Gestalt...characters?


Advice


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I'm not understanding why people play gestalt characters. Is it to fill a gap in the group's defenses, to add a new flavor, or what? All I've seen for years is that they are overpowered, monstrosities of mayhem and cheesy min/maxawedginess. In fact, the most powerful character one of my DMs had three years worth of trouble with was a cleric/wizard who took advantage of the opportunity. Now, I'm hearing about sysnthesist/clerics who use the DMM feat chain from 3.5

Why...are we doing this?

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

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some people do it in order to make use of APs and other published modules when they don't have enough people to really run it (because gestalt increases survivability and lets a smaller number of characters cover all the necessary party roles). others do it as a high-powered, over-the-top thing just for the fun of it. i'm playing in a campaign right now where the GM just wanted to make up some truly outrageous monsters so he told us to make gestalt characters on a 30 point buy. now (at 6th level) we regularly fight things with 200+ HP and 2 sessions ago the whole party got hit with horrid wilting in back to back rounds. i'm sure over time it will lose its luster but for now its a fun, ridiculous, way to mix things up from the campaigns we've been playing for the last 12 years (since we switched over to 3rd edition)


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I did it for a few reasons. To get it out of the way, yes I thought stepping up the power level of the game would be interesting. It was the least of the reasons, but it was there.

The biggest reason was it allowed players to build character concepts that are simply not possible or are totally impractical with it. Most of my players never really took advantage of this aspect, but it existed.

The other big reason was the wide array of possible races with high Level Adjustments, or racial hit dice. I was always interested in seeing their use in play, but the cost made them almost uselessly underpowered. In Gestalt they became much more practical.

Basically, it opened up worlds of options, to bad the balance sucks and it can produce vast power disparities in a party.


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I think gestalt characters still have a place in the hobby and can be fun, but I personally feel that the addition of the Mythic rules provided an alternative to gestalts in many cases where they would otherwise be suggested or implemented


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Pathfinder Starfinder Roleplaying Game Subscriber

I am currently in a gestalt game. We have a small party and wanted to be able to play the characters we wanted to play without having big gaps in our capability. A 3 person gestalt game (especially if you dont raise things like high stats or extra gear and keep the level normal) can go through an adventure path fairly normally so long as they use the gestalt to expand their abilities instead of enforce them. Meaning, you dont take 2 of the same 'type' you split it up to increase coverage of abilities.

Other times it has been strictly to up the power level and try crazy things. But usually if I am running a gestalt game the purpose is to allow players to play whatever it is they want, but still have the resources/abilities to cover whats needed. IE if in a 4 person party all of them want to be martial characters, gestalt lets them do that but also cover skills and magic as needed.

And like I said if people are responsible about it (and dont use it as an excuse to make an uber character), the only thing it raises is saves and attack bonuses a bit.

Silver Crusade

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Most of the games I pay in and run are Gestalt. The reason is quite simple... most of the games I play are only three people, me and my two sons.

Using Gestalt characters allows us to play a game with small party dynamics and still have a good range of skills and abilities while being a bit more survivable.

Does it make powerful characters? Yes, but it still doesn't help you with action economy. We use Hero Points for that. ;)

So, to answer your question, "Why... are we doing this?" because it works for us and is a fun way for the three of us to play the game.

I will leave off by asking you this.

Why... does it bother you?

Grand Lodge

Like many others have said, it's often used by smaller groups -- in our case, specifically to make sure we have a Healer in the party.

But as far as "overpowered, monstrosities of mayhem and cheesy min/maxawedginess," that depends on the DM.
NOT the PCs.

A gestalt PC is gonna be MAD so a 20-point buy is gonna restrict it from Min/Maxing if the DM requires a 20-point buy.

And as for overpowered, well, overpowered only refers to PC vs PC, not PC vs monster.
Yes, if one PC is much greater or weaker than the others it's likely to cause problems. But if all PCs are, um..., equally "unbalanced," the DM can just throw higher or lower CRs at the party -- and/or even adjust the monsters so they're tougher (or weaker) -- give the monster a few free Feats and some Ability Score boosts.

