How much do giant gulfs in system mastery affect a game?


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I don't want to be arrogant and go "system mastery! system mastery!"
but I think I got a good handle on this game.

I was just a druid PC in a 7th level party. The DM gave us a bonus feat and totally ridiculous scores off of 4d6 7 times, best 6 total rolls, re-roll 1s and 2s. We should be CRUSHING dungeons.

A CR 7 or 8 encounter, some sort of beautiful female evil outsider (never quite got which one, Succus, Pairyaka, whatever) dropped something like a DC 17ish Will Save charm and half the freaking party biffed it.

I'm looking over at 3 out of 6 people going...

"What the hell? How did you roll a 5 on your Will save?

3 or 4 rounds later, I'm in dire tiger form with a big cat, having killed the 3 minions and almost single handedly killed the female demon as well, did at least HALF damage to it.

The rogue player was like..."Yeah, this stuff happens sometimes when you have a 3 for your Will save."

WE HAVE A BONUS FEAT, SOMETHING LIKE 45 TO 50 POINT BUY, 20,000 GP TO SPEND AND THE GUY IS LIKE...

"Yeah brother. 3 in the Will Save, things happen."

3 people in this party had Will saves lower than my !@#$ing animal companion.

I don't want to be mean to these guys and I'm trying to help them out, but 3 or 4 of these characters are just bafflingly bad mechanically.

And they know how to stealth, get surprise rounds, attack flat-footed people, ready actions, etc. So their play is fundamentally sound. It is just the sheets are a mess. I don't get it.

I don't even know if I'm compatible with a group like this.


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Generally, I play with people that have no system mastery, so I help them make their characters and, if I'm PCing as well, I self-edit myself to a reasonable level for the GM in question. It works.


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Our group is a lot like your friends, by the sounds. It's a combination (in my case, anyhow) of poor system mastery and lack of concern with being effective.

I agree you may be incompatible - I think you'd go crazy playing at our table. Best advice I've heard for someone in your situation is to play a support character and concentrate on boosting your below par companions.


The problem I see with this logic, is that you are playing a class that uses wisdom for your casting stat, and has good saves to begin with. The way you speak, makes me think you also have a item of wisdom, and a cloak of resistance. Which are all good things, admittedly. But you are also expecting the other classes, one already stated as being a rogue with poor will saves, to being able to make a DC 17 with a roll of 5~, meaning they needed a base of 12 to make that.

The thing is, even with 20k gold, melee classes tend to have other things they have to focus on to be good at their jobs, and they also have stat priorities they have to keep in mind. With yer rogue, he may have rolled, low, may have Wisdom as his dump stat, don't know, don't really care too much. He may have his needed feat list tied up to who knows what level, so on and so forth.

The point is, most players have a specialization they try to be the best at, which means they will have weak points as well. So don't ride them for felling one will save, that your character just so happens to be good at, or had a good roll for. I'm sure you will come across situations where they will exceed you in capabilities, though druid does seem to cover many areas in ability. And hopefully next time, they will have better rolls. /shrugs


Kttank wrote:
But you are also expecting the other classes, one already stated as being a rogue with poor will saves, to being able to make a DC 17 with a roll of 5~, meaning they needed a base of 12 to make that.

Not quite. His complaint seems to be that multiple characters can't make a DC 17 save on a 13, at a level when saves in that range are going to be common. Yeah, a weak save is always going to be...well, a weak spot. But there's little sense compounding the error by intentionally crippling yourself and then not taking items that will improve that defense to the bare minimum to not eat almost every spell that comes along.


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"What the hell? How did you roll a 5 on your Will save?"

To quote.


to be fair, now that I think about ti, it sounds like the rogue might have rolled a 2, but /shrugs.


Sorry, meant the Rogue rolled a 2 for a total of 5.

We were also playing with traits as well.

So even something as minor as +1 to the Will save as a trait, or +2 against charms and compulsions, a +1 or +2 cloak of resistance, with the stat rolling (4d6 7 times, pick the best 6, reroll 1s and 2s) I accidentally had like a 14 or better in every stat, the Will save should have been something like +6 or +7 as just a "whoops" thing.

This campaign was kind of set at the start where it would be "Whoops! I accidentally am double digits in all my saves!" so to have both the Ranger and the Rogue Fighter be a 3 TOTAL in the Will Save and then act like routinely failing DC 16ish to DC 18ish saves against Charm effects was this "Hey, what are ya gonna do mate! These things happen!" occurrence blew my mind.

I played that encounter like crap, too. Ate tons of AoOs and didn't Grab/Rake anybody, either. Hadn't played as a druid in like 3 years or something and am really rusty. And even still, like miles away the most effective guy.


Pathfinder is a very complex game, and as such game mastery plays a HUGE role in character effectivness. You can easily read rule books and forums to understand how flanking works and to boost your to hit roll. However the importance of balance ad shoring up a will save is not something that jumps out of a book. You have to play a few games where you are constanly taken out of every fight to undertand how common and important a will save is, let alone what to do about it.


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Some people will never master the system as such. Even if they understand the game, the importance of things such as shoring up weak saves, or poor defenses doesnt occur to them. They arent stupid (or at least this isnt proof of such) its just not how they think. Some people dont think tactically in that fashion. Others, no matter how much they are given will just keep pouring resources on their main thing which likely isnt their will save, and ignore things the class isnt already good at. Its not a good idea, but it does happen.

