Adapting APs for six PCs

Pathfinder Adventure Path General Discussion

I am getting ready to GM Wrath of the Righteous for six players. Do you have any quick-and-dirty techniques for adapting combat for the extra players? Do you use +50% monsters? More HP? What works best for you?

When I have the time, I will of course calculate XP and CR, adapt tactics and use the environment in my preparations, but sometimes there just isn't enough of it (time, that is). So I am looking for a tried-out quick fix. Is there such a thing?

The first two parts of WotR are looking really really good, by the way. My thanks to the authors.

Dark Archive

For 6 PCs just use either max HPs (best for elites) or +50% to overall number (best for lesser critters); add a few mooks to solo encounters or add some environmental advantage for the baddie.
When you'll get to higher levels, you may need to actually add a couple levels to NPCs or HDs to creatures.

Don't really bother changing the treasure amount: the gain from a larger group largely overcompensates the sparser loot.

I DM an 8-strong group, these are the basics that work best.

I freakin' hate this tablet's auto-composer.

Thanks. Easy to use, easy to remember.

8-strong group ... I'm impressed.

Dark Archive

With 8 players I have to max HPs and add 50% to the number. ;-D

Remember that a large PCs group is gonna mop the floor with enemies of a CR equal to their average level, even with a hefty number of critters. Too many and you'll just make the encounter more cumbersome, not more challenging.

At the same time, "boss-type" monsters should not be a CR value higher than the recommended 3 points. Deadlier monsters suddendly become able to insta-kill characters with a little effort.
Just maximize their variables and be sure to play them at their deadliest.

Don't refrain to use hit-and-run tactics to wear out the group resources.

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

Okay. Don't just max out hit points. Add 50% to the number of enemies faced instead. There is a very important thing called "action economy" to consider - two extra players = two extra attacks initially, and eventually more. Adding 50% more foes allows for the enemy to have extra attacks to compensate and additional targets.

When dealing with solo encounters like a certain mad wizard? Give him a couple dire rats as companions/pets.

If you're not adverse to scrapping XP from your game altogether, you might be able to get away with simply levelling everyone up later than the AP publishes as the intended points, so other than at L1 they're always facing a more difficult group than intended. That way you never really need to sit down and change anything else (although you may wish to throw in a duplicate or two in some of the groups they're fighting at L1).

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

Mythic templates/tiers are awesome for this sort of thing and particularly for bosses. Mainly, because it grants extra actions and options without jacking things up in terms of raw numbers to the point the individual characters need nat 20s to save or hit. Abilities like dual initiative and second save go a long way to offset the action economy advantage.

Thanks for the suggestions. +50% number of enemies, max HP, dire rats for the wizard. Check :).

I'm not adverse to scrapping the XP from my game. Less book-keeping, and my players are ok with it. Seems like a good idea to keep them behind the curve from time to time. I will try that out.

Also, good tip about the mythic templates. Dual initiative sounds perfect.

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

Also, always be ready to fudge rolls or hit points. If you maxed hit points and the monster is too tough? Have it die early. Seriously, one problem many GMs have is a fear of fudging things. Roll your dice behind a screen, never tell the players when you fudge, and even be willing to toss free rerolls the way of your players if things are going badly. Likewise, if a Big Bad is going down TOO fast? Increase the hit points on the fly. What matters is that the encounters are enjoyable and dramatic in the case of big fights.

Having a Big Bad or the Big Bad's Dragon (ie, the sub-boss) fall from one lucky critical can leave players feeling like something is lacking. And let's be honest. The one thing that's even more fun than taking out the Big Bad with one shot? Is watching the Big Bad stagger, look up and smile, and say "Is that the best you've got?"

When your players beat a foe that manages THAT, then it'll be even more enjoyable and dramatic than if the Ranger who is focusing on ranged combat lucks out with one max-damage critical arrow on the first round of combat leaving everyone else with nothing to do.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber
Tangent101 wrote:
Also, always be ready to fudge rolls or hit points.

Do this sparingly. Some GMs think they are being all clever in hiding this, but trust me eventually the players will catch on if you do it with any regularity. I had a GM do this at least once a session, and it wrecked the game for me.

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

Why? If the GM applies this to both sides, so that enemies get the benefit of Fudges as well, then it's no longer "taking pity" on players or the like, and more an aspect of roleplaying and game mastering. What matters is having a good and interesting fight. As I said, one-shot kills of big bads is boring. I've seen far too many after-action reports against Karzoug or the Oni in Jade Regent where the players mopped the floor in two rounds or less and never felt challenged. It's better to have the Big Bad be a Big Bad.