Our current group consists of three (non-gestalt) equally "overpowered" PCs and a powerfully-built-but-run-by-a-newbie-PC. We are supposedly APL 9 but have to fight EPL 12-15 encounters to make it intersting. So instead of the DM throwing a CR 10 against the party, he throws a CR 14.


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Nullmancer wrote:
Why...are we doing this?

How else am I going to play a bardbarian?

RPG Superstar 2012 Top 32

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Marthkus wrote:
How else am I going to play a bardbarian?

ummm... with the new skald class from Advanced Class Guide (currently available for playtest)?


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nate lange wrote:
Marthkus wrote:
How else am I going to play a bardbarian?
ummm... with the new skald class from Advanced Class Guide (currently available for playtest)?

Oh thank God! Link?

Liberty's Edge

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Marthkus wrote:
How else am I going to play a bardbarian?
nate lange wrote:
ummm... with the new skald class from Advanced Class Guide (currently available for playtest)?
Marthkus wrote:
Oh thank God! Link?

LINK!

Paizo Employee Contributor

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I ran Rise of the Runelords with gestalt characters, and I'm deep into Shattered Star with gestalt characters as well.

I let my PCs play gestalt characters for two reasons: Primarily, it's to ensure that they have stamina to go longer in each adventuring day without a rest. I like that they can power through most dungeons with very few (or even zero) rests, without having to continually retreat in order to recover daily uses of rages/spells/channels, etc. Secondarily, it lets people play with combinations that wouldn't multi-class well, so we see fresh new things at the table. Sure, there are some power-munchkins that will play a fighter/monk for all the great feats, but I've currently got a witch/ranger (does witchy things but is a good hand in melee when necessary), a fighter/alchemist (a sword-and-board fighter with mutagens and more flexibility), and an oracle/bard that serves as a stellar party-buffer and knowledge guy.

My reasons don't include to fill gaps in the party (in both campaigns, I've had six players) or to jack up the power level (it's easy to just keep the PCs one or even two levels behind the suggested adventure level and it keeps the challenge appropriate for them).


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If your munchkins' best effort is a fighter/monk gestalt, I think the world is safe for another day.


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Gestalt, as others have said, opens the door to PC options that are otherwise extremely difficult to pull off effectively with the existing rules. This is especially true of monstrous races. While people can absolutely use it to generate monstrous characters (in terms of power), that is more if a group dynamic problem in my opinion than a system problem.

Generally speaking in the past I've used it personally to generate sorcerer/wizards, dragonic PCs, and true generalists.

It can also be used to shore up roles in a campaign with a limited number of players, as noted.

While I can definitely see how browsing the internet about gestalt leads to conclusions about power gaming (especially when you look at some recruitment threads from popular PBP communities like Giants in the Playground), like everything else it has its place even in more normal games.


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My group does Gestalt for about 25% of our campaigns. We find it a refreshing change of pace, a way to change things up without really having to deal with a new set of rules.

It's not like the GMs don't rev up the foes, or that just one player gets to be gestalt. (Well, mostly. We do have someone playing a normal paladin in a gestalt game, but that was what they player wanted, and no one objected).

It's just another dial you can turn, like point buy, starting level, exp chart, wealth per level, and so on. It's a fast and easy way to make characters who are more potent, without immediately being able to do everything.

We even have a gestalt mythic game now. :)


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Silly question, but where can I find the Gestalt character creation rules?


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Pathfinder Companion, Maps Subscriber; Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Superscriber

There aren't any official rules for Pathfinder; here are the 3rd edition rules.


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Cause it's fun. More concept flexibility. More mechanical flexibility.

I don't always play gestalt. But when I do, I have a blast. ;P


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Joana wrote:
There aren't any official rules for Pathfinder; here are the 3rd edition rules.