You have a couple choices. You could talk to your dm and then the players about helping them rebuild more well rounded characters. Given how generous your dm is, I'd say he'd be ok with it. Then talk to your players, and say, 'hey it sucked when you blew that save, maybe you should consider poping your bunus feat into iron will and picking up a cloak of resistance. [Insert DM's name] was cool with it, so that next time, a flubbed roll wont be the end of the world. What do you think?'

If you have the best system mastery you either have to bring everyone else up, or you're going to have to be deliberately weaker, otherwise you are going to give your dm fits.


Melvin the Mediocre wrote:
Pathfinder is a very complex game, and as such game mastery plays a HUGE role in character effectivness. You can easily read rule books and forums to understand how flanking works and to boost your to hit roll. However the importance of balance ad shoring up a will save is not something that jumps out of a book. You have to play a few games where you are constanly taken out of every fight to undertand how common and important a will save is, let alone what to do about it.

IME, players need to be told what the Big Six items are, or they won't think to buy them. A barbarian player IMC (when we had one) knew to buy an Amulet of Mighty Fists and magic armor, but not a Cloak of Resistance. He had a +3 Will save (+5 with rage) at around 11th-level before I even saw his character sheet and realized what the problem is.

The rulebook should tell us this, but it doesn't. It doesn't help that lots of DMs don't like the magic item assumptions.

A rogue with a +3 Will save at 7th-level is not entirely out of the question. +2 base, +1 cloak of resistance... it should probably be 2 points higher, but it's not completely unreasonable.


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Kimera757 wrote:
Melvin the Mediocre wrote:
Pathfinder is a very complex game, and as such game mastery plays a HUGE role in character effectivness. You can easily read rule books and forums to understand how flanking works and to boost your to hit roll. However the importance of balance ad shoring up a will save is not something that jumps out of a book. You have to play a few games where you are constanly taken out of every fight to undertand how common and important a will save is, let alone what to do about it.

IME, players need to be told what the Big Six items are, or they won't think to buy them. A barbarian player IMC (when we had one) knew to buy an Amulet of Mighty Fists and magic armor, but not a Cloak of Resistance. He had a +3 Will save (+5 with rage) at around 11th-level before I even saw his character sheet and realized what the problem is.

The rulebook should tell us this, but it doesn't. It doesn't help that lots of DMs don't like the magic item assumptions.

A rogue with a +3 Will save at 7th-level is not entirely out of the question. +2 base, +1 cloak of resistance... it should probably be 2 points higher, but it's not completely unreasonable.

My group gravitated toward them over the course of 3rd edition and eventually we were introduced to the concept of big six. But it was never something that we had to be told. We just wanted the items that provide permanent bonuses. And at least for me, cloaks of resistance were always on the agenda, as were ac boosting items, and stat boosters. And magic armor and weapons seems like a no brainer for martial characters.


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SPCDRI wrote:

I don't want to be arrogant and go "system mastery! system mastery!"

but I think I got a good handle on this game.

I was just a druid PC in a 7th level party. The DM gave us a bonus feat and totally ridiculous scores off of 4d6 7 times, best 6 total rolls, re-roll 1s and 2s. We should be CRUSHING dungeons.

A CR 7 or 8 encounter, some sort of beautiful female evil outsider (never quite got which one, Succus, Pairyaka, whatever) dropped something like a DC 17ish Will Save charm and half the freaking party biffed it.

I'm looking over at 3 out of 6 people going...

"What the hell? How did you roll a 5 on your Will save?

3 or 4 rounds later, I'm in dire tiger form with a big cat, having killed the 3 minions and almost single handedly killed the female demon as well, did at least HALF damage to it.

The rogue player was like..."Yeah, this stuff happens sometimes when you have a 3 for your Will save."

WE HAVE A BONUS FEAT, SOMETHING LIKE 45 TO 50 POINT BUY, 20,000 GP TO SPEND AND THE GUY IS LIKE...

"Yeah brother. 3 in the Will Save, things happen."

3 people in this party had Will saves lower than my !@#$ing animal companion.

I don't want to be mean to these guys and I'm trying to help them out, but 3 or 4 of these characters are just bafflingly bad mechanically.

And they know how to stealth, get surprise rounds, attack flat-footed people, ready actions, etc. So their play is fundamentally sound. It is just the sheets are a mess. I don't get it.

I don't even know if I'm compatible with a group like this.

If the games are appropriately exciting and/or the challenges are played strait, then Darwin's law of natural selection will take care of the system mastery problem. That's how I see it anyway. Natural selection can cull the herd until they start producing characters that are actually suited for adventuring.

I would advise against the theory that if you understand the game you should intentionally dumb-down your character. That just means everyone in the party dies and the game has to end/start over unless the GM coddles you, and when the GM coddles you it can quickly take the fun out of the game because you might as well play a commoner with a peg leg and you'll be just as great an adventurer as not (because clearly your choices and/or strengths don't matter since the world is going to bend to make you successful anyway).

You said that the players know the mechanics. If the GM is playing the encounters strait, then they will adapt. Either that or they'll get to try out all fifteen interesting character concepts over a few sessions until they find one that is actually suited for the dangers of adventure.

I'd also be careful with trying to shore up everyone else. I've seen that go very poorly because a lot of people - especially those who refuse to learn from their own mistakes - really hate people so much as hinting at a way to make their character more effective. This has happened to me in a game recently where one of the group wigged out when some of us commented on how he could do minor things to make the character more survivable because in his mind this is his character and it's none of our business, and so nobody has bothered to say anything to him since on the matter.

