reducing/Removing feat chains: Makes things like TWF and Vital Strike a single scaling feat based on BAB. Oh, and remove dumb prerequisites (Why do character need Int 13 to be half-decent at tripping/feinting? Combat Expertise is a terrible feat that is only a prerequisite because of its (rather misleading) name.)

Increase Mobility: You walked 10ft. Now you suck. Yaaaaaay...
Really, allow martials to move and still be relevant. Doesn't need to be a whole full attack, but it shouldn't be much worse either.


Mobility is one of the things I've been thinking about, and one of the options I've been tossing around has to do with Vital Strike. Vital Strike seemed like a cool idea at first, but then I realized that it stacked with exactly nothing. Which is weird to me. Allowing Vital Strike on a charge is not the same as pouncing, not by a long shot. Vital Strike with Spring Attack is not the same as being able to full-attack with Spring Attack, but it would keep Spring Attack viable. So I'd considered making the Vital Strike chain part of the normal combat system, where if the character is only making a single attack they can multiply their weapon damage as if using Vital Strike. I'm sure someone could find a way to make that unbalancing, but people don't want iteratives for the multiplied weapon damage. They want them for the multiplied +30 plus 1d6 fire plus etc. after the weapon damage. Thoughts on this?

I've looked over E6, and I like it a lot. What I'm looking for, though, are ways to convert things like Adventure Paths into low magic. If there's a guide somewhere for converting high-level NPC's/high-CR monsters into E6, I'd love to take a look at it.


Witch's Knight wrote:
I've looked over E6, and I like it a lot. What I'm looking for, though, are ways to convert things like Adventure Paths into low magic. If there's a guide somewhere for converting high-level NPC's/high-CR monsters into E6, I'd love to take a look at it.

I do it all the time. I'm running E6 Serpent's Skull right now. But I didn't find a special guide or anything--I just convert it myself, which also lets me edit the silly stuff I hate at the same time.

I don't find it difficult--it's quite fun for me, honestly. But there're no short cuts other than, "know the rules really damn well."


Alright, so with E6 as a consideration, what other things could be done? How would you (everyone) suggest handling magic items in a low-magic game? How would you alter Wealth Per Level? What spells would you allow, or disallow?

What about on the other end? Thoughts on the "Vital Strike as a standard mechanic"? I have to say the idea of swapping out bonus feats (and possibly rogue talents/rage powers) semi-on the fly is a really interesting idea.

Any other thoughts outside the box?


Just some stream of consciousness thoughts...

In movies and myth, martial types succeed against evil wizards by skill, guile, luck, and tenacity.

But, Pathfinder's method of allocating stats doesn't make it easy to model this. Warriors have significant incentives to dump INT, WIS, and CHA in favor of physical stats. So the clever hero disrupting the evil wizard's plan by thinking outside the box? Doesn't really fit.

And, there isn't a central 'luck' mechanic in pathfinder. If there was, I would give high level martial types luck in spades. I'd make it a high level class feature of both fighter and rogue types. Essentially, at high levels luck , wit, and treachery defeat planning and magic.... sometimes.

And martial types should be really skillful...essentially I'd kill the rogue and give the fighter all his stuff , at high levels. Probably in Pathfinder high level fighters get extra skill points, and high level rogues get more resiliant, and a 20th level rogue and a 20th level fighter ought to be able to do the same things.

ken


kenmckinney wrote:

Just some stream of consciousness thoughts...

In movies and myth, martial types succeed against evil wizards by skill, guile, luck, and tenacity.

But, Pathfinder's method of allocating stats doesn't make it easy to model this. Warriors have significant incentives to dump INT, WIS, and CHA in favor of physical stats. So the clever hero disrupting the evil wizard's plan by thinking outside the box? Doesn't really fit.

And, there isn't a central 'luck' mechanic in pathfinder. If there was, I would give high level martial types luck in spades. I'd make it a high level class feature of both fighter and rogue types. Essentially, at high levels luck , wit, and treachery defeat planning and magic.... sometimes.

And martial types should be really skillful...essentially I'd kill the rogue and give the fighter all his stuff , at high levels. Probably in Pathfinder high level fighters get extra skill points, and high level rogues get more resiliant, and a 20th level rogue and a 20th level fighter ought to be able to do the same things.

ken

i like this idea


kenmckinney wrote:
In movies and myth, martial types succeed against evil wizards by skill, guile, luck, and tenacity.