Thanks. I'm still trying to figure out whether to go Gestalt or Mythic or both so two players can play an adventure path.


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What I did to change the flavor in my Gestalt was to have core classes (I swapped out Paladin for Inquisitor)and then a limited choice of "matches".

Each of those classes had 4 a player could pick from to pair up the core class with.

For instance:

Barbarian could choose one from Druid, Oracle, Ranger and Sorcerer

another was:

Oracle could choose one from Bard, Fighter, Monk, Sorcerer

I see no power difference from a normal 1rst level PC. They just add flavor, more choices, and split people from pouring x amount of point buy points into 1 or 2 stats.


Elijah Snow wrote:
Joana wrote:
There aren't any official rules for Pathfinder; here are the 3rd edition rules.
Thanks. I'm still trying to figure out whether to go Gestalt or Mythic or both so two players can play an adventure path.

Gestalt. Possibly even tristalt with some restrictions. Mythic just boosts power, not versatility.

Unless you're going to handwave condition removal items every party needs a cleric or a healing patron witch or a samsaran druid or both an oracle and either a druid or other witch or three oracles. In practical terms that means a cleric. Your party also needs at least 15 skill points per level, preferably more like 20. You need at least one reliable heavy hitter and your robust:squishy ratio should never go under 2.

There's no way to satisfy those conditions with 2 PCs in mythic, but in gestalt something like a bard/paladin and cleric/ranger can do okay unless the AP is written to assume teleportation magic is available.


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Update: two players using one gestalt character each to play the Reign of Winter AP is going very well. But it suddenly dawned on me: each gestalt character has to stop at 10th level, say a Gestalt PC Wizard 10/Fighter 10, because going beyond that breaks the core rule book, right?

Am I missing something?

Liberty's Edge

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Gestalt is not dual classing, it's gaining the abilities of two classes at once, so not the same thing. You can easily bring gestalt characters to 20th level without worry. They are stronger than regular characters but not as much as you might think.


Gestalt lends versatility more than power, usually. Of course, there are exceptions.


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
Joshua Goudreau wrote:
Gestalt is not dual classing, it's gaining the abilities of two classes at once, so not the same thing. You can easily bring gestalt characters to 20th level without worry. They are stronger than regular characters but not as much as you might think.

Suddenly it makes sense. Thanks.


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

Okay, though, one more question please:

One of the PCs is a Magus 2/Witch 2. Both arcane spellcasters. To make sure I'm doing this right, the PC is treated as a 2nd level character for the purpose of bonus feats & ability score points (meaning neither at 2nd level). Further, for spell casting purposes, the Magus casts spells as a 2nd level spell caster (not 4th) and same with the Witch. BUT do I consider them a 4th level caster for calculating concentration checks and caster level checks?


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No on concentration checks.

They don't really have 2 magus and 2 witch levels. They have 2 maguswitch levels.


If a character were, say, a wizard/sorcerer, he would have two Concentration scores, one based on INT, one based on CHA.


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Atarlost gave a good way to think of it.

Each level a gestault character takes is a single level with the abilities of both classes. Like if I published a class with all the abilities of the Magus and Witch classes, gave it 3/4ths BAB and good saves for Fortitude and Will.


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
kyrt-ryder wrote:

Atarlost gave a good way to think of it.

Each level a gestault character takes is a single level with the abilities of both classes. Like if I published a class with all the abilities of the Magus and Witch classes, gave it 3/4ths BAB and good saves for Fortitude and Will.

This is so helpful. I've kind of been thinking about this wrong. As a second level character, should I give him hit points, saving throw bonus, and base attack bonuses from both classes?

I think yes because let's remember there are two PCs in the party not four, but am I right?


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If you deliberately wanted to ramp up their survivabilities, sure, but the increase in saving throws would really supercharge the difficulty of sticking effects that target a 'good'saving throw for both classes. (While doing nothing to improve a poor save over what it would have been under normal Gestault)

As per standard gestault rules though, the answer is no. For things like BAB, skill points per level, saving throws, etc, you take the best from each class.