The advice I've found to work better is to pick up as much slack as you can. It can be hard but somebody's got to do it. If 3/4 party members suck really bad to the point that they aren't able to do their part, then try to make yourself account for more than one party member. As a druid you've got a good start in doing this since you can deal with a variety of issues and you have an animal companion whom you can choose feats for, and you have access to a wide variety of spells (including spells you can cast and use for entire combats like call lightning). There are two outcomes that can come from this method:

1. Nobody cares and the game keeps running smoothly because you can pick up the slack and keep it going without everyone dying due to incompetence. You can still enjoy the challenge of the game and they can play their inept characters and be happy.

2. Somebody in the group complains about you being a dirty powergamer. Then you respond with "I like this game and don't want the game to end end in a TPK because of the characters in it, and I'd rather pick up the slack than make the GM have to dumb down everything".

In the case of #2, be polite but firm and honest. Let them know the reason is because you got tired of having your character threatened because of the way they build their characters recklessly. If they say that the GM will just change the game to allow them all to survive and succeed, tell them you don't want to play a game where success is engineered by Deus Ex Machina. You are doing what you need for the success of everyone, and likely the one that complains is entirely selfish in his or her motivations.

Most people who have the mental faculties beyond that of a nine year old should be able to understand that your doing something altruistic in changing your own build to allow them to play the character that they want. Especially if it's explained to them. They have two choices, either stop complaining or learn.

Personally I like the natural selection bit. It has always served my groups very well, and I'll show you why.

Natural Selection At Work
I was once GMing a game where the party was investigating a haunted churchyard where they encountered a group of powerfully build zombies with greatclubs. These zombies hit really hard but were quite sluggish and the party could easily stay out of melee with them (especially since there were lots of tombstones and open graves, places the zombies couldn't charge through but were effortless to move around or over for the PCs). In that game, we had a witch and a wizard, I think a monk, and a fighter.

The witch saw the zombies and ran up to three of them and cast burning hands to deal about 2 damage to three of them and was now in 5 ft. step range for each. The wizard ran up and cast shocking grasp on another for less than 5 damage. On the zombie's turn, we had one less witch and wizard.

The wizard player learned, canting that he probably shouldn't have done that and would be more careful in the future. The witch freaked out and demanded that the game be start over, that the encounter wasn't fair, and that making characters isn't any fun so I should have someone or something save them from the zombies so they wouldn't die.

Guess what happened. =P

Spoiler:
If your guess was: The wizard player rolled a new wizard and had many happy games with us afterwards, going on to be a talented adventurer, with the player feeling gratified when he succeeded because he knew he succeeded. You would be right.

If your guess was: The witch threw a tantrum because she didn't get her way, and stormed out to continue to suck as a human being. You would also be right. I was pretty happy with this outcome, since if doing something like running your d6 HD mage into melee with three orc zombies with greatclubs -- after being informed of a rough idea how tough/strong/dangerous these were due to knowledge checks and the classic "are you sure?" -- results in a tantrum I'd rather not have you playing with us since I don't want to put up with the fits you're going to throw when you encounter something that's actually dangerous.


Ashiel wrote:
I'd also be careful with trying to shore up everyone else. I've seen that go very poorly because a lot of people - especially those who refuse to learn from their own mistakes - really hate people so much as hinting at a way to make their character more effective.

Have to agree on that point, to an extent. It's generally a good idea to get to know the person a bit before offering any advice on how to make their characters more effective mechanically. Some people will thank you for giving them advice on how to make a stronger character, and some people will have a screaming meltdown if you point out that his character's attack routine being +1/+0/-4/-5 and only dealing d4+1 damage per hit might be why his level six fighter feels weak.


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You have six PCs with crazy high attributes. If the players start actually playing competently, there's going to be no challenge at all.


Chengar Qordath wrote:
Ashiel wrote:
I'd also be careful with trying to shore up everyone else. I've seen that go very poorly because a lot of people - especially those who refuse to learn from their own mistakes - really hate people so much as hinting at a way to make their character more effective.
Have to agree on that point, to an extent. It's generally a good idea to get to know the person a bit before offering any advice on how to make their characters more effective mechanically. Some people will thank you for giving them advice on how to make a stronger character, and some people will have a screaming meltdown if you point out that his character's attack routine being +1/+0/-4/-5 and only dealing d4+1 damage per hit might be why his level six fighter feels weak.

Exactly. I've found over the years that leading by example tends to be best. If the player begins to feel inferior or bad, then they will either ask for help or you can ask politely if you could make some suggestions when they complain that their character is failing a lot. Let them make the first step.

In many cases, their seemingly hopeless character may actually be fixable or highly playable if you share some tricks or insight. I was once GMing the Red Hand of Doom for my tabletop group, and in that game one of the players decided that he was going to level his character "organically" rather than having a build concept. Each time they gained a level he would take a level in a class that he felt worked with what the character was doing or learning about.

Unfortunately, the player is also the sort who wants to be in the spotlight or be the one who does certain things based on his class. So he would get butt-hurt when the bard with his +10 climb check climbed up a tower because "I'm the rogue, I should be doing this" (but he also had a +3 climb check 'cause he never invested ranks because he didn't do much climbing initially).

By level 14, he was a wizard/cleric/rogue/ranger/assassin, with 1-2 levels in wizard and cleric, some rogue, some ranger, and a couple levels of assassin. He was all over the place and lamenting that he was not able to keep up with the druid, the bard/fighter, or the party's blue goblin wizard.

When he felt bad, I showed him how he could use spell trigger items and certain low-level spells to supplement his skills and hide in plain sight and how to push his death attack and be pretty competent in melee as well. In the end he had a lot of fun with the character and felt like he could do cool stuff.