Or to put it another way, in anime do you ever see the hero just walk up to the Big Bad, shoot them once, and walk away successful? Not if it's a good anime. Likewise, Luke Skywalker's big fight against Vader and the Emperor was not done in one blow, but was a significant fight.

The dice are not the storyteller. The GM is the storyteller. The dice are but tools... and should not dictate how the story goes. And if a player doesn't like it? Maybe that player should consider WHY he or she doesn't like it. Is it because he or she didn't get to one-shot the Big Bad and hog all the glory? Is it because he or she feels tactics should allow players to steamroller a thousands-year-old foe who likely knows more tactics than the characters? Or is it concerns of being "railroaded" - yet is a Total Party Kill any fun? Or unlucky die rolls resulting in a character dying despite taking every precaution?

Remember: The GM is the Storyteller. The dice are a pen used to write the story. But the pen is only a tool. It should not write the tale.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber
Tangent101 wrote:

Rather than get into to it please see:

Fudging Rolls
Why fudging is happening

Both of those are over 800 posts long with vehement argument on both sides of the issue. My advice is solicit your players opinion on fudging at the beginning of the campaign and reach a consensus on what is ok.

Personally, as a player gm fudging fills me with nerd rage and sucks all the fun out of game. Your mileage may vary.

Edit: Ok, I admit as a GM to have occasionally fudged. Mea culpa. But almost always to prevent a TPK and the end of a campaign, and now that I have more experience as a GM I rarely have need to use it any more.

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

I currently am running two groups right now. I have also run games for two decades. None of my players have had an issue with fudging.

I'm going to ask you a question. If you play a D&D-style game online (say Baldur's Gate or Icewind Dale or the like) and your party dies, do you just shrug your shoulders and restart with new characters? Or do you load a save game?

Have you ever played Civilization (any version) and upon having a bad decision result in you starting to lose, load an older save so you can avoid that end?

If you say that you let the game dictate what happens for each of these... then you are welcome to your beliefs. Do note, I will still fudge in my games because as I said, the dice are a tool, not the storyteller itself.

Liberty's Edge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

There is a difference in playing against a machine and with real live people. The dynamic is so different they are not really comparable. Besides in those games the computer does not fudge (at least in games I find enjoyable at least). I, as a player, may "cheat" and reload, but in general computers don't fudge because they feel sorry for you.

Like I said read those posts. Very strong opinions on both sides, and I am done posting on the subject.

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

Nope. No difference at all. When you reload an old game, you are fudging the die roll. You are saying "I refuse to accept this and am going to do it differently." How is that any different than a GM preventing a character's death because of an unlucky die roll, or preventing the death of the Big Bad with one lucky blow that leaves the entire campaign feeling empty? Living players is not a sufficient reason as there is a living player with the computer game as well: you.

And I see no reason to read those threads. There are hundreds of posts on both sides. I already know what I prefer. I'm not going to change my mind, especially as I've GMed for nearly two decades. My suggestion remains: fudge when you have to. The point of the game is for it to be fun. Killing off the entire party, or killing a character because of bad luck (not stupidity, mind you!) isn't fun, especially when time has been invested but resurrection magic isn't on hand. Likewise if you're adjusting upward hit points... then you've already changed things. Which is why I suppose purists insist on only four players in a group and 15-point builds... which doesn't stop power-gamers from super-optimizing characters to walk through those campaigns anyway.

Slow advancement track curb your extra work too.

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Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

The whole point of being a GM is adjusting things. The Paizo crew has stated that GMs should adjust things to compensate for their players. It's impossible to keep things static and expect every group (even those built on 15-point builds) to equally be able to handle the module with the same skill. Some will breeze through it and it should be made more difficult. Others will struggle and it should be adjusted downward.

Saying "do this will curb your extra work" ignores the truth of being a GM. It's work! It's rewarding work, but it's still work!

I will vote for what many have said. Our group is six players...and sometimes seven plus a DM. Basically almost all monsters get max HP. If they are mooks then I just increase the number of them. That number increase is usually +50% more but some monsters I will double or triple. If they just swing a sword or shot a bow they get more of them rather than max HP's. That also helps the party work more on tactics to funnel bad guys or gives the casters a chance to use some AOE spells more than normal.

Yes it is work, however, if there are ways to minimize the extra work that is also good too... IDk about you but I have many other commitments in my life and well if I can simplify it in a way then great.

Because basically over the course of an AP, it becomes an arms race. Obviously, if you were ultimately lazy you would say 15 point buy and only four... Although I personally like the 4d6 variant the best.