In other media, martials beat evil wizards by just being awesome. The evil sorcerer tries to control Conan's mind and he just shakes it off and decks the guy in pajamas.

This was actually reflected in AD&D pretty well. Fighters had the best saves and they leveled faster than wizards, too, so it was an even more pronounced difference.

I'd suggest that while a more fun solution might involve new mechanics for fighting through spells and all, the quick and easy way might be to give martials a save/touch AC bonus against spells across the board, and spell resistance as an (Ex) ability. Like superstition for free for everyone who can't cast.


Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

In a low magic game, magical equipment should be pretty rare.

One step towards doing this could be to reflavor simple enhancement bonuses into higher quality materials & craftsmanship - this allows you to not worry about adjusting some numbers; when the fighter needs a +3 sword, that's just a sword made of a particular flavor of unobtanium. That works decently for weapons, armor, and shields; perhaps for resistance items. It doesn't really work for stat boosting items, though. Still, it's a way to address some of them via flavor rather than eliminating them.
(A flaming sword would still be magical... but only the flaming aspect would be magical.)

Or you could just leave out all the big six, and adjust encounters as necessary. A low magic game will likely have a lot more encounters with humanoids anyway, which means more encounters with enemies who function like the PCs... those are easier to rebuild (remove items), but on the flip side, they have to be built from scratch normally.


kenmckinney wrote:

Just some stream of consciousness thoughts...

In movies and myth, martial types succeed against evil wizards by skill, guile, luck, and tenacity.

But, Pathfinder's method of allocating stats doesn't make it easy to model this. Warriors have significant incentives to dump INT, WIS, and CHA in favor of physical stats. So the clever hero disrupting the evil wizard's plan by thinking outside the box? Doesn't really fit.

A split point buy might help. Instead of 15 point buy give 10pt for physical stats and 10pt for mental stats. You'll like the stat distributions more. It's best for hybrids, but anything that encourages mental stats on martials is going to be best for hybrids.


Pathfinder Adventure Subscriber

This is more a new system thing, which I originally took from when I was working on rewriting Tome of Battle:

Give a secondary mental stat to each martial class.
Tome of Battle essentially already had this; Crusaders had class features based off of Charisma, Swordsages off of Wisdom, and Warblades off of Intelligence.

So in this sense you would modify existing class features (or add new ones on top) to utilize a mental stat the class otherwise cares little or nothing for (paladins are pretty well there already), and probably add a couple more class skills that use that stat. (Possibly also add more skill points to help them access that skill.)

Speaking of skills, one of the caster/martial disparities tends to be the caster's ability to handle non-combat encounters through magic, in a way that the martials can't... often in ways at least as good as a skill-based character can't at all. So having more skill ranks available (for the 2+Int, non-Int characters), and making sure that skills are adequate to the tasks in the adventure will help a lot. This would be a mix of how you build the adventures, and of expanding the scope of what skills can do.

In other words, you want to make it so that the party's attitude to a situation is "use skills", not "use spells". Pick the lock, don't cast knock; climb the tower wall instead of casting fly on everyone, and so on. Removing some of the spells that allow a caster to bypass traditionally skill-based challenges may help here.


witch's knight wrote:
Alright, so with E6 as a consideration, what other things could be done? How would you (everyone) suggest handling magic items in a low-magic game?

If you're looking for an alternative to basic +1/+2 bonus magic items you can look at Kolokotroni's Heroic Distinctions as a starting point.

kenmckinny wrote:
And, there isn't a central 'luck' mechanic in pathfinder. If there was, I would give high level martial types luck in spades. I'd make it a high level class feature of both fighter and rogue types. Essentially, at high levels luck , wit, and treachery defeat planning and magic.... sometimes.

There are hero points, which are fairly close to a luck mechanic, you could give them X per day hero points or X per level.

I played in a few 3.5 games using the Action Points alternate rule which gave you 5 + 1/2 your level Action Points every time you leveled up.

This applied to all classes, but most of that group's idea of an optimized wizard was using 4th level spell slots to prepare extra Fireballs and Lightning Bolts, so it was needed for all the classes. It certainly helped everyone feel more heroic and could help keep the Fighter from being Dominated.

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