Scarab Sages

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Rolling a bad number on a random die, is not related to system mastery. Having a string of bad rolls by multiple players is not related to system mastery.
What is your expected will save for a level 7 rogue? he starts with a base of 2...

So with a roll of 2, he only would have needed a bonus of 15.. Which he only would have needed to spend around 75,000 gold, if he could get stacking bonuses.

A bonus of 6-7 to a will save is pretty good for a level 7 rogue (and several other classes), which means he would need a 10 or better to make a DC17, roughly a 50% failure.

It sure is upsetting when things like that happen in a game, but as your other player pointed out, dice are random. I'll point out a DC17 save at level 7 is not quite the auto success being implied.

Has your GM bumped up the difficulty of your oppenents to adjust for your amazing stats, bonus feat, and cash? If so, then "crushing" the dungeon would be relative also.

If you find yourself not having fun, then your should certainly find another group or have a discussion with the group about gaming style. However, getting mad at other players because they didn't make a 17 will save when rolling under 5, seems a little over-reactive, but we all play for different reasons


I didn't think I had much system mastery, but lately I've been running a game and playing a game, both are around the same level.

In the game I play we're taking on CR 11 beasts at lvl 5, dishing out 50+ damage in one shot while nerfing enemies into uselessness, Handling challenges by seriously abusing our abilities and completely derailed the adventure path.

Meanwhile in the game I GM the PCs are fighting CR 5 things at lvl 8 and struggling badly, the main offensive character deals about 15 damage a round, have terrible spell selections and are terrified of dying all the time.

Also in the game I play two players are relatively new. Me and another PC were separated from those two players when zombies attacked. They had two zombies and we had 30. Both rooms became cleared in about the same amount of rounds.


I have to agree with Relixander on this.


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I don't know if this occurred to the OP or not. But perhaps the GM is being required to ramp up the encounter design to challenge your PC, because as a player you are playing on a level different from every other player at your table?

If that's the case, then I'd argue it's not the problem of the other players you are playing with and would advise a mirror as a prescriptive measure to find the relief you seek.


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Relixander wrote:

Rolling a bad number on a random die, is not related to system mastery. Having a string of bad rolls by multiple players is not related to system mastery.

What is your expected will save for a level 7 rogue? he starts with a base of 2...

So with a roll of 2, he only would have needed a bonus of 15.. Which he only would have needed to spend around 75,000 gold, if he could get stacking bonuses.

I think the OP was referring to the fact that the character's net total was 5 despite being at 7th level. Naturally we can assume he had rolled a 2, which would have likely failed regardless of his score; but I don't think that was the point the OP was making. I think the point was actually that the rogue - despite having plenty of wealth opportunities, a free feat, and access to many talents and options to shore up defenses - only had a +3.

The rogue has a base of +2 at 7th level. Even with no bonuses other than a +2 cloak of resistance he should be at +4. It could be significantly higher given their available options, but given their ability score advantage alone having less than a +6 is bizarre.

And then not only is this rogue in possession of a saving throw that is lower than would be expected given all the circumstances but half the party did, which suggests it wasn't a fluke but literally nobody seemed to care about their defenses.

On a side note...
This reminds me of a conversation a friend and I were having on Skype the other day. Players often put a lot of emphasis on all-out-offense at the cost of defenses in D&D/PF, and then complain that the game turns into rocket tag. Something to think on perhaps. :P

Paizo Employee Organized Play Developer

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System MAstery can make a huge difference in a game. IN our regular Saturday I actually ran into the issue where my level of ssytem mastery was detracting from the fun that other players were having, because of the fact that things that challenged me were overwhelming for them, and things that were appropriate challenges for them were getting overwhelmed by me.

So I shifted gears. I started applying my system mastery to classes that elevated the group, playing classes like the Bard, Dreamscarred Press' new Warlord and Warder, Cavaliers, etc.

It challenged me to play characters who were so focused on group dynamics, and as the other players saw how how I was boosting them and started tallying up the things that wouldn't have worked if I hadn't been doing what I was doing, it helped spur them to kind of up their game a bit and start asking for tips on how to get more out of their characters. A lot of the time when people are underperforming, it can just take a few small tweaks to get a character running at least at par. They have to want to get their though. Some people just want to play something that matches a picture in their head and are happy to be at the table with other people, regardless of how well things go. You just have to decide if that's a play dynamic you can live with, or if you need to play with a group that's little more focused doing things well.


Riggler wrote:

I don't know if this occurred to the OP or not. But perhaps the GM is being required to ramp up the encounter design to challenge your PC, because as a player you are playing on a level different from every other player at your table?

If that's the case, then I'd argue it's not the problem of the other players you are playing with and would advise a mirror as a prescriptive measure to find the relief you seek.

This. I've been the GM in this situation. One player can wreck the curve making everyone else struggle. Best to encourage the strong player to flavorfully self-nerf.


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Does "System Mastery" come with a shiny brass codpiece?


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They likely thing they have GREAT characters. Read any of a zillion build threads around here and dumping stats like crazy down to 7 is highly and repeatedly suggested, and few if any builds ever include any of the ‘weak feats” like Iron Will.

Just had this happen last game. 12th level Fighter has every feat dumped to offensive. Every trait, every ability point , etc. Failed a DC 16 Will save, spent all combat not doing anything, then is complaining about how it should have worked that way. Now, we just went Mythic. So I sent him a list of a bunch of cool mythic paths, etc which would boost his Will saves. Nope, he’s going all offensive.

They ACTUALLY THINK THEY HAVE System Mastery. After all, they can do xx/dps right?

I have had this argument on the boards, where folks claim it’s perfectly Ok to dump all those ‘unnecessary stats” and that it’s then the Wizards job to cast Dispel magic to save them.