All I was doing was presenting an option. Whether you choose to use it is up to your discretion. In my RL game, I slowed the progression down in order to make the combats a bit more thrilling and my group has a revolving table of 7 players and I think I have had 14 different people play in the game from the beginning. It is about comfort level, action economy as well as time management outside of game. You need to strike a balance for your table but just because my style may not be yours doesn't mean it is wrong.

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

Yes, I agree. However, I've also seen that just upping hit points isn't enough. Enemies need additional actions in order to more effectively cope against larger groups of PCs - or they need more minions of their own. Advanced Templates ultimately make it harder to hit the enemy and let the enemy hit harder... which can result in the enemy being too difficult to hit and able to wipe the entire group. Additional foes, on the other hand, allows foes to more easily threaten the group without being overpowering.

Personally, I've found the use of programs like Hero Labs or their ilk to be quite useful in keeping track of hit points, initiatives, and the like. Web-based programs like similarly make it easier to track where players are without significantly slowing the game (assuming the GM prepared ahead of time). While this might take away some of the fun of having miniatures on the table... well, I went that route, and the electronic route is helpful and lets me speed up the game. Considering my groups meet around once a month (if I'm lucky), getting the maximum done in three to four hours is quite helpful! ^^;;

My recipe so far for 6-7 Players:

Doubling encounter sizes AND maxing out HP. Bosses are supported by 2-4 mooks which should be around the PCs level. The more players you have the more do their powers (usually) synergize. Only drastically larger and more resilient enemy groups make fights challenging.

But I'm pretty new to the game, so YMMV.

Thanks for the replies. A lot of good suggestions that I will try out. Will start with max HP and +50% enemies. Add mooks to the boss fights. And then evaluate.

Pavane wrote:
I am getting ready to GM Wrath of the Righteous for six players. Do you have any quick-and-dirty techniques for adapting combat for the extra players? Do you use +50% monsters? More HP? What works best for you?

I have 5-7 players each week and I used the following suggestion from the boards and it seems to work.

Mooks: +50% mooks. Do not adjust their hit points.
Bosses: Maximum hit points
Gold: +100% gold but do not increase the amount of items or magic items they receive. This works out to increasing overall wealth by +50%.

Works for me, YMMV.

Wrath of the Righteous might have different dynamics since it's made for Mythic.

I forgot. Also add +1 to every D20 a boss makes.

Also I do not use the XP system but instead I level each PC up at set points in the AP (regardless of attendance).

I personally HATE it when GMs add hp or mooks on the fly because we're doing too well (or poorly). Or fudge often. I had one GM do that and it really bothered me. The problem is that every encounter becomes homogenous, it doesn't matter if you have good/bad dice rolls. It doesn't matter if you make good/bad decision. Nothing matters basically and you finish each encounter in basically the same amount of time in the same manner. Arrgghhhhhh.

^^^ This is why I GM now.

Leave everything alone unless you did such a horrible job of modifying everything and it's going to lead to a TPK. But that should happen very rarely.

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

It depends on the GM.

For instance, I fudge rolls and will allow players to reroll if the dice turn sour on them and I want the combat to move quickly (usually through a "I'm sorry, I didn't hear what you said. Could you please roll your dice?")

However, if a player does something stupid? Then I let the dice fall where they may and let them suffer the consequences. For instance: during my Reign of Winter campaign, two players were in the Narnia mindset, the entire group fell for the White Beast encounter (never questioning the "talking critter" in question), and approached the talking snowman without thinking twice.

They both failed their saves and were immediately attacked by two Medium-sized Ice Elementals (they were a higher level group). And they nearly died as a result. There were no rerolls for saves and the only reason I didn't use Power Attack for the Elemental which nearly killed the rogue was I forgot it had that. (The next attacks did use power attack but had switched targets from a nearly-dead thief to someone in full plate armor and thus an obvious threat. And then hit both times and did max damage, nearly killing HIM as well).

Fudging die rolls does not mean babying the players. It means that if the dice suddenly go lethal (or abandon the players) that you adjust the combat so that it's NEAR-lethal. You bring them to negative hit points but stop shy of instant death. You pull a punch just enough so that a player still has a couple hit points left so they could book it out of there. You alternate between being a cat batting with its paw and a cat clawing the hell out of something that annoyed it.

There are two things GMs should try to do: ensure the players have fun, and keep the game moving. For example: I had an evil cleric know the enemy was coming. She cast Silence on the door leading in, Monster Summoning three times to have allies, and a Fog spell so she couldn't be targeted by ranged attacks.