So those Maguswitch levels would be worth 3/4ths BAB, Good Fort/Will, 2+int skill points and d8+con hp per level.


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Elijah Snow wrote:
kyrt-ryder wrote:

Atarlost gave a good way to think of it.

Each level a gestault character takes is a single level with the abilities of both classes. Like if I published a class with all the abilities of the Magus and Witch classes, gave it 3/4ths BAB and good saves for Fortitude and Will.

This is so helpful. I've kind of been thinking about this wrong. As a second level character, should I give him hit points, saving throw bonus, and base attack bonuses from both classes?

I think yes because let's remember there are two PCs in the party not four, but am I right?

They get the higher die for HP, and take the higher base number for saves and BAB and skill points.

So, for example a Fighter/Rogue would get d10 HP, have good Fort and Reflex saves, and 8 skill points a level.


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber

kty-ryder and Zhayne, thank you. I do want to ramp up their survivability because I'm concerned they'll be underpowered against the AP.

BTW, the Maguswitch is an awesome combo conceptually and in play. The other PC is a weapon master (trident) and alchemist.


One thing to keep in mind is, stacking the saves like that doesn't do anything good for the weak save. In the case of the Maguswitch, his/her Reflex save is every bit as bad as a normal witches. You get this thing going where characters will have poor saves, good saves, and double-good saves.

That's why default only gives you a single instance of saves.


I'd think it'd be better to adjust the AP to the PCs rather than vice versa.


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If you're serious about bringing the PC's up to the AP, Gestault can help, but so can increasing their levels.

I'd consider trying to run them at +1 level compared to the AP's instructions and see how they do. If it feels 'just right' then you've hit bullseye. If it feels too difficult or too easy, adjust to taste. (Unless it's SUPER hard, I suggest observing for several adventures before making any modifications)


One of my groups suffers from Frequent Missing Player Syndrome. In any given week, there's a fair chance one or two people are not there, and not always the same people. The group doesn't like to npc the missing players' characters. FMPS is a problem effecting many gaming groups across the globe. It can lead to infrequent gaming, glaring party role deficiency, and an inability to defeat certain encounters.

Does your group suffer from FMPS? Then Gestalt may be right for you. Our group used Gestalt to ensure we had at least two people who could cover each role, to combat our FMPS, and it has worked wonders. Gestalt is not for every group. Consult your GM before trying Gestalt. Women who are pregnant, nurs- wait, sorry.

Every group faces its own problems. Gestalt may help.


Pathfinder Lost Omens, Rulebook Subscriber
kyrt-ryder wrote:

If you're serious about bringing the PC's up to the AP, Gestault can help, but so can increasing their levels.

I'd consider trying to run them at +1 level compared to the AP's instructions and see how they do. If it feels 'just right' then you've hit bullseye. If it feels too difficult or too easy, adjust to taste. (Unless it's SUPER hard, I suggest observing for several adventures before making any modifications)

So I might just level them up faster than the AP recommends? Good option.


You were worried about their survivability, and low levels are the most fragile time in a character's life.

Personally, I would just experiment with them starting at a higher level and go from there, rather than deliberately accelerate leveling.

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Marthkus wrote:
Nullmancer wrote:
Why...are we doing this?
How else am I going to play a bardbarian?

Do all Bardbarians yell "BARDCORE" when they rage, or just mine?


Personally, the reason I'm looking into introducing it is a few reasons. The main one being a for a slightly smaller group like my own, it lets them branch out the characters and their abilities, including a great way to really customize a character while giving enough of a slight bump to overall power. I only say a slight bump because I do put some restrictions in place ahead of time including some bonuses in place to help out martial characters.

I also tend to emphasize focus on the character and their story while bringing up any issues I might have with the characters as they're being built (I'm fairly mechanically minded myself). A lot of the stuff that can really cause issues can be caught early on and I simply chat with the players and come to an understanding with them.

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