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Relixander wrote:

So with a roll of 2, he only would have needed a bonus of 15.. Which he only would have needed to spend around 75,000 gold, if he could get stacking bonuses.

A bonus of 6-7 to a will save is pretty good for a level 7 rogue (and several other classes), which means he would need a 10 or better to make a DC17, roughly a 50% failure.

Umm, no. The Op wasn’t complaining that the rogue failed- since yeah a 2 sucks. But he was complaining that the rogue only had a over all +3 Will save. True, he starts with only a +2, but then with a decent WIS* (which a Rogue can really use) that’s +2. Then you get a free feat= +2, then a trait +1, then a cheap magic item= +2. So, without much maxing at all, a 9 is reasonable.

Their rolling system makes it at least a 40 pt buy, so a 14 is low.


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Owly wrote:
Does "System Mastery" come with a shiny brass codpiece?

I wish; I had to buy mine from at the mall. After critting with a frigid touch the excitement makes things just too uncomfortable.


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This is what happens when you run a game with really high stats. Wil save alway get this way. The thing is Dex and Con are important to all classes. Everyone wants a good AC and Hit points. Wisdom does nothing for you except save and the odd skill (perception and sense motive) unless you are caster who's stat is Wisdom based.

I mean say I'm rogue and my low stat is 12, it's going on Wisdom as all the other stats are more important. That's a +3 will save. Sure there's a trait for +1 and feat for +2 and I could get cloak for +1 for +7. That's 50/50 on D20. A roll of 2 still fails. Now with 20,000 which is 3500 less the recommended WBL but regardless I still wouldn't buy a cloak as rogue, I'd be saving for Cloak of Displacement. A headband of Wisdom for 4000 GP isn't really worth it. I'd want one to boost CHR and INT frist and all 3 is too expensive till really high level. So from a system mastery point of view I'm stuck with low will save, nothing I can do about it because everything I do raise my will save weakens the rogue elsewhere and the rogue can't afford that.


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Something I don't see mentioned here is that players may not want to optimize. Though I don't think its the case here, as a general rule, the idea of natural selection weeding out the weaker characters can kill the fun. Maybe the players didn't WANT to play hyper-optimized characters, maybe they wanted to play THEIR characters. In such a case, it is better for the system master (and GM) to play down to their level. It really depends on what players (or the majority of players) want though, as has been said, many players want more optimized characters but don't know how, but that doesn't automatically mean that pushing up the power level, by whatever means, is always a good idea.


Is it really optimization to talk about the Big 6 and say they are system assumptions when Dungeons and Dragons and Pathfinder AUTHORS OF THE RULES OF THE GAME say that they are?

That is...

+X Enchantment weapons
+X Enchantment Armor and Shields
+X Items to Natural Armor and Deflection Armor
+X Stat boosting items
+X Save boosting items (cloak or vestment of resistance)
Best mobility booster possible with an eye to flying, teleportation
and taking extra actions.

Potential Candidates: Any cheap way in GP, 3.5 or Pathfinder, to
heal HP. Everybody buys a wand or two of Cure Light Wounds, Faith Healing, Infernal Healing or Vigor(Lesser) in about that order.

Even if they personally can't use it, they hand it off someone who
can. Magical Bedrolls to double healing when sleeping only cost
a couple hundred GP I think. Miscellaneous item healing.

The game really doesn't WORK if people don't realize this. That is Pathfinder Equipment 101.

If people think Cloaks of Resistance and feats like Iron Will and Will save boosting traits are "wastes" no matter how many Will saves they drop the ball on, what can you do to reason with them?


Yeah, in all fairness it's like having a nonmagical melee human in Shadowrun who's not 98% machine with wired reflexes and stuff. You either realize that being a normal guy with normal muscles and normal weapons is just going to die because of what's in the world.

Reminds me of this one guy who was really clueless in an online campaign I was part of once. It was kind of one of those living-world things where you had lots of players and GMs working in the same setting. Some dude was a 20th level ranger and whined because the GM included a flying enemy that he couldn't shoot easily and how unfair it was because rangers don't get to cast fly. It wasn't enough that he could just get some method of flying, he had to do it with his class or it wasn't fair and the GM shouldn't have used it.

I've gained very little patience for these whining players who act like it's the fault of the game or the GM for their own bad choices. In a similar fashion, one of the players in that campaign was deemed "heinously overpowered" by the rest of folks up there. I ran a game as a favor to the head GM at the time and said character died. Why? Because she was like 13th level with an AC of 10. GG guys.


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SPCDRI wrote:
-snipping a lot of good stuff-

Agreed on this point. There's nothing wrong with a player wanting to play their character the way they want to, but the game just doesn't work if players don't have some basic understanding of the underlying mechanics. Not every character needs to be as high-powered as possible, but they should at least be good at the things that their player wants them to be good at.

There are a distressing number of players who really don't get the basics of Pathfinder. Such as the duel-wielding fighter I mentioned in a previous who couldn't hit or deal damage, or a Witch I had to GM for whose player kept trying to poke things with a spear instead of using hexes or spells.


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voska66 wrote:

This is what happens when you run a game with really high stats. Wil save alway get this way. The thing is Dex and Con are important to all classes. Everyone wants a good AC and Hit points. Wisdom does nothing for you except save and the odd skill (perception and sense motive) unless you are caster who's stat is Wisdom based.

I mean say I'm rogue and my low stat is 12, it's going on Wisdom as all the other stats are more important.