Five rounds later, I was so annoyed by the fog cloud and it so slowed down combat that as a GM dictate I had it suddenly disperse (the party had used Dispel Magic against the Silence). The evil cleric died one round later (though I handwaved it that she was only in negative hit points as I'd taken away one of her protections so to see how the players would respond to her), but it was still the right call.

(It also helped me prepare for the end of Part Two of the first RoW book - the whiteout conditions will be a bear to deal with. Having waves of white-out followed by one-to-two-rounds of reduced wind (and thus greater visibility) will decrease the absolute frustration and also benefit the enemy along with the PCs.)

It is better to have an interesting and enjoyable encounter, even if it means fudging rolls. And if you are adjusting encounters because of additional players and the like, then you will either need to run practice combats prior to the game to see if it's over- or under-powered for the PCs, or adjust things (fudge) on the run.

The best advice I can give is to check out the guide linked to in the first post of this thread. It is the best guide to creating challenging encounters of any level for any number of players I've ever read.

Handy tip/observation- A CR4 monster is worth 50% more XP than a CR3 monster (1200 vs. 800). Ditto for 2 vs. 1, 6 vs. 5, etc. all the way up. If something has an odd CR of X, and you divide its XP value 4 ways, dividing the XP value of something with a CR of X+1 gives you the same value.

What this means, in practical terms, is that if you have 6 PCs in an AP designed for 4, bumping up the CR of everything they fight by 1 theoretically works out to the perfect increase in challenge and experience yield. There's a lot of ways to pull that off, but the easiest if you're in a hurry is to just slap the simple advanced template on everything. +2 to every number that comes up, bit more HP, tada.

While it's nice to mix and match, in general I prefer this to the method of "AP says 4 goblins, now it's 6 goblins" because A- maps get real cramped real fast, B- what do you do when there's 3 goblins? C- Area effect spells get to be too effective, and D- PCs are prone to focus-fire down one enemy at a time rather than spread out, so on an individual level, things die too quick, which gets really frustrating if you're say, a paladin who just declared a smite, or a rogue who can't flank because things always die before he's in position.

+1 CR isn't a perfect system either of course. The bonus AC can get kinda ridiculous if it's high to begin with (I usually go with a +3 bonus instead of +4 and make up for it with a little extra HP). TECHNICALLY speaking the handy rule of thumb doesn't work if you start with an even CR (if you're OCD about this sort of thing, you can pad things out to make up for the minor difference, personally I just say spirit of the rules and just add 50% to all printed XP rewards regardless of what simple method I'm upping the challenge with).

Mixing and matching both approaches is a good way to go, especially if you throw in the 3rd approach now and then of doing things the hard way and give an end-of-book boss a homebrew sidekick to make up for the XP difference.

Always max HP on important/single enemies though on top of anything else, again, 6 way focus fire drops things quick.

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Rulebook Subscriber

The problem is a little thing called Action Economy.

I used to just increase the CR by using Advanced Templates. The result was that the Barbarian was the one killing everything because he could still hit. The others turned to spells that didn't need a to-hit roll, or such things as feint. At lower levels that doesn't eat up action economy.

Two additional players means two or more actions that can disrupt a small group of enemies. And just adding one level to a Big Bad doesn't lessen the fact that one Big Bad only has X attacks, while the PC group instead of 4X actions has 6X actions.

Thus you use extra bodies to eat up the actions of other players (but not undead because they die quickly to clerics and Channel Energy types).

Here's what I have tried lately:

- add one or two enemies to the encounters
- don't use a solo BBEG, always use helpers
- don't raise the enemy AC and saves (so the PCs can use their abilities; it is frustrating to keep missing and not feel valuable)

- INCREASE the melee and ranged attack modifiers for all the enemies. When the enemies actually hit the PCs with some regularity, the combat gets intense. I change it so that most monsters hit the well-armored PCs with a 10 or better.
- Increase the initiative modifier, so it is on par with the PCs.

I don't follow the rules in this. I decide that the monsters in my game world have nice attack modifiers :). Not everyone's thing, of course. I guess it won't work with players that know their monsters, and question why the attack modifiers are higher than usual.

But our combats have changed from non-exciting walkovers to dynamic fights.

Clarification: I have tried the suggestion in the last post for rather low-level fights (up to level 6). If a PC puts in money and feats to raise his AC really high in later levels, it would undermine said PC to just raise the attack modifiers of the opposition. The PCs should be allowed to shine in their speciality.

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