Why? Wis would be my first choice of the mental stats. Int is not important, nor is CHA. Perc is very important for a rogue- it’s *THE* skill. Its also the most used skill in the game.

And, no matter how powerful you are, once you fail your Will save, you're usually out of it.


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DrDeth wrote:


Why? Wisdom is my first choice of mental stats. Perception is the most used skill in the game. No matter how powerful you are, once you fail a Will save, you're usually out of it.

"Wisdom does nothing for you, SP!"

Half the party continues to get obliterated by mental effects. Cloak
of Resistance is a waste of money. I'm facepalming with both of my
hands only because I can't facepalm with 3 or more hands.

Paizo Employee Organized Play Developer

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SPCDRI wrote:
DrDeth wrote:


Why? Wisdom is my first choice of mental stats. Perception is the most used skill in the game. No matter how powerful you are, once you fail a Will save, you're usually out of it.

"Wisdom does nothing for you, SP!"

Half the party continues to get obliterated by mental effects. Cloak
of Resistance is a waste of money. I'm facepalming with both of my
hands only because I can't facepalm with 3 or more hands.

I remember the first time my party decided to create a bunch of weapon damage monsters and more or less completely ignore Will. That was the campaign where the vast majority of party deaths occurred at the hands of dominated or possessed allies.


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Ssalarn wrote:
SPCDRI wrote:
DrDeth wrote:


Why? Wisdom is my first choice of mental stats. Perception is the most used skill in the game. No matter how powerful you are, once you fail a Will save, you're usually out of it.

"Wisdom does nothing for you, SP!"

Half the party continues to get obliterated by mental effects. Cloak
of Resistance is a waste of money. I'm facepalming with both of my
hands only because I can't facepalm with 3 or more hands.

I remember the first time my party decided to create a bunch of weapon damage monsters and more or less completely ignore Will. That was the campaign where the vast majority of party deaths occurred at the hands of dominated or possessed allies.

The thing is, this is a Fool Me Once, Shame On You, Fool Me Twice, Shame On Me. If the other players in the party and the DM looks at people's saves and go...

"What's that? Everybody in the party is +5 or less against Will save in 45 point buy 7th level Pathfinder? Seems legit."

And the DM continues to wreck PCs with Will save effects and neither the DM nor the players do anything about it...

How is that possible? You'd think these players would repeatedly fail will saves against things like Compulsion and go...

"Somebody, anybody, tell me 4 ways to boost my Will save!"

But to just continually go "3 in the will save. I'm a Fighter. I'm a Rogue. These things happen!" in level 7+, 25,000 GP, bonus feat, 45 point buy Pathfinder just blows my mind.

Paizo Employee Organized Play Developer

Yeah, with that many points, I'd want to put at least a 14 in Will and grab Iron Will if Will is my weak save just to make sure my 45 point buy monster doesn't obliterate one of my friends. And the only reason not to grab a Cloak of Resistance is if you've managed to spread the save boosts out through other magic items.
It doesn't matter how hard you hit if the only time the enemy lets you hit something is when that something is an ally.


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Chengar Qordath wrote:
SPCDRI wrote:
-snipping a lot of good stuff-

Agreed on this point. There's nothing wrong with a player wanting to play their character the way they want to, but the game just doesn't work if players don't have some basic understanding of the underlying mechanics. Not every character needs to be as high-powered as possible, but they should at least be good at the things that their player wants them to be good at.

There are a distressing number of players who really don't get the basics of Pathfinder. Such as the duel-wielding fighter I mentioned in a previous who couldn't hit or deal damage, or a Witch I had to GM for whose player kept trying to poke things with a spear instead of using hexes or spells.

It works okay at our table - it's just that at high levels the DM needs to tone down the opponents we face as per our 'expected power' according to the system (or not object to us all dying very quickly and starting over, which is what usually happens).

I think the problem is the disparity in system mastery, not that there's some specific set of assumptions under which you should play. We dont like buying magic items, so we've never once bought a wand of cure light wounds. Nor does anyone other than me know about 'the big six' (and I have to look them up every time I wonder what they are). Ultimately though, that doesnt really matter if we're level 8 characters going through modules designed for level 6s. What would mess things around is if someone joined our table who was across the rules better. They'd probably be both bored with the challenges and frustrated by the rest of the party.

I think it's quite possibly a potentially insoluble problem (if it truly is a mismatch of playstyles other than just ignorance on the other players' behalf).


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While the OP seems really upset with the other players builds, it doesn't seem that they had any problem with the build or the outcome. I wouldn't worry about the other players builds and play the game.


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Ashiel wrote:
If they say that the GM will just change the game to allow them all to survive and succeed, tell them you don't want to play a game where success is engineered by Deus Ex Machina.

There's always Deus Ex Machina involved. It's what makes your opponents in virtually every encounter come conveniently packaged in groups that happen to have an "appropriate" CR for your APL as determined by the designers of the game. I don't really think it's any more or less "Deus Ex Machina" if the GM ends up adjusting what counts as an appropriate encounter for the party based on their capabilities. (That goes both ways, by the way. I don't see anything wrong with the GM scaling down encounters for unoptimized PCs OR scaling up encounters for optimized PCs.)


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SPCDRI wrote:

Magical Bedrolls to double healing when sleeping only cost

a couple hundred GP I think. Miscellaneous item healing.

The game really doesn't WORK if people don't realize this. That is Pathfinder Equipment 101.

If people think Cloaks of Resistance and feats like Iron Will and Will save boosting traits are "wastes" no matter how many Will saves they drop the ball on, what can you do to reason with them?

As a GM, it's no big deal to tone-down a game's challenge to cater to the gaming skill level (represented by the "gulf" as you put it). This isn't really a problem, so unless the GM is being a real stickler for CR, there's no reason to assume each player has the most optimum gear possible for their level, especially if the GM's world is tailored such that not all optimum gear is available whenever the players want.

If you didn't catch my "codpiece" reference above, to assume that you're naturally so good at the game that you run roughshod over everything, and leave everyone else in the dust, and they're all so awful that they're liabilities, you need to dial back your expectations and maybe eat some humble pie. and this is why:

For many players, Pathfinder is first and foremost an RPG; an evolution of D&D that they maybe haven't played in years, if at all. They come into it wanting to play a fantasy character, not an optimized battle specialist. Yeah, PF seems to be a tactical battle game (and it's fun), but remember the "R" in "RPG". This is how many players experience it. Also consider how few players actually go beyond level 4 or 5 anyway. Who is going to know that you need to buy "the big six" unless they've read the forums? Who is going to know that you should have a wand of CLW unless they've played PFS? You learn in this game by accessing what a broad base of players know. Consider how you can better educate your friends at the table.

Now...do you have a link to that magical bedroll that offers double healing? I'm not finding it.


MaxKaladin wrote:
Ashiel wrote:
If they say that the GM will just change the game to allow them all to survive and succeed, tell them you don't want to play a game where success is engineered by Deus Ex Machina.

There's always Deus Ex Machina involved. It's what makes your opponents in virtually every encounter come conveniently packaged in groups that happen to have an "appropriate" CR for your APL as determined by the designers of the game. I don't really think it's any more or less "Deus Ex Machina" if the GM ends up adjusting what counts as an appropriate encounter for the party based on their capabilities. (That goes both ways, by the way. I don't see anything wrong with the GM scaling down encounters for unoptimized PCs OR scaling up encounters for optimized PCs.)

Um, no? From wikipedia.

Quote:
A deus ex machina (/ˈdeɪ.əs ɛks ˈmɑːkiːnə/ or /ˈdiːəs ɛks ˈmækɨnə/;[1] Latin: "god from the machine" pronounced [ˈdeus eks ˈmaː.kʰi.na]; plural: dei ex machina) is a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly resolved by the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability, or object. Depending on how it is done, it can be intended to move the story forward when the writer has "painted himself into a corner" and sees no other way out, to surprise the audience, to bring a happy ending into the tale, or as a comedic device.

If the entire party is so incompetent as to require the GM to either grossly dumb down the encounters to having to arbitrarily save them from themselves, then I'd say you've got a problem.

Now what I say isn't the same as what everyone else will say. We all have our opinions, but I definitely find adventure far more amusing when danger and natural selection come into play rather than nerf swords.


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Ashiel wrote:
If the entire party is so incompetent as to require the GM to either grossly dumb down the encounters to having to arbitrarily save them from themselves, then I'd say you've got a problem.

What's the problem? It seems to me it's only a problem if it isnt the entire party.

I dont mean an NPC sweeping in to save the day or a BBEG suddenly missing all the time. What's the problem if a level 8 party struggle to overcome anything beyond a level 6 module? So they go through life surmounting challenges other tables would roll their eyes at. If they (we) dont know any better, what's the big deal? We still die. We still struggle. We're just struggling against something your table wouldnt but it probably feels the same, doesnt it?


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You'd never get it from these posts but I had a good time. Maybe I'm just being a snotty, arrogancy, douchey +5 Mithril Codpiece of System Snobbery here but I don't even know where to start with these guys.

I did see one of the guys today and talked about his character in a way to try to backdoor changes to it while playing Magic with him.

DrDeth is right, man. They don't think their characters are strong...THEY THINK THEY'RE FREAKIN' BROKEN, MAN!

Crap fortitude and will saves (3-6 range at level 7, 25,000 GP, 40ish point buy), crap Initiative, sub-20 AC.
Two Weapon fighting, +12 at the highest, with short swords for 9 damage a hit. Look out, Drizzt!

He said Rogues and Monks were "crazy good" when suggesting a class for me to play. I politely disagreed...and the DM backed Mr. Crazy Good!

He just thought it was the hottest thing going but it was really just a hot mess. The big cat probably would have soloed him even though everything a Druid does is nerfed to the unholy 9 layers of hell.

Paizo Employee Organized Play Developer

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To be fair, I could probably make a Monk or Rogue who is crazy good with a 45 point buy :)
If nothing else, the monk would look like an unstoppable death machine to your group after casually making his will save and then dropping a Flurry with some 2d6 fists (Monks Robes, you know).

Man, a forty-five point buy.... There's the place for a Monk.


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Steve Geddes wrote:
Ashiel wrote:
If the entire party is so incompetent as to require the GM to either grossly dumb down the encounters to having to arbitrarily save them from themselves, then I'd say you've got a problem.

What's the problem? It seems to me it's only a problem if it isnt the entire party.

I dont mean an NPC sweeping in to save the day or a BBEG suddenly missing all the time. What's the problem if a level 8 party struggle to overcome anything beyond a level 6 module? So they go through life surmounting challenges other tables would roll their eyes at. If they (we) dont know any better, what's the big deal? We still die. We still struggle. We're just struggling against something your table wouldnt but it probably feels the same, doesnt it?

ahhh, there's the rub, you must be the bestest mostest optimized characters ever or you not playing the "right" way.

btw full sarcasm on


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Steve Geddes wrote:
Ashiel wrote:
If the entire party is so incompetent as to require the GM to either grossly dumb down the encounters to having to arbitrarily save them from themselves, then I'd say you've got a problem.

What's the problem? It seems to me it's only a problem if it isnt the entire party.

I dont mean an NPC sweeping in to save the day or a BBEG suddenly missing all the time. What's the problem if a level 8 party struggle to overcome anything beyond a level 6 module? So they go through life surmounting challenges other tables would roll their eyes at. If they (we) dont know any better, what's the big deal? We still die. We still struggle. We're just struggling against something your table wouldnt but it probably feels the same, doesnt it?

As a GM I find it pretty irritating if players complain because they are making bad decisions. I'm not going to specifically choose a different kind trap than say a pit trap (a reflex save trap) because members of the party have been ignoring their reflex saves. Nor will I stop including traps because there's no one who deals with traps. Nor would I not use a fire elemental foe because the party's sorcerer refuses to learn spells that aren't [Fire] spells.

It's like having a PC not wear armor and then complaining when you keep getting hit by all the antagonists when you're up in melee. They're not going to just stop hitting you hard because you refuse to wear armor. That would be pretty stupid and verisimilitude breaking.

Personally, I'd also find it irritating as a GM to have my toolbox limited to in such a degree to having to use exclusively weak creatures and NPCs even when the party is 7th+ level. Not that I could imagine the players being particularly happy as they were getting constantly dismantled by weenies who are tearing them apart while not being worth much XP or treasure.

Perhaps it's just me, but I wouldn't be much amused by the encounters if at 7th level I had to be careful to avoid TPKing the group with a CR 4 encounter.


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Ashiel wrote:
Steve Geddes wrote:
Ashiel wrote:
If the entire party is so incompetent as to require the GM to either grossly dumb down the encounters to having to arbitrarily save them from themselves, then I'd say you've got a problem.

What's the problem? It seems to me it's only a problem if it isnt the entire party.

I dont mean an NPC sweeping in to save the day or a BBEG suddenly missing all the time. What's the problem if a level 8 party struggle to overcome anything beyond a level 6 module? So they go through life surmounting challenges other tables would roll their eyes at. If they (we) dont know any better, what's the big deal? We still die. We still struggle. We're just struggling against something your table wouldnt but it probably feels the same, doesnt it?

As a GM I find it pretty irritating if players complain because they are making bad decisions. I'm not going to specifically choose a different kind trap than say a pit trap (a reflex save trap) because members of the party have been ignoring their reflex saves. Nor will I stop including traps because there's no one who deals with traps. Nor would I not use a fire elemental foe because the party's sorcerer refuses to learn spells that aren't [Fire] spells.

It's like having a PC not wear armor and then complaining when you keep getting hit by all the antagonists when you're up in melee. They're not going to just stop hitting you hard because you refuse to wear armor. That would be pretty stupid and verisimilitude breaking.

Personally, I'd also find it irritating as a GM to have my toolbox limited to in such a degree to having to use exclusively weak creatures and NPCs even when the party is 7th+ level. Not that I could imagine the players being particularly happy as they were getting constantly dismantled by weenies who are tearing them apart while not being worth much XP or treasure.

Perhaps it's just me, but I wouldn't be much amused by the encounters if at 7th level I had to be careful to avoid TPKing the group with a CR...

To be clear, we don't complain. We have a good time whether we all die at level seven or not. I guess i just don't see the qualitative difference - to me, it's simply one of scale.

When you build an adventure for level three PCs, don't you limit their encounters to around their level with the occasional CR 7 or 8 maybe? Is that any more anti-verisimilitudinous?

My point is that (in our world) being level eight means doing the kinds if things level sixes do in your world. I don't see any normative scale - it's not like "level" has a real world analog or that adventures would all come conveniently packaged for a particular party level "in reality".

Paizo Employee Organized Play Developer

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It's not about playing the "right" way or "wrong" way, but there are definitely a couple different ways to play the game, and sometimes it's difficult to blend those styles. Someone who's accustomed to playing at a certain level can find it hard to "gear down" for a group that isn't there. I know that for me, just building a normal character can look like power-gaming to players with less system mastery, despite the fact that I'm not actually going for a power build. I just know how to combine options, make good choices, select good feats/trees, etc. When a character that I didn't try to power play with is still making the other party members look bad, or creating a situation where the GM can't craft a proper encounter without either destroying the other players or making it a cakewalk for me, it can be a bit of an issue. Sometimes this can be solved by the less skilled players being elevated a bit by sharing tips and ideas from the players with more system mastery. A lot of times this occurs naturally when one guy or girl consistently has the character that always walks away while other characters keep dropping. Sometimes a player is able to play down a bit.
But not everyone wants to play down, and not everyone wants to learn to play up, so sometimes you just find that you've got an incompatible group. It doesn't mean anyone is playing the game wrong, just that some people are playing it differently enough that the two styles don't do well side by side.

Shadow Lodge

Pathfinder Adventure Path, Companion, Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

I would say it's not so much an issue of your players as it is an issue of the GM and his playstyle. If you GM doesn't put much stock in system mastery then the players will not and will have builds that reflect this. If the GM does then the players would have already cycled through these characters a few times if they are as bad as you say. I think the other major clue is the sheer amount of stuff he has given the party and yet is only pitting you guys against average to below average encounters for that level of power and equipment, often giving a party that much stuff and yet not giving them equally challenging encounters stims from lack of system mastery and trying to solve the problem by buffing the PC's out in order to "balance" their discrepancies.

In other words, gm runs a game at normals settings way back without a lot of system mastery and sees his party get crushed. From here they decided to solve the problem by buffing the party and wash and repeat this process until you get bloated options like that and yet the encounters do not improve.

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